Atomic Bomb: Was It Necessary Essay, Research Paper
Were the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki necessary to save allied lives and to end Japan?s threat to world peace? Did the resulting loss of life cost more than a deadly invasion of the Japanese mainland? In August 1945, the first dropping of atomic bombs in civilian areas of Japan killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Immediately following those bombings, Japan surrendered to the United States. The following essay summarizes the defense of the atomic bomb and its use, the arguments against the use of atomic weapons, and includes my personal opinion on the subject.
As the war with Germany grew closer to the end, the United States had their hands full with an increasingly effective war with Japan. The defeat of Japan became more apparent to many allied and Japanese leaders after the fall of the Mariana Islands and Saipan in July of 1944. The Mariana Islands had been a key defense point for Japan, but after they were captured, Japan was in range of bombing. From November 1944 to the dropping of the atomic bomb, Japan was subjected to numerous B-29 bomb raids using conventional bombs. General Curtis LeMay predicted the war to end in September or October of 1945 because the United States would have run out of industrial targets to destroy. While Japan was being severely bombed, there was also a naval blockade to stop Japan?s ability to import such necessities as oil and vital materials. This would have interfered with Japans? ability to make war items and repair essential services. Admiral William Leahy wrote to President Truman, ?By the beginning of September, 1944, Japan will almost be completely defeated through a practically complete sea and air blockade.? Also, in May of 1945 the surrender of Germany freed the allies to focus their troops and resources to defeat Japan.
In July 1945 a message from the allies known as the ?Potsdam Proclamation? was broadcast in Japan. The proclamation demanded ?the unconditional surrender of all the Japanese armed forces.? There was no mention of the of the Emperor?s position, which was crucial because the Japanese believed their Emperor to be a God and the heart of Japanese culture. Because there was no assurance of the Emperor?s fate the Japanese objected to the ?Potsdam Proclamation.?
The positive argument for the use of the atomic bomb was ?a speedy end to the Second World War, and perhaps to much else besides.? This is a quote from the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. ?The atomic bomb could solve all of our problems in an instant, disregarding the need for a mass invasion of coastal Japan.? In his mind, the ending of the World War was more important than losing a few thousand Japanese lives as opposed to American or British lives. As Churchill says, ?The end of the Japanese war depended upon the pouring in of their armies for the final and perhaps protracted slaughter. We need to ask no favors of the them.? President Truman is also quoted as saying: ?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 pretense of obeying international laws of warfare.? However, the majority of the people killed and injured by the atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not fall into these categories. They were not politicians or soldiers. They were private citizens, women and children.
Was the dropping of the atomic bomb necessary to end the World War? Might the war have ended as soon, with less deaths on both sides, and before the Soviets had entered into northern Korea? Did the atomic bomb of Hiroshima scare the Soviets into putting their atomic bomb program into action? Did those events then lead directly to the later Korean War? Was an atomic precedent set, which would be hard to change in the future? The knowledge that the Soviets were about to declare war on Japan would have crushed any hope the Japanese had of negotiating peace terms through the Soviets. The nearing two war fronts would have disabused Japan?s military forces. Japan?s plan to piece together remaining forces against the predicted U.S. invasion was threatened. While it cannot be proven, officially allies of the U.S. had made sanctioned communication between Konoye, saying that Japan?s time had completely run out due to the approaching threats of nuclear destruction and Soviet invasion. These allies believed that immediate surrender might mean the opportunity for the Emperor to retain his throne. There was a chance the Japanese people would have enlisted the Emperor to bring Japan to surrender by late July or early August of 1945. For these reasons many arguments have been made that the use of the atomic bomb were unnecessary.
There is no way we can know for certain whether another approach would have ended the Pacific war sooner and with fewer deaths. But we may regret that such an attempt was not made. Had the attempt failed, the continuing blockade of supplies, the Soviet invasion, and the atomic bombs were still available strategies. The lesson to be learned may be that an extreme use of force should only be the last choice to end conflict. Since the end of World War II, governments have in fact used combinations of all other types of persuasion, but have avoided using nuclear bombs.
Hiroshima John Hersey
?Documents A through H? Educational Testing Service. Princeton, NJ 1988
?Thank God for the Atom Bomb? Paul Fussell.
?Hiroshima: Strategy for Victory? Herbert Feis. Princeton University Press, NJ 1966
?Hiroshima: The Decision? Herbert Feis. Princeton University Press, NJ 1966