VOICES: Japanese-American vet: Atomic bomb saved my life

Arthur Ishimoto believes dropping the atomic bombs on Japan saved a million American lives — including his own — as well as at least 5 million Japanese lives.

The 93-year-old served in the Military Intelligence Service, a U.S. Army unit made up of mostly Japanese-Americans who interrogated prisoners, translated intercepted messages and went behind enemy lines to gather intelligence.

He was a technical sergeant scheduled to join the invasion of Japan in November 1945, and believes he would have died in the assault.


Editors: Part of a series of perspectives on the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, released this week as President Barack Obama prepares to visit Hiroshima.


President Barack Obama doesn’t need to apologize for the atom bombs, Ishimoto said, but it’s good for him to go to Hiroshima and “bury the hatchet.” Obama is scheduled to visit Friday, and become the first sitting president to do so since the end of World War II.

“War is hell. Nobody wins,” Ishimoto said. “There’s no victor, really.”

He was born in Honolulu to parents who hailed from western Japan. He read Japan’s plans for fiercely defending its home islands when he served in Tokyo during America’s postwar occupation of the defeated nation.

He recalls the plans calling for using kamikaze aircraft, submarines and piloted torpedoes followed by beach mines and suicide units. He met civilians who showed him weapons they had planned to use against the invaders, including a 15-foot-long bamboo spear.

“A lot of these people telling us we shouldn’t have dropped the bomb — hey, what they talking about?” said Ishimoto, who after the war became an Air Force major general and commander of the Hawaii National Guard. “They weren’t there. They don’t know what we faced or what we would have faced. It would have been terrible.”


Excerpts of video interviews with Ishimoto and other U.S. veterans and Japanese atomic bomb survivors are available at http://apne.ws/243ZLSD

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