Last night, David Barton delivered a presentation at a Patriot Academy gathering in Austin, Texas, which, as usual, was filled with all sorts of misrepresentations and falsehoods. This time, Barton falsely claimed that prior to the use of atomic weapons against Japan during World War II, the United States had specifically warned Japanese civilians of “exactly which cities we were going to bomb and when.”
Barton was complaining that the Advanced Placement history standards for WWII only present the U.S. in a negative light and don’t teach that the U.S. put its own forces in danger in an effort to protect Japanese civilians by letting Japan know in advance exactly which cities were going to be targeted.
“We dropped 70 million pamphlets in Japan telling the Japanese exactly which cities we were going to bomb and when and what bombs we would use on them,” Barton said. “We said, ‘We do not want to hurt civilians but we are going to destroy the military side of this, we urge all civilians to leave Nagasaki, to leave Hiroshima.’ We gave 29 cities that we were going to bomb because they were loaded up with military stuff. And, by the way, they said, ‘We have a bomb that has never been seen by the world before, it is the equivalent of 5,000 B-29s dropping their bombs at the same time. It’s one bomb; you need leave those cities, get out of those cities, we don’t want to hurt you’ … Because we told them what cities we were going to be bombing, we’d also told the Japanese where they could set up their guns to shoot our planes down as we come over. So we put ourselves in jeopardy in that.”
If it seems unlikely that the U.S. military would warn its enemy of “exactly which cities we were going to bomb and when,” thereby providing them with an opportunity to shoot down our airplanes, that is because it never happened.
What actually happened was that the U.S dropped millions of leaflets on dozens of cities, warning that “some or all of the cities named on the reverse side will be destroyed by American bombs” and urging residents to evacuate:
Read this carefully as it may save your life or the life of a relative or friend. In the next few days, some or all of the cities named on the reverse side will be destroyed by American bombs. These cities contain military installations and workshops or factories which produce military goods. We are determined to destroy all of the tools of the military clique which they are using to prolong this useless war. But, unfortunately, bombs have no eyes. So, in accordance with America’s humanitarian policies, the American Air Force, which does not wish to injure innocent people, now gives you warning to evacuate the cities named and save your lives. America is not fighting the Japanese people but is fighting the military clique which has enslaved the Japanese people. The peace which America will bring will free the people from the oppression of the military clique and mean the emergence of a new and better Japan. You can restore peace by demanding new and good leaders who will end the war. We cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked but some or all of them will be, so heed this warning and evacuate these cities immediately.
After the first atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima, the U.S. then dropped another leaflet urging Japan to surrender or face another atomic bombing:
TO THE JAPANESE PEOPLE:
America asks that you take immediate heed of what we say on this leaflet.
We are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised by man. A single one of our newly developed atomic bombs is actually the equivalent in explosive power to what 2000 of our giant B-29s can carry on a single mission. This awful fact is one for you to ponder and we solemnly assure you it is grimly accurate.
We have just begun to use this weapon against your homeland. If you still have any doubt, make inquiry as to what happened to Hiroshima when just one atomic bomb fell on that city.
Before using this bomb to destroy every resource of the military by which they are prolonging this useless war, we ask that you now petition the Emperor to end the war. Our president has outlined for you the thirteen consequences of an honorable surrender. We urge that you accept these consequences and begin the work of building a new, better and peace-loving Japan.
You should take steps now to cease military resistance. Otherwise, we shall resolutely employ this bomb and all our other superior weapons to promptly and forcefully end the war.
EVACUATE YOUR CITIES.
ATTENTION JAPANESE PEOPLE. EVACUATE YOUR CITIES.
Because your military leaders have rejected the thirteen part surrender declaration, two momentous events have occurred in the last few days.
The Soviet Union, because of this rejection on the part of the military has notified your Ambassador Sato that it has declared war on your nation. Thus, all powerful countries of the world are now at war with you.
Also, because of your leaders’ refusal to accept the surrender declaration that would enable Japan to honorably end this useless war, we have employed our atomic bomb.
A single one of our newly developed atomic bombs is actually the equivalent in explosive power to what 2000 of our giant B-29s could have carried on a single mission. Radio Tokyo has told you that with the first use of this weapon of total destruction, Hiroshima was virtually destroyed.
Before we use this bomb again and again to destroy every resource of the military by which they are prolonging this useless war, petition the emperor now to end the war. Our president has outlined for you the thirteen consequences of an honorable surrender. We urge that you accept these consequences and begin the work of building a new, better, and peace-loving Japan.
Act at once or we shall resolutely employ this bomb and all our other superior weapons to promptly and forcefully end the war.
EVACUATE YOUR CITIES.
The U.S. did not warn Japan “exactly which cities we were going to bomb and when,” as Barton claimed, as that would obviously have been lunacy, as Gregg Herken explained:
But there was never any specific warning to the cities that had been chosen as targets for the atomic bomb prior to the weapon’s first use. The omission was deliberate: The United States feared that the Japanese, being forewarned, would shoot down the planes carrying the bombs.