Can the Bombing of Hiroshima be Justified?

Authors Avatar by kersa024869st-bartsorguk (student)

On 6th August 1945, a silverplate Boeing B-29 superfortress flew over the densely populated Japanese city of Hiroshima. The plane, ‘Enola Gay’, was carrying a highly radioactive atomic bomb containing the actinide Uranium-235. Hiroshima is the largest city in the Chugoku region of western Honshu, Japan’s largest island and used to be an embarkation port and industrial centre that was the site of a major military headquarters. The bomb, ‘Little boy’, is estimated to have killed approximately 90,000 – 166,000 people; around 30% of the population were killed instantaneously as their bodies were vaporised.  Some bodies had viscera sucked out of them, while others were so badly mutilated from the effects of the bomb that it was hard to identify who was who. As always, there are two sides to every story. Many people argue that America’s actions were wrong; however the Americans believed that what they did was right. There are sources that both support and disagree with America’s action. In this essay I will explore these points and say why the bombing cannot be justified.

Some people say that it was a justified decision to bomb Hiroshima. This is because America wanted revenge on Japan for Pearl Harbor. In an interview with James Byrnes, the American Secretary of State, 1965 he says, “We were talking about the people who hadn’t hesitated at Pearl Harbor to make a sneak attack, destroying not only ships but also the lives of many American sailors.” The source suggests that the Japanese hadn’t shown the U.S. any mercy, so they wanted the Japanese to pay for their actions in the Pacific. 2,403 Americans were killed during the unprecedented attack on the naval base and this gave America the excuse to drop the bomb. The source was written by the American Secretary of State, James Byrnes, in 1965. This is significant because Byrnes was President Truman’s chief advisor on Foreign Relations. He also was one of Truman’s advisors on the atomic bomb. Byrnes had his own ideas about the bomb as he not only wanted to defeat Japan, but wanted to keep Russia from expanding their influence over Asia and Europe. This means that he would be biased and so would support the dropping of the bomb. There are other sources that back up source 10, for example the Public Papers of the Presidents: Harry S. Truman, 1945. President Truman says “Having found the bomb, we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretence of obeying international laws of warfare. 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”. This backs up source 10 because it shows that the U.S. wanted revenge for the brutality that Americans have received from Japan. The U.S. is saying that if the Japanese do not ‘play ball’ and get away with it, then why should the U.S. not break the rules and give Japan a taste of its own medicine? They are only avenging the lives of American troops because of Japan’s actions, but then the U.S. is saying that if they took another course of action, Operation Downfall, then they would lose even more American lives and the war would drag on, to when exactly, no-one knows. President Truman thought he was taking a safer option by dropping the bomb, however maybe they didn’t quite know the plight that radiation would bring years after the event. However, there are some sources that disagree with source 10, for example, source 9. This is saying that it wasn’t just revenge, but to preserve American lives. However not that many American lives would have been lost, as they had the resources to overthrow the Japanese on the beaches of Kyushu, despite the defences. Revenge is a plausible point for the dropping of the atomic bomb, however it is not the most important point and it does not justify the bombings. Revenge may have satisfied the Americans, but it made civilians pay for something most of them did not even want to be involved in. The bomb did not differentiate between adults and children, doctors, nurses and soldiers. They could have had their revenge when they attacked the Japanese on Kyushu, but they wanted it over quickly and did not really want to know about the consequences. The Americans were bitter about Pearl Harbor and wouldn’t let it slip. The sources are valid, but they are biased and would, of course, defend the bombing. Revenge is still a valid reason for their attack, as the U.S. previously were isolationists and refused to get involved in the war up until this point.

Join now!

Some people say that the bombing of Hiroshima cannot be justified. This is because Japan was already defeated before the bomb was dropped. In Manual for Change by Dwight D. Eisenhower, he says, “.in [July] 1945... Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. ...the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan ...

This is a preview of the whole essay