This week, John Kerry will become the first-ever U.S. Secretary of State to visit Japan's Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which commemorates the victims of the atomic bomb dropped on the city in 1945.
But The Christian Science Monitor reports that Kerry will not apologize for dropping the bomb, which set off the nuclear age.
"If you are asking whether the secretary of state came to Hiroshima to apologize, the answer is no,” a senior state department official who is currently traveling with Kerry in Japan told the paper.
But should he?
The Monitor notes that Japan has already apologized for Japanese actions and the American lives lost during the war. In an address to the joint meeting of the United States Congress that took place last April, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that, “on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, I bow my head deeply before the souls of all those who perished both at home and abroad. I express my feelings of profound grief and my eternal, sincere condolences.”
On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese forces attacked the Pearl Harbor naval station in Hawaii, killing or wounding 3,500 Americans. The move was intended to preemptively cripple the U.S.'s Pacific fleet. Instead, it had the effect of mobilizing Americans to charge into the war; previously, the U.S. had only sent in limited support to Europe.
Five years later, the U.S. had rung up an almost unbroken series of victories in the Pacific against Japan. Nathan Donohue of the Center for Strategic and International Studies argues that as early as 1944, "it was clear to both the Japanese and the United States that the Japanese were losing the war and that the question was when not if the Japanese would finally capitulate."
Recently, the conventional wisdom that President Harry Truman decided to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima, and then Nagasaki, solely to avoid further American casualties has been challenged. In his review of historian J. Samuel Walker's book "Prompt and Utter Destruction" about the decision to drop the bomb, Professor Roger Chapman believes that Truman simply felt no compunction about using it despite knowing it was "the most terrible thing ever discovered."
"The bomb was probably not necessary to end the war within a fairly short time without an invasion of Japan. And no, the bomb was not necessary to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of American troops."
The combined civilian death toll from both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, including those who died from radioactive fallout, is now estimated to be nearly 500,000, almost as many as the total number of U.S. soldiers who died as a result of the war.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.