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The Military United States Technology

Historians Propose National Park To Preserve Manhattan Project Sites 150

Hugh Pickens writes writes "William J. Broad writes that a plan now before Congress would create a national park to protect the aging remnants of the atomic bomb project from World War II, including hundreds of buildings and artifacts scattered across New Mexico, Washington and Tennessee — among them the rustic Los Alamos home of Dr. Oppenheimer and his wife, Kitty, and a large Quonset hut, also in New Mexico, where scientists assembled components for the plutonium bomb dropped on Japan. 'It's a way to help educate the next generation,' says Cynthia C. Kelly, president of the Atomic Heritage Foundation, a private group in Washington that helped develop the preservation plan. 'This is a major chapter of American and world history. We should preserve what's left.' Critics have faulted the plan as celebrating a weapon of mass destruction, and have argued that the government should avoid that kind of advocacy. 'At a time when we should be organizing the world toward abolishing nuclear weapons before they abolish us, we are instead indulging in admiration at our cleverness as a species,' says Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich. Historians and federal agencies reply that preservation does not imply moral endorsement, and that the remains of so monumental a project should be saved as a way to encourage comprehension and public discussion. A park would be a commemoration, not a celebration, says Heather McClenahan, director of the Los Alamos Historical Society pointing out there are national parks commemorating slavery, Civil War battles and American Indian massacres. 'It's a chance to say, "Why did we do this? What were the good things that happened? What were the bad? How do we learn lessons from the past? How do we not ever have to use an atomic bomb in warfare again?" '"
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Historians Propose National Park To Preserve Manhattan Project Sites

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  • by Deadstick ( 535032 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:10PM (#42199069)

    Great example would be German museums dealing with the events surrounding their involvement in the World Wars and the Holocaust. You go into any of those, and while they talk a lot about the Nazi Party, National Socialism, Hitler and the rest, you would be hard pressed to say that anyone would think any of it is an endorsement. Everything I saw really had a tone of: "My God, we screwed the pooch BIGTIME. Let's put this all out here, so maybe people won't let it happen again"

    Indeed. I was quite surprised to hear the tour guide at Hitler's mountain chalet above Berchtesgaden...she told it like it was, no beating about the bush. Her sentiment was clearly Nie wieder.

  • by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:21PM (#42199155) Homepage
    This is very true. When I was in Germany I went to the dachau camp. It was a very somber experience. There was plenty explaining exactly what happened on the grounds. It was preserved and rebuilt in some ways, but it was never "endorsed"

    As long as this memorial is done in a way that explains the things that happened, and why they were done, without claiming that "the japz are teh badz" than I think it is a good thing
  • by edibobb ( 113989 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:22PM (#42199167) Homepage
    There is a difference between a National Park and a National Historic Park. The proposed "National Park" is a National Historic Park, about 3 notches below a National Park in terms of visitors, staff, and funding.
  • by Trolan ( 42526 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:33PM (#42199239) Homepage

    Unfortunately when I was there, we didn't have a chance to get out to Dachau, but did go through the Documentation Center in Nuremburg. Exact same thing. No punches pulled, just straight up "Here's what happened, why it happened, and why it should never be allowed to occur again." I was kind of surprised, and very glad to see it just laid out like that. A dark period of human history, and the best way to deal with it is to let it stand on its own.

  • Re:Only Americans... (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @11:18PM (#42200059)
    <quote><p>It shortened the war by years, sparing millions of lives at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.</p></quote>

    The war was basically over.  The Japanese have already agreed to capitulate and it was a matter or a week or so before they would hand over the signed paperwork. 
  • Re:Only Americans... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @12:37AM (#42200627)

    It shortened the war by years,

    How? The war was basically over. The main part of the Japanese Army was on the Chinese mainland. The Russians were already invading in the north. The Japanese were basically saying "We'll surrender but only if we get to keep the emperor" and the Americans said "Herp derp, no, unconditional!" And guess what, we kept the emperor on the throne anyway! The Tokyo trials basically was an orchestrated farce on both sides trying to lay blame everywhere but on him.

    sparing millions of lives at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.

    Again, the vast majority of the Japanese army was on the Japanese mainland.

    The reason to use nukes was not because Japanese invasion would be all that difficult. It was a show of might, especially with the up and coming Russians -- who were invited by FDR in February of that year to invade, but Germany's surrender bought Americans face to face with them and their drastic gains in the Atlantic changed the higher-up minds. They did not want to split Japan like they did Germany, they wanted the whole thing.

  • by drnb ( 2434720 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @02:13AM (#42201067)

    The war was basically over. The main part of the Japanese Army was on the Chinese mainland.

    The forces in Japan were more than sufficient to inflict massive casualties on the US. Look at what they managed at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the previous two battles on Japanese soil. Plus they were training their civilians to resist and fight. Plus we now know they were planning on using chemical weapons on the invasion beaches when the US landed. Plus they had been holding back kamikaze aircraft and suicide boats, again look at Okinawa. Plus they had also perfected the aerial dropping of bubonic plague infected fleas, they even tested it on Chinese villages, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_731 [wikipedia.org]. Marry this with their new submarines that could launch 2 or 3 aircraft, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-400_class_submarine [wikipedia.org], and they would have the capability to target San Francisco not just invasion beaches. We have no idea what would have happened if the war went on until Spring 1946, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_japan [wikipedia.org].

    The Russians were already invading in the north.

    Wrong, Russia did not invade Japan until after the atomic bomb was dropped, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surrender_of_Japan [wikipedia.org].

    Even if Russia would have attacked with the atomic bombing they would be quite busy on the mainland for many more months. Plus the Russians did not have an amphibious capability, they could not invade the Japanese home islands in force even if they wanted to.

    Again, the vast majority of the Japanese army was on the Japanese mainland.

    The millions of Japanese casualties that the previous poster referred to would have been predominately civilian. Some fighting, some caught in the middle, some suiciding ... again see Okinawa.

PL/I -- "the fatal disease" -- belongs more to the problem set than to the solution set. -- Edsger W. Dijkstra, SIGPLAN Notices, Volume 17, Number 5