Essay on the dropping of Atomic bomb on Japan. On August 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb, on Hiroshima, Japan. Hiroshima had been almost eradicated with an estimated 70 – 80 thousand people killed.
Three days later, a second, more powerful bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, killing over 100,000 people. Since Japan was economically and militarily devastated by the late summer of 1945, the use of the atomic bombs on Japan was unnecessary and unwarranted in bringing about a conclusion to the war in the Pacific. By the end of the war, the U.S. forces had pushed the Japanese far back into their country, leaving them no access to any resources. Japanese cities and factories were being endlessly bombarded by American bombers.
The Pacific Fleet had driven the Imperial Navy from the ocean and planes of the fast carrier forces were striking Japanese naval bases in the Inland Sea. Clearly, Japan was a defeated nation. The decision to use the atomic bomb was validated by the U.S., who said that the force was necessary to end the war, which, in turn, would save lives of both American and Japanese soldiers. However, many believe that since Japan was already of the verge of surrender when the bombs were dropped, this argument cannot be morally validated. If Japan was almost beaten by August 1945, many say that the reason the U.S. dropped the bomb was simply to test it on living humans. Aside from the ground test in the New Mexico desert, no one knew what destruction atomic weapons were capable of.
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Throughout the war, the city of Hiroshima had been left virtually untouched by U.S. attacks. It is inferable, then, that the United States government hoped to see the full effect of nuclear power by detonating the atomic bomb on this locality, as they could be sure that any damage was from the atomic bomb alone. A similar reasoning could be applied to the usage of the second bomb, fat man, which was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. One could wonder if the motive behind this second attack was similar to the first; the only difference being that the bomb to be tested this time was considerably more powerful.
The final say on whether or not to drop die bomb came from President Harry Truman, who consulted with a special Committee known as the Interim Committee. This organization was made up of Secretary Stimson as chairman; President Truman’s personal representative, James F. Byrnes; the Under Secretary of the Navy, William L. Clayton; and the Assistant Secretary of State as well as many others. The work of the Interim Committee was to discuss the uses of the bomb and whether or not it would be wise to use nuclear force against Japan in combat. On July 1, 1945, the committee submitted a report to President Truman stating that: a) the bomb should be used against Japan as soon as possible, b) it should be used against a military target surrounded by other buildings; c) it should be used without prior warning of the nature of the weapon.
The Interim Committee decided against warning the Japanese about the atomic bomb because they claimed that they weren’t sure if it would detonate. Not one of the Chiefs nor the Secretary thought well of a bomb warning, an effective argument being that no one could be certain, in spite of the assurances of the scientists, that the ‘thing would go off.’ This was refuted by many as being quite ignorant. For example, the atomic bomb was tested in Trinity Site, New Mexico, USA. It was viewed by the media, U.S. government officials and the military. Viewing the destruction firsthand should have convinced the United States that nuclear power was a real and tangible danger. They should have been quite sure at this point that the bomb would, indeed, detonate. The US wanted a quick and effective way to end the war.
However, there were many other possible alternatives to dropping the bomb that should have been considered. Truman wanted an ‘unconditional surrender’ from Japan, but his offer to them threatened the position of their Emperor. The Japanese were unwilling to accept this as a condition to their surrender, as the Emperor in Japanese culture was considered to be godlike. Obviously, they were therefore unwilling to accept unconditional surrender. To compromise, the US could have assured Japan the retention of the status of the Emperor in the terms of surrender. Japan would have ended the war themselves, without the U.S. ever having been used nuclear force. The United States also could have threatened Japan with a Russian invasion.
The Japanese were counting on Russia to help them make peace with the U.S. without unconditionally surrendering, which they believed would result in the loss of their Emperor. If the U.S. had have convinced Japan that Russia would use force, the Japanese may have felt that it was necessary to give up, as at the time Russia was the only nation with whom Japan maintained a neutrality contract. Finally, the United States could have warned the Japanese about nuclear power as a final resort. Surely the Japanese had known about the astronomical and devastating effects before the bombs were dropped, they would have seriously considered surrendering, no matter what the cost to their culture.
Because the United States chose not to thoroughly consider all of their options in forcing Japan to surrender and end the war, the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki was impulsive and rash. Had they considered all of the alternatives, and had only used the atomic bomb as a last resort, many lives could have been saved. It was completely hypocritical of the Americans to say that they wanted to save lives, when, instead they destroyed them.
This month marks the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And with each passing year the historical record is ever clearer that dropping the A-bombs was unnecessary, repugnant and very likely a war crime.
The bombings probably killed more than 200,000 Japanese civilians and maimed untold more. Such destruction of life stirs me to sorrow and outrage. That’s even more true given that there was an alternative available: the US could have dropped an A-bomb in or near Tokyo Bay. Such a warning shot could have persuaded the Japanese to end the war, and its humane nature would have enhanced the US’s moral standing.
The atomic bombings are often framed as the only alternative to a land invasion of a Japan that wouldn’t surrender under any but the most-dire circumstances. The possible need for an invasion loomed throughout 1945, and Americans naturally feared many US casualties. Much of a fanatic Japanese soldiery—and possibly many citizens—might fight to the last inch. One early study estimated 40,000 American soldiers’ deaths, yet President Harry Truman and others soon spoke of “half a million.”
But the A-bombs’ advent automatically changed that, allowing the US to wield the threat of nuclear attack. With the first device tested and proven in July 1945, and numerous others being readied early in August, America could have used their power as a new dimension of threat—rather than crudely dropping the bombs as mass killers.
Properly used as threats to ensure quick surrender, the A-bombs could have prevented virtually all further deaths in Japan—of Americans, Japanese and any others, from invasion, firebombing, A-bombing and ground warfare. That is, of course, precisely what the A-bombs did achieve. But the US hastily destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki first.
Tokyo Bay would have been the ideal place to display the bombs’ power. A large open area, the bay is next to Tokyo and all of Japan’s leaders, including the emperor. It offered a wide array of places—on vacant land or on water—to drop an A-bomb, for fully awesome effect. The mushroom-cloud explosion could be near or not-so-near to Tokyo, and more or less dangerous to Japan’s emperor, leaders, citizens and urban capital.
In this way, the US could have carefully maximized the scope of the threat, while minimizing the harm to Tokyo itself. And if the Japanese were crazily intransigent, we could have simply dropped another A-bomb, closer to Tokyo or in a low-population area. Even another, if needed.
But American leaders had acquired the habit of bombing cities, having attacked Berlin, Hamburg and even the cultural jewel of Dresden. US Air Force leaders such as Jimmy Doolittle gained instant fame from bombing raids over Japan. The hellish firebombing of Tokyo in March 1945 killed some 250,000 civilians and maimed huge numbers more.
With the Japanese A-bombings, a key player was Leslie Groves, who had built up and managed the Manhattan Project over the years. He now chaired the committee guiding Truman’s actions, and he closely managed—daily and hourly—the planning, loading, and crew work to fly the bomb for dropping. Grove was determined to deploy them fast. Separately, a supposed threat of the Soviet Union’s invading Japan was cited as a reason for haste. Such an excuse to rush to bomb can likely be chalked up, at least partly, to self-interest by the US.
And the planning of Truman’s advisors—including Groves, Doolittle, and Curtis LeMay—was full of mistakes. Hiroshima emerged as a candidate after having escaped attack thus far in the conflict. It was almost entirely civilian, and any attention to its few military targets soon disappeared. Hiroshima was distant from Tokyo, and the blast itself wiped out all communication, so the Japanese leadership in Tokyo didn’t fully see the destruction. When the leveling of Hiroshima predictably gave Tokyo little awareness, Nagasaki was added. But that choice was even less logical, and it doubled the death toll and the stifling stain on America’s moral character.
The US had already exceeded rational and civilized bounds with our massive bombings in Europe and Japan. Our job was to conclude the war with a minimum of mega-deaths. By using the Tokyo Bay method to display the A-bombs’ power, America would have shown its compassion and humanity. But Truman and his people failed, and the harm was widespread and lasting.
On top of the Japanese deaths and casualties, the actual dropping of the A-bombs likely heightened the stakes at the advent of the Cold War. Had the US not dropped the A-bombs, the nuclear arms race might have proceeded more slowly and less wastefully, possibly without hydrogen bombs. The US and USSR might even have cultivated cooperation and prosperity, in place of mutual fears and military-industrial excesses.
This 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a sorrowful reminder: a final spasm of killing engulfed those two poor cities. Had the US instead fired a warning shot by dropping an A-bomb in Tokyo Bay, scarcely a soul would have died. And yet the leaders of that era chose to kill hundreds of thousands, instead.
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