The Bombings Of Hiroshima And Nagasaki And Justified Reasoning Behind
The second World War was the largest and bloodiest war in human history, with an estimated 75 million casualties, and it was all brought to a close by the dropping of the atom bombs. By the summer of 1945, the fighting with Germany had already ended, but there was no end in sight for war with Japan. In August of 1945, President Harry Truman dropped atomic bombs on some of Japan’s largest cities; one on the city of Hiroshima, and one on Nagasaki. In doing so, they ended fighting in Japan, therefore, ending World War II as a whole. This was the first and last time an atomic bomb has been used in warfare to this day. Many supported Truman in these bombings, and many opposed him. There are multiple factors that led to these events. It was ultimately deemed that it was the best solution for all sides to end the fighting sooner rather than later. Truman’s decision to drop the bombs was the best choice for the sake of ending the war.
Ending the war expeditiously was in the best interest of America, because the sooner the fighting ceased, the more lives they could save. World War II already had a staggering death toll, and America was no exception to this. It was Truman’s obligation as president to end the fighting as soon as possible and get American soldiers home safely. At that point, many American soldiers had already been killed in combat and from Japanese kamikaze attacks.5 Since Japan continued fighting, the war was dragging on longer than it should have. The longer it went on for, the more soldiers would be killed. According to historians, an estimated 100 thousand to 1 million American soldiers were saved by the dropping of the bombs, as well as an unknown number of Japanese soldiers1. If these estimates are even close to reality, it would, in some sense, justify the number of people killed directly from the bombs. While there were certainly many civilians killed from these bombings (about 210,000), the fact that as many as five times as many Americans were saved from death on the battlefields as a result makes dropping the bombs an understandable action for someone in Truman’s position to take. This number does not even count the Japanese soldiers and civilians who were also spared from death by other means. Many opponents of Truman’s decision to drop the bombs say that the American military had several, more conventional alternatives. While this is true, they each had other major downsides. Before the bombs were ready, the military was planning a full-scale invasion of Japan. This, however, would have cost numerous lives of both American and Japanese soldiers.2 They could have maintained their strategy of blockading Japan, preventing food and other essential supplies from entering the country. They could also have continued to systematically bomb Japan with traditional, non-nuclear, bombs.1 Both of these approaches are greatly flawed as well. They would only end up causing a greater number of Japanese citizens to die, whether it was from starvation or from persistant smaller bombings, than the two nuclear bombs killed. To top it all off, these methods would completely fail to achieve the goal of ending the war in a timely manner, being very slow and inefficient. Although Japan would eventually become so worn down they would be left no choice but to surrender, many soldiers would be killed on both sides before that could happen. These factors make these plans begin to seem less and less effective. As President of the United States, it was Truman’s responsibility to save as many of his soldiers’ lives as he could. When considering the alternatives, the difficult choice of sacrificing thousands of people’s lives to save thousands more seems like the most ideal course of action to be taken.
America’s goal for the war was to end it as soon as they could, but Japan proved to be a large obstacle to achieving that goal. Japan absolutely refused to surrender for as long as they could. If the war had continued on as it had been, Japan likely would not have surrendered. It is more likely that they would have fought until the bitter end. The Allies needed Japan to accept an unconditional surrender, which would have included the removal of Japanese emperor Hirohito from the throne. This was an attempt to end militarism in Japan, which is one of the causes of World War II to begin with. The Japanese, however, revered their emperor and they saw him as a godlike figure. For this reason, they would never have accepted any surrender that did not keep the emperor on his throne.1 With neither side willing to budge on their conditions, there would not be any surrender in a long time. Because of this, the United States was forced to take action. They could either continue the war as usual until Japan had no other option than to surrender, or they could force Japan to surrender sooner rather than later. By utilizing the atomic bombs, America pressured Japan into the unconditional surrender that was necessary to end the war. By giving Japan no choice but to give up, the war was able to end sooner and it had a more favorable outcome for America and the Allied forces. Although some may argue that the two countries should have made a greater effort to negotiate peace, this likely would not have yielded any helpful results. Japan was resolute, however, and they would probably never be willing to come to any agreement that could reasonably be accepted by America. Due to their beliefs, the Japanese would never let their emperor be ousted, and real peace could never be achieved as long as Hirohito and his militarism controlled Japan. It would likely just cause another conflict in the near future. It was absolutely essential that Japan’s surrender had no conditions. Given the circumstances of not being able to negotiate peace and wanting to end a conflict as horrific as World War II, very few options remained. The answer seems to be something drastic that could cripple a country very quickly. In this case, the atomic bombs dropped on Japan were used to force them into surrendering in a timely manner. It also allowed actions to be taken to stifle Japan’s military and keep them under control. That way, it was less likely that there would be another world war soon after. Japan was adamant about maintaining their emperor on the throne, and this prevented them from accepting an unconditional surrender, instead dragging on the war even longer. Since no compromise could realistically be reached, due to the contradictory wants of each of the warring countries, there was no real way that peace could be achieved through diplomacy and negotiations alone.
The growth of militarism in Japan was the direct cause of their unwarranted invasion of the nearby country of China. During the occupation of their neighbor, Japan ravaged the country and murdered, raped, and tortured countless Chinese citizens. The extent and magnitude of their savagery has been very well-documented in the years since. It is because of these heinous acts that it was better for everyone if the war ended sooner rather than later. If they surrendered, Japan would be forced to withdraw their soldiers from China, sparing the Chinese people from becoming victims to the Japanese. In addition to saving the lives of their own soldiers, saving civilians who are being so mistreated is simply the right thing to do. The merciless treatment of Chinese civilians by Japanese soldiers was unbelievable. The most egregious example of Japan’s extreme brutality can be seen in the event that would come to be known as the Nanking Massacre. There are plenty of survivors of this incident who have recounted the harrowing stories of their experiences. One such story was told by Chen Deshou, who witnessed their aunt getting stabbed by a Japanese soldier after he tried to rape her. Another person by the name of Chen Jiashou managed to escape death at the hands of Japanese soldiers, who rounded up Chinese civilians and shot them in a firing squad. He then went on to bear witness to many other horrors, such as soldiers running over civilians in the streets as they drove by, and even the ghastly sight of a man beaten down and decapitated with a bayonette.4 There are many more horrendous stories told by many other survivors, each more unimaginably abhorrent than the last. These all reinforce the notion that Japan had to be prevented from performing such acts. So many civilians were already harmed by the war. Many lost loved ones or were displaced from their homes. It was even worse that they were also being harassed and slaughtered for no reason at all. To add to the gravity of what they did, many of the actions of the Japanese can be classified as war crimes. Even though the Geneva Convention, where a modern list of war crimes was created, did not take place until after the end of World War II, there were still other things that were considered unacceptable during war at that time. One example of a war crime that Japan violated is poor treatment of their prisoners of war. Their treatment of the Chinese at this time accounts for many more. Despite countless witnesses of these atrocities coming forth and telling their stories, there are still some sources who say that the number of people affected by the Japanese rampage was inflated or exaggerated, especially Japan themselves. However, there are still many historians who insist that the total number of victims ranges somewhere between tens of thousands to even millions. This is an unimaginable number of people who were tormented in some way by the Japanese soldiers. Even on the low end of those estimates, that is a staggering amount of people whose lives were taken or whose entire world was devastated. Given that Japan created so much destruction and hurt so many people, something had to be done to put a stop to it. They treated everyone incredibly poorly. This included their prisoners of war, some of whom were Americans. This was just one more reason for America to take action and end the war. Not only would the war’s end free their prisoners, who were horribly mistreated, it would also bring peace to an occupied and ravaged China. Japanese soldiers during World War II were barbaric and bloodthirsty, and their reign of terror and senseless violence had to be put to an end by ceasing the war.
Even given all of the crimes of Japan during this time, the judgement to drop the bombs was not one made lightly. Leading up to the decision, President Truman weighed his options very carefully. He very carefully chose Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the targets for the bombs because he knew that they both contributed greatly to the Japanese military. Additionally, they had both been relatively unaffected by other bombings up to that point, meaning that their destruction would have a greater impact. In other words, the targets were deliberated upon at length, and the determination to select the cities that they did was not random or careless chosen. Truman did not want an attack of this magnitude to be a surprise either. He was sure to give Japan plenty of warning of what was going to happen to them. On July 26, 1945, Truman issued the Potsdam Declaration, stating that if Japan did not accept the conditions that were outlined in the declaration and surrender, “they may expect a rain of ruin from the air the likes of which has never been seen on this earth.”1 Japan refused to accept this warning. Instead, they insisted on extending the war. So Truman was left no choice but to follow through on his threats. After dropping the bomb on Hiroshima, Japan was again given a chance to surrender. Truman made his intention to continue the bombings perfectly clear. And yet, Japan still refused. It was not until the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki that Japan finally backed down. In a letter sent by Truman after the bombs had been dropped, he said that he did not regret the decision to drop the bombs. He knew that if the first bomb did not convince Japan to surrender, the second one surely would.3 Plenty of warning was given very explicitly on two separate occasions, but Japan would not listen. Even after they saw the absolute annihilation that one of the bombs could cause in Hiroshima, they still persisted. In later years, it has been said that Japan was in fact trying to negotiate peace through a third party. If this was indeed the case, then they should have made their intentions much clearer. They knew the devastation that was coming their way if they did not comply with America’s conditions, so any discussions they were having for peace should have been made much more well known. America’s plan to drop the bombs was no secret. It was very carefully considered and scrutinized, and America’s objective was made completely explicit to their enemies. Japan knew what was being demanded of them and they knew what would happen if they did not comply. If truly sought peace, they should have taken greater efforts to achieve it.
The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were very controversial events, and they still are to this day. There is no right answer in a situation like the one that Truman found himself in. When considering all of the options and factors at the time, the act of dropping the bombs seems to be the most advantageous and overall beneficial choice, even though it may not seem that way at first glance. Japan was resilient. They would not give up for as long as they could help it, but extending the war would only lead to many more deaths, be they American, Japanese, or even Chinese. Their inhumane treatment of their foes only compounded the need for America to save lives by bringing a swift end to the lengthy conflict. Even though Japan would not give up, they were given more than enough time and warning to do so. America had a solution to this seemingly never-ending problem, so they decided to use it. In the end, Japan, through their actions and practices, brought their own destruction upon themselves. Truman, using his best judgement to make an incredibly difficult decision, used the bombs that he had at his disposal to bring the fighting to a close and usher in a period of peace in the world.
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