TIME China

Tiny Pacific Nation of Vanuatu to Join Motley Crew at China’s WWII Anniversary Parade

Students pose with a Chinese national flag and red stars during a event to mark the 70th anniversary of the Victory of Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War, at a primary school in Handan
China Daily/Reuters Students pose with a Chinese national flag and red stars during a event to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender at a primary school in Handan, Hebei province, China, Aug. 31, 2015

Thursday marks 70 years since Japan's surrender

The South Pacific island chain of Vanuatu served as a staging ground for American troops fighting in World War II. But the remote islands escaped intense combat with the Japanese. Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan weren’t exactly in the thick of battle against imperial Japan either. But that hasn’t stopped these nations, among others, from planning to take part in a massive military parade in Beijing on Sept. 3, marking the 70th anniversary of Japan’s official surrender in World War II. Around 1,000 representatives from 17 nations will march in the Beijing parade.

So important is this occasion to China that Sept. 3 has been designated a new holiday, a festive occasion with the catchy name of the Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Victory of Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War. China’s Victory Day parade gives the country, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, the opportunity to flaunt both new military hardware as well as long-standing foreign friends. Most of the 500 pieces of military equipment on display, from anti-ship ballistic missiles to attack helicopters, will have been unveiled for the first time, according to state media, and around 30 foreign leaders will take in the pageantry, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sudan’s Omar Hassan al-Bashir and Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Leaders from democratic nations will be in shorter supply, although South Korean President Park Geun-hye will be in town when the parade takes place, as will former leaders like the U.K.’s Tony Blair and Tomiichi Murayama, the Japanese ex-PM who gave his nation’s most high-profile apology for its brutality during World War II.

On Thursday, more than 10,000 troops will goosestep past Tiananmen Square. To ensure that nothing will compete with some 200 military aircraft overhead, including a new bomber, flights from Beijing Airport will be grounded. The Beijing News reports that five monkeys have been trained to destroy nearby bird nests, lest young migratory birds collide with a speeding fighter-jet. An average macaque, readers of Beijing News were informed, can obliterate around 12 bird nests a day. (Falcons and dogs have also been recruited for the bird-clearing efforts.)

Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Sato Kilman will also attend the presumably avian-free festivities, in which seven members of the country’s police force will march. (Vanuatu has no army.) Now a nation of 266,000 people, Vanuatu has long enjoyed close ties with Beijing. Two years after its independence in 1980 — the archipelago was formerly the British-French colony of the New Hebrides — Vanuatu secured diplomatic relations with China. At the time, many countries sided with Taiwan, the island to which the Chinese Nationalist government escaped after losing to the Communists in 1949.

For a brief moment in 2004, Vanuatu switched allegiance to Taiwan, swayed by Taipei’s dollar diplomacy. (Six South Pacific nations currently recognize Taiwan.) But China quickly prevailed, with monetary dispensations of its own, and the Prime Minister who engineered the diplomatic switch lost his job. Another flirtation with Taiwan in 2011 was again forestalled by China. “For Vanuatu, participating in the parade is almost certainly about reinforcing and building relations with China in exchange for favors later,” says Jenny Hayward-Jones, director of the Melanesia program at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.

After Australia, China is Vanuatu’s second-largest aid donor. The Lowy Institute’s Philippa Brant calculates that, from 2006-2013, the Melanesian nation received around $220 million in aid from China. Beijing’s largesse is responsible for new roads, buildings and public transportation in Vanuatu. Although the tiny country already has a convention center, China is building Vanuatu another one — sparking debate over whether or not Chinese funds are being used for the most suitable projects. In many developing countries, Chinese-financed ventures also mean an influx of Chinese workers, narrowing the trickle-down benefits for the local economies. Reporting last December on road construction in Vanuatu by a Chinese state-owned company, a journalist for the Vanuatu Daily Post wondered whether the upgraded road was “an early Christmas present or something else in disguise.”

Back in Beijing, the seven-man team from the Vanuatu Mobile Force flag brigade has spent the days leading up to the parade at a training base on the outskirts of the capital, according to Asa Liu, an employee of the Vanuatu Embassy in Beijing. The military facility, where other foreign marching delegations are also staying, is plush, at least as appraised by a spokesman for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. There are, he announced, free accommodations, wireless Internet, laundry facilities — and a buffet of both Western and Chinese delicacies.

TIME conflict

What You Don’t Know About the End of World War II

Douglas MacArthur
Apic / Getty Images Douglas MacArthur signing surrender of Japan on warship USS MIssouri on Sept. 2, 1945

The story of the last American killed in combat in World War II — and how his death almost changed the course of history

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

Before dawn on a steamy Pacific morning seventy years ago U.S. Army Air Forces Sgt. Anthony J. Marchione climbed aboard a huge, four-engined bomber at Yontan airfield on Okinawa. Hours later that aircraft, a B-32 Dominator, was ravaged by Japanese fighters and 20-year-old Tony bled to death in the skies above Tokyo. The young aerial gunner died as so many others did in that long-ago conflict, cradled in the arms of a buddy who was powerless to save him, and his passing would be sadly unremarkable were it not for two facts: He was the last American killed in combat in World War II, and the manner of his death very nearly changed history.

By early August 1945 Japan’s armed forces had been rolled back throughout the Pacific, its major cities and industrial centers had been reduced to smoking rubble by waves of Allied aircraft, and many of its people were on the verge of starvation. Though some of Emperor Hirohito’s military and political advisers argued that the nation should continue to fight, both to uphold its honor and to force the Allies into accepting a negotiated end to the war rather than the unconditional surrender they were demanding, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki three days later convinced the diminutive monarch that continued resistance was futile. He announced his decision to surrender—though he never actually uttered the word—in a pre-recorded speech broadcast to the nation on August 15. An attempted palace coup failed to halt the move toward capitulation, and by August 16 orders were going out to Japanese forces worldwide to lay down their arms, stop all offensive action and abide by the ceasefire terms issued by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander for the Allied powers in the Pacific.

In order to confirm the Japanese were following his directives, MacArthur ordered reconnaissance flights over key areas of Japan, including the greater Tokyo metropolitan area. Among the aircraft assigned to the recon task were the Okinawa-based 386th Bombardment Squadron’s B-32s, and on August 16 four of the Dominators flew over the Japanese capital without interference. The following day things did not go as well, however, for another quartet of B-32s was fired upon by anti-aircraft batteries and then attacked over Tokyo by fighters belonging to the Japanese navy’s 302nd and Yokosuka air groups.

The Dominators made it home with only minor damage and no casualties, but MacArthur needed to know whether the anti-aircraft fire and fighter attacks were random acts by rogue elements or, more ominously, an indication that the Japanese might be wavering in their commitment to surrender. He therefore ordered four more B-32s back over Tokyo on August 18, though two of the aircraft turned back with mechanical problems. The Dominators that reached Tokyo were jumped by fighters from Atsugi and Yokosuka; gunfire from the Japanese aircraft severely wounded aerial photographer Staff Sgt. Joseph Lacharite and killed Tony Marchione, who was acting as Lacharite’s assistant.

Had MacArthur decided that this egregious violation of the ceasefire indicated that Japan was in fact not intending to surrender he could well have restarted the air war against the island nation, with all the dire consequences that would entail. To his credit, however, he chose to wait. A Japanese surrender delegation was scheduled to fly to his Manila headquarters on August 19 via the U.S. airfield on the island of Ie Shima; if the two aircraft bearing the delegation failed to appear, it would be a clear sign that Tokyo was reneging on the surrender decision. If the aircraft did arrive, it would confirm that the attacks on the B-32s had been carried out by mutinous die-hards.

To the relief of everyone in MacArthur’s headquarters the surrender delegation arrived on schedule and the Japanese government quickly brought the various rogue military units under control. The first Allied occupation troops landed in Japan on August 28—at Atsugi, as it turned out—and on Sept. 2, 1945, World War II officially ended with the surrender ceremony aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Sadly, it took another four years for Tony Marchione’s remains to make the journey from a temporary interment site on Okinawa to the cemetery of his family’s parish church in Pottstown. The last American killed in combat in World War II—and the man whose death nearly changed history—was buried with full military honors on March 21, 1949.

Stephen Harding is the author of nine books, including the New York Times bestseller The Last Battle. His most recent book is Last to Die: A Defeated Empire, a Forgotten Mission, and the Last American Killed in World War II (Da Capo Press 2015).

TIME conflict

See a Close-Up of General MacArthur’s Plan for the End of World War II

The military leader negotiated the ceremony that would take place on Sept. 2, 1945

Museum of World War II Boston

Though Japan announced plans to surrender in World War II within days of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it took weeks before the brutal war officially came to a close — the reason “V-J Day” is observed on a few different days. The time in between was consumed with the tricky logistics of negotiating the details of surrender. Representatives of Japan and of the Allied powers would need to meet but, at a time when Japanese partisans were perceived to remain a threat, General Douglas MacArthur was particularly concerned about the safety of his delegates.

“There was a lot of concern on MacArthur and his staff’s side that something dastardly could happen, that the initial party could get ambushed,” explains Kenneth Rendell, the founder and director of the Museum of World War II in Natick, Mass. MacArthur’s concern can be seen in the lengthy document he prepared instructing Japanese delegates about the steps that would need to be followed in order to bring the two sides together.

In this page from one draft of that document, which is in the museum’s collection, MacArthur’s handwritten notes can be seen making a slight change to the timing of one of those steps. (The document was in the papers of LeGrande A. Diller, MacArthur’s chief of staff for public relations, before it was acquired by the museum.) But even the most detailed plans don’t always work out: this document names August 31—exactly 70 years ago Monday—as the date on which the two sides would meet. But further complications pushed the signing of the surrender documents to Sept. 2.

More like this: See the Original Operations Orders for the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Read TIME’s original 1945 coverage of the surrender, here in the TIME Vault: “… Peace Be Now Restored”

TIME Poland

Nazi ‘Gold Train’ May Have Been Found in Poland

Poland Nazi Train gold
AP The potential site where a Nazi gold train is believed to be hidden, near the city of Walbrzych, Poland, on Aug. 28, 2015.

Treasure hunters have been searching for the train for decades

A mythical German train filled with gold and gems has been detected by ground-penetrating radar in Poland. The so-called “gold train” is thought to have gone missing close to the city of Walbrzych, Poland in 1945. It was lost in the underground tunnels where German soldiers transported goods around the country during World War II.

A Pole and a German recently told authorities that they had found the armored train in one of the tunnels, the Associated Press reports. A radar image of the train shown to the Polish deputy culture minister seemed to confirm the train’s existence. He said he was “more than 99% certain that this train exists.”

The process of searching for the exact location of the train is expected to take weeks. According to the deputy culture minister, a man who claimed to have helped load the gold train said on his deathbed that the vehicle was laced with explosives as a security measure.

[AP]

Read next: German Chancellor’s Name Is Now Slang for ‘To Do Nothing’

Listen to the most important stories of the day

TIME photography

See Participants in V-J Day Parade Reunited 70 Years Later

On Aug. 15, 1945, the end was in sight for World War II. These New Orleans residents celebrated the best way they knew how

She barely remembers the day—she was only 8, and 70 years have gone by—but Linda Torres can recall the happiness she felt when she heard that World War II was ending. The news that Japan was surrendering meant that her father, Lloyd Lusse, who was serving with the Army in the Philippines, would soon be coming home.

“When [my mother] got the word, and everywhere in the neighborhood horns were blowing and everything else, she grabbed the American flag off the front of the porch and went and got a fishing pole, a cane pole, and she made a flag with that,” Torres tells TIME. “And everybody gathered up and started parading down the street.”

A newspaper photographer happened to pass by as the paraders marched. The photograph ran in the New Orleans Times-Picayune the next day, Aug. 15, 1945—the day often considered V-J Day, even though the war didn’t officially end until early September. Now, the Times-Picayune and the National World War II Museum in New Orleans have uncovered the identities of many of the participants and brought them back together to mark the 70th anniversary.

“New Orleans is very familiar with parades. That’s what people do when something joyous happens,” says Keith Huxen, the museum’s chief historian. “I think this photograph speaks to people because [of] the context of what had just ended. World War II is by far the bloodiest war in human history and, particularly for young Americans who had gone overseas and fought and seen a lot of death, this is the moment where people know that they’re going to live.”

The project of tracking down the paraders began months ago as part of an effort to preserve the history of the war and of the building of the post-war world. “We capture the voices of a generation that unfortunately is rapidly disappearing from the scenes,” Huxen says. “Preserving that legacy for future generations to learn from is I think very important.”

Linda Torres’ memories of that day may be the spotty ones of a little girl, but they include indelible details. Among them: her father didn’t come home immediately because he was on a crew assigned to mop-up duty in Hiroshima. For Roland Jauchler Jr.—the 10-year-old with the trumpet in the original picture—it’s a reminder of good times with people who are mostly gone.

“We were all happy, elated that the war was over,” he tells TIME. “That’s about all I can remember.”

TIME World War II

Meet the Man Who Claims to Be the Kissing Sailor in That Famous V-J Day Photo

George Mendonsa, a 92-year-old veteran from Rhode Island, says he's sure it's him

Correction appended: August 14, 2015.

When Alfred Eisenstaedt took a picture of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day, on Aug. 14, 1945, he knew he’d captured something special. But he likely didn’t realize that the photo would become one of the most iconic images of the 20th century—and one of its most enduring mysteries.

Though the identities of the sailor and nurse have never been confirmed, George Mendonsa, a 92-year-old veteran and retired fisherman, has no doubt the man in the photo is him. “I haven’t found a person yet that I haven’t convinced,” he told CNN, explaining that his large hands, a scar on his brow and his distinct memory of that moment are confirmation enough for him.

Read the rest of the story on CNN.com

Correction: The original headline misstated the occupation of the man in the photograph. He was a sailor.

TIME World War II

Go Behind the Lens of That Famous V-J Day Kiss in Times Square

What another photographer saw in Times Square on Aug. 14, 1945

Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photograph of a sailor kissing a woman in Times Square, after news broke of the Japanese surrender in World War II, has lived a storied life since it was taken 70 years ago. Often called “The Kiss,” it remains the iconic image of celebration at war’s end, a black-and-white bookend separating an era of darkness from the beginning of a time of peace. It is also an unsolved mystery of identity, a physics problem and, more recently, a source of controversy for those who see in it not mutual revelry but evidence of sexual assault.

But “The Kiss” was not the only photograph taken that day, nor was Eisenstaedt the only photographer navigating the boisterous New York City festivities. Another LIFE photographer, William C. Shrout, brought a different set of negatives back to the office that day, with his own perspective on the people’s response to peace.

While Shrout’s photos have much in common with Eisenstaedt’s, they capture one thing that Eisenstaedt couldn’t easily have captured: images of Eisenstaedt himself. In one photo, Eisenstaedt kisses a reporter, his camera slung over his shoulder, in a pose not unlike that of the famous kiss he photographed that day. In another, he and that women walk toward Shrout, bright smiles on their faces.

Shrout’s images of a host of other anonymous embraces help put that famous kiss in context: It may be the most famous photograph of unbridled joy from that day in August, but it’s far from the only one. And Shrout’s images of the man behind that photo remind us that, even if a photojournalist is meant to be an impartial witness to history, he is also a part of the history he is witnessing.

VJ DAY Iconic Alfred Eisnestaedt image
Alfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesIconic image of a sailor kissing at nurse during V-J Day celebrations in Times Square, August 14, 1945.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

TIME conflict

Only One Occupied Country in Europe Rose to the Defense of Jews During World War II

DENMARK-NAZI-JEWS
AFP/Getty Images This 1943 photo shows a boat carrying people during the escape across the Oresound of some of 7,000 Danish Jews who fled to safety in neighboring Sweden

It was Denmark. The Danes' remarkable story of heroism is worth remembering in this the 70th year since the end of the war

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

Seventy years ago this year World War II came to an end. Alongside the collective sigh of relief in Allied countries that the most brutal war humanity had ever witnessed was over, there was as well a sense of disbelief at the sight of the concentration camps, the existence of which to be sure had been well-known to the Allies.

Humanity had not witnessed anything resembling the Holocaust. A systematic, rational, industrial plan designed to eliminate completely an entire people from the face of the earth, the Holocaust was to become an exceptional phenomenon in History. Carried out by one of the most cultured nations the world had ever known, the Holocaust would turn out to be a distinctive story of genocide.

Within this unique event, unique individuals emerged who were willing to risk their lives in order to save the life of a Jew. The most well-known of them all was Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat, who is credited with having saved, directly and indirectly, the lives of tens of thousands of Jews in Hungary. To be sure, there were many others. Wallenberg in a sense was primus inter pares, first among equals. His fate remains a mystery to this day. At the end of the war he was taken by Soviet forces never to be seen again.

Alongside these singular individuals, there was a singular nation that, as a collective endeavor, saved most of its Jews: Denmark.

In a sense, the role played by Denmark was distinctive, different from anything else known to us during the Holocaust.

To begin with, contrary to what happened in other countries, Denmark’s populace acted collectively, spontaneously and in an organized manner in order to save its eight thousand Jewish compatriots.

Further, the person to whom the surviving Jews of Denmark owed their lives, apart from the Danish people, was a German official, Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, who revealed to the Jewish community his government’s plan to deport the Danish Jews to concentration camps. This was on the 28th of September 1943. Indeed, faced with disbelief on the part of the Jews, Duckwitz insisted that his information was true and that he was not trying to deceive them.

Also, in an unprecedented manner in those years, Danish fishermen ferried seven thousand and two hundred Jews to Sweden in a coordinated action that saved the lives of most of Denmark’s Jews.

Still, almost five hundred Jews were sent to the Theresienstadt Ghetto in Czechoslovakia. However, all of those Jews, but 51 of them, survived the Holocaust as well due largely to the Danish representations to Germany, inquiring for the well-being of the deported Jews.

The Danish case proved that a collective, spontaneous and organized endeavor aimed at saving Jews could be successful, even in the face of German might and determination.

True, on the whole, the attitude displayed by Nazi Germany toward Denmark was more benevolent than the attitude shown to most other nations in Europe. Indeed, German occupation in Denmark was relatively mild (in Nazi terms).

Nevertheless, when it came to the Jews of Denmark, Germany was no less virulent in its determination to eliminate them, once the decision was taken, than it was in other cases throughout Europe and beyond. This is where the role of Denmark’s non-Jewish population becomes so exceptional, and indeed so crucial. Without them, the Danish Jews would have perished as other Jews elsewhere did.

There were many cases of individuals who tried to save Jews during the Holocaust. These were individual examples of heroism. The Danish case is singular in that it was a collective, nation-wide effort.

There have been a few myths attached to the Danish story. For instance it has been said that Denmark’s king wore a yellow Star of David badge in public to identify himself with Jews who were compelled to wear such a badge to distinguish them from the non-Jewish population by the German occupying forces. This is apparently untrue. It never happened, so far as we know.

Further, some of the Danish fishermen who actually conveyed Jews to safety in Sweden were apparently paid to do so.

Notwithstanding the myths and partial truths, Denmark’s case is still unique in the context of the Holocaust.

In the darkest hour in Jewish history, indeed in human history, the people of Denmark kept a candle of dignity alight, a candle which can be seen in the distance today, seventy years after the end of World War II, as clearly as it was then.

Dr.Yoav J. Tenembaum lectures at the Diplomacy Studies Program, at Tel Aviv University. He holds a doctorate in Modern History from Oxford University and a master’s in International Relations from Cambridge University. He read for his B.A. in History at Tel Aviv University.

TIME Opinion

Harry Truman’s Atomic Bomb Decision: After 70 Years We Need to Get Beyond the Myths

Both sides in the debate have left a distorted impression of why Truman decided to drop the bomb

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

President Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan in 1945 is arguably the most contentious issue in all of American history. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have generated an acrimonious debate that has raged with exceptional intensity for five decades. The spectrum of differing views ranges from unequivocal assertions that the atomic attacks were militarily and morally justified to claims that they were unconscionable war crimes. The highly polarized nature of the controversy has obscured the reasons Truman authorized the dropping of the bomb and the historical context in which he acted.

The dispute over the atomic bomb has focused on competing myths that have received wide currency but are seriously flawed. The central question is, “was the bomb necessary to end the war as quickly as possible on terms that were acceptable to the United States and its allies?”

The “traditional” view answers the question with a resounding “Yes.” It maintains that Truman either had to use the bomb or order an invasion of Japan that would have cost hundreds of thousands of American lives, and that he made the only reasonable choice. This interpretation prevailed with little dissent among scholars and the public for the first two decades after the end of World War II. It still wins the support of a majority of Americans. A Pew Research Center poll published in April 2015 showed that 56% of those surveyed, including 70% aged 65 and over, agreed that “using the atomic bomb on Japanese cities in 1945 was justified,” while 34% thought it was unjustified.

The “revisionist” interpretation that rose to prominence after the mid-1960s answers the question about whether the bomb was necessary with an emphatic “No.” Revisionists contend that Japan was seeking to surrender on the sole condition that the emperor, Hirohito, be allowed to remain on his throne. They claim that Truman elected to use the bomb despite his awareness that Japan was in desperate straits and wanted to end the war. Many revisionists argue that the principal motivation was not to defeat Japan but to intimidate the Soviet Union with America’s atomic might in the emerging cold war.

It is now clear that the conflicting interpretations are unsound in their pure forms. Both are based on fallacies that have been exposed by the research of scholars who have moved away from the doctrinaire arguments at the poles of the debate.

The traditional insistence that Truman faced a stark choice between the bomb and an invasion is at once the most prevalent myth and the easiest to dismiss. U.S. officials did not regard an invasion of Japan, which was scheduled for November 1, 1945, as inevitable. They were keenly aware of other possible means of achieving a decisive victory without an invasion. Their options included allowing the emperor to remain on the throne with sharply reduced power, continuing the massive conventional bombing and naval blockade that had destroyed many cities and threatened the entire Japanese nation with mass starvation, and waiting for the Soviets to attack Japanese troops in Manchuria. Traditionalists have generally played down the full range of options for ending the war and failed to explain why Truman regarded the bomb as the best alternative.

A staple of the traditional interpretation is that an invasion of Japan would have caused hundreds of thousands of American deaths, as Truman and other officials claimed after the war. But it is not supported by contemporaneous evidence. Military chiefs did not provide estimates in the summer of 1945 that approached numbers of that magnitude. When Truman asked high-level administration officials to comment on former president Herbert Hoover’s claim that an invasion would cost 500,000 to 1,000,000 American lives, General Thomas T. Handy, General Marshall’s deputy chief of staff, reported that those estimates were “entirely too high.” Hoover apparently based his projections on an invasion of the entire Japanese mainland, but military planners were convinced that landings on southern Kyushu and perhaps later on Honshu, if they became necessary, would force a Japanese surrender.

The revisionist interpretation suffers from even more grievous flaws. Japanese sources opened in the past few years have shown beyond reasonable doubt that Japan had not decided to surrender before Hiroshima. It is also clear from an abundance of evidence that U.S. officials were deeply concerned about how to end the war and how long it would take. The arguments that Japan was seeking to surrender on reasonable terms and that Truman knew it are cornerstones of the revisionist thesis. They have been refuted by recent scholarship, though impressing the Soviets was a secondary incentive for using the bomb.

The answer to the question about whether the bomb was necessary is “Yes”. . . and “No.” Yes, it was necessary to end the war at the earliest possible moment, and that was Truman’s primary concern. Without the bomb, the war would have lasted longer than it did. Nobody in a position of authority told Truman that the bomb would save hundreds of thousands of American lives, but saving a far smaller number was ample reason for him to use it. He hoped that the bomb would end the war quickly and in that way reduce American casualties to zero.

No, the bomb was not necessary to avoid an invasion of Japan. The war would almost certainly have ended before the scheduled invasion. A combination of the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, the effects of conventional bombing and the blockade, the steady deterioration of conditions in Japan, and growing concerns among the emperor’s advisers about domestic unrest would probably have brought about a Japanese surrender before November 1. And no, the bomb was not necessary to save hundreds of thousands of American lives.

The controversy over Truman’s decision seems certain to continue. The use of a bomb that killed tens of thousands instantaneously needs to be constantly re-examined and re-evaluated. This process should be carried out on the basis of documentary evidence and not on the basis of myths that have taken hold and dominated the discussion for 70 years.

J. Samuel Walker is the author of Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs against Japan (University of North Carolina Press, 1997, second edition, 2004). He is now working on a third edition of the book.

TIME photography

See What the Only Hiroshima Building to Outlast the Atomic Bomb Looks Like Today

The now-iconic Genbaku Dome was the only thing left in the area, and it remains as it was in 1945

It’s the most recognizable building in Hiroshima, described by TIME as “Hiroshima‘s Eiffel Tower, its Statue of Liberty.” The Genbaku Dome was once an exhibition hall, functioning as the city’s convention center. After the atomic bombing of Aug. 6, 1945—exactly 70 years ago Thursday—it was the only major building left standing near the explosion site.

“Where the dome rose, only the supporting beams remain, a giant hairnet capping four floors of vacant gray walls, much of their outer skin peeled away, exposing patches of brick,” TIME later explained. “The interior floors are also gone, making the entire structure an accidental atrium. A front doorway leads to nowhere. A metal spiral staircase ascends to nothing. A pillar lies on its side, wires springing like wild hairs.”

Today, the Dome is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, where it serves as a physical a reminder of the horrific destruction of atomic power—and humanity’s power to rebuild.

Read TIME’s 1945 assessment of the bombing, here in the TIME Vault: “Awful Responsibility”

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