The human cost of atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was worth paying
Despite the terrifying toll of the first atom bombs, not
dropping it would have cost more lives
The Fat Man killed an estimated 40,000 people in an instant Photo: Reuters
  by Christopher Booker
9:22AM BST 09 Aug 2015

I’ve lately had cause to remember what for me and countless others was one of the most unforgettable moments of our lives. This came on August 6 1945, when we heard the quite unbelievable news that a whole city in faraway Japan had been destroyed in a flash, by a single, mysterious new kind of bomb, infinitely more powerful than anything the world had known before.

Three days later came news of a second of these new “atomic” bombs, dropped precisely 70 years ago today, soon leading to the announcement that the war everyone expected to last even for years to come was suddenly, miraculously over. Over the following months we began to learn more about the unimaginable horror which had been visited on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And in recent days we have rightly been reminded of what it was like to live through those terrible events which changed the world forever.
In 1945, however, we also soon heard much of the other side of the story, and how that same appalling tragedy might have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of American and British servicemen who could well have died in the invasion of Japan which would otherwise have been necessary to end the war. Only more slowly did it come to light how the atom bombs had also saved the lives of anything up to a million prisoners in camps across south-east Asia, whom the fanatical Japanese commander, Marshal Terauchi, intended to massacre if the allies landed on the Japanese mainland.
This photograph is incorrectly labelled....
A group of American soldiers captured by the Japanese during
the Battle of Java. Photo: Getty
There has been no more eloquent and gripping account of all this than a bookcalled The Night of the New Moon, published in 1970 by my late friend Laurens van der Post, who had spent three years in some of those brutalcamps on Java.  
That summer he and his fellow senior officers learned something of Terauchi’s murderous plans from a secret informant outside the camp. So they could scarcely believe it when, on the night of August 6, their secret camp radio picked up from the ether the incredible news of that first bomb on Hiroshima.
Through the days that followed they were more than ever convinced that they might all be slaughtered at any moment – until van der Post, as a Japanese speaker, was inexplicably summoned to the palatial headquarters of the island’s Japanese high command. Still fearing the worst, he was astounded to be confronted with a roomful of senior officers who, as he entered, solemnly bowed to him. They informed this emaciated, bedraggled British colonel that they wished him to take surrender of all the Japanese forces in Java.
Van der Post was only finally prompted to tell this extraordinary story 25 years later, when, in a New York television studio, he found himself trying to explain to an elderly survivor of Hiroshima how it was only because of all the horrors the man had witnessed in 1945 that the lives of millions of others, including his own, had been saved.
Practicalities aside, the photograph of 'American soldiers' is incorrectly labelled. They are clearly British troops.
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