Tag Archives: United States

Imma Imma Hustler

Typically, you don’t want to be replaced by an Aardvark. Especially because it moves faster than you do. Not to mention, it changed the game for other fast flyers to follow.

It seems I’ve gotten ahead of myself and have some explaining to do….

First, hello everyone! I hope that you had a Happy Mach 1 Day! For those who are new to this written world of my own creation, I annually celebrate the first supersonic flight made by Chuck Yeager on October 14, 1947 as a day I have christened Mach 1 Day! Today, I am keeping this shockwave going with a bit of intel on the first bomber to break the sound barrier.

The Convair B-58 Hustler was the first supersonic strategic bomber, meaning it was the first airplane built to carry and drop bombs that could also exceed the speed of sound. Yep, there are bombers that go Mach 1. In fact, the Hustler could go beyond Mach 2! The point was to craft a bomber that could traverse a great distance, hit its target, and then outrace any of those pesky enemy fighter jets that were sent up in pursuit. Older bombers were too large and not designed to make haste in such a way. The Hustler could do just as its name implied, it do do do do do do do do do do the hustle on out of the dropzone. This was helped immensely by the delta wing design. Nevertheless, attaining that speed came at the cost of shedding the bulk that allowed for greater cargo capacity. Still, this sucker could pack a punch with a full fist. Five nuclear weapons could be loaded onto the bottom of the aircraft on the outside along pylons built to hold the bombs in place of a more traditional bomb bay.

The three-pilot operated Hustler was in service from 1960-1970, but it was rarely smooth sailing, er, flying. The plane was fast, but janky in flight – that is to say, difficult to keep straight. However, its greatest drawback was the price tag it accrued. Maintenance was high, and after its first year, the Hustler costs the United States government around $3 billion. That’s closer to $60 billion today. Yikes!

Despite all this, the Hustler could hightail up, up, and way in a hurry. It could make an ascent over 230 meters per second. Remember Usain Bolt’s record-breaking run of the 200m dash at the 2009 World Championships? Me either; I had to look it up to see when he set it, but I knew it was him who did it. Anyway, Bolt – the most incredibly appropriate name for any athlete – posted a still standing record run of 19.19 seconds. Now add 30 meters, climb at a steady rate, and do it 19x faster, and then we’re matching the Hustler.

Okay, obviously Usain Bolt is not a machine (or is he?… A discussion for another day), but the point is, the Hustler, extravagant mess that it was, was what it was designed to be: really fucking fast. The reason it was eventually retired from service was because the Soviet Union developed better countermeasures. Once their missile defenses more than stood a chance to take down a Hustler the United States needed a new man. Or in this case, a new African burrowing animal. The next big deal in supersonic bombers was General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark, which revolutionized not only bombers, but aircraft in general with its sweep wings (see picture):

That’s an Aardvark showing off the key feature that help it maintain steadier flight when cruising and when whipping up beyond the speed of sound.

The Aardvark had a much lengthier military run from 1967-1998 in the US, and as recently 2010 in Australia, but the Hustler is still the Usain Bolt of the supersonic bomber world. It set 19 total speed records, and still holds the record for the longest supersonic flight. In 1963, a B-58 nicknamed “Greased Lightning” flew from Tokyo to London (over the Arctic Circle), greater than 8000 miles (almost 13000 km) in 8 hours, 35 minutes, and 20.4 seconds. 8000 miles in eight and a half hours! That is even with an afterburner burning out (well, breaking down, at least) and having to reduce speed for the final hour. Amazing!

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions by sending them to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Be sure to whiz back here next week for more fun.

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Alex

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Totality Awesome

Even though I was not within the range of full totality for the total solar eclipse that worked its way over North America last Monday, I still was treated to quite a show as the moon moved almost entirely in the path of the sun to create the unique view of a cookie with a bite taken out of it that I enjoyed staring at through my eclipse glasses for about an hour as the moon progressed across the sunshine. I made the most of my watching experience by posting up in my front yard dressed in a Star Wars shirt that reads “Join the Dark Side” with a dark beer (porters are made for winter to be sure, but Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald is quality all year) all the while listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. I think I witnessed the closest moment to totality during “Time”.

For anyone else who was not able to see totality in person due to being out of the path or having overcast skies within it, check out this video that does a great job of explaining the dynamics of total solar eclipses:

I’m excited because the next such eclipse to grace North America will pass directly over Ohio in April of 2024, which means I’m bound to be able to infringe on someone’s hospitality to see it if even I move away somewhere else between now and then. That eclipse will also pass over parts of Mexico and Canada, as well as Texas, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, New York, and Maine, and slivers of Oklahoma, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Vermont within the United States. Learn more about it on NASA’s site here. It may be seven years away, but it will be here before you know it!

In regards to this most recent eclipse, Google and Cal-Berkeley worked together on a project to compile pictures taken by people within the totality path to make a short video of the view of totality from the US locations that got to see the brilliant glow of the sun’s corona light up the darkening sky. You can watch that video on Eclipse Megamovie here. As it has no sound, I recommend syncing it up with an appropriate song that fits the time pretty nicely:

Thanks for reading and watching! Feel free to send any questions, comments, or suggestions to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Orbit back here next week for more fun where everything under the sun is in tune…

But the sun is eclipsed by the moon,

Alex

 

Astronauts Without Borders

Once upon a time not so long ago, the United States and Russia had a high-profile meeting that was a top news story. Unlike today though, this was not a shady circumstance that cast doubt on the inner dealings of each respective government, but rather helped to improve the relationship between two nations that had been engaged in a constant and bitter show of one-upmanship with nuclear proliferation. I’m talking about the Cold War. Nevertheless, 42 years ago on this date, July 17, 1975, the United States and Russia, then called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, set aside their differences, at least as far as the scientific community was concerned. As the preeminent superpowers of the world and the leaders in space exploration, the US and USSR arranged for an historic high five within the vacuum of space.

Contrary to what silly stories of moon crab monsters would tell you, there actually was an Apollo 18 mission. NASA had launched seven manned lunar landing missions with its Apollo program, successfully landing six of them (Apollo 13 had a bit of a snafu).  However, the final moon mission, Apollo 17, was not the last time a Saturn V rocket shot an Apollo craft into orbit. Apollo 18 was launched in conjunction with the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 19.

After there establishment in orbit, the two craft were lined up and then linked up, marking the first time that two craft from different countries and space agencies docked. The mission was orchestrated to serve as practice for potential rescues in the future.

The ABC coverage is pretty good at explaining the mission, but here’s the link if you want to watch the docking without the newscaster speaking.

Leave it to the men and women who work in science and especially the students of space to show us how meaningless political squabbles can be. We are all one species on the same Earth, and it is missions like this one that help us to realize that no matter whether we are on opposite sides of the world, or floating above it, we are at our best when we work together to advance our mutual pursuit of greater understanding of our place in space.

Thanks for reading and watching. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, launch them into my inbox at monotrememadness@gmail.com. Be sure to orbit back here next week for more out of this world fun.

I’m sure I’ve written that before and I don’t care,

Alex

Never Forget Our Heroes

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. This holiday may be the unofficial start of summertime in America that allows us an opportunity to get together with friends and family for burgers and beer, as well as the harsh realization that no, it’s not warm enough to go swimming yet, but while it is good that we can observe this lighthearted enjoyment in the company of loved ones, Memorial Day has a somber reason for its existence. Memorial Day was created to recognize those who lost their lives in America’s military.

While the exact date that Memorial Day was first observed is not easy to pin down, it is apparent that it became nationally prominent in the late 1860s following the American Civil War. Since then, Americans of all ages have paid their respects to their fallen military men and women in a number of ways. Typically parades, visits to cemeteries, and the aforementioned cookout with friends are common occurrences, yet today I am turning my focus to a specific group of aides to the American armed forces who deserve our thanks and are still living, although their lives are in serious danger and we need to help them to survive as they helped our service members to survive.

Since the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq began, there have been translators who have served as the necessary communicative link between soldiers and engineers working for the military and the native people. These translators have helped to save countless lives and now deserve to be returned the favor, however, this is far from the case as you can learn from this segment from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Translators, even if they were not born or even set foot in the United States, are American heroes and deserve the easy opportunity to become U.S. citizens. We should be fast-tracking these guys and their families on that course of action if they desire it, especially considering the imminent danger most of them are in. It is inexcusable, criminal really, to force them to jump through bureaucratic hoops to realistically attain the goal of citizenship. They deserve to be recognized for their service to America by being welcomed into America. We should be raising a toast of honor to these men and women on Veteran’s Day, not a toast of remembrance on Memorial Day because the United States government did not act as valiantly to serve and save them as they did to serve and save our soldiers and engineers.

The truly frustrating thing is that this episode aired in October of 2014 but things have not vastly improved in the application process. In fact, they have only become harder. Perhaps this is something your local representative should hear about.

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions please send them to monotremadness@gmail. com.

Alex

The American Adams Family

Happy President’s Day! The highest executive office in the United States of America has been occupied by 44 men since 1789 and has seen some interesting scenarios over the course of two plus centuries. For example, Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms with Benjamin Harrison’s term sandwiched between them, so Cleveland is counted as both the 22nd and 24th president. Additionally, there is the Curse of Tippecanoe, also called Tecumseh’s Curse, that is the folksy title given to the grim coincidence that saw every president who was elected or reelected in a year that ended in zero die in office. The frightening trend began with William Henry Harrison and continued through John F. Kennedy, before ending with the failed assassination attempt of Ronald Reagan. This seemed to let George W. Bush off the hook, but there was actually an odd assassination attempt against his life back in 2006 (and no, I’m not talking about the pretzel). While in Georgia (the country), a man threw a grenade at President Bush and the Georgian President! Crazy!

Today, I am focusing on one of the unique relationships between a pair of presidents, and how these men have been portrayed in two of my favorite films based in American history. The presidents in the spotlight today are the second and sixth, John Adams and John Quincy Adams. In the case of many a political figure, president included, it has been said that so-and-so would have gotten nowhere without such-and-such, but in the case of the Adams’ it is absolutely true that John Quincy Adams would have gotten nowhere without John Adams. In fact, it is not even hyperbole to say that JQA would not even exist without JA for the plain and simple reason that he physically could not. Even if you are not from the US or slept through all your history classes, you can easily piece together that John Adams is the father of John Quincy Adams, but that is not where it ends, for you could just as easily say that John Adams is the father of America. Okay, that is starting to get into hyperbole, but John Adams is certainly one of the fathers of America, and he is frequently called such as he was one of the most prominent of Founding Fathers who helped to form this country from rebellious British colonies to the United States of America.

John Adams served as the first Vice President, aiding first President George Washington over the course of two terms, before taking up the task of Commander-in-Chief for himself. His attempt at reelection would be thwarted by his close friend Thomas Jefferson. Adams returned to his home in Massachusetts feeling more than a little sour about the whole thing, but eventually he and Jefferson got back in touch and were friendly for their final years. In fact, both men died on the same day, mere hours apart. Adams’ last words were, “Thomas Jefferson survives,” a comfort to himself that the country still had one of its greatest leaders. Unfortunately, he was wrong as Jefferson preceded him in death, however short it may have been. The appropriate coincidences do not end there though, as the day both men died on was July 4, 1826 – 50 years to the day the Declaration of Independence both men worked so hard to draft and ratify, was signed into effect.

If you’re looking for an entertaining film about the birth of America that features the efforts of Adams and Jefferson in uniting their compatriots in creating a new nation, than look no further than 1776 (1972). Originally a Broadway musical in 1969, the film retains its key actors, including William Daniels as John Adams (funnily enough, his first TV role was as John Quincy Adams!). Adams is the chief protagonist, and he is delightfully annoying to the other delegates in the first Continental Congress. Look, or I should say, listen no further than my favorite song from the show where Adams is trying to get someone to write the Declaration of Independence: “But, Mr. Adams”.

In addition to future Presidents Adams and Jefferson, the film showcases one of the greatest Founding Fathers who never sought that office, Benjamin Franklin, who in the film, as he did in life, often steals the show. Look, or, well yeah, look and listen no further than this scene where Adams is trying to win over a crucial vote for independence from Maryland:

We need a musical about that OGFF (Original Gangsta Founding Father). Hip-hop, rock and roll, you pick the genre, but I’m looking at you Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Now let’s look at the man John Adams actually fathered, John Quincy Adams. Where his father is best remembered for his actions prior to being president, Quincy Adams is best remembered for what he did after his presidency. He served for the final 17 years of his life in the US House of Representatives representing Massachusetts. He became an especially loud voice in the opposition of slavery, despite the derision he received from the South for it. His intellect and cleverness served him well when arguing against slavery, even when the there was a “gag rule” in place in the House that prevented the issue from being spoken about during proceedings. In 1836, Adams brought forth a petition from a man in Georgia (the state). In it, the man called for a “disunion” because the South was pro-slavery and the North was not. Essentially, this was the era of grumblings that 25 years later would escalate into civil war, and this Georgia man was not alone in wishing for a separation at the time. Many southern representatives shared these wishes for disunion, but Adams did not. He merely presented the letter as bait that his frustrated fellows would jump on. Quincy done triggered those fools. They took the bait and moved to censure the issue of disunion; Congress at the time was very much a “we’ll talk about this later” kind of place (kind of like today!). This move allowed Adams to offer his rebuttal where he was able to rail into the evils of slavery as much as he wanted without having to worry about the gag rule.

Five years later, Adams would get a chance to directly take a stand against slavery. While it may not have been a full on emancipation (that was still eight Presidents away), Adams was able to argue for the freedoms of illegally obtained slaves who revolted against their captors. The Africans broke free onboard the Spanish slave ship La Amistad and demanded to be returned to their homeland. During the day the ship, which had been near Cuba where it was going to sell the men and women, sailed east toward the sun and their native continent, but at night the crew turned north, and eventually the ship made landfall near New York. This nightly deception led to a series of convoluted court cases, but sense was made of it and the African men and women were granted freedom, until incumbent President Martin Van Buren pushed the case to the Supreme Court because of pressure from southern supporters. Van Buren was not a fan of slavery, and certainly neither was the senior Adams who did not seek to discuss slavery much during his time as president for the same reason Van Buren did not: they feared for conflict arising between North and South. I do not know if either anticipated the full-scale war that would eventually break out, but they were wary on the subject on the national scale. The younger Adams was not during his time as a representative, and when the Amistad case was brought before the Supreme Court, he spoke for four hours on behalf of the Africans who had been stolen from their homes. The court agreed with him and upheld the lower court rulings granting the Africans their freedom.

There is a great film made about the Amistad revolt and court cases called Amistad (1997). Directed by Steven Spielberg, it is often overlooked because of the success of his other films, especially similar themed films like Schindler’s List (1993) and The Color Purple (1985), not to mention he released Saving Private Ryan the next year. Amistad is more than worth a watch though, and Anthony Hopkins is terrific as John Quincy Adams. The movie is certainly played up for dramatic effect at times, including many of Adams’ scenes, but I love the depiction of him as a man who has always been in the shadow of his father, making the most of it while others around him laugh at how he can never measure up to him. The key moment for him is when he is speaking with Cinque, the leader of the Africans played by an equally great Djimon Hounsou, whose respect for Adams is as assured as his knowledge that his ancestors will be with him in his hour of need because he is “the whole reason they have existed at all.” Adams realizes that he too, like all others, is the greatest creation of his parents and those before them because he is the one carrying on their legacy now. He uses this insight in his speech to the Supreme Court, calling upon the Founding Fathers for advice, because “who we are is who we were.” His father may have helped create America, but it is up to John Quincy Adams and those residing in it in his day to continue improving it and make it the idyllic country the Founding Fathers laid the foundation for. For America is also a child of these men who made it, and they will always be invoked for help in guiding this nation in the right direction.

This is the American pursuit we all have a responsibility to strive for, for as grand as this country has been, it can always be better and we must always do what we can to protect the ideals that allow America to grant the freedom and justice that all on this Earth deserve.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy your President’s Day and that you’ll return here next week. Direct any questions or comments to monotrememadness@gmail.com.

Stars and Stripes Forever,

Alex

Royal Rovers: The Marvelous Migration of Monarch Butterflies

Imagine making a tedious journey across 3000 miles over two months without accounting for extreme weather or other factors that might delay you. Now imagine that you weigh less than a quarter of an ounce and are only 3-4″ in size. Seems a little tough, doesn’t it? The farthest I have ran is 6.2 miles in a 10K segment of a marathon and it drained all my energy for a week. Now, I’m no Olympian by any stretch, but I have got considerably more going for me than Danaus plexippus, the Monarch butterfly. I am a larger, less fragile organism aided by a wider diet and intellect, among other things, and I can contently set up shack in the same shelter over the course of the next 80 years with relative comfort. I do not have to worry about predators. Heart disease and motor vehicles offer a greater threat to me than do the likes of birds or other insects, not to mention storms or shifting weather patterns. In spite of everything against them, monarchs in North America make an incredible migration from the northern reaches of the United States and Canada down into the heart of Mexico every fall. They do this to better survive the harsh cold of winter to give rise to the next generation, however, their biggest threat today is not the cold, but the continuing impact of human alterations to their environment.

Monarch butterflies are as delicate as they are beautiful, but they do not need to fear much from predators thanks to a steady diet of exclusive milkweed as caterpillars. Milkweed contains toxins that are poisonous or at least downright distasteful to many mammals and birds, and adult monarchs have bright orange and black wings to stand out to warn potential predators of this. This does not take them off the menu for every animal, especially other insects who don’t mind the milkweed, but it keeps them safe from a high number of hungry creatures. Their warning colors are so effective, that Viceroy butterflies copy it to trick predators into thinking that they are poisonous like monarchs. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all.

Monarchs are champion migrants also. As I previously stated, some travel as far as 3000 miles (4828km) to their wintering grounds. This is amazing enough for such a small creature, but especially so when you consider all the work that goes into making a complete cyclical migration to Mexico and back. You probably were introduced to the annual monarch migration early on in your academic career, perhaps even as the first real-world example of animal migration, but did you know that it takes 5-6 generations to make the round trip? It does! The first round of monarchs born in Mexico gradually work their way north, some to the western US, some to the East, and some farther on into Canada. Over the course of the spring and summer 4-5 generations live, migrate, reproduce, and die as they steadily ease on up the States and the land of the Maple Leaf until the final generation is born at the end of summer. This last generation of the year – the one that currently is heading south – is bigger and stronger than their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. They can be as much as twice as large, all the better to help them make the long trip to Mexico. This final generation is the one that makes the big flight you learned about in grade school. They arrive in Mexico, chill out (literally), and produce the first generation of next year’s journey. Most generations only survive for about 2-6 weeks, but the final, far-flying migrant generation lives for 6-8 months, spending most of it enduring the winter weather.

Yes, even in Mexico it gets chilly. The BBC had a nice segment explaining the overwintering of monarchs in their 2009 nature documentary series Life.

Sorry for the crummy video quality, and more so for the lack of original David Attenborough narration (I guess Oprah’s all right). As she said, predators not deterred by the bad taste and natural occurrences like frost can kill thousands of these butterflies as they wait out the winter, but ultimately their sheer numbers of approximately 300,000 significantly outweigh these natural losses. Nevertheless, that number was once over 1 billion butterflies, and not that long ago either. In the last 20 years, the population of monarchs has dropped almost 90%. This monumental loss in total population does not bode well for such a tiny animal susceptible to even the slightest change. As with any other living thing on Earth, monarchs are detrimentally affected by global climate change and habitat loss (particularly in their Mexican winter sites), both of which have wreaked havoc on the species. The greatest direct threat to monarchs though is the systemic indirect decimation of milkweed.

Monarch larvae (caterpillars) eat only milkweed, not the more variable sugary nectar they consume as adults, so if milkweed decreases, so too do the monarchs. Milkweed is not a plant we harvest as a crop, nor is it as heavily desired as a showy gardening plant as traditional European garden flowers (although interest for the sake of butterflies is growing), so we don’t really give much notice to it when we consider our own eating or aesthetic desires. This is especially the case when we manage our food needs on a mass scale. In order to most effectively protect our desired crops, such as corn and beans, we spray herbicides that kill off those other plants we aren’t going to send to the table. Today this is easily achieved with genetic modifications to the crop plants that protects them against the harmful effects of the herbicide. The plants we want grow healthier than ever while everything else is eliminated. I am not trying to sway you against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), in fact I think they have the potential to help us manage and produce all of our plant-based food needs. Nonetheless, GMOs are a major source of controversy that should be thoroughly discussed with more than our stomachs in mind. One large consideration to be made is in the case of native plants necessary to native wildlife. Milkweed for monarchs is a prime example of this.

Fortunately, there are many people working to remedy the plight of monarch butterflies, and most of them are not sporting Ph.D.s… well, not yet at least. Monarch Watch is the primary source of data collection and research on monarchs. Based out of Kansas University, located in the central flyway of many migrating monarchs, Monarch Watch is one of the largest citizen science programs in North America, meaning that it relies on data collected by people of all ages and trades. Oftentimes it is used as an active teaching experience for students in middle school and up. Monarch Watch provides tags and data sheets that allow those helping to fill out information regarding the release location, date, gender (males have two black pouches on the hind wing that females lack), and whether the specimen(s) released were a wild-caught or captive-raised stock. The tags are stickers placed on the wing that do not inhibit the flight of the butterflies, but make it easy for anyone involved in Monarch Watch to take a look at and report where a specific butterfly is at at any given time. This information is used to track the general course of migration each year and can be used to gauge population health, among other things. ideally, someday sooner than later we can decrease the number of detrimental effects we have on monarchs while simultaneously increasing the number of people involved in citizen science programs like Monarch Watch to better understand the mysterious Monarch.

Thanks for reading! If you are interested in Monarch Watch, check out their website, as well as these sites with some general information that helped me write this post:

Xerces Society

USDA Forest Service

National Geographic

Contact me with any questions, comments, butterfly love, etc. at monotrememadness@gmail.com, and be sure to come back for more fun next week.

Flutter flutter,

Alex

死のホワイトフラッシュ (White Flash of Death)

At 8:15 AM on August 6th 1945, the United States detonated the world’s first nuclear weapon in a war scenario when they dropped the atomic bomb “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. Three days later they detonated the second and only other, “Fat Man”, on Nagasaki. Previous tests were performed at a desert military facility in New Mexico to perfect the bomb’s destructive capability until the day when it would be ready and needed for use in World War II. Many leading scientists and physicists of the day were involved in the production of the atomic bomb, such as J. Robert Oppenheimer who famously recited, “I am become death.” after creating the bomb. Despite their hard work to develop atomic weaponry, most of these men never wanted to see the day when their device of death would ever be used. They did. How this day came to be, and how justified the dropping of the bomb was, are questions that still divide opinions today.

In accordance with most religious views, Christian teachings (of which I’m more familiar with coming from a predominantly Catholic family and attending Catholic schools for 18 years) are used to help determine whether actions are just or not, and nonviolence and then just war are used in regard to war scenarios. When nonviolence fails to resolve the problem, Just War Theory – “legitimate political authorities are permitted as a last resort to employ limited force to rescue the innocent and establish justice” – is followed.

Many people support the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan and feel that they were necessary and moral actions. The main argument for this position is that dropping the bombs caused Japan to surrender, thus bringing an end to the war. Most importantly of all, it ended the war without requiring American ground and naval troops to invade Japan. Had this been the action taken instead, then more American soldiers would have died; how many would die we will never know, but invasions of the native land of a country at war typically prove to more bloody and grueling than battles on neutral sites or occupied territories. We have seen examples of this when Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union, as well as when America and Britain fought against the Nazis in Germany. Perhaps because of this earlier experience from the European war, as well as the generally greater intensity of the Pacific war, America opted to use the atomic bombs instead of risking more lives in a battle that would certainly be harder and may not be a successful venture for months, years, or at all.

The atomic bomb drops were not the first attacks the United States had made on mainland Japan. From February of 1945 until the atomic bombs were used, the USA fire-bombed many Japanese cities in an earlier effort to force Japan to surrender. Fire-bombing is just what it sounds like and its effects have been described as horrific. One American military official compared the early fire-bombing raids to the atomic bombs saying, “We scorched and boiled and baked to death more people in Tokyo on that night of March 9-10 than went up in vapor at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.‎” (Selden 1990). According to this account, the practice of fire-bombing was less humane than the use of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, nuclear weapons proved to be a much more effective method of bringing about Japan’s surrender than fire-bombing which had been unsuccessful in doing this for six months. This fulfills the Just War Theory criteria of Probability of Success which states: arms may not be used in a futile cause or in a case where disproportionate measures are required to achieve success. The chance for success in achieving Japan’s surrender was much higher with the atomic bombs than it was with the fire-bombs, and most likely would have been higher than an American land invasion’s chances.

At the time of the war, Japan’s leaders had instilled a fear of Americans in their citizens through propaganda in an attempt to rally non-combative Japanese residents to their cause. In some cases, this irrational fear was used to make Japanese civilians more aggressive towards Americans to the point where they would attack any US troops who came through their town. If civilians act in such a way then it can be said that they are more like soldiers than innocent bystanders, thus attacks on them, or attacks that harm or kill them along with military targets are justified because they are behaving more like soldiers than civilians.

It may not be a strong argument supporting the dropping of the bombs, but the ignorance of the terrible effects of their radiation should be taken into account. Had President Truman known that the aftermath would be worse than the explosions then he would have reconsidered sending in the troops. Instead, he and his advisors made what they felt to be the best decision given the known circumstances. One of the main reasons for their decision is the final point of Just War Theory: Last Resort, which states: force may be used only after all peaceful alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted. During the fire-bombing raids, the United States, as well as Britain and China, demanded that Japan surrender. The Japanese government refused several times and the US was left with no choice but to demonstrate the power of their arsenal because a diplomatic solution could not be worked out.

Finally, perhaps the US was afraid of the potential technological advancements of the Japanese. How could we be sure that we were the only one with nuclear weapons? The US started its research into nuclear weapons after Albert Einstein urged President Franklin Roosevelt to do so because the Nazis had begun nuclear research. Even if Japan did not develop these weapons, perhaps Germany did and had given some to Japan before surrendering in Europe. We know now that Japan did not yet have nuclear weapons, but the US leaders at the time probably felt that even just the slightest chance that Japan did justified the urgency to use the bombs when we did – a “bomb him today so he doesn’t bomb you tomorrow” precautionary measure.

Despite these reasons, not everyone agrees with the decision to use nuclear weapons to try to end the war with Japan. The most apparent evidence supporting the argument that dropping the bombs was immoral is the aftermath of the explosions, both immediately after  and many years later. Hiroshima lost 90,000 – 160,000 people, while Nagasaki lost 60,000 – 80,000 of its people; about half of each cities victims died in the explosion, while the rest died slower, more painful deaths from radiation poisoning or burns. Because the US had not conducted thorough research on the post-detonation effects of the atomic bomb they were not aware that its deadliest aspect was the radiation it released upon its dropzone. Many people died because the US did not know its own weapons’ destructive power. Most of these people were civilians too, for neither city had a heavy military presence. This violates Just War Theory’s Noncombatant Immunity, which states: civilians may not be the object of direct attack, and military personnel must take due care to avoid and minimize indirect harm to civilians. Obviously, there was little or no care taken to reduce the risk to civilians, especially considering most of the risks were unknown. This also violates Proportionality, which says: in the conduct of hostilities, efforts must be made to attain military objectives with no more force than is militarily necessary and to avoid disproportionate collateral damage to civilian life and property. Again, the bombs were dropped on large cities with a much higher percentage of civilians than military personnel, and considering they destroy almost everything in sight it becomes clear that little to no effort was made to prevent civilians from being involved. Furthermore, because the bombs annihilated the cities the urging of “just enough force” apparently was ignored.

The US was not even involved in WWII until December 7th 1941 when the Japanese navy attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor. After this unprovoked attack, the US launched a counterattack bombing raid over Tokyo, but it could not offset the emotional sting from the surprise attack in Hawaii. The detonation of a pair of atomic bombs could deliver such a blow, though, and would demoralize Japan even more than they demoralized us. However, the circumstances are not the same: Pearl Harbor was a military base and few to no civilians were harmed or even involved in that attack. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were mostly occupied by civilians, and exacting revenge violates Right Intention which states: even in the midst of conflict, the aim of political and military leaders must be peace with justice, so that acts of vengeance and indiscriminate violence, whether by individuals, military units or governments, are forbidden.

By dropping the atomic bombs on Japan, the US certainly ensured that Japan suffered more, bringing up issues with Comparative Justice: to override the presumption against the use of force the injustice suffered by one party must significantly outweigh that suffered by the other, and again Proportionality: the overall destruction expected from the use of force must be outweighed by the good to be achieved. Did almost immediately ending the war outweigh all of the expected negative effects of the bombs? Perhaps not considering the bombs would not have been necessary at all if a diplomatic solution could have been reached. Japan had refused previous demands of surrender, but who is to say further insisting would have been a failure? It might have seemed unlikely at the time because of the strong will of the Japanese Empire which proudly declared it would never surrender when the war began; nevertheless, the tide of the war was rapidly shifting in favor of the Allies who had recently defeated Germany and ended the European war. Perhaps if Japan realized it could not repel the inevitable Allied attack and would lose the Pacific war, then maybe its leaders would adhere to Just War Theory’s Probability of Success and surrender. Allied diplomats may have been able to show Japan that continuing the war was a futile cause and convince the country to surrender. Nonetheless, the time they needed to attempt to achieve this goal was cut short by the atomic bombs.

Personally I feel that the dropping of the atomic bombs was necessary to bring about the swiftest end to World War II, but that targeting the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was immoral and unnecessary, at least as the initial targets. The United States had been fighting Japan and other nations since entering the war in late 1941, and some of the other Allied nations had been fighting in the war years before us. By 1945 everyone was ready for the war to be over, and it looked like it would be after the defeat of the Nazis who initiated the whole conflict. However, Japan still remained resilient and refused to give up, even as the US and fellow Allies advanced more rapidly towards the mainland of Japan. After years of the fiercest fighting US troops had yet encountered, Japan’s stubbornness to accept inevitable defeat called for some more efficient method of ending the war. The gradual advance of troops was succeeding, but at heavy costs for the Allies, especially the US. It does not seem unreasonable then that the US would decide to employ nuclear weapons. While there was still much unknown about the bombs’ destructive power, especially it radioactive aftermath, one thing was very clear: the atomic bomb was unlike any other weapon ever used before as it would almost completely destroy its target in an instant. It was a quick fix. From the American standpoint it made sense because Japan could be coaxed into surrender without needing to send wave after wave of American soldiers into battle, knowing that many of them would be killed and not knowing when they would finally succeed, or if they would at all. These factors combined with the worries of what Japan might do if allowed more time to act (keep in mind we did not know if they had similar weapons or not) made American action immediately necessary. We had a tool which would almost certainly force the Japanese to surrender without having to lose another America life. From an American standpoint it is a no-brainer. The atomic bomb was the best card we could play at that point in the war.

Nevertheless, I feel that dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not moral or necessary because they were non-military targets and had large populations of civilians. The film White Flash Black Rain shows that many of the survivors (and victims) of the explosions were children who were left orphaned and alone by the blasts. Furthermore, those few who did survive were disfigured and usually suffered ill effects from the radiation. The US did not know about these harmful effects, of course, but they did know about the civilian populations of the cities. What I believe the US should have done is drop the first bomb away from any civilized town, such as in the mountains or ocean (I know this still would have caused bad radioactive effects, but the degree to which humans would be harmed would have been less, and no one would have died in the explosion itself) so that Japan could have seen the awesome power of the weapon without suffering any civilian deaths. After this bomb, President Truman could have said the next target is a military base unless Japan immediately surrenders. If they still refused, the US could bomb one of the military bases and continued this trend (so as to keep within Just War criteria) until Japan surrendered. This would fulfill Last Resort by giving Japan the last opportunity to end the war and by only acting when there would be no other choice

Alex

References

Fandel, Jennifer. The Atomic Bomb: What in the World? The Creative Company, 2007.

Selden, Kyoko. The Atomic Bomb: Voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. M.E. Sharpe, 1990.

Sullivan, Edward T. The Ultimate Weapon: The Race to Develop the Atomic Bomb. Holiday House, 2007.