History Atomic Bomb Essay

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In early August 1945 atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These two bombs quickly yielded the surrender of Japan and the end of American involvement in World War II. By 1946 the two bombs caused the death of perhaps as many as 240,000 Japanese citizens1. The popular, or traditional, view that dominated the 1950s and 60s – put forth by President Harry Truman and Secretary of War Henry Stimson – was that the dropping of the bomb was a diplomatic maneuver aimed at intimating and gaining the upper hand in relations with Russia. Today, fifty-four years after the two bombings, with the advantage of historical hindsight and the advantage of new evidence, a third view, free of obscuring bias and passion, can be presented. First, the dropping of the bomb was born out of complex infinite military, domestic and diplomatic pressures and concerns. Second, many potentially viable alternatives to dropping the bombs were not explored by Truman and other men in power, as they probably should have been. Lastly, because these alternatives were never explored, we can only conjecture over whether or not Truman’s decision was a morally just one, and if indeed it was necessary to use atomic energy to win the war. The war in Asia had its roots in the early 1930s. Japan had expansionist aims in Eastern Asia and the Western Pacific, especially in Indochina2. In July of 1940 the United States placed an embargo on materials exported to Japan, including oil in the hope of restraining Japanese expansionism. Nevertheless, tensions remained high in Asia, and only increased in 1939 when Germany ignited World War II with an invasion of Poland. America’s determination to remain isolated changed abruptly following Japan’s “surprise attack” on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941. Military strategists and politicians poured the majority of American war effort into the European theater, and before the United States could fully mobilize most of South-East Asia had fallen to Japan, including the Philippines. Slowly, the United States recaptured the many small islands invaded by Japan, including Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. These “Japanese forces waged a stubborn, often suicidal battles were ferocious; although the Americans won each, resistance.” They demolished the Japanese fleet and establis... ... middle of paper ... ...it was without doubt a savior of lives, it seems most reasonable to conclude that we simply can not tell. Furthermore, Truman became President only weeks before making his monumental decision, he seems to have dropped the bomb simply because he never considered not dropping the bomb47. Together with his advisors, Truman never thought to rethink the basic principles established under the Manhattan Project’s inception under Roosevelt, and therefore, dropped the bomb because they believed in their heart it was the right thing to do, and never reconsidered. There is no way we can know for certain whether the approach of seeking alternatives would have ended the Pacific was sooner, and with fewer lives. But one may regret that such an attempt was not made. Had the attempt failed, the continuing blockade of supplies, Soviet invasion, and the atomic bombs were still available. However, anyone tempted to use the atomic bomb would have done well to share the hesitancy agreed upon Truman and President Roosevelt. Dwight Eisenhower was right, when he commented on the atomic bombings on Japan -- “It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” (Ike on Ike, Newsweek, 11/11/63, pg. 108).

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