Seventy-five years ago, on August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, another one was dropped on the port city of Nagasaki. Six days after that event, the Japanese announced their surrender to the Allies. It is frequently said that these two bombings—these two horribly destructive acts of war—were strategically necessary and morally justifiable.
But they were not.
As St. Paul reminds us in Romans 3:8, we may never do evil that good may come of it. The ends, as the old saying goes, do not justify the means. If they did, we would be forced to say that the anarchy and looting and killing we’ve seen in recent weeks in some of our major cities is morally acceptable behavior, since the professed “end” (i.e., goal) of the rioters—racial equality—is good and noble.
Direct attacks on innocent human life are always wrong. This truth is at the root of the Church’s opposition to moral evils like abortion, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide—and the use of nuclear weapons against ordinary civilians.
It is important to note that even some prominent political figures and military personnel of the time recognized the immorality of the bombings. Two of the most noteworthy military leaders who opposed President Harry Truman’s decision to drop the bombs were General Dwight Eisenhower and General Douglas MacArthur. Eisenhower said, “...the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” MacArthur was convinced that if they had been told that they could keep their emperor, the Japanese would have surrendered long before August 6, 1945.
Had the President and his advisers listened to MacArthur and some others, the war might not have ended as it did: with an immoral nuclear holocaust. May it never happen again.