Guilt in time of war

Different people respond differently in a time of crisis. In the 1930s, Communism was considered the greatest threat to Europe. The Vatican feared the liberal democracy that prevailed in Spain at that time would spell the end of the Church there. In order to save the Church from the godless Communists, the Church turned to Hitler, Mussolini and Franco. It portrayed the Spanish Republic as a Marxist and godless state and called for a Christian Crusade. From their pulpits, Spanish priests spewed hatred against the “Reds.” Bishops spared no pain in attacking the Soviet Union for its intervention, but were silent on the intervention on the side of the Nationalists by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. On April 26th, 1937, a bright and beautiful spring day, the world was shocked at the horrific destruction of Guernica. The Nazi Luftwaffe dropped bombs that incinerated rooftops and set them ablaze. Then followed heavy explosives that destroyed water pipes, thus hindering the extinguishing of fires. The destruction of this beautiful city, coupled with thousands of Fascist troops from Catholic Italy paved the way for a brutal and revengeful dictatorship under Franco. Thousands of Republican prisoners of war were murdered and thousands more were forced to work on the construction of a huge monument in the Valley of the Fallen. It is a disgrace and a shame there exists in a western European and Catholic country, a monument to the memory of a bloody and brutal dictator. At the end of the war, Pope Pius XII sent Franco a message in which he singled out Spain as a nation historically chosen by God as an invincible bulwark of the Catholic Church. Decades later, President Reagan, a staunch anti-communist, paid a tribute to the brave Americans who fought on the side of the Republicans — even though they fought on the “wrong side.” This led people the world over to wonder if Hitler, Mussolini and Franco were the “right side.”

The bombing of Coventry, England in November 1940 was carried out by the Nazi Luftwaffe that caused extensive death and destruction, including two hospitals, churches and the Cathedral. Intercepted German messages were decoded by Britain but Winston Churchill ordered no defensive measures to be taken to protect Coventry or to evacuate the people lest the Nazis suspected their code had been broken. It seems that Coventry was sacrificed for the “greater good” which simply means that the benefits of playing a long game outweighed the short term costs of leaving Coventry to a terrible fate.

Britain and the U.S. dropped more than 3.9 tons of high explosives on Dresden, Germany on the night of February 13th and 14th 1945 that killed an estimated 25,000 people. The destruction of the city provoked outrage in intellectual circles in Europe and elsewhere. Attacks on German cities at this time had become largely irrelevant to the final outcome of the war. The bombing seems to have been undertaken to destroy what was left of German morale and that the allies had resorted to “terror bombing.”  It was an act of incredible cruelty considering the war had already been won and the death of women, children and civilians was sheer madness.

Even before the outbreak of World War II, a group of scientists, many of them refugees from fascist regimes in Europe became concerned about nuclear weapons research in Nazi Germany. In 1942, a top secret program, code named “Manhattan Project” began in the U.S. Hundreds of scientists and engineers from Britain and Canada also worked on developing an atom bomb. On July 16th, 1945, they held its first successful test.

At this time, the Allies had already defeated Nazi Germany, but Japan continued to fight to the bitter end, despite clear indications that they had little chance of winning. From mid April to mid July, Japanese forces inflicted heavy casualties with more than 3500 Kamikazi strikes, proving they had become even more deadly when faced with defeat. In late July of 1945, Japan rejected the Allied demand to surrender. Top Allied commanders favored continuing the bombing raids that would be followed by a massive invasion of the Japanese mainland.

Studies of this invasion, code named “Operation Downfall,” showed that it would cost more than a million American lives. The U.S. had already lost more than 88,000 casualties in the Battle of the Bulge in Europe in the winter of 1944. The Japanese were prepared to fight to the finish. America’s reserves of manpower were running out. The American public were weary of the war and demanding the end of this brutal and deadly conflict. The war in Europe was over and the Soviet Union had declared war on Japan and began moving its troops and military hardware to the east. President Truman would have indeed been hard-pressed to justify to the people the continuation of the war when an incredible and deadly weapon was readily at hand. Japan continued to fight, inflicting heavy casualties. There was no other option. Against the moral objections of General Eisenhower and others, the decision to drop the bomb was made. The rest is history.

About the Author
Originally from Mumbai, India. Studied, trained and worked in Mumbai, Munich, Germany and Toronto, Canada. For many years, Leslie owned and operated a printing company where he printed everything, except money! Currently retired. Married with four children (four too many.)