THIS lockdown year we have commemorated (virtually) historic anniversaries of VE Day and Dunkirk – as well we should – but a globally even more significant event will, I fear, pass without due attention. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the greatest single-act war crime in history – the use of the atom bomb on Hiroshima. Being the last significant anniversary at which there will be living survivors to testify to the actualities of this atrocity, this disregard is particularly tragic.

“The past is never dead – it is not even past.” William Faulkner’s aphorism cannot be more apposite than when considering Hiroshima. Today, the world lives in peril of nuclear annihilation precisely and solely because of this past event and our attitude towards it. It is because Hiroshima was justified at the time, and is still justified today, that we are prepared to replicate it – and unimaginably worse. Hiroshima was the start of our nuclear addiction, Trident the latest fix.

At the end of the Second World War, few people questioned US president Harry S Truman’s decision to drop the bombs on Japan. It ended the war, didn’t it? The bomb was used and Japan surrendered. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. Case closed.

But some notable figures disagreed. General Dwight Eisenhower said: “Japan was at that very moment seeking some way to surrender with minimum loss of face. It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing”.

Truman’s chief of staff, Admiral William D Leahy affirmed: “It is my opinion 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. I was not taught to make war in this fashion and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children”.

In 1965, historian Gar Alperovitz also argued that Japan’s leaders had wanted to surrender and would have done so before the American invasion planned for November 1. The bombings were therefore unnecessary and wrong. Since then many have joined the fray. Some supporting Alperovitz and denouncing the bomb, others arguing hotly that the bombings were moral, necessary and life saving.

Both schools of thought assume that it was the bombing that coerced Japan into surrender. They fail to question the utility of the bombing in the first place. There are a number of problems with this simplistic analysis. Firstly, it takes no account of the Soviet entry into the war against Japan. Also, quite simply, the dates don’t add up. Hiroshima was bombed on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9. Japan did not surrender till August 15. Why this delay? To answer this we must look closely at the context. All during the war, Japan and the Soviet Union had a non-aggression pact for obvious reasons – neither wanted a war on two fronts simultaneously After the surrender of Nazi Germany on May 8, 1945, Japan was isolated and doomed. By late 1945, Japan did not have a single plane left, and American pilots could fly over it and bomb at will. Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe and Yokohama were already utterly destroyed. In July 1945, B29 bombers carrying newly developed “jelly bombs” (ie napalm) flew 5600 sorties. Japan’s defences had already been reduced so successfully that only 17 US planes were lost. Nine-tenths of Japan’s shipping was sunk or disabled. The Americans were running out of targets. More than 60 cities had already been destroyed. Millions of civilians had been evacuated to the countryside, including all but 200,000 of the population of Tokyo. The economy was at a standstill. The infrastructure was in ruins. No work was being done, nothing was being manufactured. The long and bloody war in the Pacific had ended, and Japan was next for invasion.

The Japanese Foreign Office had officially notified Moscow (which it saw as an intermediary) on May 13 that “the Emperor is desirous of peace”. On July 12, the Japanese prime minister Fumimaro sent a cable to Stalin expressing a desire to end the war quickly. Stalin showed the cable – already intercepted and decoded by the US – to Truman at the Potsdam Conference on July 18.

A condition of this offer of surrender was that the emperor system should remain intact. This happened two days after Truman had received the news that the first atomic bomb tests at Alamogordo in New Mexico had been successful.

As agreed with the Allies at Yalta August 8, the Soviet Union broke the non-aggression pact and declared war on Japan. The invasion was led by Marshal Aleksandr Vasilevsky, an experienced Soviet general on a par with Rokossovsky and Zhukov. Vast amounts of military equipment no longer needed in the west, had been trundled half way round the world to Manchuria, which had been occupied by Japan since 1931. Vasilevsky inflicted a crushing defeat on Japan’s 1,200,000 Kwangtung army. South Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands were seized. The Soviet Union now occupied Japanese territory, and was poised to invade mainland Japan. This put the gun to Emperor Hirohito’s head. He had to do a deal with the Americans – and quickly – or face a Soviet occupation. This would have meant his own execution as a war criminal, which he undoubtedly was.

The Americans did not want to see Japan occupied by Russia, so they now accepted the continuation of the emperor system (the one and only condition the Japanese had been asking for since May) and Japan surrendered.

When prime minister Kantaro Suzuki was asked on August 10 why Japan needed to surrender so quickly, he explained, “The Soviet Union will take not only Manchuria, Korea, Karafuto, but also Hokkaido. This would destroy the foundation of Japan. We must end the war when we can deal with the United States.”

So there we have it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Hiroshima was not the conclusive blow in the Second World War, but the dramatic opening shot in the new Cold War. In a memorandum of July 19, approved by Truman, US secretary of war Henry Lewis Stimson was blunt; he admitted frankly that the bombs were used “to gain political advantage over the Soviet Union in the post-war situation”. Not long before the bomb was tested, Truman said: “if it explodes, as I think it will, I’ll certainly have a hammer on those boys” (meaning the Russians). He went further, and restated the US decision to use atomic bomb without warning and as soon as possible.

Ever since Hiroshima, we have subscribed to an utterly bogus historical narrative, in which we are always the innocents ones threatened by the Evil Other. History tells a very different story.

Weeks before Hiroshima, the US joint chiefs of staff recommended that “with atomic weapons a nation must be ready to strike the first blow if needed”. The resultant war plan – JIC 329/1 – singled out for obliteration 20 Soviet cities from Moscow and Leningrad, to Tblisi and Tashkent. But the US only had two bombs, destined for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After these experiments proved so brilliantly successful, US production of nuclear weapons went into overdrive. Only 51 days after the surrender of Japan, in war plan Totality, the Pentagon’s joint intelligence staff promulgated a study entitled “Strategic Vulnerability of Russia to an Air Attack”.

THIS envisaged an air attack with atomic bombs on multiple Russian cities. War plan Totality was followed by others. (See “Operation World War III”, by Anthony Cane Brown, Arms and Armour Press 1977.) Fear of the possibility of Russian retaliation with conventional weapons caused these plans to be shelved until such time as a totally overwhelming (ie first strike) system without the possibility of a Soviet retaliation, could be devised.

This leads to the various formulations of SIOP (pronounced “sigh op”) – the Single Integrated Operational Plan – the regularly updated American plans for waging global nuclear war. Star Wars is the continuation of this drive for FSD – Full Spectrum Dominance – as candidly admitted in the US document “Vision for 2020”.

Some years ago I met Professor Joseph Rotblat, the last living survivor of the Manhattan Project, and a former pupil of Albert Einstein. Speaking at the Pugwash Conference in 1992, he quoted General Leslie Groves, head of the project, who told him in March 1944: “From two weeks after taking up the post, there was never any illusion on my part that the main purpose of the project was to subdue the Russians.”

Incidentally, at the same conference, Robert McNamara, secretary of defence under President Kennedy, acknowledged that the Soviet build-up of nuclear weapons had been in response to the US nuclear threat. He described the UK motive for getting the bomb as a craving “to continue to eat at the top table”, and added that France had insisted on having the bomb for “equally illusionary reasons”

Russia didn’t get a nuclear weapon till 1949. We started the nuclear arms race, and initiated almost every technological advance in its progress, while bleating about “Soviet superiority” in this area or that.

We are not the hapless victims of the Evil Other. We must cease this self-righteous posturising as the innocent victims of malign external forces.

These facts throw a very different light on the whole demonology of deterrence. The inescapable historical truth is we were the instigators of the nuclear arms race, and drove it ever onwards.

Four years after Hiroshima, the Soviet explosion of an H bomb and the breaking of the American nuclear monopoly prevented the implementation of the US war plans such as JIC 329/1, and the many that followed. Thus, deterrence has worked – but in the exact opposite way to what we imagine.

This bogus perception of nuclear “deterrence” as a purely defensive Western policy has always dominated Western political propaganda. The obligatory use of the pernicious weasel-word “deterrent” to describe our atomic bombs underlines and re-inforces this indoctrination.

It is a huge task to debunk the myth of Hiroshima. It was in the interests of all three players to subscribe to it. It suited the Japanese because they saved face by not admitting they surrendered through fear of Soviet occupation. It pleased the Americans because it enhanced their status and prestige.

And since the Russians did not have the A bomb but the Americans did, it suited them by ascribing to it huge importance, rather than crediting Vasilievsky’s military efforts in securing the surrender of Japan. (Stalin’s jealousy of Vasilievsky, as of Zhukov, may also be a significant factor.) Our task is onerous but indispensible. We must know the truth about Hiroshima in order to be free from our nuclear nightmare. Without facing the truth about this major war crime, there can be no hope of peace for ourselves or the world..