For Peace in Japan
|Drifting toward catastrophe
Ex-missionary says A-bomb memorials reinforce grim lesson
world still has not learned
by the Rev. James E. Atwood
Retired PC(USA) missionary to Japan
Distributed by Presbyterian News Service, August 22, 2005
the PNS version, with photos >>
In June we posted a note from James
Atwood, seeking signatures for the petition he was going to present as
part of a Fellowship of Reconciliation delegation marking the 60th
anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The petition called on the government of Japan to
maintain the rejection of war which is part of their constitution.
He writes now reporting and reflecting on the visit:
SPRINGFIELD, VA — Sixty years
ago, in the blink of an eye, an estimated 147,000 people were killed when
atom bombs exploded over the Japanese
cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Two beautiful cities were instantly turned into
As is true in all wars, most of the victims were women,
children and old people.
Those near the epicenter were the lucky ones. They were
Tens of thousands of people at a distance from ground zero
were burned alive, dying more slowly, in excruciating pain, begging for
Survivors of the blasts, now in their 70s and 80s, still
carry grotesque physical and psychological scars.
I spent nine years as a missionary in Japan (1965-1974).
This month I returned, on a peace pilgrimage, attending 60th-anniversary
memorials of the two bombs that, in the words of Albert Einstein, "Changed
everything except the way we think." In their wake, Einstein added, "We
drift toward unparalleled catastrophes."
I love the Japanese people. I salute the courage of the
United Church of Christ in Japan as it continues to repent its complicity
with Japanese militarism in World War II. I grieve over the use of atomic
weapons on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am impressed that the
Japanese people love their "Peace Constitution."
I had to add my voice for peace in a day when the whole
world is threatened with nuclear extinction — yet few really want to talk
I was privileged to represent the Presbyterian Peace
Fellowship in an eight-member delegation from the Fellowship of
Reconciliation (FOR), a group formed to support those in Japan and the
United States who resist calls for the repeal of Article IX of the Japanese
That provision, written by representatives of American
Occupation Forces in the early days of Japan’s post-war reconstruction,
1. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on
justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign
right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling
2. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding
paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will
never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be
The board of directors of FOR in the United States
responded to a Japanese request for support by organizing a quick petition
drive calling for the retention of that principled statement. We delivered
5,200 signatures to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s office and gave
copies to the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
We made solemn visits to peace museums in both cities, the
only ones in the world that have experienced nuclear annihilation, and
attended gripping 60th-anniversary ceremonies.
Our own country is still deeply divided over the use of
these horrible weapons.
I had always accepted the U.S. rationale — that the bombs
saved thousands, perhaps millions, of young American and Japanese lives by
bringing the war to an end and making an invasion of the empire unnecessary.
However, revelations made public recently through the
Freedom of Information Act have persuaded me that the first use of the bomb
was a colossal mistake. On July 18 — nearly three weeks before the Hiroshima
bombing — Japan had asked, through "the Soviet and Swiss governments, for
peace negotiations. I believe the A statue in front of the Hiroshima Peace
Museum depicts a Japanese woman protecting an infant at her breast while
lifting her son onto her back. use of a second bomb on Nagasaki was
Not even God can undo the past. But how are we to walk
together into the future?
If the planet is to survive, the world must accept the
fact that using nuclear weapons on human beings is unconscionable.
Every nation must understand that modern warfare involves
the possible use of even more powerful nuclear weapons than those used in
Japan. The average U.S. nuclear warhead in our program of "stockpile
stewardship" has a destructive power 20 times that of the Hiroshima bomb.
Even now, 10 years after the end of the Cold War, we maintain thousands of
such weapons — on a hair trigger.
As former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara wrote in
July: "The United States must no longer rely on nuclear weapons as a
foreign-policy tool. To do so is immoral, illegal, and dreadfully
Several times during our recent peace pilgrimage, we heard
distress in the voices of Japanese church and political leaders as they
recited the nuclear powers’ promises to engage in "an unequivocal
undertaking for the elimination of their nuclear arsenals." Yet, in May,
these same nations, parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of
Nuclear Weapons, met at the United Nations but could make no concrete
progress toward this essential goal.
In his Peace Declaration, Nagasaki Mayor Iccho Itoh called
nuclear nations to account: "The nuclear weapons states, and the United
States of America in particular, have ignored their international
commitments and have made no change in their unyielding stance on nuclear
deterrence," Itoh said. "We strongly resent the trampling of the hopes of
the world’s peoples."
Itoh then addressed the people of the United States,
saying: "We understand your anger and anxiety over the memories of the
horror of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Yet, is your security actually
enhanced by your government’s policies of maintaining over 10,000 nuclear
weapons, of carrying out repeated sub-critical nuclear tests, and of
pursuing the development of new ‘mini-’nuclear weapons?
"We are confident that the vast majority of you desire in
your hearts the elimination of nuclear arms. May you join hands with the
people of the world who share that same desire, and work together for a
peaceful planet free from nuclear weapons."
As doves circled over the assemblies, I was glad to be
standing with thousands of others and making the vow: "No more Hiroshimas.
No More Nagasakis. No more nuclear weapons. No more war."
Dear Lord, let it be so.
|We didn’t need to
use the Bomb on Japan
who taught US foreign policy throughout the cold war, and paid close
attention to the Hiroshima issue, sent this comment a few days ago, in
response to the note from Earl Tilford.
[We received this note a week ago, and are just getting
it posted, with apologies to Dr. Shull! Posted 8-19-05]
It is surprising that so much of the
discussion about our use of the atomic bomb overlooks the proposal made by
our experts on Japan, including Under Secretary of State Joseph Grew, that
we assure Japan that we would allow her to keep her emperor if she
surrendered. As Robert Butow writes so convincingly in his "Japan's Decision
to Surrender," the Japanese cabinet was severely divided over whether to
offer to surrender on the one condition that the imperial institution be
preserved. The emperor himself came down in favor of such an offer. We had
intercepted Japanese cables asking Stalin to tell us that "unconditional
surrender is the only obstacle to peace" – and we knew that "unconditional
surrender" was a euphemism for destruction of the emperor's office and
Grew made his plea to Truman to make such an
offer; Truman wanted him to clear it with the Secretary of State. But
Stettinius was in San Francisco on UN business; he was very shortly
succeeded by Byrnes, who took off for Potsdam before Grew could give him a
serious briefing. Byrnes called up his friend Cordell Hull, the non-expert
on Japan who simply said that as far as he was concerned, the emperor was
just part of that militaristic system that had to go. Besides, Byrnes wanted
the A-Bomb to make a big impression on the Russians.
So, without making a serious offer, we went
ahead and used the bomb twice – and then accepted the Japanese offer to
surrender with the very proviso – still insisted upon by Japan – that they
keep their emperor!
The 60-year-old elephant in this room,
therefore, is not whether the A-Bomb was worse than others, or saved
American lives - but whether our leaders failed to exercise the empathic
imagination that might well have ended the war without the A-bomb OR an
We do not know for sure that such an act
would have ended the war. Even after the two bombs, and the Japanese
surrender, some Japanese pilots plotted to bomb the battleship Missouri as
it lay in Tokyo Bay, and others tried to storm the palace and steal the
imperial announcement of the end of the war before the tape could be played.
Both efforts were frustrated by Japanese generals. Did it take two atomic
bombs to undergird the loyalty of these generals? Alas, we will never know.
But we could and should have made the offer. There was more than one way to
save Earl Tilford's father.
-Gordon Shull, elder, Wooster, Ohio
|"We know the bomb worked"
Dr. Earl Tilford responds to Dr. Shull, saying that
the war ended, so the bomb worked. [8-20-05]
With highest respect to
Gordon Shull, as one who taught military history throughout the Cold War
and who was a nuclear targeting officer at Headquarters, Strategic Air
Command (paying a good deal of attention to the effects of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki) after a year of "hands on" experience fighting the Cold War in
Indochina, while there might have been other ways to keep my father, my
uncle, my future father-in-law and as many as half-a-million other young
American men from becoming casualties of the an invasion of Japan, we know
the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki worked. We also know the
Japanese had definitive plans to resist the invasion, including the use of
suicide squads of civilians intent on self-detonation amid US and Allied
Troops. The Japanese also had a demonstrated track record of fighting
desperately throughout the Pacific War. Given the information at hand, I
think President Truman made the best decision he could with the information
at hand. In any event he made it and the war ended. Why was it the right
decision? Because the war ended quickly thereafter and whatever else might
have happened is speculation. Quod erat demonstratum.
Earl H. Tilford, Jr., PhD
Professor of History
Grove City College
Grove City, PA 16127
|"My God! What Have We Done?"
Sixty years ago this
week, Father George Zabelka, a chaplain with the U.S. Air Force, met with
the airmen who dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and gave
them his blessing.
Days later he counseled a crew member who had flown a
low-level reconnaissance flight over Nagasaki to review the results. The man
described how thousands of scorched, twisted bodies writhed on the ground in
the final throes of death, while those still on their feet wandered
aimlessly in shock - flesh seared, melted, and falling off.
The description raised a stifled cry from the depths of
Zabelka's soul – and eventually altered the course of his life.
Read on >>
|Bush and the
While many still
defend the nuclear attacks on Japan as "for their own good" – shortening the
war and avoiding a greater loss of both Japanese and American lives – many
scholars are now arguing that the use of the bomb neither hastened the end
of the war nor saved lives.
Marjorie Cohn, writing on Truthout.com, says:
The United States dropped the A-bomb to test it on live
targets, and to demonstrate the overwhelming superiority of America. The
Cold War had begun.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "It wasn't necessary
to hit them with that awful thing." General Curtis LeMay declared that the
atomic bomb had nothing to do with Japan's surrender. And Admiral William
D. Leahy stated angrily that the "use of this barbarous weapon at
Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against
Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender ... in
being the first to use it, we ... adopted an ethical standard common to
the barbarians of the Dark Ages."
The rest of the article >>
Earl Tilford offers unreserved praise for the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima
Dr. Gordon Shull has sent
a response to this note, setting forth his
understanding of the circumstances surrounding the use of the atomic
bombs over Japan, which lead him to view that action as unnecessary, or
at the least rather unplanned.
August 16, 1945, my father, my eight-month pregnant mother and my
grandfather went to the Municipal Pier in St. Petersburg, Florida to dance
in celebration of the announcement earlier that day that Japan had accepted
Allied demands of unconditional surrender. My father, a Merchant Marine
captain, had survived four years of running Nazi submarine gauntlets in the
Atlantic. He was home on leave with orders to report to San Diego by
September 15 where he would take command of a transport headed for the
November invasion of Japan. My relatives had reason to celebrate that night
and celebrate they did. So much so that my mother went into labor. My father
and grandfather, meanwhile, had gotten pretty well into the Jack Daniels
when they arrived at a hospital where, during the wee hours of August 17, I
was born. By the time I arrived, Dad and Grandpa were pretty well-soused,
which is why Dad named me "Victory Japan Tilford." The delivering physician,
seeing Dad's condition, held off on putting that name on my birth
certificate. When she came to in the recovery room, Mom named me after my
father. After accepting Christ Dad became a Presbyterian minister, finishing
strong as a PCA missionary in the Cayman Islands. Thank God for the atomic
bomb, otherwise I might never have known my Dad.
Likewise, my wife probably would never have been born. Her father was a
B-29 pilot would have had to fly many more missions over Japan and his
chances of survival would have been minimal. As it was, he lived to fly
every bomber in the Strategic Air Command inventory, ending up in B-52s,
before retiring in 1966. He fathered my wife and four boys, two of whom
served as pilots in the Navy and Air Force. Thank God for the atomic bomb,
otherwise I would never have known him, my wife or my brothers in law.
The butcher's bill for the first half of the twentieth century was
horrendous. Streams of history issuing from the Renaissance through the
scientific, political, and industrial revolutions came together to foster
two global conflicts that claimed between 90 and 100 million lives between
1914 and 1945; two thirds of them civilians. World War II killed about three
times as many people as World War I. The Second World War accounted for
between 21 and 23 million soldiers and at least twice that number of
civilians. The Axis states of Germany, Imperial Japan, and Italy lost more
than 3,000,000 civilians while the Allied civilian dead numbered at least
times the number of Germans, Japanese and Italian civilians killed in the
war. Some Russian and Chinese demographers put their combined war dead at
between 40,000,000 and 50,000,000. The worst single killer of civilians was
the German concentration and slave labor camp systems, in which over twelve
Allied strategic bombing of Germany, Italy, occupied France and Japan
accounted for between 1.5 and 2 million civilian deaths. Add in the 1.5
million Germans who became victims of Red Army retribution and the figure
for Axis civilian war dead is HALF that of the number of Jews killed as a
matter of state policy during the Holocaust. Japan killed at least as many
in slave labor camps in Korea and throughout China. Since neither the
Japanese nor Chinese kept accurate records, we do not know within ten
million how many Chinese and Korean civilians were killed by the Japanese.
But we do know that Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought an end to it!
The butcher's bill for the twentieth century was exorbitant through 1945.
However, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki the number of deaths caused by warfare
in the second half of history's bloodiest century fell sharply. Had it not
been for nuclear weapons, it is probable the Soviet Union and the West would
have fought a war as bloody as the wars of 1914-1918 and 1937-1945. As it
was, the Cold War, America's longest war, was still our third most costly
conflict with some 100,000 Americans making their ultimate sacrifice for
freedom on battlefields in Korea, Vietnam and a score of other places. The
bomb, and the sure knowledge each side would have used it, prevented that
final apocalyptic war.
Japan would have suffered far more had a quarter-to-half-a-million Allied
lives been lost forcing its final surrender. The Soviet Union would have
claimed their own zone of occupation and established a puppet regime so that
Japan might today be divided like North and South Korea. Retribution against
the Japanese people might also have been far greater. There were plans to
turn post-war Japan into an agricultural nation. One plan involved the
sterilization of all Japanese men. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki it seemed
Japan had suffered enough. It had…but
Japan also deserved it.
Earl H. Tilford, Jr., PhD
Professor of History
Grove City College Grove City, PA
I make no apologies nor do I feel any guilt for what happened to Japan.
|Looking again at the Hiroshima
Arch Taylor prepared the following commentary for
broadcast over the Louisville public radio station WFPL. Further information
on this particular matter, together with new information about the Pearl
Harbor attack and the Allied Occupation of Japan are available in his book,
Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and Beyond: Subversion of Values (available
or by phone 1-888-232-4444).
Sixty years ago, an estimated million Allied military
personnel mobilized on warships to invade Japan. They made wills and wrote
last letters home. On August 6, 1945, the U.S. Air Force destroyed Hiroshima
with a single atomic bomb. An acquaintance of mine who was on one of those
ships wrote: "August 6 was my resurrection day." We all rejoiced when Japan
surrendered; the invasion was cancelled!
The Hiroshima bomb killed some 70,000 people instantly and
destroyed everything for miles around. When people at home began to
understand the magnitude of the bomb, they began to raise questions. The
Catholic magazine Commonweal editorialized: "Victory in the war is
defiled." David Lawrence, editor of U.S. News, said, "Surely we
cannot be proud of what we have done." Occupation forces in Japan learned
that the country was near collapse already before the Bomb fell. Joe
O’Donnel, a Marine photographer, found that the guns along the shore were
only wooden poles, thrusting out of sand bunkers. Author John Hersey told
the personal stories of five survivors in his sympathetic book Hiroshima.
To counter growing doubts and questions, government
authorities published an article called, "The Decision to Use the Atomic
Bomb." The article concealed some important facts and gave false impressions
on many other issues. Most important, the government claimed that the Bomb
saved millions of lives by making invasion unnecessary.
The American people accepted this story. We were happy to
believe that this terrible weapon was really a lifesaving blessing. The
Japanese had forced us to go to war by stealthily attacking Pearl Harbor. We
had paid them back and at the same time accomplished a wonderful thing with
Thus, we have called this evil Bomb good, and we have
built thousands of bombs. Trusting in these weapons of mass destruction, we
now follow war policies that threaten the rest of the world and endanger our
own security and best interests.
Arch B. Taylor, Jr.
2200 Greentree North Apt 1120
Clarksville IN 47129
|Presbyterian to attend 60th anniversary
observances of nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Jim Atwood seeks support for
petition urging Japan to maintain its constitutional rejection of war
From Len Bjorkman, co-moderator of the Presbyterian
The Rev. Jim Atwood, who served in Japan from 1965 to 1974, will go to Japan
as part of a Fellowship of Reconciliation delegation marking the 60th
anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As a member of the
National Committee of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, he will represent
us, as a peace fellowship affiliated with the FOR.
Below is the letter that he has sent to our National
Committee, giving information about the trip and asking people to sign a
petition to maintain Japan's Constitutional rejection of war.
7510 June St.
Springfield, VA 22150
June 30, 2005
On August 6th and 9th, the 60th anniversaries of atomic bomb drops on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki will take place. I will have the privilege and honor
to represent The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship at those poignant occasions.
Our delegation, under the auspices of The Fellowship of Reconciliation, will
meet with representatives of other peace groups from all over the world and
present petitions to the Japanese Diet asking them to support and not repeal
Article 9 of their own constitution.
I spent nine years, 1965-1974, as a missionary of the Presbyterian Church,
USA, working with Japanese college students, and seeking opportunities to
tell them of the love of God and the power of Jesus Christ to turn a war-mad
world around. I learned first hand, how strongly the Japanese people support
both nuclear non-proliferation and the abolition of all nuclear weapons.
After all, they were the only people to experience a mushroom cloud.
The United States itself, as the occupying power, was instrumental in
writing Article 9 into the Japanese Constitution which renounces war. It
1. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on
justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign
right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling
2. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and
air forces as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The
right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
Today, 58 years after this historic renunciation of militarism and war,
strong political forces both in Japan and in the United States are working
to repeal a crucial portion of this peaceful constitution which would open
the way for the remilitarization of Japan, and promote growing unease not
only in the East, but all over the world.
Those of us on the above mentioned peace delegations will join colleagues
from the Japan Fellowship of Reconciliation and do the following:
1. Express our public support for maintaining Article 9 of the Japanese
2. Offer our heartfelt thanks to the people of Japan for their historic and
principled stand for peace, and especially for their total support of both
nuclear non-proliferation and the abolition of all nuclear weapons.
3. Demand that the United States Government cease attempts to pressure the
people of Japan and honor Japan’s own political process.
I am writing you for your help. If you agree with the reasons for which I am
participating in these horrible anniversaries which are reminders of the
tragic consequences of the use of atomic and hydrogen weapons, please sign
the attached petition and get as many others to join you as possible. Please
feel free to make as many copies as you wish. Please return them to me
(address above) by July 18, or if you wish you can mail them to The
Fellowship of Reconciliation. (Address on the petition itself).
I will see that they are presented to members of the Japanese Diet.
To get this petition please go to
www.forusa.org and click
on, "Print and sign a petition"
Many thanks for your attention to this urgent request for help.
Trying to be faithful to the non-violent Christ,
Jim Atwood (Rev.)
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
ratified (or not) by the presbyteries
A number of the most important actions of the 219th
General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their
action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book
We're providing resources to help inform the
reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.
Our three areas of primary interest are:
which would remove the current ban on
lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as
possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.|
which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of
10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government
that was approved by the Assembly. |
If you like what
you find here,
we hope you'll help us keep Voices for Justice going ... and
Please consider making a special
contribution -- large or small -- to help us continue and improve
Click here to send a
gift online, using your credit card, through PayPal.
Or send your check, made
out to "Presbyterian Voices for Justice" and marked "web site," to
our PVJ Treasurer:
4007 Gibsonia Road
Gibsonia, PA 15044-8312
Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New
York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive
New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the
Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian
Church in Flushing, NY.
John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive
A Presbyterian minister, currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!