U.S. Marine Francis Anthony Boyle was poised to join the invasion of Japan but was sent to a devastated Nagasaki instead. What he never told his son might surprise you.
After invading Saipan, Tinian, and Okinawa as an enlisted member of the U.S. Marine Corps, my father trained to invade Mainland Japan where he was scheduled to be among the first troops ashore because of his combat experience, knowing full well that would be a suicide mission.
Instead of invading Japan, my father occupied Japan. According to his Marine Corps records, my father “arrived [by ship] and disembarked at Nagasaki, Kyushu, Japan” on Sept. 24, 1945. That was six weeks after the Truman administration had destroyed that entire city and incinerated 80,000 completely innocent human beings on Aug. 9 with an atom bomb.
It must have been an horrific sight for a young man from the Irish Southside of Chicago to have witnessed and dealt with. By that point of the war I know my father had become inured to inflicting death and destruction upon the Japanese Imperial Army and all of its accouterments in bitter hand-to-hand combat. Both sides fought to the death. But this scene was existentially different: a devastated city where approximately 80,000 civilians had just been exterminated in the bat of an eye by one bomb.
At the time my father must have contemplated what damage an atom bomb could do to his native City of Chicago and its beloved inhabitants.
My father proudly told me, his oldest child and namesake, all of his war stories, which were truly harrowing. But never once did my father tell me that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved his own life. If anyone should have believed that, it would have been him.
Yet, he never once said that to me or to his war buddies in my presence. He was later elected commandant of his American Legion Post by his Fellow World War II warriors in an Irish-American neighborhood that greatly valued combat experience. He brought my mother, me, and my sister to the installation dinner and ceremony at Chicago’s famed Stockyards Inn. I had never seen him so happy and proud that evening walking around in his American Legion Uniform all night long with a big grin on his face.
Be that as it may, I grew up in an American media and cultural and educational environment that constantly propounded the myth that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had saved the lives of the U.S. invading forces, including my father. But when I got to college and studied International Relations starting in January 1970, I realized this myth simply was not at all true. And my father never propagated this myth to me though he should have like everyone else. Why not?
The Japanese government was desperately trying to surrender. The Truman administration knew full well that Japan would have surrendered (1) without the need to demolish Hiroshima and Nagasaki together with their inhabitants by atomic bombs and (2) without an invasion of Mainland Japan by my father and his comrades-in-arms.
The Truman administration dropped these two atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to make it crystal clear to the Soviet Union and to everyone else around the globe that the United States of America would be in charge of running the World in the post-World War II era. So it has been ever since.
All that being said, however, with a father like that, if I do not believe the myth of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ending World War II, then why do you?
Francis Boyle is a professor of international law at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Among his many books is “Destroying World Order.”