A Necessary Evil The United States use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed the face of the world. The bomb notified the world that a new age of atomic energy was upon us. Technology was increasing at such an astronomical rate that new forms of energy were being discovered and put to violent uses. This forced the world to be prepared for the incredible power and responsibility of atomic energy.
The Atomic bomb also notified the world of America's superiority in military technology and its dominance over the rest of the world. After the war there were two kinds of militaries, those with the bomb and those without. If your country did not have the technology it was forced to become allies with a superpower or succumb to the will of countries with atomic power. Whether Harry Truman knew the full effect the use of such a powerful weapon would have on the world is very debatable, but I believe the president made the right decision in using the bomb. The use of the bombs was the best way to end a terrible war because it was the quickest way, it saved hundreds of thousands of American lives, and it displayed to the world that the U.S. had too much power to dare challenge. To fully understand Truman's decision we must examine his other options.
There were thought by military leaders three ways to win the war with Japan. The first was an invasion. This would call first for an invasion of Kyushu, the southernmost island of Japan. This island was considered essential to invade the main island of Honshu. Kyushu was very well defended with a reported 680,000 Japanese soldiers and well fortified defense systems as well as airpower. The Japanese soldiers would also fight even harder knowing that the were now defending there homeland.
The taking of Kyushu and then Honshu would have been expected to last six months. This was the plan that was endorsed by Truman's top aids and seemed the likely source of action American casualties in the Pacific were extremely high, and the fighting conditions were terrible. The taking of Okinawa had cost the U.S. nearly 50,000 casualties and the fighting wasn t going to get any easier. Soldiers who fought in the war said that the closer the fighting was to the Japanese homeland the more viscous and desperate the Japanese soldiers became, and their overall defense strategies were getting better with each island. The technique first used at Peleliu had been improved on and Japan was able to inflict more and more damage on Americans with each attack. These facts led leaders to believe the invasion of Japan would produce a tremendous amount of casualties.
A study done by the Joint War Plans committee predicted 193.500 casualties for the taking of Kyushu and Honshu. Another report had the figure as high as 394,000 for the Kyushu operation alone. While there is no way to know how accurate these figures were, it can be realistically said that there would be an enormous loss of American life with an invasion, much too great a loss for Truman to accept. Another option available was to bomb and blockade the Japanese islands. This would consist of a naval blockade cutting off Japans many imports, which would cripple the nation. This however, would take a very long time.
Japan was not self reliant, but had a large stockpile of supplies and would not surrender easily. The Japanese military had immense pride, and would not accept surrender at any cost. While some critics of the bombs use say that parts of the Japanese government were close to surrender, it is generally believed that the military controlled the government and would never accept defeat. There was growing sentiment in the states to end the war, and the soldiers were extremely tired and weary. This made the bomb and blockade strategy an ineffective and unpopular choice.
This left Truman with one other choice, the atomic bomb. Scientists had been secretly working on this incredible weapon for years, and the first atomic bomb was tested July 16, 1945 in New Mexico. Little was known about the long-term affects of the bomb, but the incredible destruction that the bomb was capable of had been proved in that New Mexico desert. The military use of this bomb would leave Japan no choice but to surrender or be completely wiped off the planet. Truman saw this as the quickest and best way to end the war. The bombs, Little Boy and Fat Man, were even more destructive than had been anticipated.
Hiroshima was completely destroyed. Sixty percent of the city had been completely vaporized, resulting in 130,000 dead. People near ground zero disappeared leaving only shadows behind. These people were lucky; they died instantly without much pain. Miles away from impact, people were badly burned by the blast. These people who survived the initial blast had to live with deformities until the radiation poison killed them off.
The same thing occurred at Nagasaki, only on a slightly smaller scale. Fat Man caused the demolition of the city and military facility and was responsible for over 60,000 dead Japanese. As a weapon of mass destruction, the atomic bomb was extremely effective. The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced the Japanese into unconditional surrender within two weeks. Emperor Hirohito went on the radio and spoke to his people for the first time, saying that the enemy had made use of an inhumane bomb and that the to continue the war would only cause the annihilation of Japan and the destruction of the human race.
The Atomic Bomb was a success. It saved the lives of countless Americans and forced a quick end to a terrible war. The use of atomic power had set the world on notice that the U.S. could not be challenged with war, because the destructive force of the bomb was too much for any country to overcome. The fact that we used the bomb first may have prevented future wars. Since the end of WWII, the bomb actually has become a peace-keeping device. The threat of atomic weapons made war an extremely bad scenario.
Russia was the second country to achieve atomic power, but because of the damage at Hiroshima and Nagasaki Russia could not use the bomb in military action without having the U.S. strike back with its own atomic weapons. This started the concept of M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction). This strategy kept the cold war from escalating into another painful world war that no one wanted. In With the Old Breed the author describes the atrocities of war. His portrayal of the cruelty on both sides of the war had a strong impact on my opinion about the bomb. War is a terrible thing that causes normally good people to lose basic human decency and revert to barbarism.
The World in the 40's was a very disturbing place. It hadn t been a lifetime since the First World War and the second made the entire world know what war was like. The world could not survive another war. Too many people had died or been wounded in the two wars and the lives of all people around the globe had been deeply effected by war. Most importantly, the troops were tired, and needed to come home. This is why I believe Truman made the right decision.
After fully examining the other possibilities for ending the war and the outcome of dropping the bomb I am convinced that Truman made the decision that was best for America. Atomic power was a success. It did exactly what it was supposed to do, causing a quick end to a terrible war, and saving the lives of many Americans. It also became a deterrent to future wars, and continues to affect the world today. Countries around the world are still trying to develop the awesome power of nuclear weapons. I am personally glad that we were the first to have these powers, and because of our capabilities no country can ever use these terrible weapons against us.
The use of the bomb will continue to be a topic that is heatedly debated because of the horrible death and destruction it caused, but from an American's perspective it was the only decision. 322.