Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Wither the Nuclear Umbrella?

November 16, 2014

NAM---Minuteman-Mk-5-RV

NAM—Minuteman-Mk-5-RV courtesy of Flikr user lifeontheedge

Well, it’s not explicitly about China, but my latest publication IS about East Asian security matters, how things are changing out here (I say out here – I relocated back to the region earlier this year), and what that might mean for the perceived value of U.S. extended deterrence guarantees to allies and partners.

Here’s the abstract:

As a part of one of the world’s longest-standing and most robust security alliances, the United States has extended its “nuclear umbrella” over Japan since the early 1950s. Despite this enduring partnership, North Korean missile and nuclear tests and Chinese encroachment on Japanese territories in the East China Sea may lead to new questions about the continuing viability of American security assurances. Security concerns have impelled Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to pursue constitutional changes that may allow for a greater role for Japanese defense forces. After more than a decade of sustained combat in the Middle East, the Obama administration’s renewed commitment to Asia in 2011 combines initiatives that span the spectrum of national power to assure allies and reassure potential adversaries of U.S. determination. However, questions about U.S. fiscal austerity, leadership and readiness of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, and an unprecedented desire for retrenchment among U.S. citizens have led to ongoing concerns about the authenticity of U.S. resolve to maintain a leadership role in the region. Budgetary concerns regarding the maintenance of a nuclear triad and conceptual criticisms of extended nuclear deterrence may also weaken domestic backing for continuation of historical roles. The United States has been exploring non-nuclear long-range precision strike capabilities as well as developing battle concepts appropriate for sub-nuclear responses to emergent security threats in vast Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere. Based on analysis of these concurrent trends, this paper concludes that Japan is not sufficiently assured by U.S. extended deterrence and may seek additional measures to shore up its security outside of the scope of the alliance.

The whole paper (PDF) is here. Please read it, then share it! (Twitter is a good place.)

View this document on Scribd

The full document, featuring papers from all 17 presenters at the 2013 CSIS PONI Capstone Conference, held in Omaha in March 2014, is here.

I worked on this paper as a part of a non-resident Sasakawa Peace Foundation Fellowship with Pacific Forum CSIS and am grateful to them and to the CSIS Project on Nuclear Issues for allowing me to present preliminary versions of my research at two of their annual conference series events in 2013 and 2014.

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My 2011 Master’s Thesis Now Available: Looking at China’s A2/AD Capabilities and U.S. Perceptions of the Challenge

April 24, 2012

It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally been cleared to post my 2011 master’s thesis, entitled “AMERICAN PERCEPTIONS OF CHINA‘S ANTI-ACCESS AND AREA-DENIAL CAPABILITIES: IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. MILITARY OPERATIONS IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC.” I completed the research on it in May 2011, defended it in June in front of a thesis committee featuring a pair of highly-regarded defense and security experts in Taiwan (Dr. Wen-cheng Lin of National Sun Yat-sen University, who served as my thesis advisor, and Dr. Andrew N. D. Yang, Taiwan’s currently serving Deputy Minister of National Defense), and then made my post-defense revisions throughout the summer, finally completing the work in September. It’s basically been in various states of review for release since then. I suppose it is only fitting that I am finally able to release it on the occasion of the joint Chinese and Russian naval drills taking place in the Yellow Sea and the anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Enjoy!

Abstract:

The post-Cold War world has created a number of important new challenges to the United States‘ power projection capabilities. The worldwide network of bases and stations that enabled the U.S. to contain the Soviet Union have, in many cases, been made into liabilities. U.S. dependence on fixed, vulnerable ports and airfields for the buildup of combat power, as seen in the 1990-91 Gulf War and 2003 Iraq War, have shown potential foes like China and Iran that it doesn‘t pay to allow penalty-free access and freedom of action in maritime, air, and space commons. In the Western Pacific, China has pursued an anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) strategy, developing capabilities designed to deny U.S. freedom of movement in the region.

This study examines U.S. perceptions of China‘s growing A2/AD capabilities and their implications for U.S. military operations in the Western Pacific through the analysis of authoritative official and unofficial U.S. documents and studies. This work establishes a comprehensive, up-to-date picture of Chinese A2/AD capabilities through American eyes, updating previous comprehensive works in key areas such as the status of China‘s anti-ship ballistic missile, conventional ballistic and cruise missile capabilities and their implications for key U.S. facilities in the region, and new technology and platforms like China‘s first aircraft carrier and stealth aircraft.

The thesis concludes that the U.S. has been slow in reacting to Chinese A2/AD developments and that it is unlikely that continued Chinese military modernization (including the refinement and development of additional A2/AD capabilities) will end in the near future. For the U.S., this means that development and implementation of a truly joint concept for counter-A2/AD operations, as well as the right mix of military capabilities to carry out such operations, cannot be delayed any longer.

View this document on Scribd

Links of Interest 03/25/2011

March 25, 2011
  • tags: soft_power China FC

    • What kind of national image has China sought to project to the world through its cultural diplomacy that distinguishes it against other Asian nations?

      I’m not sure China is trying to portray itself against other Asian nations, but I think it has used its soft power to boost its image compared to its own image of the past—its image in the 1970s and 80s and early 90s—as either disinterested in regional affairs or difficult and aggressive to deal with. Also, I think China has utilized its soft power and cultural diplomacy to try to create the idea, at least regionally, that it’s truly a good neighbour—that it shares values and heritage with its neighbours—and that the United States, in contrast, doesn’t.

  • tags: guam buildup FC USMC V-22

    • The Navy is looking for eight MV-22 Block C Containerized Flight Training Devices to be delivered starting in 2013, with the last two being installed on Guam in 2015, the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division said. Containerized Flight Training Devices are self-contained units, which house a non-motion simulator, a host computer, a visual display system, and an instructor operating station.

      The Navy, which is preparing for the transfer of 8,600 Marines, their family and support staff from Okinawa to Guam as early as 2016, said the first delivery of the CFTD’s will be to the capitol region in April, 2013.

  • tags: China internet censorship activism FC

    • The question for U.S. policymakers is how to manage these different views of cyberspace. There is going to be no silver bullet solution. There are economic disputes such as access to the Chinese market and competing technological standards. There is the espionage issue. There are the human rights and access to information issues. And there is the cyber war problem: how states might use computer network attacks in a conflict.
  • tags: us carrier Japan FC

    • THE aircraft carrier USS George Washington was moved this week from its Japanese port to avoid a potentially costly and complex clean-up to remove traces of radiation, the US Navy revealed.
  • tags: US China maritime navy book FC

    • Three members of the U.S. Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) collaborated on a recently released book titled, “China, the United States, and 21st-Century Sea Power,” which explores areas of mutual maritime interest between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.
  • tags: taiwan US FC

    • Former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will lead a delegation to Taiwan on Sunday for a four-day visit.
    • The delegation will meet with President Ma Ying-jeou and other high ranking officials. They will discuss US-Taiwan relations and cross-strait issues.
    • Armitage will be joined by a group of former US foreign policy and security officials on the four-day visit. The delegation will include former state department officials such as former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Randall Schriver.
  • tags: FC guam buildup

    • Yesterday, Naval Facilities Marianas released a statement detailing some of the projects, which amount to about $1 billion in total cost. Projects can now be awarded to contractors, who can begin designing or building complexes that Marines will use when they relocate from Okinawa to Guam in coming years.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Send in the Marines

March 15, 2011

I mentioned yesterday that Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked on the Essex Amphibious Ready Group would be part of U.S. forces responding to the disaster in Japan. Today I learned about what the rest of the Marines stationed in Japan will be doing to help. It mainly consists of repositioning rotary wing aircraft and cargo planes from Okinawa and Southern Japan to bases and locations closer to the disaster site. But it also involves the use of the High Speed Vessel (HSV), a catamaran hull ship operated by contractors and used to ferry Marines and gear around the theater. (I’ve never been aboard the HSV, but those that have had the pleasure of going for a ride no-so-affectionately refer to it as “the vomit comet”.)

From the press release:

Today, III MEF personnel and gear departed the Naha Military Port at 9 a.m. on the High Speed Vessel in route to mainland Japan. The HSV will deliver a Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) for use in the assistance operations. A FARP is a temporary facility normally located close to the area of operations that allows aircraft to conduct continuous operations without having to return to an established airport to obtain fuel. This capability enables helicopters to fly rescue and transport missions almost non-stop.

The HSV is also transporting additional supplies, communications equipment and personnel that will be used in the relief operations. The FARP and other supplies will arrive at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni for further transportion to the identified FARP location.

Eight CH-46E transport helicopters of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265, MAG-36, 1st MAW, III MEF normally located at MCAS Futenma are now positioned at NAS Atsugi and available to conduct relief operations. The mission of the Marine Corps rotary wing aircraft in support of relief operations is survey, recovery and humanitarian assistance support.

Humanitarian assistance survey teams are in place and ready to begin assessing the damaged area and assisting the Government of Japan with providing accurate information to disaster relief planners, both military and civilian. The HASTs are capable of distributing supplies and providing basic medical care for those in immediate need of aid.

Read it all here. Check out all the slides here.

“A disaster of absolutely historic proportions”

March 14, 2011

You’d have to have been living under a rock not to have heard about the massive earthquake (they’re giving it a 9.0 magnitude now), then tsunami, now nuclear disaster of unclear proportions that struck Japan starting on Saturday, March 12. It seems almost like the “perfect storm” of calamities is unfolding –  a national security strategist’s worst nightmare. The most surreal part of it all is that it took place in the middle of the day and that people around the world were able to watch the destruction unfold live on television and online.

For its part, the U.S. Navy has kicked its deployments in the region into high gear in order to provide as much humanitarian assistance / disaster relief (HA/DR) as possible, as soon as possible. At least eight warships have been dispatched to the area to render assistance, with more to follow. And it’s not just the Navy pitching it – the Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, from Okinawa, Japan, are embarked on the USS Essex (LHD-2) and related ships of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and are also on the way after a brief stop in Malaysia. Already there has been a nuclear issue, with personnel from the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) being irradiated to an as yet-to-be-determined degree after the ship steamed through the nuclear fallout cloud emanating from the damaged nuclear reactor at Fukushima. Some people believe that the nuclear crisis we are witnessing in Japan will be the death knell of the resurgence of nuclear power in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Michael Turton over at The View From Taiwan muses about a similar disaster striking Taiwan. From what he says, it leaves one with the distinct suspicion that the regime that brought you the botched handling of Typhoon Morakot in 2009 would not be making the strong showing that the Naoto Kan government in Tokyo is (though he also emphasizes that it is not simply a Ma Ying-jeou issue or a KMT issue).

Finally, the best bunch of photos of the destruction in Japan I have yet seen are here at the Atlantic’s In Focus blog – truly worth looking at. Amazing, terrifying stuff.

Links of Interest 03/06/2011

March 6, 2011
A panorama of Beijing's CBD - China World Trad...

Image via Wikipedia

  • H/T Small Wars Journal

    tags: FC China rise Taiwan

    • The prospect of failing to attain the level of economic development before its elderly population places an unbearable strain on the country’s economy while simultaneously coping with tens of millions of idle and alienated young men may present the vaunted PRC technocracy with a challenge beyond its capabilities. As Hudson and den Boer ominously warn, “At some point, governments [will] consider how they can export their problem, either by encouraging emigration of young adult men or harnessing their energies in martial adventures abroad.”
  • tags: FC China defense budget

    • BEIJING—China’s government plans to increase its defense budget by 12.7% this year, a pickup from last year’s sharply slower growth that comes amid widening concerns about the capabilities and intentions of China’s military.
  • tags: FC China

    • China’s counterproductive policies are better understood as reactive and conservative rather than assertive, and Beijing should be encouraged by the United States and its allies to return to the more assertive but more constructive policies Beijing adopted in the two years just before the financial crisis.

      In that period China was actually more innovative, proactive and assertive than it is today. By softening its traditional prohibitions on interference in the internal affairs of other states, Beijing was able to play a constructive leadership role in addressing global problems and improve U.S.-China relations in the process.

  • tags: japan Military buildup China FC

  • In December, Tokyo announced plans to strengthen its forces in the southwestern Okinawan islands, including adding a dozen F-15s in Naha. The increase is part of a broader shift in Japanese defensive stance southward, toward China, that some analysts are calling one of Japan’s biggest changes in postwar military strategy.This strategic shift is another step in a gradual and limited buildup of Japan’s forces, aimed at keeping up with the changing power balance in Asia while remaining within the bounds of Japan’s antiwar Constitution and the constraints of its declining economic power. Political analysts say Japan is slowly raising the capabilities of its forces to respond to a more assertive China and a nuclear-armed North Korea — and to take a first, halting step out of the shadow of the United States, its postwar protector, which many Japanese fear may one day no longer have the will or ability to defend Japan.
  • The Decline of U.S. Naval Power – WSJ.com

As China’s navy rises and ours declines, not that far in the future the trajectories will cross. Rather than face this, we seduce ourselves with redefinitions such as the vogue concept that we can block with relative ease the straits through which the strategic materials upon which China depends must transit. But in one blink this would move us from the canonical British/American control of the sea to the insurgent model of lesser navies such as Germany’s in World Wars I and II and the Soviet Union’s in the Cold War. If we cast ourselves as insurgents, China will be driven even faster to construct a navy that can dominate the oceans, a complete reversal of fortune.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Review: American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964

March 3, 2011

American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964 by William Raymond Manchester
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like most Americans, I knew of Douglas MacArthur before listening to this audiobook. I knew he was a five-star general of the army like Eisenhower, Marshall, and Bradley. I knew he commanded forces in the Pacific in World War II, constituting the southern effort that mirrored the central Pacific effort commanded by Chester Nimitz. I knew that he was sacked early in the Korean War by President Truman for insubordination. I knew that he was called “Dugout Doug” by troops who believed he did not share their privations in forward positions, close to the enemy.

I learned so much more about MacArthur in this book. I learned that his Army career spanned a remarkable 52 years, and that he was a general officer for something like the last 30 of these. Contrary to the “Dugout Doug” epithet that followed him in the Pacific, he was hardly a coward in the face of the enemy – in fact, it was quite the opposite. He was virtually suicidal in taking undue risks in battle. In World War I, though he was a high-ranking officer (colonel as chief of staff for the Rainbow Division, and later brigadier general in command of his own units), he insisted on commanding from the front, not some tent or quarters far removed from the battlefield. He accompanied his troops on raids and reconnaissance efforts armed only with a riding crop and refused to wear a steel helmet or carry a gas mask (he was gassed at least once because of the latter). Much later, when he withdrew to Corregidor in Manila Harbor after the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, while everyone else rushed for cover when the island came under air attack, he routinely came out of the underground shelters to observe. It was much the same when he later returned to the Philippines after withdrawing to Australia to regroup. Though the Japanese knew the location of the house he was using as a command post and regularly strafed and bombed the area, he refused to leave the building or seek shelter when attacks came. In fact, one of the first actions he took upon assuming the private home as his headquarters was to demolish and fill in an “unsightly” bomb shelter that spoiled the aesthetics of the home’s lawn. Even during the Korean War, he still needed to get close to the front lines to get a feel for the fighting, much closer than many of his aides would have preferred (though in Korea he always made “day trips” to the fighting – flying in, touring, then returning to Tokyo at the end of the day).

Though he was quite fearless in battle, he was also a megalomaniac, highly egotistical, unable to accept blame for mistakes, and unwilling to allow anyone but himself to be acclaimed. His cables were routinely studded with accolades of his own exploits and triumphs, rarely if ever even mentioning the name of any other officer from his command.

I was unaware that Dwight Eisenhower had been one of MacArthur’s aides in the 1930s when MacArthur had retired from active duty and had gone to the Philippines to oversee the U.S. military assistance program there. It would forever sting MacArthur that Ike, who had been a major or lieutenant colonel while working for him, would have such a meteoric rise thereafter, pulling equal with him in rank as a five-star general of the army in the next decade and even further when he won the presidency – something MacArthur always coveted.

His seniority and reputation earned him a great deal of autonomy in how he conducted his business as a warfighting general. In World War II, orders were issued to all other theater commanders, but to MacArthur, the orders were sent for information only. This would lead to his ultimate fall from command in Korea. The man simply could not refrain from dabbling in politics, even going as far as launching an abortive presidential bid in 1948. He could not see the line between civilian control of the military, and was belligerent and insubordinate to commands and instruction issued even from the president himself. The lesson for American civil-military relations was clear – something was wrong with how the system allowed MacArthur to behave as he had – and would yet.

One thing I thought completely remarkable was that even after Truman fired him and he returned to the U.S. – his first time back in over a decade (he had been in the Philippines, Australia, and Japan during his time abroad) – he toured the country, making political speeches attacking the president while in full uniform, still on active duty, still drawing full pay and benefits from the military, jetting about the country on a military plane. This would never happen today.

In the end, MacArthur was a tragic figure – so talented, so gifted and driven (largely by the influence of his mother, who always pushed him to best the achievements of his father, who had been an Army three-star general), but also so terribly flawed. He failed to adequately prepare the Philippines for the Japanese invasion in World War II, responded sluggishly to reports of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (which preceded the strike on the Philippines by several hours), and largely repeated these mistakes in Korea in 1950. US troops in Japan were soft from easy occupation duty there, and the U.S. posture on the peninsula itself was abhorrent when the North Korean attack came. Of course, MacArthur could never be blamed for any of these shortcomings. (In an interesting sidenote, many of the Japanese troops who attacked the Philippines in December 1941 came from Takou, Formosa – now Kaohsiung, Taiwan, from which I write these words. MacArthur failed to conduct any aerial reconnaissance missions of Southern Formosa to determine the disposition and strength of Japanese troops – something he and the Filipino people would pay dearly for.)

It’s a long book – nearly 800 pages in print and over 31 hours of unabridged audio – but very interesting for military history buffs and students of Asia-Pacific geopolitics. (MacArthur to this day is probably regarded more fondly in the Philippines and Japan than he is in much of the United States.) I have read another book by the same author, William Manchester, called “Goodbye, Darkness” about his experiences fighting as a Marine in the Pacific theater during World War II, and there is no doubt that he is a skilled writer. Recommended.

View all my reviews

Links of Interest 02/09/2011

February 9, 2011
US military bases in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan

Image via Wikipedia

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Links of Interest 01/30/2011

January 30, 2011
  • tags: guam buildup okinawa FC

    • The delegation included one member of the Japanese Diet, five Okinawa Assembly members and one Nago City Assembly member, according to an e-mail from the Office of Speaker Judith Won Pat. Okinawa and Guam are on opposite ends of the buildup, but the plans have sparked controversy on both islands.
    • In a separate news release, the Guam Legislature’s Republican leadership on Thursday voiced demands of its own, saying it’s insisting the governor and island’s delegate ensure Guam receive certain “deliverables” as decisions are being made in preparation for the transfer of Marines from Okinawa.

      These should include war reparations; full reimbursement for Compact-Impact costs; and support and services for the schooling, heath care and infrastructural needs of the resulting population growth, the senators said.

  • tags: taiwan arms sales FC

    • Wang Jin-pyng, president of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, called on the U.S. Jan. 26 to sell Taiwan F-16 C/D fighters and diesel-electric submarines.

      “Continuing U.S. arms sales are of great significance,” Wang said. “Taiwan has to maintain sufficient self-defense capabilities so it can stand on an equal footing with mainland China in cross-strait negotiations.”

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The Pacific: Endgame

December 31, 2010
Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

Image via Wikipedia

Note: I wrote this post in May 2010 after viewing the final episode of HBO’sThe Pacific” miniseries.  I think I meant to work on it more and then post it a bit later, but since it’s now the end of the year and I am just now posting it, clearly it fell by the wayside.  Previous posts on the series can be found here and here.

The final episode of HBO’s original miniseries “The Pacific” aired last night in Taiwan.  As I have written about a couple of times previously here at Facing China, I’ve been doing some reading related to the series and the World War II in the Pacific.  My final selection related to HBO’s The Pacific was the new book about the survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb attack, Charles Pellegrino’s The Last Train from Hiroshima: The Survivors Look Back. But before I get into the book at all, let’s discuss The Pacific, shall we?

I enjoyed the series.  It had big shoes to fill, though.  I would say that if The Pacific had come out 10 years ago in place of Band of Brothers, people would be gushing about it, me included.  But since it had so much to live up to, I must reluctantly admit (I already admitted that as a U.S. Marine myself, I am biased) that in my opinion Band of Brothers is the superior series.  Why?  I am not completely sure…perhaps it was because Band of Brothers focused on a smaller “scene” in the European theater of war, as compared to the far-ranging American effort across virtually the entire vastness of the Pacific Ocean.  I think that as a result The Pacific was a bit disjointed, it didn’t flow as smoothly as Band of Brothers did.  Then there was the characters – none of the actors in The Pacific really excelled and stuck with me the way certain characters did in Band of Brothers, like the crazy-legs lieutenant that seemed invincible running across many a battlefield, inspiring the troops to greater accomplishments.  Or Dick Winters, the ultra-charismatic officer who Band of Brothers followed throughout the war.  His equivalent, Sledge’s company commander at Peleliu, “Ack Ack,” did not survive that island’s fighting.

I asked at the outset whether or not the producers of The Pacific would be able to do justice to the baseness and ferocity of the fighting in places like Peleliu and Okinawa as described in Eugene Sledge‘s book.  I think they did a fair job in showing the incredibly demanding conditions the fighting took place in, like the never-ending rains in Okinawa that turned everything to a sea of mud.  In his book, Sledge described one Okinawan vista this way:

It was the most ghastly corner of hell I had ever witnessed.  As far as I could see, an area that previously had been a low grassy valley with a picturesque stream meandering through it was a middy, repulsive, open sore on the land.  The place was choked with the putrefaction of death, decay, and destruction.  In a shallow defilade to our right, between my gun pit and the railroad, lay about twenty dead Marines, each on a stretcher and covered to his ankles with a poncho – a commonplace, albeit tragic, scene to every veteran.  Those bodies had been placed there to await transport to the rear for burial.  At least those dead were covered from the torrents of rain that had made them miserable in life and from the swarms of flies that sought to hasten their decay.  But as I looked about, I saw that other Marine dead couldn’t be tended properly.  The whole area was pocked with shell craters and churned up by explosions.  Every crater was half full of water, and many of them held a Marine corpse.  The bodies lay pathetically just as they had been killed, half submerged in muck and water, rusting weapons still in hand.  Swarms of big flies hovered about them.

In the end, it’s back to the old cliché – read the book.  At one point in The Pacific, a Marine on Okinawa slips down the side of a hill of mud while trying simply to get from one place to another.  He ends up in a deep puddle of maggotty mud-water along with a rotting corpse or two.  While it is disgusting by any measure on the screen, here’s how he described the same events in the book:

My buddy rose, took one step down the ridge, slipped, and fell.  He slid on his belly all the way to the bottom, like a turtle sliding off a log.  I reached the bottom to see him stand erect with his arms partially extended and look down at his chest and belt with an mixed expression of horror, revulsion, and disbelief.  He was, of course, muddy from the slide.  But that was the least of it.  White, fat maggots tumbled and rolled off his cartridge belt, pockets, and folds of his dungaree jacket and trousers.  I picked up a stick and handed him another.  Together we scraped the vile insect larvae off his reeking dungarees.

I’d certainly recommend The Pacific as a good series to watch about World War II in the Pacific from the U.S. point of view.  It doesn’t tell the whole story, but how could it?  Four years of fighting can hardly be compressed into under 10 hours of television.  Nice effort – 4 of 5 stars.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I also wanted to talk about the book The Last Train from Hiroshima.  First, it’s important to note at the outset that the book is controversial because of problems with key sources of information the author used in researching the book.  In fact, because of these source problems, the publisher pulled the book from further sales earlier this year and the author is re-writing the book without the tainted sources.  Oh yeah, the sources scandal also raised questions about the author’s academic credentials, and it turns out that the PhD he claimed wasn’t real.  Due to all these problems, Last Train may not have been the best book to choose in retrospect, but in my own defense, I bought it soon after it was released, prior to all these skeletons coming out of the closet.  I decided to read it to tie in with World War II‘s “endgame” – nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, and a few days later, Japanese capitulation.

The nuclear attacks on Japan are not a major event in The Pacific – they occur at the end of the 9th episode, and are not shown, only alluded to in a conversation about some fancy, new “super bombs” wiping out a couple Japanese cities.  This is not to downplay their significance; it is simply because the attacks themselves are beyond the scope of the story.  It is because of the atomic bombs used on Japan that the story ends as it does, with a U.S. victory on Okinawa, with no need to chance the estimated 1 million U.S. casualties that would be necessitated by a breach on mainland Japan itself.

Last Train talks about some of the poor souls who managed to survive the bombing in Hiroshima and thought that fleeing would be a good idea, to get out of the area.  I agree, but a few who fled Hiroshima went to join family in Nagasaki and were there a few days hence when the second, more powerful nuclear bomb was detonated.  This could called “really, really bad luck.”  The book also asserts that the Hiroshima bomb was a “dud.”  The yield was only about 10 kilotons (KT), even though it was supposed to be between 20 – 30KT. (The Nagasaki bomb‘s yield was in this latter range.) One Japanese survivor, a medical doctor who wore glasses to correct his eyesight, had his vision corrected by the blast.  In what might be the ultimate deadpan, he said that he does not recommend weathering a nuclear attack as an alternative corrective vision surgery. (!!!)

I visited both Hiroshima and Nagasaki earlier this year.  I wanted to see both of the bombing sites and see what the cities that still exist there are like now.  It’s remarkable, really – what I took away most from the visits was the resilience of mankind.  To see the photos of the destruction the bombs caused and to stand at the hypocenter today and take a look around, to see all the bustle and urban metropolis still surrounding you there, is quite a testament to being able to bounce back from a really, really big setback.

A related book I also recently completed was John Lewis Gaddis’s newest book of history related to the aftermath of World War II, called The Cold War: A New History.  I found the book to be quite interesting in how it ties so many different themes together, from the evolution of containment, detente, the creation of the Iron Curtain, the Cold War in Asia, the opening of China, and on and on.  It was a nice way to bring me pretty much right back to the modern day, tracing out the results of World War II to (near) the present.  Excellent book.


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