Film director Stone dismisses U.S. A-bomb claim as ‘tremendous lie’



American film director Oliver Stone has challenged the commonly held U.S. perception that the 1945 atomic bombing of Japan ended World War II — saving a huge number of American lives in the process — as “a tremendous lie” during his visit to Hiroshima through Wednesday.

“It’s easy to look at the issue simply that Americans dropped the bomb to end World War II because Japanese militarists would not give up . . . (but) that would be the surface explanation,” Stone, 66, said as part of his Japan trip to attend a series of peace events commemorating the 68th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“But those people who looked deeper will find out there is a much more cynical explanation,” he said, noting the Soviet Union’s war on Japan, begun on Aug. 9, was “a strong factor” behind Tokyo’s surrender six days later.

“The United States was able to get away with it because we were the winners. But as a result, we lost our moral compass,” he said. “We were able to use nuclear threats against Vietnam, against the Soviet Union, against whoever we had to get our win.”

Stone, who went to the Vietnam War as “a young man, as a believer I was fighting communism,” said that for decades he used to take as a given the justification for the atomic bombings.

But his view changed after he started research with U.S. historian Peter Kuznick, with whom he produced a 10-part documentary series and companion book, “The Untold History of the United States.”

Coming to Hiroshima for the first time, Stone visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, met atomic bomb survivors and attended the city’s memorial ceremony held Tuesday morning near ground zero at exactly at the same moment when the atomic bomb code-named Little Boy was dropped by a U.S. B-29 bomber 68 years ago.

The blast, fire and radiation from the world’s first atomic bombing devastated the city, with the temperature on the ground at the hypocenter rising as high as 3,000 to 4,000 degrees.

Referring to the U.S. wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan as behaviors to “trash” those countries, he said the origins of “American empire” come from the atomic bombing and criticized his country for having “no sense of history.”

“We never think about the implications of what we do,” he said, noting the importance of remembering the lessons of history to prevent the recurrence of tragedy.

“When you come to Hiroshima, if you can remember or try to remember, that’s the first step in keeping your humanity,” he said. “The battle of memory against forgetting is the battle of civilization against inhumanity.”

Kuznick, who is traveling with Stone, said he greatly admires the hibakusha, as “they have turned their anger, bitterness and hatefulness into something positive” and “led the fighting against nuclear weapons.”

Kuznick described as a “fundamental contradiction” the fact that Japan has been opposed to atomic weapons while relying on the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

  • Tyler Chester

    I’m not sure how I feel with his sentiment. I do agree the U.S. wasn’t aware of the moral implications prior to bombing Japan. I feel the U.S. has learned from their mistakes, that’s probably why they haven’t used an atomic bomb since. It caused a lot of destruction but in the end, Japan and the United States forged a great relationship. Japan is well developed and an industrial giant in today’s society. I also think the bomb was to show the Soviet Union that the U.S. meant business. Japan wasn’t innocent either, they occupied parts of China and committed horrific crimes against their own citizens. I think it ultimately saved lives though on both sides of the Pacific.

  • Murasaki

    Good to see not all Americans are brainwashed in to thinking dropping atomic weapons on the elderly, women and children was a good thing.

    Truth about Japan and the war in the Pacific

    The former US President H. Hoover said that Japan would never have attacked the US unless provoked, and that FDR provoked Japan into attacking Pearl Habor

    1994 declassified US document stated the US provoked Japan in to attack it, a 8 step plan was given to FDR on how to provoke Japan in to attacking so Germany would declare war on the USA and allow the USA to enter the war in Europe.

    Decision to industrialize USSR was made long before Hitler came to power. By the january 1933 construction in USSR was in full speed. As Stalin said in 1931:”…. We are lagging behind the advanced countries by 50-100 years. We must run this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or they crush us. ” (Stalin, Collected Works, V. 13, pp. 38-39).

    The main reason of the “pacification” of nazy Germany by England and France was to have force, that could be led toward USSR borders. But the beast turn against them first.

    But even if Hitler would never come to power, there were many willing parties to make war to USSR. Even Poland had such plans:

    “…Report from soviet agent, which got to Stalin: “The Turkish headquarters in Ankara received from Germany, Poland and England reports that the Soviet war with Poland take place in early 1930 … Poland through the Swedish Embassy in Berlin, turned to the germans with request, at the time of war let pass through the territory of Germany all that Poland will require from France in time of war, including the troops … The Germans categorically denied … The British suggested to the Turks at the time of war or be neutral, opening a free pass through the Dardanelles to English fleet, or take part in the war against the Soviet Union. ”

    So it goes. It’s not misinformation: according to the reports of others, the chief of the General Staff of the Poland Gonsyarovsky mentioned, that there are agreements between Poland and the Japanese – when the Japanese invade the Soviet Union, the Poles will strike from their side. He also held talks with the British and French staffs …

    Interestingly, a Soviet agent for sure was part of the inner circle of the chief of the Polish General Staff, as follows clearly from the reports: the information obtained by the agent was from the personal conversation with Gonsyarovsky.

    All of these ideas have been developed in detail in a solid theoretical work by B. Studnitsky who was close to Pilsudski (polish dictator) . In his book, “The political system of Europe and Poland” (1935) he elaborates on plans to attack the USSR with combined efforts of Poland, Germany, Japan and Finland, tear Ukraine, Crimea, Karelia, Caucasus and Turkestan, and gave to Japanese russian Far East up to the lake Baikal (this is to the issue of the white and fluffy, innocent and peace-loving Poland subjected in 1939, well, to absolutely unprovoked Soviet attack …) ”

    FDR refused to send assistance to Chang Ki Schiek of nationalist china, instead he abandon nationalist china which was an Allie of the US and handed it to the commies that are still running it today.

    Japan was assisting Chang Ki Schiek of nationalist china fighting against the commies, FDR was afraid if he did not help the commie chinese, then Starlin in the USSR would take over china, then Japan and then the USA.

    Without FDR taunting Japan with an oil embargo and then allowing them to attack an Pearl Habor, the Germans would never have declared war and the US would have been left out of the war in Europe and the South Pacific.

    If the US did not provoke Japan in to attacking pearl habor this is what would have happen

    – Japan would have conquered southeast Asia and China

    – The Soviets would have eventually conquered Germany and absorbed their nuclear and missile technology and marched to the English Channel

    – The Soviets would have become the world’s sole nuclear super power and turned their attention to conquering China, Japan, and Southeast Asia.

    – The Soviets would have given Great Britain an ultimatum to surrender or be turned into a parking lot

    – Africa and South America would have fallen to Soviet aggression.

    – The USA, fat dumb and happy with no nuclear offense or defense, no allies and an industrial base never having recovered from the great depression would have been given an ultimatum to surrender to the Soviets or be destroyed.

  • Jay Wilson

    As much as I dislike Oliver Stone, it’s agreeable to see someone else thinks that the bomb was dropped not just to save American lives

  • andrew Sheldon

    His side of politics and ‘the other’ is proof enough we lost the intellectual war. The ‘nuclear consequences’ were there for everyone….WWII, Vietnam….even our crazy friend in North Korea. He likes them so much, he needed to build his own. Why? Because they work. If he is allowed to develop and keep nuclear weapons he will be able to extort all-manner of concessions…None as serious as the tax offices ability to extort though.

  • Steve van Dresser

    I once had doubts about the necessity of using the A-bombs to end the Pacific war, until I visited the Peace Park in Okinawa. There, I learned that the Battle of Okinawa, using conventional weapons in a “Rain of Steel”, killed more people than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. Most of those who died in the month long conquest of Okinawa were civilians.

    Okinawa is a very small island group, much smaller than even the smallest prefecture in Kyushu. Many Japanese didn’t even consider residents of Okinawa to be Japanese. If more than a quarter of million people had to die defending this speck in the ocean, how many would have died when the next target, southern Kyushu island, in the homeland, was attacked as planned in November, 1945.

    Japan knew it had lost the war before the Battle of Okinawa, but they didn’t surrender. Japan knew it had lost the war, but it didn’t surrender after losing that battle, either. And Japan didn’t surrender after the a-bomb attack on Hiroshima. While American forces were planning the invasion of Kyushu, part of which would have struck at the Hitotsuba Beach in my new hometown, Miyazaki City, the Japanese were planning for the defense of Kyushu, not for any surrender. I have seen no evidence suggesting that Japan would have surrendered before the battle of Kyushu if the a-bombs had not been used. And if the Battle of Kyushu were proportionate to the Battle of Okinawa, millions of Japanese would have been killed here before an assault on the the main island of Honshu.

  • goseki

    The origins of the American empire really begin with the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893.
    But yes the Russian threat was probably as big a “decider” in the surrender as the demonstration to the Soviets that the US had nuclear weapons and just how effective they were.
    Was it a war crime? Probably. Will anyone be punished for it? No, they were on the winning side. And winners write the history.

  • Lewis Clark

    I was discussing WWII with a good Japanese friend one evening when he made a surprising statement:

    “We are glad Mister Truman dropped the bomb.”

    When I asked why, he replied:

    “Because the US beat the Russians to Tokyo. Japan would be a very different country today if the Russians got there first.”

  • 思德

    For a while I felt it was totally justified, however if you look at the situation and what was targeted, I don’t think the use of the nuclear weapon served any purpose except for the that of intimidation. Sometimes as an American I wondered why other super powers like China and Russia are so concerned about us. Considering that we were the only nation with the gall to use nuclear weapons, twice, I think it’s more reasonable than one might initially believe.

  • galacticcannibal

    So who the hell are we (the USA) to tell others you cannot have nuclear bombs (WMD) ??? That makes us the bully of the world, does it not ?

  • blindanddumb

    dropping an atomic bomb on civilian city is a war crime . .there can be no justification . . .but only the losers get prosecuted for war crimes

  • RealityCheck4You

    Hearing Oliver Stone say this simply confirms that the opposite is true. A hallucinatory conspiracy theorist who peddles fiction movies thinly disguised as fact for his own financial gain, has no credibility. Although the history revisionists love spins like this, the known facts of the time say otherwise. But then, facts have never gotten in the way of a money-making film opportunity for O. Stoned.
    More likely, he has a movie about this in mind and is stirring the media pot to see whether it can be a financial success for him.

  • Hitokiri 1989

    Curiously, he has not rebutted the assumption that the militarists would not surrender without the A-bomb. For better or worse, the A-bomb robbed Japan’s military leadership of any countermeasures of which they could use against the US.

  • shadysentinel

    What Lewis Clark said is true. My grandmother (Japanese) expressed the exact same sentiment.

  • Steve Gregg

    Hirohito explicitly mentioned the atom bomb as the reason for surrendering in his address to the Japanese. The atom bombs did not change the minds of the Japanese military, who still thought they could bleed the invasion forces enough to dictate terms. So, Stone is wrong, as usual.

  • Leo Schneider

    It is a fact that the Imperial Army of Japan saw the two atomic bombs as no worse than the fire bombings of 70 or 80 of their biggest cities. They were simply not impressed. Their thinking was that we would have run out of cities to burn well before they would run out of the will to fight.
    If you know any thing about history, you know that they were impressed by 2 million men pouring across the Manchurian border and sweeping their Army away. The Reds beat the Germans and forced the collapse of the military dictatorship in Japan.
    That is way we were engaged in the cold war.

  • Sanchita Banerjee

    The controversy is alive, even today. Searching the net , I found an article by the then-Secretary of War of the USA , H.L.Stimson written in 1947, defending his govt’s decision, as expected.Interestingly, he mentioned that the USA were fully aware of Japan tentatively approaching the USSR as early as July that year, asking them to help negotiate for surrender, with some favourable terms for Japan, like getting to keep some of the occupied territory.The USA were not interested. When the USSR attacked Japan on the occupied mainland on the night of 8th August, they lost hope.In the morning the Japanese Supreme Council of War were already discussing surrender when Nagasaki was bombed.
    He mentions that it was part of the strategy not to reveal to Japan that they would unleashe on them something more destructive than the incendiary bombs pounding at least 60 Japanese cities since March that year.Pearl harbour, if I am not mistaken, was a naval air-base playing a role in these previous bombings. He claims that they wanted to imply that there was plenty more of A-bombs in store,unless they surrendered,while at the same time claiming that such was not the actual case. Wickipedia (perhaps not a very authentic source of information always), says that there were, in fact, a number of A-bombs in the U.S arsenal, lined up for Japan for August through September. The instant casualties in hiroshima being about 70-80,000, of whom only about 20,000 were military. The horrifying pictures of the victims were withheld from the U.S public, as they reminded one of similar images of concentration camp victims. A month later an american journalist reached there and shot a documentary, which was suppressed by the U.S govt for at least 22 yrs.And there was the usual propaganda, even earlier, calling the Japanese names, like “monkeys” , implying they were less human than the Aryan races. Sounds familiar ! So maybe it weighed easier on the conscience to A- bomb them, than the Germans. If the civilians being military-trained justified the bombing, then Israel can also be justifiably razed to the ground, if it suits a nation’s financial interest. Even more than 10/20 yrs later, acc. to Wickipedia, about 13% of the American public interviewed in a survey expressed the opinion that all Japanese civilians, including the aged, the women & children should have been wiped out then.Why this hatred ? They were not invaded in their homeland.We Indians know what it was like to be invaded & oppressed by the British for centuries, and are ever so often at war with Pakistan. Still we do not hate the common man of either country like this. And as for those bombings acting as deterrents for future use of nuclear armaments, now it is more subtle, like DU , killing & maiming generations of innocent children in Iraq and Afghanistan even as we argue here. Even Iraq war veterans in the US are suffering from radiation injury, more having been a casualty of radioactive uranium particles inhaled, than those actually killed on the battlefield. We humans are slow to learn, it seems .

  • Yamatosenkan

    The bottom line is that deliberately killing civilians in all forms was (also by the standards at the time) a clear war crime. It does not matter whether Japan would have surrendered with or without
    the A-bomb, or what other could have been. We’ll never know.

    Consider the following: Was the Japanese bombing of Chongqing a war crime? The Nazi bombing of Guernica, and London? If yes, why not the bombing of Tokyo, or Hiroshima? And if you want to go hypothetical: what if Iraq had nuked Teheran in the 1980’s to force it to surrender? And they would have argued it was “to save lives”? Would you buy the argument?

    Kudos to Eisenhower, who opposed the use of the A-bomb on Japan (a nation on its knees), and rejected the use of nukes when the Join Chiefs of Staff recommended the use of these, twice (Indochina, and Taiwan straits crisis).

  • Will Chamberlin

    Meanwhile, Oliver Stone’s criticism of the nationalist, right-wing, militant Abe government has been totally blacked out by the Japanese media.

  • Glen Douglas Brügge

    The Russian argument is a very valid one. I believe the atomic bombings merely coincided with the surrender, and where not the cause of it. As has often been claimed, bombing cities has never defeated a nation. Germany was flattened and had to be psychically invaded before it submitted. As long as the means of production can be moved, the war can continue until invasion or starvation. Tokyo lost enough people during its firebombing to be comparable in scale to both Nagasaki and Hiroshima, but this did nothing to hasten the end of the war. Once Russia declared war, the reality of Japan possibly becoming a communist state set in. Even if Russia was months away from invading, it would have eventually made it. The Russian war machine had flattened Eastern Germany, and was well and truly geared up. As far as saying “it couldn’t be helped,” that truly is a sad, and fatalistic approach to the facts. But then again, the benevolent leaders always know best and it is never the people’s right to stand up to them.

  • Catherine Simmions

    What the article has forgotten to investigate was that one of the first US groups to visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima after the surrender were the US Medical Doctors. Not to help per say but to take medical accounts of the radiation effects on the populations.

    A previous comment hit the nail on the head: “The U.S could have dropped a nuke in a more isolated place, and it`s power would have still been demonstrated”.

    In truth, Nagasaki and Hiroshima was only the start of these US tests. From late 1946 to 1958, the US detonated the equivalent of 7,000 Hiroshima bombs in The Marshall Islands in the Pacific. They lied to the local populations and again the doctors were on-hand to measure the people’s condition.

    At that time, everything hidden from public view…
    Times have not really changed though – like the murder of the reuters journalist by the apache machinegun and the whistleblower gets all the coverage.
    Links to the above Nuclear tests: