was the dropping of the atomic bombs justified?
Nabilah Hamid 11ct Candidate number: 2388
History coursework Jerudong International School
Was the use of the atomic bombs on Japan in august 1945 justified?
In the sixty years since World War 2, President Truman's decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan has been questioned by many people. The bombing caused many deaths but also clearly marked the end of the long drawn-out war. The justifications for the bombing are still however a widely discussed debate. Arguments supporting the justification of the bombing involve the President's stern belief that the Japanese had brought it on themselves, and that the bombing would end the war and save many American lives. The counter-arguments were that the Japanese were already defeated and so ‘why was it necessary to drop the bomb?”. Especially the second type, as evidence suggests that the Japanese were already defeated. Bombing and killing the innocent people shouldn’t ever be justified, however, it was a war and the American government did warn the Japanese about the consequences of continuing the fight.
On August 6, 1945, the atomic bomb enriched with uranium, coded “Little boy”, was dropped over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The project was coded ‘Trinity’ when the first and only testing of ‘Little boy’ was on July 16th, 1945, near Alamogordo, New Mexico. This was considered to be spectacularly successful, however the bomb that was actually dropped on Hiroshima on august 6th resulted into a much more deadly and stronger bomb. On August 9th, 1945, “Fat Man”, coded for the bomb enriched with Plutonium, was dropped on another Japanese city, Nagasaki. The bombs had horribly destroyed both cities. Many thousands of casualties and approximately 120,000 deaths resulted out of the bombing. However, on August 10th, 1945, the long war in Asia and the Pacific region was finally over for the Japanese had surrendered.
Many theories exist as why the Japanese hadn’t surrendered after the first attack on Hiroshima. The reason for this was that the Japanese government knew that the Americans would make the emperor of Japan resign. The emperor towards the Japanese was almost like their god, seen as a semi-divine figure, the descendant of Amararatsu. This lead to what seemed like their last option of defense, which was to fight till the last man, woman and child. This was the reason why men, women and even children were taught to prepare for battle, for they did not want to surrender.
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The Potsdam conference, July 26th 1945, was supposed to be the Conference where the countries would discuss and negotiate the terms of surrender. However, no real negotiation was discussed, because of the negative response from Japan, “Makusatsu”, which was also believed to be misinterpreted. The Japanese assumed the emperor, Hirohito and the Japanese officials would be eliminated. Many have strongly believed and argued that Japan would have surrendered if they just negotiated. Kantaro Suzuki, who replaced Kuniaki Koiso on April 1945 as Prime Minister, rejected the Potsdam declaration as a more vague version of the earlier declined proposition. Suzuki mainly wanted to dictate appeasement of the Japanese military, which demeaned the purpose of the idea of 'unconditional surrender', than to benefit anything to the Allies.
American officials believed that the Japanese had deserved their fate. The Japanese had dropped high-explosives and incendiary bomb at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, 7th December 1941, which was the American naval base, and had attacked without any kind of warning to an attack or a declaration of war. United States warships, aircrafts and military installations were destroyed. Although the Japanese lost about 100 men, America suffered higher casualties with about 2,400 men lost at Pearl Harbour and then another 1,187 American citizens injured. The attack of Pearl Harbour on was the major reason why President Truman would have wanted to drop the atomic bomb and why it had definitely provoked the Americans to seek revenge as he described the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in a letter to the Irv Kupcinet, Chicago Sun Times, “All you have to do is to go out and stand on the keel of the Battleship in Pearl Harbor with the 3,000 youngsters underneath it who had no chance whatever of saving their lives. That is true of two or three other battleships that were sunk in Pearl Harbor. Altogether, there were between 3,000 and 6,000 youngsters killed at that time without any declaration of war. It was plain murder”.
The atomic bombs came about first through the secret development of the Manhattan Project, codename Trinity, which developed from the fear of Germany achieving the bombs first. The idea of forming a research team to create a nuclear weapon was approved in a letter. Einstein sent to Franklin Roosevelt, the president of America at the time. Albert Einstein stated in 1996, “I made one great mistake in my life – when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made, but there was some justification – the danger that the Germans would make them”. Sixty-nine other scientist even wrote a protesting letter to President Truman, however, it was no use for $2 Billion dollars was spent to develop the Nuclear weapon and therefore obliged the American officials to use the atomic bomb even if the Geneva Convention law did not allow any biological weapons to be used in war. Jimmy Byrnes, Secretary of state appointed by President Harry Truman himself without consulting anyone stated, “We spent 2 billion dollars and we’re going use it”. The Manhattan project, however, was a ‘secret project’ and the decision to produce the atomic bomb was made not democratically at all. The project needed to be a secret to prevent other countries from developing the bomb as well.
After constant battling throughout the three years between Pearl Harbour and the dropping of the atomic bombs, the Japanese were seen as weak because it was losing major military installments and any control of waters and skies, which meant the Americans, had total control of attacking high above anytime. March 1945, Incendiary bomb were dropped onto the Japanese city of Tokyo, where the lost 80,000 citizens. Overall, throughout the 3 years, the Japanese casualties were high of about 270,000 from bitter fighting, defending territories and incendiary bombs. America really did have other alternatives rather than to use the atomic bombs twice. The number of casualties from Tokyo and the number of casualties for Nagasaki were approximately the same, however, the incendiary bombs were dropped on Tokyo where they suffered higher casualties. This shows a very strong point to why did America use the atomic bombs when, if they would have continued incendiary bombings may have lead to Japanese surrender. The fact that the atomic bombs were already produced by the time President Harry Truman was President gave President Truman an obligation to use the atomic bombs.
Scientists strongly suggested that they could have just given Japan a big warning by demonstrating the power atomic bomb. An American nuclear scientist advising the government in 1945 states “A demonstration of the bomb might best be made on the dessert or on a barren island. Japan could then be asked to surrender”. However, Henry Stimson, Secretary for War wrote in 1946 “A demonstration in an uninhabited area was not regarded as likely to make Japan surrender. There was the danger of the test being a dud. Also we had no bombs to waste”.
With the dropping of the bomb, The after effects of the bomb were considered deadly, in most account thousand more died to what was known as the 'radiation poisoning' . To this day the long term effect is still evident. Over the span of four months after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, tens of thousands more Japanese died, for they were infected with various illnesses from the amount of radiation they were exposed to. A Japanese eye-witness, account of radiation sickness states, “Survivors began to notice in themselves a strange form of illness. It consisted of vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea with large amounts of blood purple spots on the skin, bleeding from the mouth, loss of hair and usually death”.
The Long term effects of radiation sickness were extremely severe and unknown. There were unknown because the Americans had dropped the first bomb on Hiroshima 3 weeks after the testing. How were the supposed to be fully aware of the long term effects if they had not investigated them? The scientists however are not to blame as they protested against the atomic bomb. This show that the dropping of the bomb may have been negotiated more as they didn’t know the long term effects, however it is also unjustifiable because they should have known. There were no real researches on any long-term effects. Further debates have been had on whether President Truman had made his own decision or did her just carry on the decision that President Roosevelt wanted to put into action? As the Manhattan project was created before Harry Truman became president.
In conclusion, opinion will always be divided on this debate as there’s never enough evidence for a clear side to be made if the dropping of the atomic bomb is justified or not. There are too many unreliable sources for anyone really to make a final decision on the matter, however, in my opinion, President Harry Truman was the president of the United States and his official first priority is to make decisions, no matter how harsh, to protect his citizens. “I realize the tragic significance of the atom bomb," President Harry Truman stated in a radio address before the Japanese government finally surrendered, "[but we] have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans”.
The Atomic bomb was unfortunately deadly successful in what it was aimed to do, which was ending World War two and to save American lives. General Groves, the Engineer Director of the Manhattan Project was desperate to see fruits of his labours before the end of the war. The cost to develop the bomb was $2 billion dollars was taken into great account as it would have been difficult to justify not using it after such a vast financial investment. The project produced 2 bombs, the one dropped on Nagasaki, however, was simply an unnecessary experiment to just try it out. So finally, I believe that the dropping of the first bomb was justified, however, the second dropping was not.
GSCE modern world Text book – Ben Walsh.
Modern world B – Mr. RJ Huggins.
BBC history articles: ‘Just a big bomb to end the war’ by Daniel Snowman & ‘Can the dropping of Hiroshima be justified?’ by Lawrence Freedman and Gar Alperovitz.