Atomic Bomb Essay, Research Paper
It is said that there are two views about the use of the atomic bomb, orthodox and revisionist. The orthodox view is one of solely winning the war, while the revisionist view is one of intimidating the Soviet Union. While I do not believe that the atomic bomb was a necessary weapon in this war, I do think it helped the US kill two birds with one stone . I think it both won the war and scared the USSR in the process.
An important argument for the use of the atomic bomb was the distrust of the Soviet Union by the British and eventually the Americans. The British distrust is demonstrated in a memo of a meeting between the US and the UK on July 22,1943 where Winston Churchill states that “it would never do to have Germany or Russia win the race for something that might be used for international blackmail” [Document 12, pg. 42]. Both of these countries were afraid that the USSR might try to expand its influence after the war, and neither of them wanted to see the USSR with atomic power or wanted to lose their advantage in postwar negotiations. The US and UK were right about the USSR’s aims at expansion. Concern over Russian expansion was mentioned in Stimson’s diary entry on July 23, 1945 where he writes about Russian concerns for influence in the Pacific and present expanding influence in Eastern European countries [Document 73, pg. 209]. This fact really made the US want to keep the USSR from entering the Pacific and be able to influence the postwar outcome there. Again, this was another factor that meant the atomic bomb would have to be dropped if it would result in shortening the war and keeping the USSR out of the Pacific. These fears could be seen as part of the revisionist view.
By 1945, the US had the Japanese forces on the run. The planned invasion of Japan is discussed in the President’s meeting on June 18, 1945 with the Joint Chiefs of Staff [Document 52, pg.151]. In this meeting, the fanatical resistance of the Japanese is discussed along with the decision to continue with the “operation” before the planned assault on November 1 and to wait for the Japanese response. US leaders were uncertain when the Japanese would surrender, but they all agreed that eventually they would have no choice. The US knew of the “Japanese maneuverings for peace” on July 16, 1945 but wanted an unconditional surrender from the Japanese and presented them with the terms of surrender in the Proclamation of the Potsdam Conference [Document 74, pg. 215]. The Japanese did not want to lose their emperor and wanted it instilled as a condition of their surrender. In fact, many Japanese leaders had made the decision to end the war by May 1945 but were trying to convince the Japanese military leaders and to hold out for their condition for surrender. Unfortunately, Radio Tokyo broadcasted that Japan would not surrender and continue to fight on July 28, 1945, and had not responded to the Allies terms for surrender. This is part of the reason for the orthodox view.
This did not help curb the decision to drop the bomb since the US seemed to want to end the war as fast as possible, for political reasons. President Truman ordered two atomic bombs to be used during World War II. On August 6, 1945, “Little Boy” exploded about 1,750 to 1,900 feet above the city of Hiroshima. Instantly, 66,000 people were killed and over 69,000 people were injured. On August 9, 1945, “Fat Man” exploded about 1,650 feet above the city of Nagasaki. Instantly, 39,000 people were killed and over 25,000 people were injured. On August 11, 1945, Japan surrendered but only because they were allowed to keep their emperor [Document 87, pg. 246]. Japan had entered their surrender through the Swiss Government, which relayed the message to the US Government. Because of the third party involvement and negotiations, Japan officially surrendered on August 15, 1945. This helps reinforce the orthodox idea that the bomb ended the war.
In the end, I believe that the use of the atomic bomb and the decisions made during its development were like a double-edged sword. I agree with the comment that the Japanese would have surrendered before November 1, 1945 that was made in The Manhattan Project, page 272. This means that the Soviet Union would most likely not have had much influence in the Pacific after the war. Japan is an island with limited resources, and the naval blockades were strangling the nation. The atomic bomb might have prevented the immediate and extensive Soviet influence in the postwar Pacific, but we still witnessed several nations turn to communism and come under the umbrella of the Soviet Union. The research into the atomic bomb was necessary because Germany was doing the same. But you must remember that Germany, the major atomic threat, surrendered in May 1945. Because Japan did not have any atomic weapons, I do not believe it was necessary to use the bomb. This is possibly why the revisionists think it was used to scare the Soviets.
Many, but not all scientists were against the use of the bomb. In a report by A. H. Compton, E. O. Lawrence, J. R. Oppenheimer, and E. Fermi titled “Recommendations on the immediate use of nuclear weapons”, Oppenheimer wrote for the panel, “we can purpose no technical demonstration likely to bring an end to the war; we see no acceptable alternative to direct military use” [Document 51, pg. 149]. Many scientists felt that the US was not attacking Japan, but it was defending itself from a country that attacked the US first, at Pearl Harbor. However, many of these scientists did oppose the use of the second bomb so quickly. They felt the US should have waited longer for Japan to surrender.
The loss of innocent lives at Hiroshima and Nagasaki is inexcusable. President Truman agrees with this idea as seen in his comment made on August 10, 1945 where it is written about his order to halt all other plans for use of atomic weapons on Japan because “he didn’t like the idea of killing,” as he said, “[especially] all those kids” [Document 86, pg. 245]. These murders stained America’s image. Peace efforts were already underway with Japan and should have received full attention and given a chance before the bombs were dropped. This could also be why the revisionists think it was used as a scare tactic. In Stimson’s memo and letter to the President on July 2, 1945, he states the current situation of Japan and that “Japan is susceptible to reason in such a crisis to a much greater extent than is indicated by our current press and other current comment” [Document 58, pg. 167]. When the bombs were dropped, so were the morals of the United States.
While it is obvious that the bomb did indeed end the war as orthodox views dictate, it was not needed to end the war. Japan was likely to surrender, and they posed no threat of atomic warfare. But there were definite fears by US officials of soviet expansion that needed to be resolved. I think that the revisionist views of Soviet expansion fueled the decision to build the bomb, but the orthodox view of ending the war is what sparked the decision to drop it.