Marisa AlterMs. RehakGlobal Studies Set 7December 19th, 2017 A Costly Victory: The Continuous Debate of the use of Atomic BombsIn the year of 1945, an event occurred that altered our reality forever. For the first time in human history, the United States dominated the new technology that had the capability to kill thousands of people in a second.
This nation decided to release the deadly atomic bomb on two towns: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These bombings initiated the era of nuclear war threats, as well as the conclusion of World War II. However, the ending of World War II came with a heavy price; over 200,000 Japanese civilians were killed, towns were demolished, and diseases due to radiation were rampant. Bombing the towns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was necessary to minimize the amount of lives lost, shorten the amount of fighting time, and to reduce the cost and supplies needed to finish the war. Harry S.
Truman, the president during World War II, was faced with one of the most difficult decisions in history; whether or not to drop an atomic bomb on the towns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since the year 1940, the United States had been trying to produce a deadly weapon that could kill hundreds of thousands of people, the atomic bomb. In order to accomplish their goal, the United States established “The Manhattan Project”. This project was initiated out of fear that German scientists had been working to create atomic weaponry since the early 1930s. The scientists involved then spent the next five years developing a working bomb. The first successful test took place in a remote part of a desert in Mexico on July 16th, 1945. The test resulted in a huge mushroom cloud, estimated to be 40,000 feet high in the air.
By the time the United States was able to finish testing out their newly built device, a war was already raging against Japan.On August 6th, 1945, the American bomber Enola Gay dropped a five-ton bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. This bomb contained a force equal to nearly 15,000 tons of dynamite, which instantly obliterated four square miles of the town, and killed 80,000 innocent people. In the following days and weeks, thousands of more people died from injuries and radiation poisoning.
Although, this was not the end of the use of atomic bombs. Only three days later, another bomb was discharged on Nagasaki, killing around 40,000 more people. Having no other option, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito then announced its surrender in a radio broadcast on August 15th, 1945. Before the Japanese were bombed, they “were planning the most determined resistance possible to the planned U.
S. invasion, that they had managed to prepare for it extensively, and that the consequences of a longer war could have been far more serious for both the Japanese and U.S.
forces than the two bombs” (David Kaiser, Time). The Japanese were not considering surrendering as an option. They wanted to win the war and were prepared to dispatch thousands of Japanese soldiers to attempt to defeat the United States. In March of 1945, the United States firebomb Tokyo.
The firebombing ” was one of the most terrible things that ever happened, and they didn’t surrender after that although Tokyo was almost completely destroyed” (NPS). Japan did not easily give up and would have sacrificed a lot more if the United States did not use the atomic bomb. After the war had ended, documents were discovered revealing that the Japanese were planning a brutal resistance. This resistance would have resulted in such an immense cost, that Japan was hoping that the United States would agree to ceasefire. This resistance would have taken place on an island of Kyushu. Japan knew that for the United States to invade big cities like Tokyo and Honshu they had to travel past Kyushu. In order to prepare for this possible battle “the Japanese had in fact managed to reinforce Kyushu very heavily” ( David Kaiser, time). From this it was estimated that there would be almost a quarter million Japanese casualties alone.
Exceeding the number of deaths from the two bombings combined. Truman previously stated that he wanted to “shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.” By using the atomic bombs, and hindering the chance of the ruthless invasion, he accomplished his goal as well as saving the lives of thousands of Japanese soldiers and civilians. If the United States did not drop the bomb they would have had to use another technique to fight the war. This would have involved American Soldiers invading Japan. Thousands of more soldiers would have had to spend months fighting the Japanese army.
In past scenarios, when the United States tried this technique it had failed. “During the Battle at Iwo Jima in 1945, 6,200 US soldiers died. Later that year on Okinawa 13,000 soldiers and sailors were killed.” (NPS). Truman didn’t want this to happen again. Therefore, dropping the bomb seemed like the only logical and easily obtainable way to minimize the loss of American lives. If the United States choose to invade Japan, “casualty predictions varied, but all were high. The price of invasion would be millions of American dead or wounded” (NPS).
Truman understood that without a bomb an invasion would be inevitable. However, this invasion would lead to a lot of human casualties. It is impossible to know how many lives would have been lost, but it is estimated that if this invasion occurred, 500,000 to 1,000,000 allied soldiers alone would have died.
Thus, Truman concluded that dropping a bomb in Japan fundamentally would result in a lower mortality rate. In addition, how would the millions of Americans feel if the death of their loved one could have prevented? If the bomb was not dropped there would be an argument about why the American President did not choose to drop the bomb, if it could have decreased the loss of American lives? In order to combat the American Soldiers, Japan would have to dispatch their own soldiers fight the war. Thousands of more Japanese would be risking their lives to fight a powerful army that had the support of many countries. Not only would Japanese civilians be fighting in the war, the ones not fighting would suffer detrimental consequences. “By July about a quarter of all the houses in Japan had been destroyed, and her transportation system was near collapse.
Food had become so scarce that most Japanese were subsisting on a sub-starvation diet”(Mark Weber, IRH). If the United States continued fighting the same way, the Japanese would have reciprocated with intense measures. Hence, the money would be focused on supplying the military and not attending to the citizens. Civilians were already suffering, and using the atomic bomb just shortened the amount of time where they were deprived of basic necessities. The decision of whether or not to use an atomic bomb came with tremendous consequences as well as responsibility.
Americans wanted the Japanese to surrender, but had no idea how much longer they would hold out. When Harry S. Truman, learned about the success of the Manhattan project, he knew he would have to make a decision that established the fate of the war. In a letter addressed to Irv Kupcinet, who wrote an article critical to the decision to drop the bomb, Truman wrote, “I knew what I was doing when I stopped the war that would have killed a half million youngsters on both sides, if those bombs had not been dropped. I have no regrets and, under the same circumstances, I would do it again” (Harry S. Truman). Truman was confident of his decision because he understood the horrendous possibilities that could occur if the United States continued fighting the war and did not use the atomic bomb. When Truman decided that a bomb was going to be used, he had to answer another prominent question: where? One option was to bomb an unpopulated area.
However, with this selection came several possible consequences. First, the Japanese might shoot down the bomber crews, which would endanger the crew. Second, it perhaps could lead the Japanese to increase their fighting due to fear.
Hence, it was decided to bomb a carefully chosen populated area. America knew the impact would be colossal, but they desperately wanted to end the war with the minimal casualties lost. Hiroshima seemed like the most idealistic place to release the bomb. This city had suffered little damage from any other bombing, which meant that the damage couldn’t be blamed from anything other than the bomb. If they could blame the damage on something else, the effect would not be as powerful and might have not convinced Japan to surrender. In place like Hiroshima, “if you put a bomb like this in the middle of it, you end up destroying almost the entire city” (NPR).
This would then have a more powerful effect on Japan. Hiroshima was also a main location for their military and operating systems. Located inside of the city were factories and other facilities that produce products or had programs that assisted the military.
This meant that they were targeting the military and not just civilians. Truman understood the importance of cultural and traditional value and did not want to destroy cities like Kyoto for this reason. He wanted to win the war, but not destroy the Japanese culture or people.
World War II was a war unlike any other. For the First time in human History, mankind killed thousands of innocent people within seconds with an atomic bomb. The loss of life was immense, and those who didn’t die right away was affected with radiation poisoning and a lifetime of health problems. However, before the bomb, Japan was unwilling to call surrender and would have fought until they lost thousands of more men. The moral debate of the bomb will never come to a conclusion, yet it is certain that the atomic bomb brought an end to World War II.