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Myth of Lives Saved by A-Bombs

August 04, 1985

I read with interest the article (Opinion, July 28), "The Myth of Lives Saved by A-Bombs," by Barton J. Bernstein, a professor of history at Stanford University.

While no one can accurately dispute the "what if" conclusions of past and present authors on the subject of how many American military personnel would have died or been wounded in an invasion and capture of the Japanese home islands, I do take issue with the casual reference to total killed or wounded. I certainly have no way of knowing if I would have been one of the unfortunate; however, there most definitely was that chance.

In July, 1945, I was a 17-year-old Marine who had just finished advanced infantry training at Camp Pendleton. I was assigned to the 82nd Replacement Draft for the 6th Marine Division on Okinawa. Our commanding officer had informed us we were to be part of the invasion of Japan. We were not provided with numbers, but we were told that our casualties were "expected to be heavy." Obviously, the announcement impressed me enough so the words remain fresh in my memory.

Bernstein debates the various totals that might have occurred had the A-bombs not have been dropped, questioning the higher figures and, by implication, accepting considerably lower ones. I am not privy to the accuracy of various speculations concerning past events that did not occur. Nevertheless, I feel safe in stating that whether I had been a single casualty among 20,000 or 500,000, is of little note. On a personal level, dead is dead, crippled is crippled. I was willing to risk it for my country and my cause, although I was nothing but relieved when the A-bomb made it unnecessary to test my luck!

In these 40 years past, I can recall no one who was in the Pacific Theater who was not grateful that the aforementioned invasion was not necessary. Of those who would most certainly have been in the landing forces, none are sorry for the missed opportunity. Nor for that matter are their wives, children and grandchildren.

ELERTH S. ERICKSON

Long Beach

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