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"The Last Act" Balancing Act
By Paul F. Straney and Robert Sacchi

Page 2

During the week of the atomic bombings the US combat casualties were 7,489. (1) Exhibit detractors point to the heavy casualties during previous landings on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. John Correll's statement about Operation Downfall's (2) possible casualties is the most accurate. "I don't know how many casualties there would of been, nobody knows." Ironically Fleet Admiral Leahy wrote in his 1950 memoirs:

My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower also criticized the atomic bombings in his 1963 memoirs. The August script contained both Admiral Leahy and President Eisenhower's statements. The Smithsonian has removed these statements. Dr. Crouch points out the US casualties were irrelevant to President Truman. Dr. Crouch believes any US casualties would have been too high for President Truman.

Dr. Hallion pointed out earlier scripts claimed the US dropped the atomic bomb without warning. He points out there is a leaflet the US dropped on Nagasaki, before the bombing, in the Nagasaki Museum. On 31 July the US warned Japan they would level eight Japanese cities unless Japan surrendered. (3) These warnings didn't specifically mention atomic bombs. (4) The 31 August script has an English translation of the leaflets dropped on Nagasaki the night before Bockscar (5) dropped "Fat Man" (6) on the city. The US didn't drop leaflets on Kokura, the original target. (7) These leaflets specifically mentioned the atomic bomb.

The 31 August script didn't satisfy the critics. Some critics wanted the curators fired. On the last week of September the Museum Staff met with the American Legion for a total of 22 hours. They went over the script line by line.(8)

Because of the meetings with the American Legion the Museum Staff removed a number of items that would have given graphic images of atomic bomb casualties. The Museum removed a picture of Dr. Yoshio Itoh and nurse Kunie Inoue treating Ms. Toyoko Matsuda in October 1945. The Museum Staff and the American Legion agreed it was too graphic and redundant. (9) The picture is graphic. However, the museum script shows the same picture of the USS Bunker Hill in "The War in the Pacific" and "The Last Act." Ms. Matsuda's aunt Kohide found her in an aid station at Kuba 23 days after the blast. Kohide carried Toyoko in a cart to the Red Cross Hospital every day for treatment. One day a photographer took their picture as Kohide was taking Toyoko home from the hospital. The picture was first published in June 1973. The two pictures, along with the narrative, tell a Hiroshima survivor's story. It is also an uplifting story. Toyoko Matsuda eventually married and had three children. The script still has the narrative and the picture of Kohide taking Toyoko to the hospital.

At the side of the road I noticed a young boy standing beside a ... pine tree, and the vision made me stop in my tracks. His legs were spread open in a running posture and his hands were thrust forward as though he were about to grasp something. It was the corpse of a boy, frozen like a statue.... I noticed a dead kitten clamped to the ... pine tree in front of the boy ... obviously having jumped onto the tree to avoid his grasp, and its body was covered in the scorched and frizzled remains of fur. Without disintegrating or falling from the tree, it glared with eternally locked eyes in the direction of the boy."

Chise Setuguchi, Nagasaki

The Museum also removed Chise Setuguchi's graphic narrative of a boy killed by the Nagasaki blast while the boy was chasing a kitten. The blast killed the boy in mid-stride.

1 The Starts and Stripes, August 11, 1945, Southern France Edition, EXTRA. These only included reported US casualties. They do not include US POWs killed or injured by atomic or other bombings. They also do not include POWs murdered by Japanese in retaliation for the atomic bombings or other reasons.

2 Operation Downfall was the code name for the Invasion of Japan. This included Operation Olympic and Operation Coronet. Operation Olympic was the planned invasion of Kyushu. Operation Coronet was the planned invasion of Honshu.

3 World War II Almanac 1931-1945, by Robert Goralski, 1981, p415.

4 While Japan didn't have the capability to build an atomic bomb they were familiar with the concept.

5 Bockscar dropped the second atomic bomb on Japan. Bockscar is on display at the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB. The plane, tail number 44-27297, has an oriental style arch along with the word "Nagasaki" and a mushroom cloud painted on its fuselage.

6 The name given to the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.

7 Bad weather saved Kokura.

8 USA Today, Wounds of war still color Enola Gay's place in history, by Andrea Stone, October 5, 1994.

9 USA Today, Wounds of war still color Enola Gay's place in history, by Andrea Stone, October 5, 1994.

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Paul F. Straney and Robert Sacchi © 1996