The nuclear bombings of Japan are a very controversial topic, and is highly discussed and researched by scholars and the general public. The nuclear bombings are not just a small part in military history, but a lesson in reality and the destruction possible of man to achieve their goals; these bombings have raised a whole host of ethical issues and concerns, which must be taken into consideration. There are many reasons why the actions taken by the United States and specifically President Truman to drop the A-Bomb on Hiroshima were absolutely unnecessary.
On the other hand there is an abundant amount of weak justification as to why it was so imperative for the U. S. to distinguish the lives of sixty-six thousand civilians in the blink of an eye, and cause catastrophic destruction and disparity that would have a lasting effect for decades to come. The atomic bomb should have never been dropped on Japan because the atomic bomb is not a strategic weapon. It could be compared to Pheasant hunting using a Sherman Tank. According to writer Mary Bellis, “the bomb was dropped from the Enola Gay. It missed by only 800 feet.
At 0816 hours, in an instant, 66,000 people were killed and 69,000 injured by a 10-kiloton atomic explosion” (Bellis). We can begin by looking at the reasons that ultimately led to the decision to bomb Hiroshima, and the heart of it, with President Truman. On Dec 7, 1941 the Japanese conducted an unprovoked air assault on the U. S. naval base in Pearl Harbor; by doing this the Japanese caused the U. S. to be brought into WWI. Bill Gordon, in his Essay reminds us that, as a result, for four long years, severe loathing of the Japanese people grew immensely in the U. S. , and many U. S citizens and members of the government viewed the Japanese as a very barbaric race of people, which gave the impression that the bombing would be justified. (Gordon).
The fear of them in the U. S. was so present that they were rounded up and confined in containment camps including naturalized Japanese Americans. To add to their unpopularity was their mistreatment of U. S. prisoners of war which to say the least was horrifying, and their attempts to cover them up were proof that they knew they were committing war crimes.
But ask yourself, does this justify killing civilians? Although these acts by the Japanese are extremely savage; they were committed on military personnel in the context of war, not on unsuspecting civilians in the course of their everyday activities. Truman’s reason for the bombing was that he believed that the alternative to this was to wage war on the Japanese mainland, but this would mean the death of many U. S. troops and could end in failure. He claimed this was his way to end the war and spare the loss of U.
S. military personnel. In doing so, he did achieve just that, but is this not the classic example of a Pyrrhic victory? Doug Longs article states how there were concrete proof that Japan was ready to surrender and Truman had knowledge of this, weeks before his decision. It was understood by both, the Allies and Japan, that surrender was the only way out for the Japanese. Japan was ready to surrender by mid July 1945, and had sought diplomatic help through the still-neutral Russians.
In July1945, the U. S. ad intercepted and successfully decoded messages sent between Foreign Minister Togo and Japan’s Ambassador to Moscow, Sato. These messages clearly stated Japans, and specifically the Emperors great desire to end the war. As I stated earlier Truman was well aware of these transmissions, but insisted the bomb was necessary to terminate the war and save the lives of thousands of U. S. soldiers (Long). When in theory it was not. The US government refused to state in the Potsdam Declaration that upon the surrender of Japan the position of the emperor in Japan would remain.
This statement along with the Soviet declaration of war on Japan should bring one to believe that this would have been enough to convince Japan to surrender. It is very conceivable that the US Government didn’t include the statement that the position of the emperor of Japan would be allowed to remain if Japan surrendered because the US government didn’t want to appear soft on Japan. If this was all that was needed, would it not have been worth exploring? Again, mass murder to save face in the eyes of the enemy is not a justifiable argument.
Long states in his paper “Hiroshima – Was it Necessary? ” President Truman had advisors who influenced him to remove the statement against the advice of other advisors who had more knowledge of Japan and their culture, which held a great love and loyalty for their Emperor Hirohito. Was it the ignorance of certain U. S. officials about Japanese culture that led to this invaluable detail being left out of the Declaration? , or was it omitted purposely? , knowing the outcome, thereby creating an excuse to bomb them. , Drobny in his article quotes Herbert Hoover as stating to Truman, “I am onvinced that if you, as President, will make a shortwave broadcast to the people of Japan – tell them they can have their Emperor if they surrender, that it will not mean unconditional surrender except for the militarists – you’ll get a peace in Japan – you’ll have both wars over” (Drobny). This was a full two months before the bomb was dropped, plenty of time to make a simple Broadcast, yet it was ignored. . The U. S. decision to drop leaflets from planes in the days before the attack warning the people of their impending doom is also very suspect.
Why if the intended bombing of a heavily populated civilian area was planned why would anyone give such a warning? If the intentions were not to kill civilians, then was it even necessary to target these areas? Would detonation of the bomb on an unpopulated Island or at sea off the coast of Japan been enough to show the immense destructive power and in essence have the same effect without all the death? This creates speculation that the bomb was used to impress upon the USSR the capabilities of the U. S. military, this again could have been achieved at a different site without death involved.
Another was Hiroshima and Nagasaki being 2 cities that were surprisingly not affected by the war as far as destruction would be a great place to study the effects of the bomb, if any of these were the underlying effects of the decision, there is no concrete proof, but it is quite proven that these were two effects that did take place intentional or not. The thought of using the deaths of civilians, to prove a point to the USSR or to Experiment on civilians is appalling.
Jeff Kingston, A history teacher at Temple University in Japan, confirms that During the Yalta conference Stalin had promised the U. S. to invade Japan “three months” after the defeat of Germany, and the agreement between the U. S. and the USSR was signed to that effect (Kingston). The Red Army declared the war against Japan exactly three months later; it entered Manchuria on August 8. The same day the Red Army invaded Korea from the north, while the US troops were invading it from the south. The USSR Red Army captured the entire Kwantung Army of the Japanese and began preparing itself for the amphibious landing to the islands of Japan. Indeed, Stalin was fulfilling his obligations to their U. S. ally.
Long explains how Truman did not want the Red Army to land on the islands of Japan, even though this move could have saved many lives of the American soldiers ( long). Truman could not afford the thought of victorious Stalin exporting socialism to their Pacific neighbor. That fear probably was one of many motives behind the Truman’s decision to drop nuclear bombs on Japan. Should he not have considered this before making a deal with Stalin? Had he just ignored the fact that this would leave Japan vulnerable for the USSR to occupy? If so, those were not the acts of a responsible leader.
An argument could be made that Stalin was hoping to advance the causes of socialism into Asia but there is no proof, only assumptions, now, and then, that he considered the territorial occupation of Asia to achieve that goal. In making Stalin an ally, Truman created a situation that he would not be able to control without the show of massive military force, essentially making the use of the bomb quite probable. There is undeniable proof that Japan wanted to give up, as President Truman had in his possession, and he should have explored every option to negotiate with Japan to surrender, and did not.
In my opinion, the United States took a few steps back on the evolution ladder when they decided to kill innocent people. It is widely known the US State Department and President Truman wanted payback for the astonishing attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, but lowering the U. S. to their level was not the answer. While the Japanese may have been seeking peace deals through the USSR diplomats, it was ultimately pointless. The sheer size, scope and savagery of World War II seemed to leave only room for total victory.
It is doubtful the Russians would have accepted a peace treaty instead of surrender regarding Germany any more than the United States would have accepted peace instead of surrender after Pearl Harbor and years of bitter fighting. World War II was in all aspects, a war aimed at nothing less than total victory. This country was not built on the concept of an eye for an eye so this is a weak argument not to accept or at least explore every option to achieve the most humane end to the war. It is widely believed in the U. S. that these decisions were decided to seize the opportunity of any chance at a quick victory.
The population was tired of war, huge sacrifices were born by the allies, and a hope to defeat Japan without direct military invasion was believed to be a huge gamble. The main justification for using the Atomic bomb however it worked was that Japan surrendered. While the end did not justify the means, the goal was reached. In the months preceding the bombing, the Japanese were becoming weaker and weaker. They were surrounded by the Navy; many areas were destroyed by air raids, and they couldn’t receive any imports and also could not export anything.
Naturally, as time went on and the war developed in our favor and it was quite logical to that with the proper kind of a warning the Japanese would then be in a position to make peace, which would have made it unnecessary for us to drop the bomb, or to have had to bring Russia in to the war. Many it seemed wanted to issue a warning for various reasons moral and tactical. The tactical argument was the Allied Forces had already won, the Japanese would have surrendered, and the US would not have exposed its nuclear capabilities to the Soviets thus delaying the arms race.
Many military minds were convinced the Japanese were already blockaded and knew they were dependent on the rail transportation and inter coastal shipping. Conventional bombing, submarines and mines would have eliminated any movement of supplies throughout the country. Even with these strangle holds in place, it is still very conceivable that Japan would still not have surrendered if it meant losing their Emperor, but we will never have the answer to this question, because it was not allowed to play out to see the outcome.
As with any decisions made in the past, hindsight is 20/20, but these were very different times, and the threat of Communism was so great, even a U. S. president would make a decision this reckless to stop it from spreading. We will never know the outcomes of the many alternatives that were proposed after the fact, but we do know there were alternatives that could have been perused before these cities and their inhabitants were bombed.
One would like to believe that it was not all in vain, and the world learned a valuable lesson from this destruction, as we have not had an event like this in the world since. This is only a summary of the events that took place, in an attempt at trying to understand why Truman did what he did, and if it was necessary. You will have to come to your own decision on the moral and ethical issues involved, but hopefully this sheds some light on the subject so your decision can be made in an informed manner.
Courtney from Study Moose
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