THE ATOMIC BOMBING OF HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI WAS IT NECESSARY Christopher Philippi HS-102 May 3, 1999 On August 6 and 9, 1945, the only atomic bombs ever used in warfare were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The mass destruction and numerous deaths caused by those bombs ultimately put an end to World War II. Was this the only way to end the war, however Could this killing of innocent Japanese citizens had been avoided and the war still ended quickly. This paper will go into this controversial topic. First, a summary of the events leading up to the bombing and the events that followed: With the end of the European war, the Allies focused their efforts on Japan. Though they were losing miserably, the Japanese continued to fight back.
The Potsdam Proclamation was issued to the Japanese. It made no mention of Japan's central surrender condition, the status of the Emperor. In Japan, the Emperor was viewed as a god. Therefore, Japan rejected the Potsdam Proclamation. The United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Russia declared war against Japan. Japan, because of its military, still refused to surrender. The Japanese government voted against surrender. Japanese believe in "death before dishonor".
Japanese peace advocates feared for the safety of the Emperor. They begged him to break with tradition and make government policy by 2 calling for peace now. As a result of the Emperor's call to surrender, the entire Japanese cabinet, including the military, agreed to surrender. The cabinet saw that this would allow the Emperor to be retained.
The Japanese would have fought to the death if they did not feel the Emperor would have been spared They may have been fighting a losing battle, but they saw unconditional surrender as a threat to the Emperor. President Truman had been advised of the importance of the Emperor to the Japanese. Japan was seeking Russia's help to end the war in July 1945. The U.S. was aware of this at the time through intercepted Japanese cables.
But, the U.S. did not keep up with this change in Japan's position. Instead the U.S. chose military methods of ending the war rather than diplomatic methods. The desire for revenge helped make military methods more attractive. After the creation of the atomic bomb was complete and before it was dropped there was uncertainty to whether or not it should be used. Many scientists argued that it should not be used. Truman had a difficult decision to make.
He had much advice given to him towards making a decision. Leo Szilard's first version of his petition was more strongly worded than the final version. Regardless, on July 3, 1945, he presented to President Truman his reasoning for not using the atomic bomb on Japanese cities. It was signed by 58 other scientists.
3 Rejecting the pretense that the targets would be military, the petition called atomic bombs a ruthless annihilation of cities. The bombing of cities had been condemned by the American public only a few years earlier when done by the Germans to England. Previously it had been feared that the U.S. might be attacked by atomic bombs. The only defense then would be a counterattack by the same means.
However, with that danger gone such an attack on Japan would be unjustified (Alperovitz 132.) A memorandum by Ralph A. Bard, Undersecretary of the Navy, to Secretary of War Stimson on June 27, 1945 stated that before the bomb is ever used Japan should be given a few days notice. This position was based on the humanitarian feelings of our nation. In addition, Bard sensed Japan was searching for an opportunity to surrender. Bard proposed a meeting with the other superpowers, including Japan, before ever using the bomb.
On July 16, 1945, the atomic bomb was tested over the New Mexico desert. The Trinity Test was a spectacular success. A 6 kilogram sphere of plutonium, compressed to super criticality by explosive lenses, exploded with a force equal to approximately 20 thousand tons on TNT. The report was done by Col. Stafford Warren, Chief of the Manhattan Project's Medical Section. It showed that the potential for radioactive fallout from the test was an important concern. Fallout from the test exposed a family living 20 miles from Ground Zero to dangerous 4 levels of radiation.
The radiation monitors were so concerned they asked permission to talk to the family "to see how they feel (Schull 70)". Dead jackrabbits were found more than 800 yards from zero. A farm house three miles away had doors torn loose and suffered other extensive damage. The light intensity was sufficient at nine miles to have caused temporary blindness. Several observers at 20 miles were bothered by a large blind spot for 15 minutes after the blast. It was determined that exposure to this light from 5 miles away would cause severe damage to the eyes.
Thus causing damage sufficient to put the enemy out of action for several days if not permanently. This is if they survived, of course (Schull 77.) The next day Leo Szilard and 69 co-signers at the Manhattan Project Metallurgical Laboratory petitioned President Truman to not use the atomic bomb on Japan. This version of the petition is updated from the first one and comes at an appropriate time following the test on the day before. It said if Japan still refused surrender after a warning of the power of this bomb, then and only then, may it be morally permissible to resort to its use. However, the development of atomic power will provide the nations with new means of destruction. The atomic bombs of today are only a step towards the destructive and scary future.
If the U.S. uses this weapon, we will always have to be cautious in the future of other countries using it on us. In response to: "Wouldn't the Japanese use it on us" Possibly. But, Japan has had poison gas at its 5 disposal throughout the war and has not once used it on American troops. The U.S. must concern itself with the views of other countries in this matter.
If we were to violate our moral obligation our country would be weakened in the eyes of others. It would then be more difficult for us to live up to our responsibility of bringing the unloosened forces of destruction under control (Fasching 209.) Regardless of the warnings and advice President Truman still gave the official bombing order, July 25, 1945. Truman told his diary that day that he ordered the bomb used. Emphasis had been added to highlight Truman's apparent belief that he had ordered the bomb dropped on a "purely military" target, so that "military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children (Alperovitz 363.) The written order for the use of the atomic bomb against Japanese cities was drafted by General Groves. President Truman and Secretary of War Stimson approved the order at Potsdam. Regardless of what Truman wrote in his diary that day the order made no mention of targeting military objectives or sparing civilians.
The cities themselves were the targets. The order was also open-ended. Additional bombs could be dropped as soon as made ready by the project Staff (Schull 372.) Although he never publicly admitted it, President Truman had second thoughts about using atomic bombs on cities. On August 10, 1945, having received reports and photographs of the effects of the bombs, Truman 6 ordered a halt to further atomic bombings (Fasching 202.) Is this not evidence that Truman made a mistake in his decision I do not think this makes Truman a bad guy, though. I believe he truly believed dropping atomic bombs on Japan would save American lives by ending the war sooner. Truman was rushed into the president job, filling in for the late Roosevelt.
I do not believe he was prepared for this kind of decision-making. These excuses for Truman do not, however, excuse what the United States did to Japanese civilians. Japan was losing the war miserably anyway. The only thing stringing the Japanese along was their pride and concern for their god, the Emperor.
The only reason we would not allow them to surrender was because it wasn't unconditional. However, in the end it was the Emperor that led Japan into surrender and was allowed to remain. So basically it was all pointless. We could have allowed Japan to surrender earlier, keep their emperor, and avoid killing those innocent people. If the U.S. was not successful in making Japan surrender even with allowing the retention of the Emperor there was always the threat of Russian invasion. Then if neither of these alternatives worked, then resort to using the atomic bomb.
But at least exhaust all other alternatives first, right If feeling sorry for the enemy's civilians is not in your taste, think about who else suffered from these bombings. Up to two dozen American prisoners of war were killed by the Hiroshima bomb. The Nagasaki bomb killed Dutch POW's and maybe some Americans as well. Over 1,000 7 Japanese-Americans who were sent to Hiroshima when the war broke out were killed also. The statistics go on and on. It was not just the Japanese that were affected by this catastrophe.
Tell the history books to print this version of the story!
Alperovitz, Gar. The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture Of an American Myth. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1995.
Fasching, Darrel J. The Ethical Challenge of Auschwitz and Hiroshima Apocalypse or Utopia. State University of New York Press: Albany, 1993.
Schull, William J. Effects of Atomic Radiation A Half-Century of Studies From Hiroshima and Nagasaki. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. : New York, 1995.