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Autrhor : Tadashi Hama

Reviewed Book : Harry Wray, Seishiro Sugihara  Is Japanese Debate on the Atomic Bombing All Right as It Is—the first US-Japan dialogue over the atomic bombings (published by Nisshin-hodo, 2015)

The book reviewed is Is Japanese Debate on the Atomic Bombing All Right as It Is—the first US-Japan dialogue over the atomic bombings (published by Nisshin-hodo, 2015). In the book, American Harry Wray criticizes the view of the atomic bombings the Japanese people generally have. On the other hand, Japanese Sugihara Seishiro comments and counterargues, chapter by chapter, stating his views on the Japanese side. Thus, this book is considered the first Japan-US dialogue over the atomic bombings. In the Japanese version of the book, the English texts written by Harry Wray are translated into Japanese by Ms. Yamamoto Reiko, who obtained her doctorate at Meisei University and studied the purge of teachers under the US occupation at the university’s Center for the Study of Postwar Education. The book was published in 2015 by Nisshin-hodo. The English version, titled Bridging the Atomic Divide: Debating Japan-US Attitudes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was published in 2019 by Lexington Books. Japanese texts written by Sugihara were translated into English by Chinese-Australian Norman Hoo.

The book’s coauthor Harry Wray was born in Nebraska, USA, in 1931 and died in 2017, without seeing the English version of this book. Mr. Wray finished the graduate school at the University of Hawaii in 1971 and lived in Japan for many years, teaching at various universities in Japan. In his study of the educational reform during the Occupation period, he interviewed fifty Japanese who worked for the educational reform during the Occupation and twenty-eight members of the Allied Forces personnel, making a great contribution to the study of educational reform during the occupation period. He was a Japanophile.

The other author, Sugihara Seishiro, was born in 1941 in the city of Hiroshima and lived there until immediately before the atomic bombing on the city, close to the very epicenter. In 1967, Sugihara finished the master’s course in education at the graduate school of the University of Tokyo. It is said that he did not advance to the doctor’s course because he was in conflict with the senior professor who led lecturers at the Japan Teachers’ Union that played an enormous role in spreading the self-deprecating view of history in postwar Japan.

Reviewer Hama Tadashi’s review was posted on the website of the Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact in September 2019 as followed:

<Book Review>
Bridging the Atomic Divide: Debating Japan-US Attitudes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
By Harry Wray & Seishiro Sughihara
Lexington Books
Reviewed by Tadashi Hama

Newsletter No. 231 introduced this newly published book, which discusses, in a frank and candid manner, an extremely sensitive subject that Japanese and Americans have long avoided.

      The book is reviewed by Mr. Tadashi Hama and is also accompanied by a comment on the review by, Professor Seishiro Sugihara, the book’s author.

     Mr. Wray wrote that his wish was to “have a dialogue about the atomic bombs...,” a “balanced dialogue”, and a dialogue which “must not be like the Tokyo Trials conducted during the Occupation...a one-sided affair imposed by the victorious nations on the losing side...” However, the book starts off by berating the Japanese for their “litany of clear-cut crimes against humanity”, and mentions, among other things, forcing Korean women to be “prostitutes”, or so-called “comfort women”, and the “rape of Nanking”, assuming that these were established historical facts.

     Mr. Hama’s criticism is that this line of thinking will not bring about a “balanced dialogue” of historical perception at all. He further details Wray’s slanted, one-sided thinking.

    In his comment, Mr. Sugihara, while acknowledging Mr. Hama’s view, emphasizes that FDR ultimately shoulders responsibility for the atomic bombings and his actions have determined the context of the dialogue on this important issue. It is recommended that his comments be also read.

Reviewer Hama newly included, among the reference literature, the books Lone Eagle—The Wartime Journal of Charles A. Lindbergh (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970) and Summer, 1945: Germany, Japan and the Harvest of Hate, written by Thomas Goodrich (The Palm Press, 2018) and stated that in the Japan-US War, many atrocities were committed by the U.S. side. Based on this fact, regarding the atomic bombings, he denies Harry Wray’s accounts of the US side and emphasizes that there was no rightful cause for the United States to drop atomic bombs.

Since reviewer Hama has based his statements on historical facts, there is no exaggeration nor fiction in his accounts. In this respect, his review should be read by many Americans.

On the other hand, Harry Wray’s assertions are popularly cited in the United States, such as that the dropping of the atomic bombs was meant to end the war sooner and reduce the number of victims on both sides and that in fact the atomic bombings spared many potential victims. And if Japan had readily accepted the Potsdam Declaration when it was issued, no atomic bombs would have been used and therefore, Japan should be held responsible for the result to a relative extent.

Certainly, the later estimate of the number of victims saved by the atomic bombings may have been somewhat exaggerated, but it is true that many lives were spared. It is also true that there would have been no atomic bombing if only Japan had promptly accepted the Potsdam Declaration when it was issued.

How, then, is Sugihara, representing Japan, to refute the American assertions? The point to argue is that chances for the United States to make Japan surrender before the Potsdam Declaration was issued, rendering it useless to drop atomic bombs were many, many times more than the chance for Japan to accept the Potsdam Declaration.

What made it difficult for the United States under the then President Truman to carry out the policy of making Japan surrender before dropping atomic bombs was that the predecessor President Roosevelt had forced Japan into unconditional surrender. On the opening of the war between Japan and the United States, President Roosevelt blamed Japan for attacking Pearl Harbor “without declaring war”, instigating the Americans to fight the war against Japan and stirring up hate against Japan. In fact, the war between Japan and the United States was staged, without the knowledge of the peoples of both countries with the United States provoking Japan into the war. The alleged delay in handing the “declaration of war” on the part of Japan was not intentional but a mere blunder in clerical work. Although he knew this fact, Roosevelt instigated hostilities against Japan and forced Japan to unconditionally accept the Potsdam Declaration. By doing so, he manipulated his people to gain their strong support. Consequently, the US-Japan war obliged the United States to deploy the ground battle on the soil of mainland Japan and the United States had to continue fighting even after the defeat of Japan became evident, causing more casualties on both sides, to no avail.

Thus, coauthor Sugihara asserts that Roosevelt forced the American people to unnecessarily suffer an enormous number of casualties and in this regard, Roosevelt betrayed the American people as well. Sugihara adds emphatically that he wants the Americans to know this fact.

This review should be read widely by Americans to understand better the issue of atomic bombings.

Review : Japanese / English