Archive for Monday, November 11, 1996


November 11, 1996


A retired Kansas University professor defends America's use of the atomic bomb in World War II.

Looking back 51 years, Grant K. Goodman remembers being terrified about the planned Allied invasion of Japan.

"I was convinced, quite frankly, that I would never survive," says Goodman, who at the time was a 20-year-old second lieutenant in Army Military Intelligence.

In June of 1945, Goodman had been assigned to Gen. Douglas MacArthur's headquarters in the Philippines to interrogate Japanese prisoners of war and translate Japanese documents.

And he remembers in the following months preparing for the planned invasion.

Now a Kansas University emeritus professor of East Asian history, Goodman credited the decision to use the atomic bomb on Japan for saving his life -- and the lives of many other Japanese and Americans who would have been killed in the invasion.

"Obviously, it was a terrible weapon," he said. "And at the same time, it was a godsend for both the Americans and the Japanese. Because all the research since has conclusively demonstrated the invasion would have been a horribly costly and bloody affair. And the Japanese were in no way prepared to surrender."

Goodman spoke this weekend about his military experience in 1945 at the Jackson County Council of the Veterans of Foreign Wars at the organization's Veterans Day banquet.

"Insofar as the end of the war was concerned, what we were interested in was the situation as far as we could find out in interrogating prisoners and reading their diaries," he said in an interview at his home in Lawrence.

The military was interested in what the situation was inside Japan itself because they were preparing for the invasion of Japan.

"And I actually boarded ships in Manila harbor three different times, thinking we were about to set sail for the invasion," he said. But each time was merely a practice alert.

Goodman said he was required to carry bulky Japanese-English dictionaries with him, along with his field pack and M-1 rifle.

"So theoretically, if I stepped on shore in Japan and I were alive, I would be somehow rifling through my dictionaries to find out the meanings of various Japanese terms I might encounter and assist me in the translation of any documents we might capture," he said.

Goodman said soldiers knew that the invasion was coming and the casualty rate was expected to be high.

He said the impending invasion would have followed battles on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, which had heavy casualties on both sides.

He said American troops in the Philippines were "terribly relieved" to hear atomic bombs had been dropped on Japan.

"We knew we would never actually have to invade," he said. "To this day, I remember vividly the feeling of exultation which I felt personally about not having to experience the planned invasion."

He said he was dreading the invasion because of what he was learning by interrogating Japanese prisoners -- that despite heavy bombing the morale was high on the mainland.

And Japanese propaganda was effective in leading U.S. soldiers to believe that every man and woman in Japan would fight to the death to defend the mainland.

"We had had proof of that in Okinawa," he said.

There, hundreds of women jumped off cliffs as the American invaders approached, or rolled boulders down on top of the Americans, he said.

"We soldiers were quite convinced when the invasion took place it would be a terrible carnage," Goodman said. "And every little old lady would come down to the beach and hit us over the head with brooms or whatever they could get their hands on."

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