This year will mark the 71st anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was on August 6, 1945 when President Harry Truman told the world that the U.S. had dropped an atomic weapon nicknamed “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. Then, only three days later, a second bomb, “Fat Man,” was dropped on Nagasaki.
“Little Boy” had the power of over 20,000 tons of TNT, and had destroyed most of Hiroshima, killing an estimated 130,000 people. Then, Nagasaki was destroyed with “Fat Man,” killing between 60,000 and 70,000 people. Japan surrendered six days after the bombing of Nagasaki, which ended World War II.
President Harry Truman announces the bombing of Hiroshima:
The destructive power of these weapons was well understood before they were used on Japan. President Truman stated: “It was the most terrible thing ever discovered.” It is widely accepted that the bombs saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.
It is a mostly unknown fact that President Truman had received estimates from General MacArthur that up to 31,000 U.S. casualties, not hundreds of thousands, could be expected within the first thirty days, and still is being reported in the media.
“My history as an American was that I was happy to have the bomb because it saved millions of lives,” Bob Askey, 85 said. “It was necessary. It gave the Japanese an excuse to surrender.”
J. Samuel Walker—Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb and its legacy:
It was clear that Japan was losing to the United States, and it was a matter of how Japan would surrender. Again, it is not commonly known, but the U.S. had intercepted a Japanese cable from Japan’s Foreign Minister Togo to the Japanese ambassador to the Soviet Union, which had stated that Japan wanted to end the war. The major impediment to the surrender was the insistence on unconditional surrender by the U.S.
Peter Kuznick, a professor of history at American University, said: “If you know that the Japanese are trying to surrender and looking for better surrender terms, why would you drop the atomic bomb if the invasion is not going to start for another three months?” in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun.
Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Aftermath (1946) – Rare Footage:
Historian J. Samuel Walker, in his book Prompt and Utter Destruction, gives five reasons on why Truman chose to use the bomb.
Ending the war at the earliest possible moment: The primary objective for the U.S. was to win the war at the lowest possible cost. Specifically, Truman was looking for the most effective way to end the war quickly, not for a way to not use the bomb.
To justify the cost of the Manhattan Project: The Manhattan Project was a secret program to which the U.S. had funneled an estimated $1,889,604,000 (in 1945 dollars) through December 31, 1945.
To impress the Soviets: With the end of the war nearing, the Soviets were an important strategic consideration, especially with their military control over most of Eastern Europe. As Yale Professor Gaddis Smith has noted: “It has been demonstrated that the decision to bomb Japan was centrally connected to Truman’s confrontational approach to the Soviet Union.” However, this idea is thought to be more appropriately understood as an ancillary benefit of dropping the bomb, and not so much its sole purpose.
A lack of incentives not to use the bomb: Weapons were created to be used. By 1945, the bombing of civilians was already an established practice. In fact, the earlier U.S. firebombing campaign of Japan, which began in 1944, killed an estimated 315,922 Japanese, a greater number than the estimated deaths attributed to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The firebombing of Tokyo alone resulted in roughly 100,000 Japanese deaths.
Responding to Pearl Harbor: When a general raised objections to the use of the bombs, Truman responded by noting the atrocities of Pearl Harbor, and said: “When you have to deal with a beast, you have to treat him as a beast.”
What would have happened if the war had continued for another year?
asked Jim Eckles, 65. “Japan would have ended up being a divided country like Germany because the Russians wouldn’t have given it up. So in that sense, it was probably good for Japan that the war ended like that.”
Hiroshima: Dropping the bomb:
Now whether you believe it was necessary or not, surely you must agree that the killing of so many non-combatants, not once but twice, is not right. Even though the Japanese soldiers are responsible for thousands of atrocities, it is still not right to kill so many civilians.
To say that it was OK, even when it was known that they were negotiating terms of surrender, is to say that the families of murderers should suffer the same fate as their relatives. We should learn from what happened to Japan, and not use it as propaganda to make ourselves feel better.