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Nuclear warfare loomed large at this time and international fear of the plutonium and uranium bombs which had been dropped in Japan were escalated, this historians’ clear aim here was to give the impression that America was instigating this sort of warfare and as such is clearly writing to turn popular opinion and weaken American support worldwide. In understandable contrast James Byrnes shares a completely different view. He demonstrates condolence towards the usage of the bomb.
We first have to establish who relayed this source, the then, US Secretary of State, Byrnes. He would have wanted his beliefs at the time of the droppings to appear in a positive light and be seen as fairly thought out strategic move. Patriotism will have played a part in this, Byrnes re-enforces Truman’s final word to go ahead with the raids. In a similar fashion to Nekrasov, Byrnes attempts to provoke dislike for the opposition by stating ‘And we are talking about people who hadn’t hesitated at Pearl Harbor to make a sneak attack’.
Comments such as this almost morally justify the actions of America in the minds of its citizens who had lost loved ones in the Pearl Harbor attack but, frankly the 2,403 military people’s lives sacrificed at pearl harbor doesn’t compare with the hundreds of thousands lost in Japan due to the bombs. Byrnes’ comparison is hyperbolic and his obvious reckoning is that Japan deserved the attack and got what was coming to them.
His exaggeration is heightened when he refers to the soldiers as ‘boys’ who would be losing their lives, where in actual fact they were mentally formidable, highly skilled and trained killing machines, just as desperate for their lives as the Japanese were for their. Byrnes would have had to have upheld this point of view and couldn’t possibly condemn these attacks as he had played a major part in them and the Japanese sacrifices were so hard to comprehend he had to maintain the attacks were full justified. I believe this memoir is very much designed to affirm this in public minds.
‘I believed the atomic bomb would be successful and would force the Japanese to surrender on our terms’ furthers this point. The views of Nekrasov and Byrnes are almost incomparable due to the circumstances they were written/relayed. I would argue that they are both written mainly for the respective authors’ countries to induce sympathy in the minds of their readers for their cause. Censorship will have played a large part in the writing of Source F while Source G would have needed to justify the bombings. Question Five What are the Strengths and weaknesses of Source H as an interpretation on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Source H is a video episode produced by the BBC for the World at War Series, produced in 1973 it is somewhat outdated for modern reference but offers a fantastic insight into the period and how the bomb affected some of those involved. I feel the video was produced from an impartial standing, the BBC are renowned for making solid documentaries and historical references and presenting the argument as fairly as possible, using all the resources they have to their disposal. I don’t believe that we can rely on the reputation of the BBC completely.
They perhaps would have produced the video with the intentions of being broad minded and covering every aspect but of course some factors prevented this from taking place. The video is, at times slightly biased towards the US and how they went about the events of 1945. A viewer sees a great deal of the American perspective while watching the video, some Japanese perspective and no Russian perspective. The lack of Russia’s involvement in the making of the video is of course due to the cold war, such was the censorship in the country at the time.
This is a major weakness in the video as a viewer would not be able to assimilate the controversy over the dropping of the bomb. The American’s interviewed on the video could be seen as quite arrogant, they seem to speak in statistics rather than about the inhumane events, mass loss of life and Japanese devastation. This in many ways is a strength of the video, it perhaps shows that the attitude of the Americans was still quite bitter and suggest they have few regrets about dropping the bomb. I feel that the Japanese people interviewed were not as comprehensively portrayed as the Americans.
The Americans, especially one of the pilots talking about the bombing, were very militant, seeming to forget about the repercussions of the dropping of the bomb affecting the Japanese. The pilot being interviewed was quite casual and came across as quite scientific. The Japanese interviewed seemed to be surprisingly calm about the attack, they described this physical effects but perhaps didn’t highlight the political issues from their point of view. This is a weakness of the video as it means again the viewers cannot get the full picture of the exact scenario. The purpose of the video is to give a good account, this I believe it does.
I feel at some points it focuses too much on the strengths of America. I suppose that it is, being a British video, going to compliment their ally and support them in order to project a positive view to the British public. This can be seen as a weakness but in some ways a strength revealing British perception of America, 1945 in general and the decision to drop the bomb. The BBC can be criticized for being selective when relaying facts and figures, they make America look more powerful and portray them in a better light by giving detailed factual analysis while not exploring the true implications of the bombing.
The video, overall, is a strong source of study, it isn’t overly biased but at times it lacks a rounded viewpoint. I feel that given the time it was produced the BBC couldn’t have possibly make the video impartial as Russia were engaged in the Cold War. Being allies with America the BBC have hinted on the US being a very powerful nation and were in the right. Perhaps the biggest thing we can take from this video is the British opinion of the raids over anything else. “Dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was necessary to end the war quickly”.
Do Sources A to H prove that this interpretation is correct? Explain your answer using all the sources and your own knowledge. Yes the Sources A to H do support this statement. The sources tend to agree that the war would end after the dropping of the bombs, though some refer to conventional warfare and its ability to end the war just as quickly. Although some of the sources say that it wasn’t necessary to drop the bombs to end the war. Of course the eventual outcome of the dropping of the bomb proved that it was in fact, a means to end the war immediately.
I have discussed the resilience of the Japanese people and Source A clearly gives the impression that the Americans felt that the Japanese could not be broken down without substantial loss of troops and in turn a lot of wasted time. It states that the atom bomb contains the equivalent power of 2000 of their super fortress bombs, a sizeable figure which reflects the power of this bomb compared to conventional warfare. By this account, the dropping of the bomb was time effective, and would end the war immediately.
This leaflet, dropped after the first raid would have been alarming to the Japanese but even then they did not carry out the wishes of the leaflet and petition their emperor to a great enough extent. This re-enforces how morally determined the Japanese were collectively and the extent of conventional warfare that would have been needed to finally end the war and allow the US to turn their attentions back to the area of Europe and combating the Soviet Union. There is little to take from Source B, apart from the fact that the dropping of the bomb was perhaps not as co-ordinated as it should have been.
The dropping of the bomb should and could have been more focussed on military targets and it is clear to see that civilian establishments in this instance have suffered. This source therefore suggests to me that perhaps the use of the atomic bombs was not completely necessary as military targets could have been dealt with on a smaller scale. Source B definitively shows that the atomic bomb was a complete solution, furthermore it was one that encompassed the wiping out of the Japanese public around these areas and the loss of innocent lives.
The results of the bomb depicted by Source B show that, inevitably, it would have ended the war, but counter arguments can be raised from this as to how crucial destruction on this scale was in ending the war. I have previously mentioned how Source C contradicts Source B and that it has been written under the pretence of a diary which could lead to untruths. Source C gives us a good impression of how Truman wanted to be presented, and we can take from this that he wanted to make it absolutely clear that it was necessary to drop these powerful bombs over Japan.
The source, a good representation of what Truman actually thought or not clearly takes the stance that America have persisted enough and that the Japanese were unlikely to surrender even after having received a warning. Truman makes out that America have been lenient in giving the Japanese a chance to surrender, showing some remorse. His sympathy demonstrated within this source at times points towards him believing that dropping the bomb is completely necessary under the circumstances and the sacrifices Japan would incur are inevitable but ultimately for the best.
His closing statement is certainly very interesting as far as this question goes. Not only does it make him out to be an intelligent man but also suggests that he is using the bombs for entirely the right reasons and not the wrong reasons, ‘It is certainly a good thing fro the world that Hitler’s crowd or Stalin’s did not discover this atomic bomb’. Source D, in contrast is evidently anti the dropping of the bomb and indicates that the dropping was perhaps not a necessary move to end the war immediately. The Source starts off by saying, ‘In Hiroshima 70 000 Japanese died.
Hundreds more died from radiation sickness in the years which followed’ immediately condemning the raids and highlighting the devastation experienced by Japan. Source D is objective in saying that the immediacy of the end of the war was Truman’s man reason for dropping the bomb, however. To counter this argument, Culpin has said that Truman was criticized because it was merely to test the bomb and justify its vast expense to the US economy. Although the impression Source D gives is objective I, on reading it got the feeling that Culpin felt the dropping of the bomb was unnecessary.
Source E is one of the strongest sources against the idea that the dropping of the bomb is necessary to end the war quickly. The bottom caption “Don’t you see, they had to find out if it worked” overrules the reasoning Truman had for using the bomb and suggests that the raids were purely scientific and completely inhumane. The picture is a very strong image provoking controversy in the minds of the public but it has to be considered that this is specifically drawn for a newspaper and that the situation will have been over exaggerated.
It was also produced at the time documents were leaked about the bombing and this would have meant that the picture was reflecting the feeling at that time and had a slightly limited and condensed view of the reasoning for dropping the bomb. Taken at face value, Source F is the strongest source to disagree with the statement “Dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was necessary to end the war quickly”. This is obviously because of the conditions under which it was written, a censored viewpoint, definitively against America and geared towards provoking dislike for the US nation as a whole.
We cannot therefore take Source F seriously but it does have some elements of truth about it. Diplomatic issues, as stated have been explained by some of the other sources, “The purpose of the bombing was to frighten other countries, above all the Soviet Union”. While this statement isn’t entirely true its foundations point towards America having other intentions than wanting to end the war quickly. Written from the opposite side of the fence is Byrnes contribution, memoirs which had been taken some years later. His words tend to agree with the necessity of the raids.
Again, this is from a heavily biased perspective and cannot be trusted. This source neither proves or disproves to a historian if the bomb was required in this case. Subjective opinions are hard to use when questioning such issues. We can take something quite significant from this though and that is the fact that this was written by the Secretary of State at the time. He would have had the advantage of considerably more knowledge than the general public and perhaps his view that the raid was a necessity is completely justified.
While the previous source was only written by a Russian historian with limited access to information, only relying on public resources. Therefore, I feel the benefit of the doubt should be given to Byrnes, and his account to be considered more reliable. In turn the dropping of the bomb was a necessity. The ‘World at War’ video is probably the most objective source out of all of them, it is the only one which allows several people from different backgrounds to contribute to the source.
I feel it demonstrates that the dropping of the bombs was a necessary action to end the war immediately, it depicts how harsh the fighting had been in other confrontation areas between US and Japan and the sheer determination shown by Japan. From this the video demonstrates the amount of time it would have taken to prepare and implement conventional invasion and traditional air raids. The interviews give detailed reasoning from both sides of the spectrum which point to the might and ferocity of the Japanese and the pressures being put on America.
It can be argued that as Source H includes the views of many different people, combined with cinematic hard evidence to prove several points. My interpretation of the video is that it proves the atomic raids were necessary to end the war and should be trusted due to its reliable producers and broadness of views. Each source has different factors to consider about whether it disproves or proves the statement “Dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was necessary to end the war quickly” and these have to be taken in the context in which they were written.