Up until the bombings, the Japanese elite thought the war had turned in their favour. Potsdam offered them better terms than to Germany. They thought they could get even better terms of a million lives lost invading Kyushu.
Paul Fussell in Paris, May 1945
Many years ago in New York I saw on the side of a bus a whiskey ad I’ve remembered all this time. It’s been for me a model of the short poem, and indeed I’ve come upon few short poems subsequently that exhibited more poetic talent. The ad consisted of two eleven-syllable lines of “verse,” thus:
In life, experience is the great teacher.
In Scotch, Teacher’s is the great experience.
For present purposes we must jettison the second line (licking our lips, to be sure, as it disappears), leaving the first to register a principle whose banality suggests that it enshrines a most useful truth. I bring up the matter because, writing on the forty-second anniversary of the atom-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I want to consider something suggested by the long debate about the ethics, if any, of that ghastly affair. Namely, the importance of experience, sheer, vulgar experience, in influencing, if not determining, one’s…
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