Israeli Genocide in Gaza: Analysis of the Numbers

On January 22nd, media organizations across the globe reported the milestone of 25,000 Palestinian deaths at the hands of the IDF, (Israeli Defense Forces), since Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7th.

Sources for Palestian Casualty Figures

Palestinian casualty figures originate with the Hamas Ministry of Health in Gaza, but are being used and accepted by the U.S. State Department, Human Rights Watch, and various officials and agencies of the United Nations, including the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

One Catholic source places the number of fatalities higher. Father Ibrahim Faltas, the Vicar for the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, believes the true figure is closer to 30,000. According to Father Faltas, some 10,000 children have been killed and another 40,000 have been orphaned.

The Hamas Ministry of Health does not distinguish between civilian and military casualties among Palestinians.

The Israelis, and the Israelis only, are claiming that 9,000 Palestinian fatalities—35% of the total deaths—are those of combatants.

Unprecedented Proportion of Civilian Casualties

Others dispute this claim, with varying estimates of 60 to 90 percent civilian fatalities. Even if Israeli figures are taken at face value, it means that the IDF is killing nearly two civilians for every armed combatant which it kills, a ratio unprecedented in modern warfare.

This means that the percentage of civilian fatalities suffered by the Palestinians in the last three and one half months, 65%, is nearly double that suffered by the Germans and the Italians in the entire Second World War, and more than double that suffered by the Japanese in the same conflict.

This statistic is all the more astonishing when one considers that each one of those countries was subjected to a protracted campaign of strategic bombing by the Allies, in an era when aerial bombardment was far less precise than it is today.

The percentage of civilian fatalities in World War II for Nazi Germany was 37 percent, for Fascist Italy 34 percent, and for Imperial Japan 31 percent, respectively.

Damning Information from Israeli Source

n an analysis published in the Israeli newspaper HaaretzProfessor Yagil Levy stated that with a civilian death rate in Gaza of 61 percent, “The ratio [of civilian to military fatalities] is significantly higher than the average civilian toll in all the conflicts around the world from the second world war to the 1990s.”

“Without Parallel in Recent History”

2024 Population of Gaza Strip—2,375,000

As of January 23, 2024:

1.) Total Palestinian casualties—88,844

Palestinian fatalities—25,490

Palestinian wounded—63,354

Total fatalities as a percentage of the population of Gaza—1.1%

Total casualties as a percentage of the population of Gaza—3.75%

Percentage of women and children casualties—69%

2.) Total Palestinian displaced persons—1,900,000

Total displaced persons as a percentage of the population of Gaza—80%

3.) Total Palestinians with exhausted food supplies/facing catastrophic starvation—577,000

Percentage of Palestinian population facing starvation—24.3%

4.) Total Palestinians suffering from infectious diseases—350,000

Percentage of Palestinian population which is sick—15%

5.) Total housing units damaged or destroyed in Gaza—360,000

Percentage of homes damaged or destroyed—60%

6.) Total United Nations worker (UNRWA, WHO, UNPD) fatalities—153

7.) Total journalist fatalities—117

8.) Total all non-Israeli Gaza fatalities—25,760

9.) Total Palestinian casualties, West Bank—4,708

Total Palestinian fatalities, West Bank—360

Total Palestinian injuries, West Bank—4,348

10.) Total Palestinian casualties, Gaza and West Bank—93,552

Total Palestinian fatalities, Gaza and West Bank—25,850

Total Palestinian injured and wounded, Gaza and West Bank—67,702

11.) Total Israeli Casualties, Gaza and Green Line Israel—8,293

Total Israeli Fatalities—1,413

(504 soldiers, 69 police and security officers, 770 civilians, 70 Israeli Arabs)

Total Israeli Injured and Wounded—6,632

Total Israeli Hostages Taken—248

Total fatalities as a percentage of the population of Israel—.015%

Total casualties as a percentage of the population of Israel—.09%

12.) Total Israeli displaced persons—200,000

Total displaced persons as a percentage of the population of Israel—2%

Kýrie, eléison! Christe, eléison! Kýrie, eléison!
Our Lady of Palestine, Pray for Us!
Queen of Peace, Pray for Us!
Our Lady of Fatima, Pray for Us!

C. Joseph Doyle is the Executive Director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts. Since 2019, Doyle has also served as Director of Communications for the Friends of Saint Benedict Center. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Catholicism.

An Act of State Terrorism


In Part One of “An Act of State Terrorism,” our article examining the decision by the United States to drop a plutonium bomb on the largest Catholic community in Japan in 1945, we explored five aspects of this tragedy and this crime.

We discussed the 400 year old Catholic heritage of Nagasaki; the frightful death toll and ghastly material devastation wrought by the detonation of the 21 kiloton Fat Man bomb over that city; the unresolved question of how Nagasaki appeared, suddenly, almost at the last minute, and by an anonymous hand, on the target list for nuclear incineration; the opposition of many American military leaders to the use of atomic weapons against civilians; and, finally, the false narrative of bomb proponents who claimed that the Soviet declaration of war against Japan was unexpected, reactive and opportunistic.

In Part Two, I propose to begin the examination of those, in the United States government, who were responsible for the unprecedented decision to terrify an enemy into surrender, by utilizing the then unimaginable destructive force of nuclear weapons, and using it on civilians, resulting in the deaths of perhaps two hundred thousand innocent human beings.

Our focus in this installment will be on the Cabinet official under whose authority the bomb was developed and deployed, the Secretary of War, Henry Stimson.

An Act of State Terrorism, Part Two

At the end of 1945, following the conclusion of the Second World War, the Armed Forces of the United States of America had eight five star officers, four Fleet Admirals — William Leahy, Ernest King, Chester Nimitz and William Halsey — and four Generals of the Army — George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Henry “Hap” Arnold and Dwight Eisenhower.

Leahy and MacArthur would later express moral objections to the atomic bombing of civilians. Halsey called it “a mistake.” Eisenhower thought the first use of such weapons by America was inexpedient. All, with the exception of Marshall, thought their use was unnecessary.

Even Army Chief of Staff George Marshall, who would later defend the dropping of the two atomic bombs, initially advocated for their deployment against military targets only. After the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Marshall urged that the atomic bombing of cities be halted, as America’s limited supply of these new bombs needed to be conserved as potential tactical weapons, for battlefield use, in the invasion of Japan.

It was America’s political leadership, not its military and naval commanders, who wanted and decided to use nuclear weapons in 1945.

A Very Different Government

Hilaire Belloc warned of the danger of “reading history backwards,” of assuming that the standards, structures and practices of today obtained in the past. Compared to 2023, America had a profoundly different federal government in 1945.

At the end of the Second World War, the vast civilian architecture of the modern national security state had not yet been created. That creation would come in two phases, the first in the immediate post-war period, and the second, after the 9/11 attacks.

When the U.S. government considered the military application of atomic power in 1945, those advisory, policy making, and executive institutions so preeminent in our own time — the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Council and the Department of Defense — did not yet exist.

There was no Cabinet level Ambassador to the United Nations, and there was, certainly, no all powerful Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, who could, like Henry Kissinger or Zbigniew Brzezinski, rival or displace the Secretary of State in influence.

The National Director of Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security would be 21st century constructions.

That contemporary Colossus of centralized power, the Executive Office of the President, with its cabinet department size and its myriad councils and agencies, was unknown in 1945. Nor was there a prime ministerial White House Chief of Staff, who could treat Cabinet secretaries as functionaries, and control, or even restrict, their access to the President.

In 1945, the Vice-President had no voice in the counsels of the Executive branch, and no presence or staff in the White House. In fact, he had, virtually, no staff at all, only a small office in the Capitol, from which he would emerge to discharge his constitutional obligation to preside over the Senate.

As the 25th Amendment, governing presidential and vice-presidential succession, was only proposed after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, the office of Vice-President was vacant during the first Truman administration.

In the eighty-two days, from January 20 to April 12, 1945, during which time Harry Truman served as Vice-President of the United States, he only met with President Franklin Roosevelt, alone, on two occasions. On neither of those occasions, did FDR bother to tell him about the Manhattan Engineer District Project, a.k.a., the atomic bomb.

Three Civilian Advisors

At the end of the Second World War, the President of the United States had just three principal civilian advisors in matters of foreign policy and national defense. These were the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, and the Secretary of the Navy.

Their significance in the government was underscored by their proximity to the President. Their offices were located in the Old Executive Office Building, colloquially referred to, simply, as the State, War and Navy Building — that great, 19th century Second Empire edifice next to the White House, and connected to it by an underground passageway. It is now called the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

In 1945, the U. S. Secretary of State was James F. Byrnes. The Secretary of War was Henry L. Stimson, and the Secretary of the Navy was James Vincent Forrestal. Both Byrnes and Forrestal were baptized Catholics. Only one however, still adhered to the religion of his baptism.

The Grey Eminence

The actual management of the atomic bomb project was in the hands of the War Department.

Seventy-seven years old in the summer of 1945, Secretary of War Henry Stimson was the U.S. government’s most distinguished and experienced grey eminence. Harry Truman was the sixth American President whom he served.

By birth, ancestry, religion, economic status and education, Stimson was an archetypical member of the American nomenklatura, sometimes called the Eastern Establishment.

Born in New York City in September of 1867, to a family of pious Presbyterians, he was the son of a surgeon and the grandson of a banker. His father sent him to Phillips Andover Academy, Yale University (where he joined Skull and Bones) and Harvard Law School.

A successful Wall Street attorney with the white shoe firm of Root and Clark, Stimson, by the time he was in his mid-thirties, was earning an annual income of $20,000, the equivalent of nearly $700,000 per year today.

Appointed, by President Theodore Roosevelt, as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York in 1906, Stimson served until 1909, prosecuting antitrust cases. In his only attempt at elective office, Stimson became, with Roosevelt’s endorsement, the Republican nominee for Governor of New York in 1910, losing in the general election to Democrat John Dix.

From 1911 to 1913, Stimson served in the Cabinet of President William Howard Taft as the U.S. Secretary of War, the same office he would hold thirty years later in the Second World War. As a Regular Army Colonel in the Field Artillery in the First World War, he spent nine months in France, from 1917 to 1918, at the American General Staff College in Langres.

After the war, Stimson resumed his law practice, was made a Brigadier General in the Reserves, and became, in 1921, one of the founders of the Council on Foreign Relations.

In 1927, President Calvin Coolidge named Stimson an Envoy Extraordinary to the Republic of Nicaragua — then a de facto American protectorate — to settle that country’s electoral dispute. Later that year, Coolidge appointed him Governor-General of the Philippines.

In 1929, President Herbert Hoover recalled Stimson to Washington to confer upon him the highest gift in the providence of the Presidency. Hoover appointed him U.S. Secretary of State.

Serving until the end of the Hoover Administration in 1933, Stimson was the American delegate to the London Naval Conference in 1930, and would later proclaim the Stimson Doctrine, a policy of sanctions and non-recognition, aimed at containing Japanese aggression in Manchuria.

In July of 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, intent on running for an unprecedented third term, and seeking bi-partisan support for his foreign policy of all aid to Britain short of war, returned the 72 year old Henry Stimson, after an absence of 27 years, to the War Department.

For Roosevelt’s purposes, Stimson was an inspired choice. Although a prominent Republican with an impeccable reputation, Stimson was an internationalist, and therefore an interventionist, and more significantly, was an old retainer to the Oyster Bay branch of the Roosevelt family.

A Bureaucratic Interest

No cabinet official had a more compelling bureaucratic self interest in the successful use of atomic weapons than Henry Stimson. After all, he had just spent more than two billion, in 1940’s dollars, ($33 billion today) on the Manhattan Project, and he spent it surreptitiously, without the direct knowledge of Congress.

One of the congressional officials from whom he concealed the details of the project was the Chairman of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, the junior Senator from Missouri, one Harry S. Truman.

Stimson then spent another three billion dollars ($49 billion in today’s money) on the development and production of the delivery system for the atomic bomb, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, the most expensive weapons system in the history of the planet up to that time.

The B-29 proved to be a spectacular triumph of American aircraft design and engineering, a veritable quantum leap in aviation technology. It remained a front line American aircraft into the jet age of the Strategic Air Command, and was the principal U.S. heavy bomber in the Korean War.

In the middle of World War II however, Stimson had no way of knowing that. So, hedging his bets against the possible failure of the B-29 program, he then spent another $124 million ($2 billion in 2023 dollars) on a second delivery system, the now forgotten Consolidated B-32 Dominator.

In total, Stimson’s War Department expended $84 billion, in real dollars, to develop and deliver the atomic bomb.

Far from being an enthusiast for his own creation, Stimson was afflicted with a moral ambivalence about the bomb that bordered on schizophrenia. In policy terms, Stimson’s position was one of protracted inconsistency about the use of the weapon.

The Targeting of Civilians

In May of 1945, the Truman Administration established an inter-departmental Committee, known as the Interim Committee on the Military Use of the Atomic Bomb, to formulate policy about the deployment of the bomb, and to craft public statements explaining its existence to the American people.

The Chairman of the Interim Committee was Henry Stimson. The Committee was advised by a technical body called the Scientific Panel.

From its very beginning, the committee determined that civilian losses concomitant with the use of the bomb were not to be viewed as collateral casualties. The bomb was specifically intended to be a terror weapon which explicitly targeted civilians and maximized civilian deaths.

The second of the committee’s first three recommendations, adopted unanimously and issued on June 1, 1945, was: “It should be used on a dual target plant surrounded by or adjacent to houses and other buildings most susceptible to damage;”

The Target Committee, headed by the Director of the Manhattan Project, Major General Leslie Groves, had already come to the same conclusion. On May 12, 1945, that committee decided that the bomb should be used against “important targets in an urban area of more than three miles diameter,” — area bombing on an immense scale.

On June 6, 1945, Stimson met with President Truman to discuss the Interim Committee recommendations. According to Stimson’s memorandum on the meeting, Truman, already briefed by his aide, (and soon to be Secretary of State) James Byrnes, expressed no concerns with the committee report, beyond what to tell the Russians in the upcoming Potsdam Conference.

Nor did Stimson register any objection to the targeting of homes in a nuclear attack. At the very end of the meeting, however, Stimson, in a reference to the conventional firebombing of Japanese cities, told Truman “I did not want to have the United States get the reputation of outdoing Hitler in atrocities.”

It makes no sense, of course, to support the atomic bombing of civilians while condemning conventional area bombing as Hitlerian. Was Stimson reluctant to challenge the findings of his own committee? Why did he not raise this issue in the committee which he chaired? Was this remark a subtle means of implanting doubt in Truman’s mind?

Stimson Begins To Dissent

Twelve days later, on June 18th, President Truman held a meeting at the White House, with both his military and civilian advisors, to discuss the invasion of Japan. While most of those present supported a landing in the Japanese Home Islands in November, Stimson, seconded by his Assistant Secretary of War, John McCloy, suggested that an invasion would solidify Japanese resistance in a fight to the death.

An even more dramatic intervention was made by Fleet Admiral William Leahy, who told the President that the unconditional surrender of Japan was not necessary to the successful conclusion of the war.

Truman, revealingly, told Leahy that he could leave the issue to Congress, but he could not change public opinion in this matter.

On July 2nd, Stimson sent a memorandum to the President, entitled a Proposed Program for Japan. It is a remarkable document. While arguing, ostensibly, against an invasion of Japan, Stimson raises issues directly related to the use of atomic weapons.

Stimson told Truman that Japan was under blockade, had no allies and no navy, and was increasingly vulnerable to air attacks. He went on to say, contrary to the pervasive racial hatred of the time, that “Japan is not a nation composed wholly of mad fanatics of an entirely different mentality from ours.”

Addressing the policy of unconditional surrender, Stimson asserted that a Japanese surrender could be facilitated if we “do not exclude a constitutional monarchy under her present dynasty.”

In a seeming repudiation of his own committee, Stimson concluded the memorandum by stating that “Our own bombing should be confined to military objectives as far as possible.”

Stimson would lose the first of these arguments, and only prevail, belatedly, in the second. The bomb would be used on civilians, and Truman would only agree to the preservation of the monarchy after the destruction of Nagasaki.

With the successful test of the atomic bomb at Alamogordo in New Mexico on July 16th, the bureaucratic momentum for its use became inexorable. By the beginning of August, 1945, Stimson, the Administration loyalist, was busy monitoring last minute preparations for the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Saving Kyoto, Sacrificing Nagasaki

Henry Stimson’s last known intervention about the use of the atomic bomb, prior to the bombings, was his direct appeal to President Truman on July 24th to spare the city of Kyoto, the historic center of Buddhism and Shintoism in Japan, by removing it from the target list. It was immediately thereafter that Nagasaki was added to the list.

Was Henry Stimson the anonymous decision maker who selected Catholic Nagasaki for destruction to save pagan Kyoto? The archival record offers no clues, but we do know that Stimson embraced all the prejudices of his time, his class, and his religious sect.

As a young lawyer in the 1890’s, Stimson was a committed “goo-goo,” a member of the Good Government Club of New York, dedicated to stamping out patronage and corruption in local government, i.e., Irish control of municipal politics.

Stimson entered government as an appointee and a disciple of Theodore Roosevelt, a President notorious for his nativism and bigotry. As a diplomat and colonial administrator, Stimson believed that Catholic Filipinos and Latin Americans were incapable of democratic self-government, requiring, instead, the firm hand of Anglo-Saxon tutelage.

Like every other rich WASP in the FDR Administration, Stimson had a visceral animus against the Catholic leader of Free France, once telling Harry Truman that Charles De Gaulle was “psychopathic.”

In his last public comments, a few months before his death in 1950, Stimson, in a letter to the editor of The New York Times, denounced Senator Joseph McCarthy.

The Tragedy of Henry Stimson

An attorney represents the position of his client. A mandarin — a high civil servant — learns the values of obedience, discretion, compliance with the institutional consensus, and acquiescence in decisions, once made.

Stimson was both of these in his long career. The tragedy of Henry Stimson was that he was inclined to do right, in a vague, Protestant/humanitarian sort of way, but lacked the moral clarity that the Catholic Faith would have imparted.

He had principles, and personal probity, but no concept of unbreachable moral prohibitions, rooted in Divine and natural law. In the end, everything was negotiable, where compromise was permitted and expected.

Like Pontius Pilate, Henry Stimson was morally discomforted by the decisions confronting him, and like Pilate, he preferred the acceptance of a crime to the uncertainties and unpleasantness of political discord.

On two occasions in his career, Stimson rejected the elite consensus. He argued against the vengeful Morgenthau Plan, which would have destituted the German people and depopulated the country by de-industrializing Germany.

Like General George Marshall, Stimson believed that American support for a Jewish National Home in Palestine would be inimical to U.S. interests in the Middle East.

On August 10, 1945, the day after the bombing of Nagasaki, Stimson, with the support of the Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, appealed to the President to halt all attacks, both atomic and conventional, on Japan, to give that country an opportunity to surrender.

Stimson and Colonel William H. Kyle (right) arriving at the Gatow Airport in Berlin, Germany to attend the Potsdam Conference (July 16, 1945). Source.

After the war, towards the end of his life, Henry Stimson’s institutional loyalties and ruling class sensibilities proved impossible to discard. In a February, 1947 article in Harper’s Magazine, Stimson not only defended the killing of innocent civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but assumed responsibility for carrying out the decision: “I approved four other targets including the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Ironically, Stimson, one of the few cabinet officials who expressed moral reservations about the killing of civilians in wartime, would, in this article written in his retirement, provide the official narrative justifying the use of atomic weapons on the innocent as “our least abhorrent choice.”

C. Joseph Doyle is the Executive Director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts. Doyle is also the Director of Communications for the Friends of Saint Benedict Center.

Featured: Henry Lewis Stimson, by Ellen Emmet Rand; painted in 1933.

Nagasaki: An Act of State Terrorism

August 9, 2023 is the 78th anniversary of the destruction of the oldest, largest and most historic Catholic community in Japan, that of the Urakami District of Nagasaki, whose Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception lay 1,650 feet beneath the airburst of the 21 kiloton Fat Man plutonium bomb.

Faith and Martyrdom in Nagasaki

The Catholic Faith was first brought to what is now the Nagasaki Prefecture by Saint Francis Xavier, following his arrival in Japan in 1549. The first Catholic missionary to evangelize the town of Nagasaki was a Portuguese Jesuit, Father Gaspar Vilela, who erected a church on the site of a pagoda in 1569.

The harvest of conversions was plentiful. By 1587, there were three parish churches and numerous chapels in the former fishing village, which was then growing into a city and a major seaport. Buddhism and Shintoism had all but disappeared from within its municipal confines.

By 1588, the year that the first Catholic diocese was established in Japan — the Diocese of Funai, centered on Nagasaki — there were at least 200,000 Catholics in the Land of the Rising Sun. Some place the figure above a half million.

Persecution however, would soon follow. Beginning in 1587, the Imperial Regent and Chancellor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, influenced by the Bonzes — Buddhist monks — issued the first prohibitions directed against the missionaries.

The pagan monks, affronted by the dramatic growth of Catholicism in their country, bore false witness against the Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries, accusing them of territorial ambitions within Japan, on behalf of the then united Spanish and Portuguese Crowns.

In this lethal calumny they were to be abetted, later, by Protestant Dutch and English merchants and sea captains who hated the Catholic Faith.

In 1597, the Twenty Six Martyrs of Japan — Saint Paul Miki and Companions — were crucified in Nagasaki, the first of hundreds of thousands of Catholics to suffer for the Faith in Japan.

In 1614, Catholicism was proscribed in Japan and would remain so until 1873. For the next two and a half centuries, Nagasaki would give seed to the Church through the blood of her martyrs.

Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits and lay Catholics would die there in 1622, followed by Augustinian Recollects in 1632. Martyrdoms would continue until the end of the 1850’s.

When the first Catholic missionaries returned to Japan in 1865, they discovered the extraordinary phenomenon of a clandestine church, the church of the “Hidden Christians,” consisting of thousands of secret Catholics living near Nagasaki, and existing, impoverished, on the very margins of Japanese society. They kept the Faith, without priests and without most of the sacraments, and without contact with the outside world, for 250 years.

It is no wonder that Nagasaki has been described as the “heart and soul” of Japanese Catholicism and the “Cradle of the Catholic Church,” in Japan.

After several years of de facto toleration, the ban against Catholicism in Japan was finally lifted in 1873. Nagasaki then resumed its place as the religious and cultural center of the Catholic community.

As early as 1866, the Apostolic Vicariate of Japan was located in Nagasaki. The Diocese of Nagasaki was erected in 1891. By 1925, the great Romanesque Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Christian church in East Asia, was completed, to the immense joy of the Catholics of the city.

A saint of modern times was among those who preached the Gospel in Nagasaki. Saint Maximilian Kolbe spent six years in Japan, from 1930 to 1936. In 1931, the Polish martyr founded a Franciscan convent on the outskirts of the city.

The Bomb

Shortly before 11 am on Thursday, August 9, 1945, three Silverplate (nuclear capable) Boeing B-29 Superfortresses of the 509th Composite Bombardment Group, of the Twentieth United States Army Air Force, approached the City of Nagasaki, at an altitude of 29,000 feet.

The aircraft had left Tinian, in the Marianas, eight hours earlier. Upon the completion of their mission, they would land in U.S. occupied Okinawa.

The lead plane, the weather reconnaissance plane, was the already famous Enola Gay, which had dropped the first atomic bomb, Little Boy, on Hiroshima, three days before.

The second plane, the observation aircraft, carrying cameras and measuring instruments, was The Great Artiste.

The third B-29, Bockscar, carried a plutonium implosion atomic bomb named Fat Man. The aircraft was piloted by Major Charles W. Sweeney, an Irish American Catholic from Lowell, Massachusetts.

At 11:02 am, 43 seconds after its release from the bomb bay of the B-29, Fat Man exploded, with force of 22,000 tons of TNT, over Urakami District of Nagasaki, 1,650 feet above Immaculate Conception Cathedral.

The population of Nagasaki in 1945 was, officially, 263,000. Because of conventional bombing raids, thousands of children had been evacuated to the countryside. There were, perhaps, less than 200,000 residents remaining in the city on August 9th.

Of these, 40,000 were vaporized in a millisecond. Another 34,000 would die from burns, blast injuries and radiation poisoning before the end of the year. Because of the long term effects of radiation sickness, and the cancers it engenders, the total fatalities, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, may have approached 140,000.

Nothing survived within a kilometer of the epicenter. Everyone in the Cathedral died. The physical destruction was horrific, with 14,000 homes incinerated.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe estimated that there were a 100,000 Catholics in Japan in the 1930’s, of whom 60,000 lived in the Diocese of Nagasaki. Of these, 12,000 lived in the city itself, in the Urakami District.

Mortality estimates for the Catholic community range from 8,500 to 10,000 dead. This means that somewhere between 71% and 83% of the Catholic population of Nagasaki was destroyed, with perhaps as much as ten percent of the entire Catholic population of Japan killed in a single mass casualty event.

Statues found among the ruins of Urakami Cathedral.

Ironically, only 150 Japanese military personnel died in the bombing, but the bomb killed 2,000 Korean forced laborers.

Although the plutonium bomb used at Nagasaki had, at 21 kilotons, a 40% higher yield than the uranium device detonated over Hiroshima, it produced less than 29% of the initial fatalities.

This was because the port city of Nagasaki, like the American seaport of Boston, is a geological basin, surrounded by a ridge formation. This contained the blast. Providentially, Saint Maximilian placed his convent on the reverse side of the mountain overlooking the city. It survived.

Why Nagasaki?

Suspicions remain as to why and how Nagasaki became a target for the atomic bomb.

Nagasaki was added, at the last moment — on July 24th or later — by an unknown hand, to the target list.

St. Agnes, from Urakami Cathedral. Found in the ruins of the cathedral after the nuclear attack.

According to U.S. Army Air Force protocols, it should never have been on the list at all, as it was not pristine, having been firebombed four times by the B-29s of the Twentieth Air Force.

The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey wanted only completely undamaged targets to measure, more accurately, the blast and incendiary impact of the atomic bomb.

Another mitigating factor was the presence of 884 Allied prisoners of war in the city — British, Dutch and Australian — who worked as forced labor in the two Mitsubishi factories.

Major General Leslie Groves, the head of the Manhattan Project which developed the A-bomb, was the chairman of the target list committee. He later claimed, implausibly, that he had no idea of how Nagasaki made the list.

Nearly eight decades on, the Nagasaki target map remains missing from the National Archives.

Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama, Kokura and Niigata were on the initial target list. Yokohama, with its navy yard, was removed because of the extensive damage it suffered from the conventional munitions dropped in B-29 raids.

Kyoto, with its 2,000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, was removed from the list after Secretary of War Henry Stimson personally interceded with President Harry Truman. Stimson said that the destruction of the religious and cultural capital of Japan would permanently alienate the Japanese people, whose support the United States might need in a future conflict with the Soviet Union.

It seems, sequentially at least, that Nagasaki was placed on the target list following the removal of Kyoto, possibly as its replacement. Its inclusion came in the form of a hand scrawled note, by an unidentified person, which was added to the already typewritten list.

On August 9, 1945, Kokura was the primary target. As it was socked in — no visibility — Major Sweeney, running low on fuel, turned to the secondary target. That was Nagasaki.

There Was Widespread Opposition in America’s Military
Leadership to the Atomic Bombing of Cities

Conservative writers, journalists, intellectuals and media talking heads — including the putatively Catholic George Weigel — continue to defend the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, despite its clear contravention of Catholic just war doctrine, first expounded by Saint Augustine.

For decades, conservatives maintained that it was a binary choice between the A-bomb and the invasion of the Japanese home islands.

They cited Winston Churchill, who claimed that the invasion would cost the lives of a million American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, the lives of a half million British Commonwealth forces and the lives of untold millions of Japanese soldiers and civilians.

In recent times, their arguments have become more refined. Some now claim that the maintenance of the American naval blockade of Japan would have resulted in tens of millions of Japanese deaths from starvation.

Overlooked in all of this is the fact that while modern day opinion givers justify the use of nuclear weapons on civilians, most of America’s military and naval leadership at the time opposed it.

Of the six Allied Supreme Commanders in the Second World War, all three Americans, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, and Chester Nimitz, opposed, on moral or practical grounds, the atomic bombing of Japan.

In his memoirs, President Richard Nixon said that what impressed him most about Douglas MacArthur was the General’s principled opposition to the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As MacArthur would have led the invasion of Japan, and would therefore have been acutely aware of the potential for massive American casualties, this is no small thing.

President Eisenhower, in his 1948 memoir, Crusade in Europesaid he “disliked seeing the United States take the lead in introducing into war something as horrible and destructive as this new weapon.” Fifteen years later, in a second memoir, he charged that “Japan was already defeated and . . . dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary.”

America’s senior officer in World War II was Fleet Admiral William Leahy, who was the Chairman of the Joint Board of the Army and the Navy and the Chief of Staff to the President — the 1940’s equivalent of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and National Security Advisor.

Leahy called the atomic bombing “an act of barbarism.”

The entire leadership of the Navy was opposed to the bomb. Besides Leahy and Nimitz, the Chief of Naval Operations, Ernest King, and Nimitz’s two Pacific fleet commanders, Admirals Halsey and Spruance, were critics of the bomb.

Even the Twentieth Air Force commander, Curtis LeMay — whose planes dropped the bombs — said it was unnecessary.

LeMay’s objections were operational, not ethical. General LeMay always maintained that the war would have ended with a Japanese surrender in September of 1945. That is when his target list, for the obliteration of Japanese cities through conventional firebombing, would have been completed.

Stalin Did We Asked Him To Do

One of the more fatuous arguments made by defenders of the A-bomb was that the Soviet Union rushed, opportunistically, to enter the war against Japan after the U.S. bombed Hiroshima. This is an imbecility.

It presumes that the plodding and ponderous Russian Army was suddenly transformed into the Wehrmacht, ready to launch a blitzkrieg against the Japanese in Manchuria within 48 hours of the bombing of Hiroshima.

The truth is quite different.

At Yalta, in April of 1945, three months before the successful test of the atomic bomb in New Mexico, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were supplicants to Joseph Stalin, cajoling him and wheedling him to declare war upon Japan.

Suitably bribed with territorial concessions in the Far East, Stalin agreed. He promised to enter the Pacific war against Japan three months after the European war against Germany ended.

VE Day was May 8, 1945. Russia entered the war punctually, exactly on time, as Stalin said he would, three months later, on August 8, 1945.

If the bombs were dropped to shock the Japanese into surrender, then the question remains of why the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Japanese civilians two days before Japan’s greatest fear—a Russian declaration of war—materialized, which we knew was coming? And why did we drop a second bomb the day after the Russian entry into the war?

We will also examine the moral compass of Major Charles Sweeney.

C. Joseph Doyle is the Executive Director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts. Since 2019, he has also served as the Communications Director of the Friends of Saint Benedict Center. This article appears courtesy of Catholicism.

Featured: Urakami Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Nagasaki, January 7,1946.