Several thousand years ago, King Solomon wrote, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Most people remember that adage or at least find it familiar. There is, however, a second sentence the king included in that particular Proverb (15:1). Rarely recalled, it is this: The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly.
I supposed it goes without saying that the opposite is true as well: The tongue of the unwise uses knowledge wrongly. Note that often, when this happens today, the word “unwise” could be replaced by “evil,” just as the word “wrongly” might be exchanged for “maliciously.” Neither substitution would change the reality of what happens when a society becomes unaware of the truth.
I was taught by my parents not to lie at an early age. They also taught me that half the truth is a lie and that one can lie by omitting a part of the truth.
As I grew older, I didn’t always live up to their teaching—or their expectations that I would—but I must say that I cannot recall a time when a lie was productive in the long term. In fact, as I rifle through the years in my mind, the consequences of lies distinguish themselves ten fold or more over the consequences of simply telling the truth—even when telling the truth felt like the last thing I wanted to do.
And so I have come to what most call the “middle age” of my life whereupon I realize just how much I hate lies. Lies are destructive in the same way a tornado is “bad weather.” You can think you have survived both. You can think the danger is safely away only to have them reverse course and roll right over you, destroying everything and everyone you hold dear.
America, as dysfunctional as we sometimes appear to be, is, at its core, a family. At least I’d like to think so. A great family stands together. A great family disciplines its own members. A great family does not tolerate being lied to. And a great family never tolerates being lied about.
Well, tomorrow is December 7, and amid all the ceremony that goes along with remembering the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, there will be an undercurrent of disinformation being doled out to our children and us from segments of the media, lecture halls in high schools and universities—even some of our national leaders will be sure to get into the act.
In case you haven’t noticed, there are those who will not let December 7—“the date that will live in infamy”—pass by without at least a subtle reference designed to demonize America for ending the war Japan started at Pearl Harbor by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In May, President Obama delivered a spellbinding speech in Japan. “We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in the not so distant past,” he said with tears in his eyes. “We come to mourn the dead.” The Japanese people, we are told, received the president’s message enthusiastically.
Tomorrow, you’ll hear the media stoically deliver those numbers. First, of course, they’ll give us the Pearl Harbor number: 2,403 dead and 1,178 wounded. Then, as an afterthought, we will hear Hiroshima’s death total: 140,000—this from the immediate blast and long term radiation poisoning—and Nagasaki at 70,000.
The numbers are accurate, but the malevolent subtext has been promoted for years, and as decades unfold, the tongues of the unwise are increasing their volume. And really, why wouldn’t they? When lies and half-truths are presented as fact—unopposed by anyone who might actually know the facts—well, it is the easiest playground these bullies ever took over. But they can say whatever they want and provide the masses with whatever version of history they prefer. We have encouraged them by our ignorance.
Frankly, I don’t know whether they know the truth or not about why President Truman decided to drop the bomb, but I do know that most of us do not. Either that, or you and I are cowards…for our country is being disparaged unceasingly with barely a peep in reply from us.
Personally, I’d rather not think of us as cowards. I prefer to think that at least some responsibility for our silence lies with a few of those who are actually paid to teach history in this country. Not all. Just some. Sadly, results from the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress exam in U.S. History showed that only 12 percent (and that’s not a typo) scored above the base level of “Proficient”. This should not be surprising…
Today, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 87 percent of our nation’s students taking a music course in public school are taught by a teacher who holds a college degree in music and is certified to teach in the field. Meanwhile, only 26 percent of our nation’s students in public school are taught by a teacher with a history degree who has been certified to teach the subject.
So tomorrow, when those who are so sure you’ll remain silent begin to speak (and they’ll be MUCH louder August 6 and 9—the anniversary of when the bombs were dropped) I want you to be prepared with the facts. These are facts one can easily find with a bit of research, but don’t waste time looking through your child’s history textbooks. You won’t find any of this information there.
America was not the aggressor in World War II and, in fact, to the consternation of many at the time, the US government did everything they could possibly do to stay out of any part of it. The point? Hiroshima and Nagasaki could have been totally avoided…by the Japanese!
Consider how completely they destroyed Pearl Harbor. Why? Because it was a surprise attack. The Japanese? No one was even thinking about the Japanese. We were focused on what was happening in Europe (though despite Churchill’s pleas to Roosevelt, we were not involved there either). The Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb was a joint venture of the Americans, British, and Canadian military machines. Under the direction of American General Leslie Groves, the Manhattan Project was not even put in place until 1942.
On December 11, four days after Pearl Harbor was attacked, Hitler declared war on America. At that point, our country had no choice but to defend itself to the west and in the east.
After five and one-half years, with American troops closing in on the island nation of Japan, President Truman assigned General George C. Marshall to provide him information concerning an American invasion. How long would it take? What would be our likely casualty rate?
Not long after, Marshall delivered this disturbing news: During the 68 months of our war against Japan, not a single Japanese platoon had ever surrendered. Additionally, the Emperor of Japan had just delivered a speech to his people warning of an invasion and urging them to fight to the last man, woman, and child. Indeed, as American troops captured outer islands, that is exactly what happened until the Japanese civilians were cornered or surrounded. Then, with their own children in tow, the civilians committed mass suicides.
The evidence was clear, if American troops invaded Tokyo Plain, the soldiers would literally have to fight house to house, apartment to apartment, and door to door across the entire country. Marshall told Truman that our troops could expect no less than 250,000 casualties in an invasion.
To drive that number home to you today, check out the next fact…
Within days of Marshall’s report, the president approved the War Department purchase of body bags. Records show they ordered, paid for, and received 250,000 of them.
The War Department also authorized the increased production of Purple Hearts. As you now know, because of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, America did not have to invade Japan. Thus, the body bags and Purple Hearts were not needed.
The rubber-sheeted body bags eventually deteriorated and were disposed of. The Purple Hearts, however, are still being used. Throughout Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and all the other more minor conflicts in which America has been involved throughout the world, the War Department has never needed to order another Purple Heart Medal.
It all came down to this…while none but a very few even knew about the existence or possibility of some super bomb, President Truman did. As he made the decision to deploy the device, he recorded this thought. “I am the first president since the beginning of modern warfare to have experienced combat. During the first World War, I would have given anything, paid any price, to end the death and suffering I saw my friends endure. And now, here I sit, the commander in chief with the ability—no, the responsibility—to end this war and bring our boys home.
“Yes, I am scared of this weapon and concerned about what it might mean for the future of this world. However, it must be done. How could any president face the mothers and sons and daughters of these American servicemen if, after the slaughter of an invasion of Japan, it became known that there was within our arsenal a weapon of sufficient force to end the war and it was not used?”
I urge you to read the four facts again. Put yourself in Truman’s place. What would you have done?
And finally, I can’t help but wonder how many of the 250,000 Americans who were not required to give their lives in service to our country were our own grandfathers and great grandfathers. In other words, how many of us would never have existed to defend the truth, if a tough president had not made a tough choice?
Andy Andrews is the New York Times bestselling author of The Traveler’s Gift and The Noticer. Sign up for his free weekly newsletter designed to help you live a more inspired life at AndyAndrews.com.