Reasons why Bombing Japan was not justified Essay


The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still one of the most controversial happenings in recent history. Historians have passionately debated whether the bombings were essential, the effect that they had in ending the war in the Pacific Region, and what other alternatives were on hand for the United States. These very same questions were also debatable during that time, as American decision makers deliberated on how to put to use powerful new technology and what the long-term impact of atomic weaponry would be on the Japanese (Hasegawa 96). This essay presents a debate on reasons why the U.S. was not justified in using the atomic bomb on Japan. Most historians who have been taking part in the debate on how World War II ended have based much of their focus on why the U.S. decided to drop the atomic bomb. Despite the much emphasis placed on this matter, there has been little attention directed on the role played by the Japanese in ending the war. Even less information is available on soviet-decision-making and their joining the war against Japan. One of the major obstacles, which were overcome only recently, was the absence of a historian who was fluent in English, Japanese and Russian to enable him to examine the major materials, which included government, military, and intelligence memos and reports in all the three languages. This explains in part why most of the available literature on the subject only touches on the American side of the story. One of the reasons why bombing Japan was not justified is because America had other options, which they could have used to compel Japan to surrender. In his 2005 milestone study titled Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan , historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa critically examines the threefold wartime relationship between America, Japan, and the Soviet Union. What comes out from this careful study is the fact that America had other options that they could have pursued instead of the bombings but which they chose to ignore. According to Hasegawa (100), the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had indicated to America that he would attack Japan on 15 August 1945. This meant that America had up to 15 th August to force Japan to surrender in order to prevent the Soviet union from joining the war something that would make Truman and his government to appear weak. Contrary to the claim that Americans used the bomb as a last resort, Hasegawa disagrees and claims that the early August date was chosen to counter the Soviets’ impeding attack in order to prevent them from joining the war. In fact, the diligent research done by Hasegawa dispels the notion that the bombings weakened Japan’s position thus leading to their surrender. According to the historian, the myth that the bombings weakened Japan’s will to fight and that they saved both Japanese and American soldiers is only meant to justify Truman’s decision and help in easing the conscience of the American people. According to Hasegawa, this myth lacks any historical backing since there is enough evidence to show that there were other alternatives besides the use of the bombs but Truman and his administration chose to ignore them. Historians claim that Truman’s main worry was that allowing Stalin to enter the war would be an important strategic gain for him and this would pose a big threat to American interests in the region. With a deadline to beat, the only option that remained for Truman and his administration was to use the atomic bomb (Hasegawa 101). Although Japan had not yet given a public indication that it intended to surrender, insiders knew that the country could not continue with the war and surrender was imminent. This admission is contained in intelligence reports showing that Truman was privy to information that Japan had abandoned its goal of victory and was instead planning on how to harmonize its national pride with losing the war. With this kind of information, it is clear that America had no justification whatsoever to use the bombs since it was only a matter of time before the Japanese admitted defeat. The second reason that makes the American bombing unjustified is the deeply flawed casualty claims. As it is, the exact number of Allied and Japanese lives that were likely to be lost during the intended invasion remains unknown. However, it is evident that those who supported the bombing have escalated the prediction of those who could have died from the earlier prediction of 45,000 given by the U.S. War Department. Ten years after the bombings, Truman claimed that George Marshall feared losing close to a half million soldiers if the war was not brought to an abrupt close. This contradicted the claims by Stimson the Secretary of War who two years after the war had claimed that over a million people were dead, wounded, or missing. In a 1991 address to congress, George Bush claimed that Truman’s decision to drop the bomb ‘spared’ millions of American lives. Four years after the claims by Bush, a crewmember of Bock’s car, the plane that dropped one of the bombs stated that the bombing preserved the lives of over six million people. Over the years, historians have provided evidence to show that the casualty figures offered by Truman and his bombing supporters were seriously flawed. One historian claimed that the people who supported the high casualty claims relied upon strained readings and omitted crucial material, which in effect limited their research and cast a shadow of doubt on their findings. Hasegawa and other anti-bombing historians did not refute the claim that Truman was concerned at the possibility of America losing many lives during the invasion, but the projected numbers were way below the exaggerated figures provided after the war to rationalize the bombings. Such inflated figures, along with Japan’s presumed rejection of surrendering is usually a part of the debate on why the atomic bombs were necessary but from the proffered evidence, these claims are highly questionable. Another reason to prove that the bombing was not justified is derived from looking at the real reasons why Japan surrendered. According to political analysts, postwar interviews with numerous Japanese military and civilian leaders showed that Japan could have given in before November 1, which is the date that the U.S. had planned to invade the country. This was not because Japan was afraid of atomic bombs or the impeding Soviet entry but because they had no reason to continue fighting in a war, which they were certain to lose. This conclusion definitely supports the view that the bombings were not in any way necessary to end the war and their use was therefore unjustified. Historians project that given the huge impact that the Soviet entry into the war and the air-naval blockade imposed by the Allied forces, there is high possibility that Japan would have surrendered before any invasion since its resources to support the war had dwindled. Historians question why Truman was not willing to avoid the costly invasion of Japan by allowing the Soviet entry instead of dropping the bombs. The question of Truman and his administration not knowing about Japan’s intention to surrender does not arise since historians have discovered records showing that Truman was in possession of intercepted and decoded Japanese intelligence communication, which showed their willingness to surrender. As Hasegawa (110) rightly put it, if Truman and his ilk really wanted to desist from using the atomic bomb as it was claimed after the war, then why was the intelligence reports in the intercepted cables ignored? According to the historian, stressing the decisive role of the atomic bombs in ending the war was meant to weaken the importance of soviet entry into the war thus making inconsequential the Soviet role in ending the war. This was meant to display the super weapon that was only possessed by the United States.

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The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945) is still one of the most debated topics in modern history. According to most historians, the bombings were unjustified because there were other available options to end the war but they were ignored. Contrary to the claim that Americans used the bomb as a last resort, most historians disagree and claim that the early August date was chosen to counter the Soviets’ impeding attack on August 15 1945. This ensured that America got the credit for ending the war.

Works Cited

Hasegawa, Tsuyoshi. Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan . Harvard University Press, 2005. 89-112. Print.

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Can nuclear war be morally justified?

Two museum visitors look at image of destruction, Hiroshima (Credit: Getty Images)

In the early 1980s, the Harvard law professor Roger Fisher proposed a new, gruesome way that nations might deal with the decision to launch nuclear attacks. It involved a butcher’s knife and the president of the United States.

Writing in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Fisher suggested that instead of a briefcase containing the nuclear launch codes, the means to launch a bomb should instead be carried in a capsule embedded near the heart of a volunteer . That person would carry a heavy blade with them everywhere the president went. Before authorising a missile launch, the commander-in-chief would first have to personally kill that one person, gouging out their heart to retrieve the codes.

When Fisher made this proposal to friends at the Pentagon, they were aghast, arguing out that this act would distort the president’s judgement. But to Fisher, that was the point. Before killing thousands, the leader must first “look at someone and realise what death is – what an innocent death is. Blood on the White House carpet”.

Killing a person with a butcher’s knife may be a morally repugnant act, yet in the realm of geopolitics, past leaders have justified their atomic acts as a political or military necessity. Following the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – 75 years ago this month – the decision was justified only in terms of its outcome, not its morality. The bombing ended World War Two, preventing further deaths from a protracted conflict, and arguably discouraged the descent into nuclear war for the rest of the 20th Century.

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Yet those positive consequences cannot obscure the fact that on 6 and 9 August 1945, two of humanity’s most destructive objects brought the horrifying power of the atom onto two civilian cities. We can attempt to describe the events through numbers: at least 200,000 people killed by the flashes, firestorms and radiation; tens of thousands more injured; an unquantifiable inter-generational legacy of radiation, cancer and trauma . We can remember the individual stories – of mothers and children, of priests and doctors, of ordinary lives transformed in a moment. Or we can memorialise the relics left behind, as described in the poem No More Hiroshimas : “The ones that made me weep... The bits of burnt clothing. The stopped watches. The torn shirts. The twisted buttons”.

But there is perhaps no adequate way to capture that scale of human suffering.

Can it ever be right to launch a nuclear attack against civilians? In what circumstances could such a decision be morally justified? In recent years, researchers and philosophers have explored the moral questions raised by nuclear weapons, and their conclusions suggest there are few easy answers.

The survivors are known as "hibakusha" (Credit: Alamy)

The survivors are known as "hibakusha" (Credit: Alamy)

The greater good

First, let’s consider the argument that the US government, led by president Harry S Truman, made for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing. Following the events, the US framed its decision as an unfortunate but necessary act for the greater good. “The principal political, social, and military objective of the United States in the summer of 1945 was the prompt and complete surrender of Japan,” wrote the US Secretary of War Henry Stimson in 1947 . The alternative – a ground invasion – could have resulted in the death of more than one million US soldiers, Stimson asserted, and potentially many more on the Japanese side. Perhaps that explains why in 1945, a Gallup poll found that 85% of Americans approved of the bombing .

If Truman felt any regret, he did not show it. One of the closest hints of contrition came from the diary of the secretary of commerce , who wrote that Truman called a halt to any further bombing after Nagasaki because “he didn’t like the idea of killing ‘all those kids’”.

A wounded child in Hiroshima (Credit: Alamy)

A wounded child in Hiroshima (Credit: Alamy)

Yet, while there is no doubt that protracted war between the allies and Japan would have led to a heavy death toll, some historical accounts suggest that reality was more complex at the time . By focusing retrospectively only on the outcome – the end of the fighting and 75 years of nuclear-free warfare – alternative historical paths were closed off. What would the Japanese have done if the Americans had elected a show of force first, dropping a bomb in Tokyo Bay rather than onto two cities? Had the Emperor already resolved to ask his government to surrender? And was the estimate of one million American deaths through a ground invasion accurate? These what-ifs will never be known.

The reasoning that Stimson presented for the decision can nonetheless be seen as a utilitarian argument that the bombing prevented a greater degree of overall suffering, says the Japanese philosopher Masahiro Morioka. In a recent paper, he drew parallels between the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings and the utilitarian dilemmas raised by the “trolley problem” . Originally proposed by philosopher Phillipa Foot, one of the simplest versions of this thought experiment asks people to weigh up whether they would sacrifice one person’s life to save five, by redirecting the track of a runaway trolley to kill that individual.

In his university lectures in Japan, Morioka presented this version of the trolley problem to his students, and like many people who are asked to consider the scenario, they told him they would divert the trolley so that only one person dies. “They were shocked to realise that they made the same decision as Truman and Stimson,” he says.

President Harry Truman (left) is briefed on the bombing by secretary of war Henry Stimson (Credit: Getty Images)

President Harry Truman (left) is briefed on the bombing by secretary of war Henry Stimson (Credit: Getty Images)

Yet Morioka argues that seeing Hiroshima and Nagasaki through the sanitised logic of a utilitarian greater good argument obscures the perspective of the dead and injured. “How the victims would think is erased from the problem,” he explains. “I believe that we should imagine seriously how the killed victims would think if they were alive here.”

Morioka told me that while he can see the basic logic in the justification of the bombing, he believes that it lacks humanity. “By making a justification, we are led to pretend that the perspective of the victims did not exist at all, which is morally and spiritually wrong, problematic and repugnant.”

Degrees of separation

Perhaps that’s also what Fisher had in mind when he proposed his butcher’s knife idea. Blood on the White House carpet. The neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe tackles the moral dilemmas underpinning Fisher’s protocol in a class she teaches on the science of morality at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (I attended it last year as part of MIT's Knight Science Journalism fellowship).

Like Morioka, Saxe points out that if the US president was fully committed to the utilitarian logic of reducing the total amount of suffering during war, they should have no qualms with carving out the person’s heart to get the nuclear codes. What is one extra innocent life, if you are prepared to kill tens of thousands for the greater good?

An injured 21-year-old soldier who was exposed to the bombing with subcutaneous haemorrhage spots on his body (Credit: Gonichi Kimura/Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum/Reuters)

An injured 21-year-old soldier who was exposed to the bombing with subcutaneous haemorrhage spots on his body (Credit: Gonichi Kimura/Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum/Reuters)

Perhaps some presidents would reach for the knife, but as Fisher’s friends in the Pentagon pointed out, the horrific proximity of the act might give them pause. After all, killing a person to get the codes has all the elements that make a brutal murder prohibited and punishable. As Saxe points out, the act would be premeditated, intentional, not in self-defence, and instrumental (it uses people as a means to an end). If you agree that murder by this definition is always wrong for individuals, can there be a moral justification for leaders and nations?

Psychologists who study our moral attitudes have described the squeamishness felt by the idea of murder up close as “action aversion”. When people are asked to place themselves in a scenario that involves pushing, stabbing or shooting, for instance, they are less likely to support the idea of killing for the greater good.

In the trolley problem, a majority of people support the case for switching a lever to divert the tracks, allowing the trolley to kill one person. But many hesitate when presented with a different scenario that involves pushing a man from a bridge to block the lethal trolley. (It is a grim coincidence that this unfortunate person is sometimes described as a “fat man”, which was also the code name of the bomb dropped on Nagasaki).

The mathematics of death in this scenario are the same – one life for five – but something about the act of pushing feels wrong to many people. (Though notably not all – one study showed that college students with psychopathic traits, for example, are more likely to endorse utilitarian judgements that involve harm ).

Hiroshima and its people from the perspective of a US military plane (Credit: Library of Congress)

Hiroshima and its people from the perspective of a US military plane (Credit: Library of Congress)

In 2012, one group of psychologists designed an experiment that captured people’s “action aversion” in a truly inventive way. The researchers asked participants to perform acts of violence such as striking an experimenter’s fake leg with a hammer, or whacking a realistic toy baby onto a table . Even though people knew they would cause no harm, the acts prompted a strong psychological response, suggesting we may have a hard-wired moral aversion to doling out direct violence.

As the psychologists pointed out, there is a “dark side” to such action aversion. Their findings also suggested that when people are detached from the realities of harm, there are fewer mental obstacles that might otherwise give them pause. “Signing one’s name to a torture order or pressing the button that releases a bomb each have real, known consequences for other people, but as actions they lack salient properties reliably associated with victim distress,” they wrote.

Perhaps a geographical and temporal detachment from the human realities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 goes some of the way to explaining why so many Americans still support Truman’s decision. Perhaps Stimson’s case for a greater good – all those hypothetical American lives saved – also still carries weight in the national memory. Five years ago, on the 70th anniversary of the bombings, the Pew Research Center asked Americans again what they thought of the bombing. While a lower percentage approved compared with the 1940s, 56% of US respondents said they believed the decision was justified .

The perspective of the Japanese is, unsurprisingly, utterly different. In the Pew survey, only 15% of Japanese people agreed that the bombing was justified. And while 40% of Japanese people described the events as “unavoidable” in a 2016 study conducted by the broadcaster NHK , a higher proportion of 49% said “they can’t forgive even now”. This is despite the fact that an ever-smaller proportion of Japanese people still survive from 1945: the average age of the hibakusha – the victims who directly experienced the bombing – is now well over 80 years old.

Other nations, too, would seem to approve less of nuclear attacks than the US, at least if snapshot surveys are anything to go by. In one poll, people around the world were asked if “nuclear weapons are morally wrong”. People in the US were notably less likely to agree compared with citizens of the UK and France, which are also nuclear powers.

Few houses and buildings were left standing near ground zero in Hiroshima (Credit: Mitsugi Kishida/Teppei Kishida/Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum/Reuters)

Few houses and buildings were left standing near ground zero in Hiroshima (Credit: Mitsugi Kishida/Teppei Kishida/Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum/Reuters)

To dive deeper into US attitudes to nuclear weapons, one 2013 study titled “Atomic Aversion: Experimental Evidence on Taboos, Traditions, and the Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons” asked Americans to put themselves in the position of a leader authorising a strike on a base in the Middle East. The researchers wondered whether there might be a moral “taboo” against using the nuclear option, compared with a conventional weapon. They found that the people in their study were actually more likely to make a decision based on the effectiveness of the weapon and whether or not it would lead to escalation, rather than shunning nuclear weapons as inherently wrong or taboo.

Yet Brian Rathbun of the University of Southern California argues that there is more nuance to the morality of the decision-making displayed in this study than first appears. “There was a presumption that those people were morally dastardly,” he says, but that conclusion is based on only one very narrow definition of morality.

Psychologists and neuroscientists once studied moral decision-making predominantly through the lens of harm, fairness and concern for other people. For example, one approach was to peer at people’s brains while they caused or observed pain in others . But around a decade ago, it began to emerge that people’s “ moral foundations ” – how they decide what is right and wrong – are more complex, and crucially, differ according to background, culture and political ideology .

Progressive liberals, for instance, are more likely to make judgements based on the moral foundations of “care” and “fairness”, aiming to avoid harm to others, or embracing political issues such as equality (which might suggest that scientists previously had spent a bit too much time focused on studying only liberal morality). Traditional conservatives, by contrast, are often more likely to prioritise the moral values of “loyalty”, “respect for authority” and “purity/sanctity”, and so make moral choices that favour traditions, societal stability, and preserving the way of life of their communities and nations.

It’s not that conservatives are uncaring and liberals disloyal – the moral foundations can be present across society – but the point is that each person has different priorities about which values are most important to them when weighing up what is right or wrong. “We consult these underlying moral intuitions to figure out our position on an issue that we've never heard,” says Rathbun.

Consider people’s reasoning for justifying violence. When a conservative supports policies like the death penalty, torture or military force, they are not setting aside their ethical values, even if a liberal might strongly disagree. And a liberal supporting a protest movement that leads to public disorder and violent clashes with authority might find disagreement with their political opponents, but they are guided by what they believe is moral.

At least 200,000 were killed and many tens of thousands of people were injured with burns and worse (Credit: PD)

At least 200,000 were killed and many tens of thousands of people were injured with burns and worse (Credit: PD)

Last year, Rathbun and Rachel Stein of George Washington University set out to explore how people’s moral foundations affected their attitudes to nuclear weapons. Like with the “Atomic Aversion” study, the pair asked participants from the US to put themselves in the shoes of a leader weighing up whether to make a nuclear strike against a military base, varying factors such as weapon effectiveness, the identity of the enemy, and associated casualties.

The pair found that people who prioritised so-called “binding” moral values of loyalty and respect for authority – which probably evolved to strengthen the “in-group” and protect against external threats – were more likely to approve of the use of nuclear weapons in their scenarios. They also, perhaps unsurprisingly, were more likely to endorse the actions of a leader who had launched a nuclear attack. Even stronger support for nuclear weapons was found among people who value the moral rule of “an eye for eye” – perhaps one of the oldest ethical principles .

People with these binding and retributive values were also less likely to abandon their position as civilian casualties rose. However, they were not indifferent – support for the nuclear option dropped fairly steeply once the casualties exceeded 10,000, and was very low in all groups by the time the death toll reached a million.

All this suggests that it’s impossible to answer whether the use of nuclear weapons is inherently right or wrong – whether they should be taboo or allowed under some circumstances – because it depends on the moral framework of the individual.

For those who would wish to avoid nuclear war, an arguably more important question to ask would be how the aggregate moral views of a nation collectively influence a politician’s choices in the fog of conflict. What matters, says Rathbun, is that public opinion has the power to influence the likelihood of a nuclear launch. “Politicians rely on an intuitive sense about what they think the public will allow,” he says. “They're always operating under a sense of ‘what can I do’ and ‘what can I not do’.”

And as historical trends in polling have shown, public attitudes towards nuclear weapons can shift over time. While support in the US is overall lower than the mid-20th Century, there’s nothing to say that this can’t reverse. One recent study, for example, found that public backing for the ban on US nuclear tests has declined since 2012 . Meanwhile, the current US administration is reportedly contemplating a resumption of testing on American soil .

A future leader, with their finger hovering over the nuclear button, will always make their decision under what Rathbun calls a “shadow of morality”.

“The conclusion that's been reached since time immemorial is that international relations is a realm of human interaction devoid of moral content,” he says. “From an evolutionary point of view, I think that's impossible. Human beings just cannot help but moralise.”

Marking the anniversary of the bombings in present-day Japan (Credit: Getty Images)

Marking the anniversary of the bombings in present-day Japan (Credit: Getty Images)

The end of everything

There is one final moral dimension to consider when exploring the rights and wrongs of nuclear weapons, which was articulated by the Oxford University philosopher Toby Ord in his recent book The Precipice . The explosive power of thermonuclear bombs is so great in the 21st Century that they pose an existential risk of triggering a nuclear winter , caused by smoke from firestorms blocking sunlight for years. “Hundreds of millions of direct deaths from the explosions would be followed by billions of deaths from starvation, and – potentially – by the end of humanity itself,” he writes.

Ord argues that human extinction would be a disaster of such magnitude that working to prevent it should be the world’s number one moral concern. Not only because everybody on Earth would perish, but also because it would mean that trillions and trillions of as-yet unborn people would not live – and flourish – in the coming millennia.

“We stand poised on the brink of a future that could be astonishingly vast, and astonishingly valuable,” Ord writes. Yet our power to destroy ourselves – and all the generations that could follow – is outpacing our wisdom. In Ord’s view, the morality of nuclear war looks quite different if you consider it as an existential, species-level threat, rather than through the lens of national conflicts.

The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of the atom requires a moral revolution as well

After WWII, a monument was built at ground zero in Hiroshima. It features the words: “Let all the souls here rest in peace; for we shall not repeat the evil.”

“The word ‘we’ means not only the people in Hiroshima city, but also all human beings on Earth, including the entire Japanese and US citizenry,” according to Morioka, who shows the monument to his Japanese students whenever he discusses the 1945 bombings with them.

Five years ago at this site, a former US president paid his respects to the Japanese people , and said the following words: “The very spark that marks us as a species – our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our tool-making, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will – those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction… Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of the atom requires a moral revolution as well.”

It doesn’t matter which president said the words. What matters was that, like 10 other US presidents of varying political affiliations since 1945, he did not find himself facing the same decisions that led to that terrible week 75 years ago this month. For all this time, both Republicans and Democrats – along with the leaders of other nuclear-armed nations around the world – have had the opportunity and power to reach for the codes that launched an atomic bomb against their enemies. Roger Fisher’s controversial proposal to embed those protocols in the heart of an innocent volunteer was, obviously, never taken up. Yet remarkably, perhaps luckily, no global leader since Truman has ever used them. Whatever your views on the rights and wrongs of atomic weaponry, that cannot be anything but a victory.

* Richard Fisher a senior journalist for BBC Future.

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70 years after hiroshima, opinions have shifted on use of atomic bomb.

Memorial for Hiroshima

On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing tens of thousands of people – many instantly, others from the effects of radiation. Death estimates range from 66,000 to 150,000 .

Declining Support in Both the U.S. and Japan for America's Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

In 1945, a Gallup poll immediately after the bombing found that 85% of Americans approved of using the new atomic weapon on Japanese cities. In 1991, according to a Detroit Free Press survey conducted in both Japan and the U.S., 63% of Americans said the atomic bomb attacks on Japan were a justified means of ending the war, while only 29% thought the action was unjustified. At the same time, only 29% of Japanese said the bombing was justified, while 64% thought it was unwarranted.

But a 2015 Pew Research Center survey finds that the share of Americans who believe the use of nuclear weapons was justified is now 56%, with 34% saying it was not. In Japan, only 14% say the bombing was justified, versus 79% who say it was not.

Not surprisingly, there is a large generation gap among Americans in attitudes toward the bombings of Hiroshima. Seven-in-ten Americans ages 65 and older say the use of atomic weapons was justified, but only 47% of 18- to 29-year-olds agree. There is a similar partisan divide: 74% of Republicans but only 52% of Democrats see the use of nuclear weapons at the end of World War II as warranted.

In the years since WWII, two issues have fueled a debate over America’s use of nuclear weapons against Japan: Did Washington have an alternative to the course it pursued – the bombing of Hiroshima followed by dropping a second atomic weapon on Nagasaki on Aug. 9 – and should the U.S. now apologize for these actions?

70 Years Ago, Most Americans Said They Would Have Used Atomic Bomb

By 1995, 50 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, support for an alternative to the bombing had grown. Gallup asked Americans whether, had the decision been left up to them, they would have ordered the bombs to be dropped, or tried some other way to force the Japanese to surrender. Half the respondents said they would have tried some other way, while 44% still backed using nuclear weapons.

But this decline in American support for the use of atomic bombs against Japanese cities did not mean Americans thought they had to apologize for having done so. In that same Gallup survey, 73% said the U.S. should not formally apologize to Japan for the atom bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Only 20% supported an official apology.

atomic bomb not justified essay

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Was the US justified in dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second World War?

For years debate has raged over whether the US was right to drop two atomic bombs on Japan during the final weeks of the Second World War. The first bomb, dropped on the city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, resulted in a total death toll of around 140,000. The second, which hit Nagasaki on 9 August, killed around 50,000 people. But was the US justified? We put the question to historians and two HistoryExtra readers...

Atomic bomb damage in the city of Hiroshima, 1945

America's use of atomic bombs to attack the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 has long remained one of the most controversial decisions of the Second World War . Here, a group of historians offer their views on whether US president Truman was right to authorise these nuclear attacks...

“Yes. Truman had little choice” – Antony Beevor

Few actions in war are morally justifiable. All a commander or political leader can hope to assess is whether a particular course of action is likely to reduce the loss of life. Faced with the Japanese refusal to surrender, President Truman had little choice.

His decision was mainly based on the estimate of half a million Allied casualties likely to be caused by invading the home islands of Japan . There was also the likely death rate from starvation for Allied PoWs and civilians as the war dragged on well into 1946.

What Truman did not know, and which has only been established quite recently, is that the Imperial Japanese Army could never contemplate surrender, having forced all their men to fight to the death since the start of the war. All civilians were to be mobilised and forced to fight with bamboo spears and satchel charges to act as suicide bombers against Allied tanks. Japanese documents apparently indicate their army was prepared to accept up to 28 million civilian deaths.

Antony Beevor is a bestselling military historian, specialising in the Second World War. His most recent book is Ardennes 1944: Hitler’s Last Gamble (Viking, 2015)

“No. It was immoral, and unnecessary” – Richard Overy

The dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima was justified at the time as being moral – in order to bring about a more rapid victory and prevent the deaths of more Americans. However, it was clearly not moral to use this weapon knowing that it would kill civilians and destroy the urban milieu. And it wasn’t necessary either.

Militarily Japan was finished (as the Soviet invasion of Manchuria that August showed). Further blockade and urban destruction would have produced a surrender in August or September at the latest, without the need for the costly anticipated invasion or the atomic bomb. As for the second bomb on Nagasaki, that was just as unnecessary as the first one. It was deemed to be needed, partly because it was a different design, and the military (and many civilian scientists) were keen to see if they both worked the same way. There was, in other words, a cynical scientific imperative at work as well.

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I should also add that there was a fine line between the atomic bomb and conventional bombing – indeed descriptions of Hamburg or Tokyo after conventional bombing echo the aftermath of Hiroshima. To regard Hiroshima as a moral violation is also to condemn the firebombing campaign, which was deliberately aimed at city centres and completely indiscriminate.

atomic bomb not justified essay

Of course it is easy to say that if I had been in Truman’s shoes, I would not have ordered the two bombings. But it is possible to imagine greater restraint. The British and Americans had planned in detail the gas-bombing of a list of 17 major German cities, but in the end did not carry it out because the moral case seemed to depend on Germany using gas first. Restraint was possible, and, at the very end of the war, perhaps more politically acceptable.

Richard Overy is a professor of history at the University of Exeter and editor of The Oxford Illustrated History of World War Two (OUP, 2015)

“Yes. It was the least bad option” – Robert James Maddox

The atomic bombs were horrible, but I agree with US secretary of war Henry L Stimson that using them was the “least abhorrent choice”. A bloody invasion and round-the-clock conventional bombing would have led to a far higher death toll and so the atomic weapons actually saved thousands of American and millions of Japanese lives. The bombs were the best means to bring about unconditional surrender, which is what the US leaders wanted. Only this would enable the Allies to occupy Japan and root out the institutions that led to war in the first place.

The experience with Germany after the First World War had persuaded them that a mere armistice would constitute a betrayal of future generations if an even larger war occurred 20 years down the line. It is true that the radiation effects of the atomic bomb provided a grisly dividend, which the US leaders did not anticipate. However, even if they had known, I don’t think it would have changed their decision.

Robert James Maddox is author of Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism (University of Missouri Press, 2007)

“No. Japan would have surrendered anyway” – Martin J Sherwin

I believe that it was a mistake and a tragedy that the atomic bombs were used. Those bombings had little to do with the Japanese decision to surrender. The evidence has become overwhelming that it was the entry of the Soviet Union on 8 August into the war against Japan that forced surrender but, understandably, this view is very difficult for Americans to accept.

Of the Japanese leaders, it was the military ones who held out against the civilian leaders who were closest to the emperor, and who wanted to surrender provided the emperor’s safety would be guaranteed. The military’s argument was that Japan could convince the Soviet Union to mediate on its behalf for better surrender terms than unconditional surrender and therefore should continue the war until that was achieved.

Once the USSR entered the war, the Japanese military not only had no arguments for continuation left, but it also feared the Soviet Union would occupy significant parts of northern Japan.

Truman could have simply waited for the Soviet Union to enter the war but he did not want the USSR to have a claim to participate in the occupation of Japan. Another option (which could have ended the war before August) was to clarify that the emperor would not be held accountable for the war under the policy of unconditional surrender. US secretary of war Stimson recommended this, but secretary of state James Byrnes, who was much closer to Truman, vetoed it.

By dropping the atomic bombs instead, the United States signalled to the world that it considered nuclear weapons to be legitimate weapons of war. Those bombings precipitated the nuclear arms race and they are the source of all nuclear proliferation.

Martin J Sherwin is co-author of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer (Atlantic, 2008)

“Yes. It saved millions of lives in Japan and Asia” – Richard Frank

Dropping the bombs was morally preferable to any other choices available. One of the biggest problems we have is that we can talk about Dresden and the bombing of Hamburg and we all know what the context is: Nazi Germany and what Nazi Germany did. There’s been a great amnesia in the west with respect to what sort of war Japan conducted across Asia-Pacific. Bear in mind that for every Japanese non-combatant who died during the war, 17 or 18 died across Asia-Pacific. Yet you very seldom find references to this and virtually nothing that vivifies it in the way that the suffering at Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been.

With the original invasion strategy negated by radio intelligence revealing the massive Japanese build-up on the planned Kyushu landing areas, Truman’s alternative was a campaign of blockade and bombardment, which would have killed millions of Japanese, mostly non-combatants. For example, in 1946 the food situation would have become catastrophic and there would have been stupendous civilian deaths. It was only because Japan surrendered when it still had a serviceable administrative system – plus American food aid – that saved the country from famine.

Another thing to bear in mind is that while just over 200,000 people were killed in total by the atomic bombs, it is estimated that 300,000–500,000 Japanese people (many of whom were civilians) died or disappeared in Soviet captivity. Had the war continued, that number would have been much higher.

atomic bomb not justified essay

Critics talk about changing the demand for unconditional surrender , but the Japanese government had never put forth a set of terms on which they were prepared to end the war prior to Hiroshima. The inner cabinet ruling the country never devised such terms. When foreign minister Shigenori Togo was told that the best terms Japan could obtain were unconditional surrender with the exception of maintaining the imperial system, Togo flatly rejected them in the name of the cabinet.

The fact is that there was no historical record over the past 2,600 years of Japan ever surrendering, nor any examples of a Japanese unit surrendering during the war. This was where the great American fear lay.

Richard B Frank is a military historian whose books include Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire (Random House, 1999)

“No. Better options were discarded for political reasons” – Tsuyoshi Hasegawa

Once sympathetic to the argument that the atomic bomb was necessary, the more research I do, the more I am convinced it was one of the gravest war crimes the US has ever committed. I’ve been to Japan and discovered what happened on the ground in 1945 and it was really horrifying. The radiation has affected people who survived the blast for many years and still today thousands of people suffer the effects.

There were possible alternatives that might have ended the war. Truman could have invited Stalin to sign the Potsdam declaration [in which the USA, Britain and Nationalist China demanded Japanese surrender in July 1945]. The authors of the draft of the declaration believed that if the Soviets joined the war at this time it might lead to Japanese surrender but Truman consciously avoided that option, because he and some of his advisors were apprehensive about Soviet entry. I don’t agree with revisionists who say Truman used the bomb to intimidate the Soviet Union but I believe he used it to force Japan to surrender before they were able to enter the war.

atomic bomb not justified essay

The second option was to alter the demand for unconditional surrender. Some influential advisors within the Truman administration were in favour of allowing the Japanese to keep the emperor system to induce so-called moderates within the Japanese government to work for the termination of the war. However, Truman was mindful of American public opinion, which wanted unconditional surrender as revenge against Pearl Harbor and the Japanese atrocities.

Bearing in mind those atrocities, it’s clear that Japan doesn’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to immoral acts in the war. However, one atrocity does not make another one right. I believe this was the most righteous war the Americans have ever been involved in but you still can’t justify using any means to win a just war.

Tsuyoshi Hasegawa is a professor of history at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the author of Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan (Harvard University, Press 2005)

“Yes. The moral failing was Japan’s” – Michael Kort

Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb was the best choice available under the circumstances and was therefore morally justifiable. It was clear Japan was unwilling to surrender on terms even remotely acceptable to the US and its allies, and the country was preparing a defence far more formidable than the US had anticipated.

The choice was not, as is frequently argued, between using an atomic bomb against Hiroshima and invading Japan. No one on the Allied side could say with confidence what would bring about a Japanese surrender, as Japan’s situation had been hopeless for a long time. It was hoped that the shock provided by the bombs would convince Tokyo to surrender, but how many would be needed was an open question. After Hiroshima, the Japanese government had three days to respond before Nagasaki but did not do so. Hirohito and some of his advisers knew Japan had to surrender but were not in a position to get the government to accept that conclusion. Key military members of the government argued that it was unlikely that the US could have a second bomb and, even if it did, public pressure would prevent its use. The bombing of Nagasaki demolished these arguments and led directly to the imperial conference that produced Japan’s offer to surrender.

The absolutist moral arguments (such as not harming civilians) made against the atomic bombs would have precluded many other actions essential to victory taken by the Allies during the most destructive war in history. There is no doubt that had the bomb been available sooner, it would have been used against Germany. There was, to be sure, a moral failing in August 1945, but it was on the part of the Japanese government when it refused to surrender after its long war of conquest had been lost.

Michael Kort is professor of social science at Boston University and author of The Columbia Guide to Hiroshima and the Bomb (Columbia Press, 2007)

This article was first published in the August 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine

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Truman's Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb: Analytical Essay

As the last World War society has ever experienced, instead of causing another war in the future, it created a notorious debate for the historical event. America’s controversial decision to drop two bombs on Japan caused one of the most discussed topics amongst people passionate about WW2 History. Whether the two bombings were justified or not has made others change their minds or keep their original decision. With all the evidence I have gathered, I believe that The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not justified because they could have stopped Japan in other ways, the bombings were used to scare The Soviet Union more than defeat Japan and the bomb was simply inhumane.

After decades of research, historians believe that Japan was going to surrender which made the bombings unnecessary. Since Japan was almost defeated, they could have forced them to give up on many other strategies. When the war in the Pacific Theater started, Japan surprised Pearl Harbour with a surprise attack on Pearl Harbour. This was around the time when Japan was very powerful and had control of many areas in the South Pacific Ocean. Four years later, America successfully fought back using a creative idea. They began a tactic called “island hopping”. With this strategy, The United States Of America would move from different Japanese islands in the South Pacific Ocean. This gave Japan a tougher time because they had to try and defend many lands at once. They were also restricted from going to their other lands which gave The United States a huge advantage. Japan could not properly fight back and this would have led Japan to eventually give up. Another option was for Japan to keep its emperor. Of course, he would have to be demoted to a powerless figurehead (much like the Royal Family in Great Britain), but it was possible that this one condition alone might have been enough to satisfy the American War Department’s conclusion that it was necessary to convince the Japanese that they would not be “annihilated” if they surrendered. The United States knew that if they killed the emperor, Japan would never surrender. This plan, however, was already considered by the American government. Their plan was to get Japan to understand their message and eventually surrender. On June 13, former American ambassador to Japan Stimson and Byrnes, Truman’s personal advisor debated their plans with Japan’s emperor. Byrnes won and Truman created excuses that left Japan confused about their intentions. Even though this did not give Japan a clear answer, it was a proper attempt to figure out their decision. Instead of continuing, they dropped the bombs, the Japanese surrendered, and The US allowed the emperor to live. Stimson later revealed that prolonging their decision was a major regret. He also added that because of this, prolonged the war and caused what we know to be Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The last alternative was to wait for the Russians to attack Japan.

atomic bomb not justified essay

Military analysts in 1945 believed that Japan would have to inevitably be forced to surrender and a clarification from the Americans that “unconditional surrender” did not mean they would kill their emperor. In the early weeks of April, they believed that The Soviet Union would satisfy their necessities in many ways. By September, they believe that the majority of Japan will realize the inevitability of absolute defeat regardless of whether the Soviets have actually entered the war against Japan. If The Soviet Union enters the war, Japan will realize that its defeat is unavoidable. A Strategy and Policy Group within the War Department had the same opinion. Americans also had an idea of Japan’s opinion on this topic. While breaking the Japanese diplomatic code, The United States eavesdropped on conversations between the Japanese Foreign Minister in Tokyo, and the Japanese ambassador to the Soviet Union in Moscow. The Foreign Minister said that they should not only prevent Russia from entering but also get them to perceive Japan as a favorable country and to talk to any Soviet leaders if they had the chance.

The ambassador said back that there wasn’t much reason to hope, and that he received reports of substantial Soviet troop and supply movements heading the east. The Foreign Minister also added that if Russia decided to take advantage of their weakness and intervene against them they would be completely homeless. In a secret meeting between Roosevelt and Stalin, he promised that three months after the end of the European campaign, he would declare war on Japan and move against Japan in China. By July, when President Truman traveled to Germany to meet his Allied leaders for the first time, he met with Truman and Stalin on the 17th. He confirmed they would declare war on Japan on August 15. To sum it up, the President and at least some Japanese all had the decision that if The Soviet Union invaded Japan, they would have most likely surrendered. The date was set and the invasion was scheduled to happen. The Americans had many other options but chose to land two atomic bombs. This argument is why many people, including me, believe that my next reason is their true intentions in releasing the two atomic bombs.

Throughout the war, America’s intention seemed to be clear, however, this was questioned after details of an important event were overlooked. During the war, the United States and the Soviet Union fought against Germany, Italy, and Japan. As the war came to an end, the US and the Soviet Union met and discussed how to handle the end of the war and the defeat of Germany. These conferences caused a rift in the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States. The reason that this conference is important is that it shows the conflict that Stalin, Churchill, and Truman had at the time. Each side would not trust either and this would affect their decision-making in the future. Stalin was also irritated because the other allies believed that they delayed the Normandy Invasion and Allied invasion of Italy during the current war to cause the Soviet Army to struggle against Nazi Germany. Throughout these conferences, Truman told Stalin about the American atomic weapons program also known as The Manhattan Project. Truman also notified him about the US’s development of the world’s first atomic bomb. Truman also became suspicious of Stalin’s intentions, however, Stalin felt the same way about Truman as well. Days after, the US bombed Hiroshima and WW2 ended a few weeks later. These events are what debaters believe to be what affected America’s true intentions with the bomb. With all this conflict, The United States used this to frighten The Soviet Union and show their potential power towards them if they decided to attack or threaten The US. With all the events that lead up to the bomb, the conflicts during The Conference may have been the reason that many innocent people died.

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The Atomic Bomb Is NOT Justified

The united states was justified in dropping the atomic bombs on japan.

On the 6th and 9th of August, 1945, the United States of America dropped the Atomic Bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The use of these bombs brought a quick end to World War 2, yet caused extensive damage to the two Japanese cities. There have often been disputes as to whether the USA was justified in the dropping of the atomic bombs because of the damage they caused, not only to the cities, but to the people of Japan as well. Many people believe that the USA should not have dropped the bombs because of the damage they caused, and they also claim that Japan was already defeated. However, Japan did not surrender, and prolonging the war was not an option for America, as it believed it would cause even more casualties, not only to American troops, but to Japan as well. Thus the USA was justified in dropping the bombs on Japan.

Reasons Why The Atomic Bomb Was Justified

On December 7, 1941, the United States was unexpectedly attacked by Japan, now known as the Attack on Pearl Harbor. In retaliation to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S President Harry S. Truman ordered the use of atomic weapons on Japan to help fight the war. In my opinion, the decision to drop atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified.

The Atomic Bombs : The Justification

One of the most controversial and heavily scrutinized issue of the twentieth century was President Harry S. Truman’s decision to unleash atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The motives behind Truman’s actions are shrouded in controversy as top military officials publicly denounced the use of such a disastrous weapon. There is overwhelming evidence supporting both sides of the decision, as historians are split in opinion. The United States had been using conventional bombing to try to push Japan over the edge to surrender, but with countless Japanese civilians loyal to their country, invading Japan proved to be more problematic than first thought. Harry S. Truman made the ultimate decision of dropping the atomic bomb in hopes that it would end the war, but the amount of casualties caused by it has historians questioning if it was morally right, “The bomb was unfortunate, but it was the only means to bring Japan to a surrender,” historian Sadao Asada states (Bomb 9). Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justifiable because they would ultimately lead to the end of the war and would demonstrate U.S. supremacy.

The United States Justified By Using The Atomic Bomb Against Japan During Wwii?

The pressing question still lingers: Was the United States justified in using the Atomic Bomb against Japan during WWII? World War II stands as the bloodiest and deadliest war of all time. It involved more than thirty countries and resulted in over fifty million civilian and military deaths. It lasted six years, beginning with Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939. As the Allied Powers (mainly the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union) and the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan) were in direct conflict with each other, many wonder if the cost of victory was too extreme. In late 1941, the process of creating the world’s first, most deadly weapon began. The production of the first atomic bomb was code named “the Manhattan Project.” After months of production, August 6, 1945, America dropped the “Little Boy” bomb on Hiroshima, wiping out ninety percent of the city. August 9, 1945, just three days after the devastation of the first bomb, America dropped the “Fat Man” bomb on Nagasaki. Dropping the atomic bomb on Japan was not necessary, nor justified in ending World War II. Due to the fact that America targeted heavily civilian populated cities (with limited military value), that Japan was in a position of surrender before the bomb was dropped, and the fact that the U.S. did not give enough time for Japan to process the devastation of the first bomb before the second in Nagasaki shows that America’s decision to drop the atomic bomb was entirely unjustified.

Are We Dropped The Atomic Bomb Unjustified?

Imagine this, a day like every other day. It’s August 6th, 1945, the sun is shining, the hum of nearby businesses filling the air and the squeals of children playing in your ears. The busy town square filled with unknowing people. No one prepared for what was to come. Then it came. The American B-29 bomber Enola Gray dropped the world’s first ever deployed atomic bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy,” over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. It was dropped by parachute and exploded 1,800 feet above the ground. Instantly, 80,000 civilians were killed by the explosion, and tens of thousands were later killed by radiation and their injuries. The blast destroyed more than six square miles of the city and due to the intense heat of the explosion, fires ignited all over the city, consuming Hiroshima and lasting for three days, trapping and killing many of the survivors of the initial blast. 90 percent of the population was wiped out. A mere three days later on August 9th, a second American B-29 bomber dropped a second atomic bomb, “Fat Boy,” on the city of Nagasaki, killing an estimated of 40,000 people. Contradictory to the United States’ “reasons” for dropping the atomic bomb on the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, their decision was unjustified and unnecessary.

What Is The Atomic Bomb Justifiable

The Atomic Bomb was justifiable due to the events leading up to the dropping of the bomb. Japan was the country to drag the United States into World War II. Pearl Harbor was devastating to the United States because they no idea that they were going to be attacked by the Japanese but it was not as devastating as the destruction left after the dropping of the atomic bombs.

Why Is The Atomic Bomb Justified

The justification for why the United States dropped the bomb was because they wanted to completely destroy Japan’s power. They wanted full control over the war and wanted to strip Japan of everything they had such as, “their docks, their factories and their communications”. With the atomic bomb the US achieved this. The atomic bomb provided a significant amount of power for the US. It set a precedent for what the US is capable of and the fact that this type of bomb was only used once shows the fear associated with it. It created a bad image for the US and they are now looked down upon because of their decision to use this bomb. The United States should not have used the atomic bomb on Japan because it went against all that they stood for

The Atomic Bombs Released On The Doomsday Clock

“My clothes were burnt and so was my skin. I was in rags. I had braided my hair, but now it was like a lion’s mane. There were people, barely breathing, trying to push their intestines back in. People with their legs wrenched off. Without heads. Or with faces burned and swollen out of shape. The scene I saw was a living hell.” (Michiko 385). A civilian who was exposed to the atomic bomb, Yamamoka Michiko, reflects on the scene she so devastatingly was a part of the day the bomb was dropped. Her description of the cities ruins gives us an idea of just how brutal and horrific the nuclear weapon turned to be. Not only did the United States privately construct such a ruthless weapon, but also used the Atomic Bomb as an unfortunate way to instantaneously end WWII. The United States’ decision to bomb Japan was seen as directed against the Soviet Union because during this time, Stalin had moved troops to the far East in order to enter war with Japan to secure and strengthen a soviet strategic position for combat. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is seen as an unnecessary war crime because allied nations were making moves to prepare to defeat Japan. Though nations such as the Soviet Union worked vigorously to defeat Japan, the United States wanted to end the war quickly while letting other nations know the they were in charge due to their possession of the world’s first nuclear weapon.

Was The Atomic Bomb Justified

In August of 1945 the U.S used a massive atomic bomb against the people of Hiroshima, Japan. The atomic bomb that was used was identical to the equivalent of 20,000 rounds of TNT (Rosenburg, 2015). As you can imagine the bomb caused massive destruction and ended with the deaths of many people. It wiped out the city of Hiroshima, flattening it and ruining many of the things that once resided there. At that time, the Japanese were trying to cope with the loss of many family members and the loss of their beautiful city. All felt lost especially when the U.S. came back with another bomb that this time struck on the city of Nagasaki. The reason for the atomic bomb was to hopefully end the war between the U.S. and the Japanese. Soon after

Atomic Bomb: Necessary Or Justified?

“The Atomic bomb certainly is the most powerful of all weapons, but it is conclusively powerful and effective only in the hands of the nation which controls the sky.” The reasons I think we should have dropped the bomb on Japan are as follows it saved lives, demonstrated lethality, created peace, and ended the war.

Was The Atomic Bombs Justified?

First off, the Atomic Bomb was inhumane in almost every way; especially since the U.S. claimed to fight for basic human rights. The bomb had so much unstable power that when it was dropped several people were simply vaporized, turned to dust, in just mere seconds. The effects still linger to this day; radiation that left survivors to die or heavily mutated and shunned and mass destruction. Also, the Bomb was not the only option available; If the U.S. had simply waited for Russia the war would have ended so much sooner with less violence and inhumanity. Japan was terrified of Russia from past offences and having the world superpower the U.S. alongside

Atomic Bomb Was Justified

Have you ever wondered about the justification of the atomic bomb being used against Japan. This is a grucom topic in the bowels of world war where the US did not want to lose millions of lives in a beach invasion of Japan, so Truman ordered the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. What you do not know is Truman had no choice of the atomic bomb being used, it was FDR’s decision to us the terrible weapon 3 years ago the only power Truman had was to abort the mission. In the end the only regret that Truman was that the bomb could not have been developed earlier to be used against the German’s. What is the justification of using the atomic bomb on Japan was it justified or not? For me it was essential in the ending of a long, terrible war with one swipe.

The Atomic Bomb: Necessary Or Justified?

Declaring war is one thing. Even bombing a city, is another. But is completely out of range to endanger the lives of innocent people, and of future children. And that is exactly what America did with the atomic bomb. Needless to say, it was completely unjust for America to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. First of all, millions of innocent Japanese were killed, but also millions of children, present and future. Japan’s take on Hawaii was un-humane, but japan focused on the military, and wasn’t bombing innocent people for no reason, and endangering the lives of future children. Once the atomic bomb was dropped, radiation spread throughout the country, and once Japanese citizens’ lungs even took a whiff of the nuclear gas, their lives were done

Was The Atomic Bombing Justified

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the last attacks committed during a World War. These two bombings ended the Pacific War during WWII and have remained controversial ever since. To find out if these atomic bombings were justified we have to look at the events that led up to the drop.

Justification Of Atomic Bombs

The United States justifies dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because they told Japan that unless they surrendered they will drop atomic bombs on them. Since the Japanese did not reply, President Truman felt that it was right to get revenge for the bombing of Pearl Harbor. However, I completely disagree because tons of innocent people were killed just because Japan did not respond to the United States threat. In the Modern World History book by McDougal Littell it states that “a Japanese city of nearly 350,000 people. Between 70,000 and 80,000 people died in the attack.” Thousands of innocent children and families were instantly killed in this bombing.

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Last Updated 21 Apr 2020

Was the Atomic Bomb Dropped on Hiroshima Justified

Were the Americans justified in dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945? The dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945 by the Americans is a very controversial issue with no definite answer. Both sides of the issue have very justifiable arguments. Reasons for dropping the bomb include the fact that Truman’s options were limited at this point in the war, that the bomb did have the desired outcome of Japans surrender and that the majority of reasons America had for dropping the bomb are justifiable.

On the other hand, the atomic bomb was complete new technology and there is no way that Japan could have possibly been ready for it and for that reason the dropping of the atomic bomb is very much morally and ethically wrong. It is also important to consider that two bombs were dropped, both with different motivations and it is quite possible that while one is justifiable, the other is not. There were many reasons why America would have chosen to drop the bomb and the majority can be justified. Before the atomic bomb was dropped, America was nearing the end of the war.

They had made the Potsdam declaration requesting Japans surrender and at this point had the Japanese at a very weak position. At a similar time, the Americans had completed the development of the Atomic bomb or Project Manhattan that, after Germany surrendered, had no other competition. A lot money had been put into the development of the bomb and at this point, Truman’s options were limited. Invasion was out of the question due to the Japanese’s strong military and patriotic values: The continuation of conventional bombings and a naval blockade were also considered but deemed unsuitable.

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The negation of surrender had been tried with the ‘Potsdam Declaration’ and had failed. It is important to point out that by ignoring the declaration; the Japanese in effect gave their acceptance of the Americans threats of ‘prompt and utter destruction. ’[1] America and Britain were both aware that the development of the bomb meant they no longer relied on the allied troops from Russia, and with the fear of communism, this was a motivation for the dropping of the bomb: ‘It is quite clear that the US do not at the present time desire Russian participation in the war against Japan’ [2]. There was also the question of time.

The atomic bomb was by far the quickest way that America could see for the ending of the war, and they were eager to end the war as before long, Russia would become involved making a heavier casualty rate inevitable. America were also a very powerful country now they had the development of the Atomic Bomb, it would have been a waste to not be able to show their true power and the true destruction they could use through the bomb. There is also the point that the Americans were looking for revenge against the Japanese, as they had injured and killed many American soldiers, and even more to come, had the Americans not taken quick action.

Looking back at the dropping of the bomb, it is possible to say that it was a method of prevention in many different circumstances. Firstly, the dropping of the bomb meant that the war would be over: ‘The atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended World War II. There can be no doubt of that. ’ [3] It is possible that leaving the war longer could have resulted in a much worse fatality rate for both Japan and America. Also, the dropping of the atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima effectively decided the use of atomic technology for weapons for the future.

Before the dropping of the bomb, people had no idea of the severity and power of atomic weaponry and therefore, the argument can be made that the dropping of the atomic bomb prevented a lot more serious cases that could have happened say the power of atomic bombs was not explored at this time. The dropping of the atomic bomb caused great loss of life, and there are many arguments suggesting the dropping of the bomb was both morally and ethically wrong. There is no way that the Japanese could have been prepared for the dropping of the atomic bomb as the world had never witnessed something like the bomb before.

The Americans had the opportunity of demonstrating the power of the bomb on a deserted area and showing the Japanese what they were facing. This was proposed by a number of American scientists, but rejected by the Military Leaders: ‘we did not think exploding one of these things as a firecracker over a desert was likely to be impressive. ’[4] There was the option of dropping the bomb on purely a military target, yet the Americans chose a target that not only affected Japans military, but took the lives of many civilians. The Americans were always slightly racist towards the

Japanese or ‘colored people’ and this could easily have been secret motivation for the dropping of such a severe form of bomb. There is also the consideration of the two different bombs. The American military leaders would have been completely aware of the severity of damage of atomic bombs after Little Boy was dropped yet they still went on to drop Fat Man. It is possible that while the first bomb could be excusable, the dropping of a second, in full knowledge of the damage that it would cause, is not only unnecessary but definitely morally incorrect. It is also important to consider the Truman’s alternatives once again.

From the American’s point of view, Truman’s options were very limited, but peace could have been found through the Japanese and the Soviet Union, a pathway which the President was aware of but didn’t really explore. It can also be pointed out that the Potsdam declaration was a very harsh document, especially on a country with such strong patriotic values. Had the declaration not requested ‘unconditional surrender’[5] and had in fact let Japan keep some of their imperial rule, they could have been more likely to accept the declaration. Japan was already very vulnerable when America chose to drop the bomb.

In reality, it was only a matter of time before Japan would have needed to surrender anyway. America knew that Japan would need to surrender soon as they were unable to import or export goods: ‘it was quite logical to hope and expect that with the proper kind of warning the Japanese would have made peace’. [6] It really was only a matter of time before Japan would have had to surrender and America knew that. It is possible that the Americans were not just interested in the ending of the war, but had other reasons such as racial discrimination, revenge and greed for power to drop the two atomic bombs.

In my opinion, the Americans have enough reasons to justify the dropping of the bomb. They gave the Japanese sufficient warning of their plan through the Potsdam declaration and it was the Japanese’s mistake to ignore this. They also completed the desired outcome with Japan’s surrender. For these reasons America can justify their reasons for dropping the bomb. However, being able to justify something does not mean it is necessarily the best thing to do, and I think that it was morally incorrect to make the Japanese uffer to the extent that they did considering that the war was almost over. The fact that America chose to drop two bombs changes my opinion significantly as well. The first bomb can be looked with the idea that America was not aware of the damage they could cause, however a second bomb was cruel and inexcusable. The Americans were after more than just the end of the war, they wanted the Japanese to feel their power and to have revenge: ‘In being first to use it we had developed ethical standards common to barbarians in the dark ages. [7] The bomb however has benefitted the world in the way that it has prevented anything like the atomic bomb disaster from occurring again, and the use of this technology earlier on could easily have prevented a later, more severe disaster. The dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima can be justified and looked at as a mistake that possibly had many benefits. The dropping of the bomb on Nagasaki was an example of the American’s greed for power and race driven revenge. In conclusion, I think that America had very strong reasons for dropping the bomb, some of which are valid and some of which are not.

This said they should not have dropped it as they knew the effect that this bomb was going to have on Japan, especially when Japan was so unprepared, and there would have been much more appropriate ways of ending the war. ----------------------- [1] Lewis, Robert AGORA, Vol. 25, No 1, 1990, HTAV, Source 9, page 29 [2] Lewis, Robert AGORA Vol. 25, No 2, 1990, HTAV, Source 22, page 19 [3] Lewis, Robert AGORA, Vol. 25, No 1, 1990, HTAV, page 19 [4] Lewis, Robert AGORA Vol. 25, No 2, 1990, HTAV, Source 16, page 14 [5] Lewis, Robert AGORA, Vol. 25, No 1, 1990, HTAV, Source 9, page 29 [6] Ibid page 34, source 14 [7] Ibid page 19

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