Who Gets the Credit?

Air & Space Smithsonian - - Letters -

In “A His­tory of the War in 25 Air­planes” (Apr./may 2015), the cap­tion at the top of page 26 calls Dou­glas SBD Daunt­lesses “the he­roes of Mid­way.” The real he­roes were the Dev­as­ta­tor tor­pedo bomber pi­lots. They went in know­ing that they would die, and kept the Ze­ros on the deck so they couldn’t en­gage the Daunt­lesses when those came in high.


via email The spot­ter card insert (Apr./may 2015) de­scribes the B-29 Su­per­fortress as the “bomber that ended the war.” This state­ment has be­come an ar­ti­cle of faith, but there is rea­son to doubt it. On Au­gust 9, the Sovi­ets in­vaded Manchuria with­out warn­ing, and the Ja­panese army of oc­cu­pa­tion there—which Ja­pan be­lieved was its most com­bat-ca­pa­ble army— al­most im­me­di­ately col­lapsed. Ja­pan now faced what could have been a three-front in­va­sion: south­ern Ja­pan by the Al­lies, and across the Sea of Ja­pan and via the Kuril Is­lands by the Sovi­ets. Know­ing that they could not de­fend against that sit­u­a­tion, the army lead­er­ship reluc­tantly agreed to the em­peror’s de­ci­sion to sur­ren­der. Even so, Ja­pan did not sur­ren­der un­til Au­gust 15, more than a week af­ter the B-29 Enola Gay bombed Hiroshima.

This ar­gu­ment is more com­pletely de­tailed in Ward Wil­son’s book Five

Myths About Nu­clear Weapons and

Tsuyoshi Hasegawa’s Rac­ing the En­emy: Stalin, Tru­man, and the Sur­ren­der of Ja­pan. Both au­thors demon­strate that when Ja­panese of­fi­cials stated that they’d sur­ren­dered be­cause of the power demon­strated by the atomic bombs, they were speak­ing pri­mar­ily for home con­sump­tion—to pro­vide face-sav­ing cover for the ac­tual mil­i­tary rea­sons for the sur­ren­der.


Bethesda, Mary­land

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