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How useful is source B as evidence to the historian writing about the atomic bomb?

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Introduction

How useful is source B as evidence to the historian writing about the atomic bomb? (EVALUATION, ANALYSIS, UTILITY, RELIABILITY) Source B was written by an American soldier who helped drop the first atomic bomb, "Little Boy" on the Japanese town of Hiroshima, and is a primary source. It is a letter to the airman's son and is contained in a secondary source, a book called "No High Ground", by F. Knebel and C.W. Bailing, published in 1960. The fact that the book was written by an American, who was involved in the dropping of the first atomic bomb, makes this a valuable source. As the letter is a private communication, the airman is likely not to have embellished it with falsified information, or glorification of his own acts. The letter was not meant for publication. The first sentence of the letter is factual, and the events of the day are still fresh in the airman's mind, "... Today the lead plane of our little formation dropped a single bomb". The airman tells of the devastating power of the bomb, and the damage it has no doubt done to the Japanese city, "a single bomb which probably exploded with the force of 15,000 tons of high explosive." He goes into further detail about the bomb, all the time being very informative about its destructive clout, telling us he has probably aiding in killing thousands of Japanese. He does try to justify the bomb. He sees the bomb as a way to stop the threat of future war in the world, "This terrible weapon ... may bring the countries of the world together and prevent further wars". The airman clearly feels guilty about taking part in the dropping of the bomb. However, it could be said that the source may not be reliable. The airman may be embroidering the truth in order that his son will see his father in a good light. ...read more.

Middle

This source tells us "There were the shadowy forms of people, some of whom looked like walking ghosts." Again this source is very graphic. Source I was written by Stanley Lawrence, a prisoner of war in Nagasaki. This source is striking in its depiction of the dropping of the bomb. It tells us of the horrible state of the people affected by the bomb, "It was ... horrible to see the torn limbs and flesh hanging on so many of the Japanese". This image is also supported by Source J (mentioned earlier). The stark realism in these sources does, to some extent, back up their authority. The authors are unlikely to make up such graphic and disturbing images. Source G was written by an unnamed Allied POW in Japan. It was published in Fletcher-Cooke's "The Emperor's Guest", published in 1971. It is an Allied justification of the dropping of the atomic bomb. It tells us what the dropping of the bomb meant to Prisoners Of War at the time. It tells us that although the bomb killed thousands of Japanese it saved the lives of "tens of thousands of prisoners of war, of hundreds of thousands of Allied service men and almost certainty of millions of Japanese". The source is supported by Sources B, C, D, E and the video source K, which all tell us of the lives saved by the bomb. All these sources are justifications of the allied atomic bombing. These give a lot of support for Source G. Having said all of this, there are weaknesses to each source, particularly the two eyewitness accounts of the bombing (Source H and Source I). Neither of these sources conveys the bitterness you would expect from Allied POWs during the war, in fact they show sympathy towards their Japanese captors. The POWs had every reason to be enraged at the Japanese and to be happy to see them in so much pain. ...read more.

Conclusion

This article was probably not published in 1945 as it is seen as defamatory to the American and British government's image. Attitudes towards nuclear weapons also changed after time. People began to see the weapons as potential Armageddon instruments. The shocking after-effects were now known about. The arms race between the USA and Russia was beginning to worry people by the mid 60's and anti-nuclear groups sprung up, and gathered support. This changing viewpoint may have 'clouded' the memories related in Sources H and I. These sources were written many years after the attacks. The POW's both tell us of the enormous sense of guilt they felt at the time of the dropping of the atomic bomb. This, however seems unlikely, as these men were most probably being tortured by their Japanese captors. They may have embellished the truth with bits of fiction, to make them selves appear in a better light. In this question I fell I have looked at a variety of Sources with negative and positive views. I have noticed a pattern in the sources. I found that the stance of the source is determined by two factors: nationality and the date the source was written. Generally, the sources that come from a British and American angle, in the early years after the war, are in agreement with the dropping of the atomic bomb. Any other source is generally completely opposed to the dropping of the bomb. This is because the authors are more aware of the effects the bomb had, and since the war years, America and Japan have become big trading partners, with the emergence of Japan as an economic superpower. It would not be good for the Americans to risk damaging this relationship, by publishing anti-Japanese sources. The world today is also more aware of the effects of nuclear weapons due to the American/Soviet Union arms race during the Cold War, and incidents such as Chernobyl, where the effects of the reactor leakage are still being felt nearly 20 years after it first leaked. Paul Gormley 12B Atomic Bomb History Coursework Page 1 of 13 ...read more.

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