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The Morality Of Us Bombing Of Hiroshima

Essay, Research Paper THE ATOMIC BOMBING OF HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI WAS IT NECESSARY? Christopher Philippi HS-102 May 3, 1999 On August 6 and 9, 1945, the only atomic bombs ever used in

Essay, Research Paper

THE ATOMIC BOMBING OF

HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI

WAS IT NECESSARY?

Christopher Philippi

HS-102

May 3, 1999

On August 6 and 9, 1945, the only atomic bombs ever used in

warfare were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The mass destruction and numerous deaths caused by those bombs

ultimately put an end to World War II.

Was this the only way to end the war, however? Could this killing

of innocent Japanese citizens had been avoided and the war still ended

quickly. This paper will go into this controversial topic. First, a summary

of the events leading up to the bombing and the events that followed:

With the end of the European war, the Allies focused their efforts

on Japan. Though they were losing miserably, the Japanese continued to

fight back.

The Potsdam Proclamation was issued to the Japanese. It made no

mention of Japan’s central surrender condition, the status of the Emperor.

In Japan, the Emperor was viewed as a god. Therefore, Japan rejected the

Potsdam Proclamation.

The United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and

Nagasaki. Russia declared war against Japan. Japan, because of its military,

still refused to surrender. The Japanese government voted against surrender.

Japanese believe in “death before dishonor.”

Japanese peace advocates feared for the safety of the Emperor.

They begged him to break with tradition and make government policy by

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calling for peace now. As a result of the Emperor’s call to surrender, the

entire Japanese cabinet, including the military, agreed to surrender. The

cabinet saw that this would allow the Emperor to be retained.

The Japanese would have fought to the death if they did not feel

the Emperor would have been spared. They may have been fighting a

losing battle, but they saw unconditional surrender as a threat to the

Emperor.

President Truman had been advised of the importance of the Emperor

to the Japanese.

Japan was seeking Russia’s help to end the war in July 1945. The

U.S. was aware of this at the time through intercepted Japanese cables. But, the

U.S. did not keep up with this change in Japan’s position. Instead the U.S.

chose military methods of ending the war rather than diplomatic methods.

The desire for revenge helped make military methods more attractive.

After the creation of the atomic bomb was complete and before it

was dropped there was uncertainty to whether or not it should be used.

Many scientists argued that it should not be used. Truman had a difficult

decision to make. He had much advice given to him towards making a

decision.

Leo Szilard’s first version of his petition was more strongly worded

than the final version. Regardless, on July 3, 1945, he presented to

President Truman his reasoning for not using the atomic bomb on Japanese

cities. It was signed by 58 other scientists.

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Rejecting the pretense that the targets would be military, the petition

called atomic bombs a ruthless annihilation of cities. The bombing of cities

had been condemned by the American public only a few years earlier when

done by the Germans to England.

Previously it had been feared that the U.S. might be attacked by

atomic bombs. The only defense then would be a counterattack by the same

means. However, with that danger gone such an attack on Japan would be

unjustified (Alperovitz 132.)

A memorandum by Ralph A. Bard, Undersecretary of the Navy, to

Secretary of War Stimson on June 27, 1945 stated that before the bomb is

ever used Japan should be given a few days notice. This position was based

on the humanitarian feelings of our nation. In addition, Bard sensed Japan

was searching for an opportunity to surrender. Bard proposed a meeting

with the other superpowers, including Japan, before ever using the bomb.

On July 16, 1945, the atomic bomb was tested over the New Mexico

desert. The Trinity Test was a spectacular success. A 6 kilogram sphere

of plutonium, compressed to supercriticality by explosive lenses, exploded

with a force equal to approximately 20 thousand tons on TNT.

The report was done by Col. Stafford Warren, Chief of the

Manhattan Project’s Medical Section. It showed that the potential for

radioactive fallout from the test was an important concern. Fallout from

the test exposed a family living 20 miles from Ground Zero to dangerous

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levels of radiation. The radiation monitors were so concerned they asked

permission to talk to the family “to see how they feel (Schull 70).”

Dead jackrabbits were found more than 800 yards from zero. A

farm house three miles away had doors torn loose and suffered other

extensive damage. The light intensity was sufficient at nine miles to have

caused temporary blindness. Several observers at 20 miles were bothered

by a large blind spot for 15 minutes after the blast. It was determined that

exposure to this light from 5 miles away would cause severe damage to the

eyes. Thus causing damage sufficient to put the enemy out of action for

several days if not permanently. This is if they survived, of course

(Schull 77.)

The next day Leo Szilard and 69 co-signers at the Manhattan Project

Metallurgical Laboratory petitioned President Truman to not use the atomic

bomb on Japan. This version of the petition is updated from the first one

and comes at an appropriate time following the test on the day before.

It said if Japan still refused surrender after a warning of the power of this

bomb, then and only then, may it be morally permissible to resort to its use.

However, the development of atomic power will provide the nations with

new means of destruction. The atomic bombs of today are only a step

towards the destructive and scary future.

If the U.S. uses this weapon, we will always have to be cautious in

the future of other countries using it on us. In response to: “Wouldn’t the

Japanese use it on us?” Possibly. But, Japan has had poison gas at its

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disposal thoughout the war and has not once used it on American troops.

The U.S. must concern itself with the views of other countries in this

matter. If we were to violate our moral obligation our country would be

weakened in the eyes of others. It would then be more difficult for us to

live up to our responsibility of bringing the unloosened forces of destruction

under control (Fasching 209.)

Regardless of the warnings and advice President Truman still gave

the official bombing order, July 25, 1945. Truman told his diary that day

that he ordered the bomb used. Emphasis had been added to highlight

Truman’s apparent belief that he had ordered the bomb dropped on a

“purely military” target, so that “military objectives and soldiers and sailors

are the target and not women and children (Alperovitz 363.)

The written order for the use of the atomic bomb against Japanese

cities was drafted by General Groves. President Truman and Secretary of

War Stimson approved the order at Potsdam.

Regardless of what Truman wrote in his diary that day the order

made no mention of targeting military objectives or sparing civilians. The

cities themselves were the targets. The order was also open-ended.

Additional bombs could be dropped as soon as made ready by the project

Staff (Schull 372.)

Although he never publicly admitted it, President Truman had second

thoughts about using atomic bombs on cities. On August 10, 1945, having

received reports and photographs of the effects of the bombs, Truman

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ordered a halt to further atomic bombings (Fasching 202.)

Is this not evidence that Truman made a mistake in his decision?

I do not think this makes Truman a bad guy, though. I believe he truly

believed dropping atomic bombs on Japan would save American lives by

ending the war sooner. Truman was rushed into the president job, filling in

for the late Roosevelt. I do not believe he was prepared for this kind of

decision-making.

These excuses for Truman do not, however, excuse what the United

States did to Japanese civilians. Japan was losing the war miserably anyway.

The only thing stringing the Japanese along was their pride and concern for

their god, the Emperor. The only reason we would not allow them to

surrender was because it wasn’t unconditional. However, in the end it was

the Emperor that led Japan into surrender and was allowed to remain.

So basically it was all pointless. We could have allowed Japan to surrender

earlier, keep their emperor, and avoid killing those innocent people.

If the U.S. was not successful in making Japan surrender even with

allowing the retention of the Emperor there was always the threat of Russian

invasion. Then if neither of these alternatives worked, then resort to using

the atomic bomb. But at least exhaust all other alternatives first, right?

If feeling sorry for the enemy’s civilians is not in your taste, think

about who else suffered from these bombings. Up to two dozen American

prisoners of war were killed by the Hiroshima bomb. The Nagasaki bomb

killed Dutch POW’s and maybe some Americans as well. Over 1,000

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Japanese-Americans who were sent to Hiroshima when the war broke out

were killed also. The statistics go on and on. It was not just the Japanese

that were affected by this catastrophe.

Tell the history books to print this version of the story!

Works Cited

Alperovitz, Gar. The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture

Of an American Myth. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1995.

Fasching, Darrel J. The Ethical Challenge of Auschwitz and Hiroshima

Apocalypse or Utopia?. State University of New York Press:

Albany, 1993.

Schull, William J. Effects of Atomic Radiation A Half-Century of Studies

From Hiroshima and Nagasaki. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.:

New York, 1995.

Alperovitz, Gar. The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture

Of an American Myth. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1995.

Fasching, Darrel J. The Ethical Challenge of Auschwitz and Hiroshima

Apocalypse or Utopia?. State University of New York Press:

Albany, 1993.

Schull, William J. Effects of Atomic Radiation A Half-Century of Studies

From Hiroshima and Nagasaki. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.:

New York, 1995.

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