Mrs. Kwon/ Mrs. Crosby
World Literature/ World History II
May 3, 2000
Was the Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Wrong?
On the morning of August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. One newspaper described the destruction as, ?Images of swirling fire, angry impressions of red and black, with angular figures turning to skeletons, primitive figures writhing in fury of ever-expanding death?(Stone 18). Three days later, the U.S. dropped another atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki. Together these events marked the ending of World War II, and the downfall of Japan. Many people believe the United States made the right decision in dropping the atomic bombs on Japan. Even to this day there is a seemingly never-ending debate on whether this was the right decision. The United States should not have dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because both sides knew Japan was defeated before the bombs were dropped, the United States did not clarify the terms of the Potsdam Proclamation which would have led to Japan’s surrender, and the bombs also caused unnecessary civilian casualties.
The United States should not have dropped the bombs because Japan was already defeated, and both sides knew it. The air and sea blockade along with strategic bombing were two reasons that Japan was already defeated. The air and sea blockade was cutting off the Japanese supplies and important goods, while strategic bombing was devastating their many cities and populated areas. On July 8th, one month and two days before the first bomb was dropped, the Combined Intelligence Committee said that Japan was beginning to realize that they were defeated due to the air and sea blockade which was slowly cutting off their food and would eventually starve them to the point of surrender. On June 18, President Truman was informed that the air and sea power had already ?greatly reduced movement of Japanese shipping south of Korea, and that it should in the next few months cut it to a trickle, if not choke it off entirely?(A Guide To Gar Alperovitz’s The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb Part IV 6). The mass devastation of strategic bombing caused millions of the Japanese to lose their homes and had destroyed 25% to 50% of the densely populated areas of Japan’s most important cities. The U.S. strategic bombing survey concluded that, ?In all probability, prior to November 1st, 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated? (Alperovitz 645). The war department concluded that the Japanese leaders had already decided to surrender and were only looking for a good reason with which to convince the Die Hard Army Group that Japan had lost the war.
Many people thought that if the Russians entered the war, the Japanese would quickly surrender. A meeting at the Japanese Supreme Counsel for the Direction of War, held on May 11, came to the conclusion that, ?It is clear that if the Soviets enter the war that Japan would be defeated, therefore Japan must do everything in their power to keep Russia out of the war?(A Guide To Gar Alperovitz’s The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb Part I 4). A recent study by the Joint Intelligence Committee shows that the Japanese political leaders recognized defeat and decided to surrender long before the bomb, but they were unable to convince the Die Hard Army Group that Japan had lost the war and must surrender. Another document from the Joint Intelligence Committee said that Russia’s entry into the war in August would and should have convinced the Japanese military leaders that they had no other choice but to surrender. After Joseph Stalin confirmed his entry into the war, President Truman wrote in his diary, ?Most of the big points are settled. He’ll be in the Jap war on August 15. Fini Japs when that comes about?(A Guide To Gar Alperovitz’s The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb Part III 3). This statement shows the confidence of the Americans regarding the easy defeat of the Japanese. It also makes it clear that Russia’s involvement in the war made the bombs totally unnecessary. Two days after making the above statement, Truman wrote a very ?exuberant?(A Guide To Gar Alperovitz’s The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb Part IV 2) letter to his wife saying, ?I’ve gotten what I came for?Stalin goes to war on August 15 with no strings on it. He wanted a Chinese settlement?and it’s practically made?In a better form than what I expected?I’ll say that we’ll end the war a year sooner now, and think of the kids who won’t be killed?(A Guide To Gar Alperovitz’s The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb Part I 5)! This again shows the confidence the Americans had in Japanese capitulation upon the Russian entry into the war and the lives they thought would be saved by it. One analyst observed that the Japanese Die Hards had been saying since 1941 that Japan could not fight Russia while fighting the United States and Britain at the same time.
The invasion of Manchuria showed how weak the Japanese army really was.
?The Soviet invasion of Manchuria on August 9 raised Japan’s military vulnerability to a very high level. The Soviet offensive ruptured Japanese lines immediately, and rapidly penetrated deep into the rear. Since the Kwangtung Army was thought to be Japan’s premiere fighting force, this had a devastating effect on the Japanese calculations of the prospects for home island defense. If their best forces were so easily sliced into pieces, the unavoidable implication was that the less well-equipped and trained forces assembled for [the last decisive home battle] had no chance of success against American forces that were even more capable than the Soviets? (Alperovitz 645-646).
After the Russian armies began cutting through the Japanese lines in Manchuria, Prime
Minister Susuki said, ?Is the Kwangtung army that weak? Then the game is
up?(Alperovitz 418). After the first bomb was dropped, Washington intercepted two
Japanese cables. One said, ?As a result of Russia’s entrance into the war, the empire, in
the 4th year of it’s [war] endeavor is faced with a struggle for existence of the nation.?
The other stated, ? You are well aware of the fact that as a final move toward the
preservation of the national structure [for example the Emperor and the Imperial System],
diplomatic negotiations have been opened.?unless the aforementioned condition is
fulfilled, we will continue the war to the bitter end?(Alperovtiz 418-419). The atomic
bomb was not mentioned or cited as a reason for surrender negotiations. The Japanese
Navy Chief of Staff said he thought the Russian entry did more to quicken the surrender
than the atomic bombs. Japanese Army Chief of Staff said, ?Since Tokyo was not directly
affected by the bombing, the full force of the shock was not felt.?in comparison, the
Soviet entry into the war was a great shock when it actually came?(Alperovtiz 645).
Herbert Feis said, ?I think it may be concluded that?the fighting would have continued
well into July, unless?the American and Soviet governments together had let it be
known that unless Japan laid down it’s arms at once, the Soviet Union was going to enter
the war?(A Guide To Gar Alperovitz’s The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb Part III
1). That, along with the promise to spare the Emperor, might have been enough for a
Japanese surrender. In comparison to the Soviet Entry, the atomic bomb had little or no
The Japanese would have surrendered if the terms of the Potsdam Proclamation had been clarified. The Japanese mentality required them to fight to the death if their Emperor was threatened in any way. When the United States issued the conditions for surrender, it was called an unconditional surrender. The Japanese could not accept this because they thought they would have to give up the Emperor. President Truman’s diary clearly shows that he knew the Japanese could not accept the Potsdam Proclamation. Many lives would have been saved if the U.S. had told the Japanese just what they meant by ?unconditional surrender.? President Truman was asked more than a dozen times to clarify the terms for surrender by the entire top echelon of the U.S. and British governments. Truman was told that the Japanese would not surrender unless they knew they could keep their Emperor. Truman was personally asked to clarify terms for surrender fourteen different times before he issued the Potsdam Proclamation. Three of the most important people he was asked by were Herbert Hoover; Mr. Stimson, the Secretary of War; and Winston Churchill. Henry R. Luce, publisher of ?Time? and ?Life? said, ??if instead of our doctrine of ?unconditional surrender,’ we had all along made our conditions clear, I have little doubt that the war with Japan would have ended soon without the bomb explosion which so jarred the Christian conscience? (A Guide To Gar Alperovitz’s The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb Part IV 7). The Japanese would have surrendered if the U.S. had sent the Japanese a simple message saying their Emperor would be in no way threatened if they surrendered.
The dropping of the bombs was also unnecessary because of the number of civilian casualties the bombs caused. Some people say that the bombs saved millions of American lives, but certain studies show that that is incorrect. A study done in 1985 shows that the most deaths that could possibly have occurred would have been no higher than 20,000, and it was likely for there to be no American deaths at all. At the same time Barton Bernstein, a member of the International Intelligence Committee, concluded that, ?It is fact that there would have been no casualties had the war ended before the November landing which was likely around July 1945?(A Guide To Gar Alperovitz’s The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb Part IV 3).
About 68 percent of Hiroshima was completely destroyed by the bombing, and another 24 percent was damaged. The Supreme Allied Headquarters reported that 129,558 people were killed, injured, or missing, and 176,987 were made homeless.
Hiroshima before the bomb Hiroshima after the bomb
About 280,000 civilians and 40,000 soldiers were living in Hiroshima when Little Boy struck the city with a force of 20,000 tons of TNT. Approximately 100,000 people died immediately in the blast or in the fire. Many others died weeks, month, or years later. Hiroshima had about 80,000 buildings at the time. 48,000 were completely destroyed and another 22,000 seriously damaged.
The chart shows the number of casualties with respect to the distance from the hypocenter. In a radius of about one mile nobody survived the explosion.
? 50% blast, destroying the buildings and killing people ? 35% heat, starting fires burning people ? 15% radiation, causing the long term effects
The pictures above illustrate the devastation caused by the atomic bombs.
Extremely high temperatures released by the explosion melted the glass bottles and burned the skin of the little boy. The picture of the boy above is just one person, but there were thousands of other civilians that had the same hideous fate.
There were other ways in which the United States could have used the bombs. Lewis L. Strauss said, ?The weapon [should have been] used in Japan over either an uninhabited area, or after a warning, over a sparsely inhabited area?. I thought this would demonstrate the power of the bomb fully as well as the destruction of a city without leaving the aftermath of resentment and grief that the employment of so dreadful a weapon would entail?(U.S. News Education Program 17). A better and more logical idea was to demonstrate the bomb by a harmless explosion over Tokyo at too high an altitude to do any damage, so everyone could see what could have been done. The idea of exploding the bomb over Tokyo was more logical. If it were exploded in an unpopulated area, no one would have really realized how devastating the bomb could be. If it were exploded over Tokyo, then everyone in the city, including all their major leaders, would have seen the bomb’s power and it’s effectiveness. Therefore everyone who saw the bomb would have been more inclined to surrender.
In conclusion, the United States should never have dropped the bombs on Japan because the strategic bombing was doing a good job in cutting off the Japanese supply lines, the Russians would have eventually caused the Japanese to surrender after they entered the war, the Japanese would have surrendered if the U.S. had told them specifically that they could keep their Emperor and Imperial System if they surrendered, and the bombs caused destruction that no nation deserves no matter what their previous actions were. In an interview with Governor James F. Byrnes by the U.S. News Education Program Governor Byrnes said, ??looking back and knowing what we do now about Japan’s military condition in August, 1945, we can see that we would have been victorious in the war with Japan without the great losses that the military had anticipated, and today the world would be a safer place in which to live.? The bomb was also a catalyst for the nuclear warfare of today. It’s possible that we would have never had a nuclear arms race or a cold war if the bombs had not been dropped. All these points clearly show that the decision to drop the bombs on Japan was the wrong one.
Alperovitz, Gar. The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb. New York: Harper Collins, 1982.
Stone, Scott C. S. ?Hell Came to Earth One Summer Day.? Cox 10 April. 1983 18.
?Was A-Bomb On Japan a Mistake?? U.S. News Education Program. 1975: 16-18.
?A Guide To Gar Alperovitz’s The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb, Part I.? 9pp.
Online. Integrity Online. 31 Jan. 2000. http://www.he.net/~douglong/guide1.htm.
?A Guide To Gar Alperovitz’s The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb, Part III.? 8pp. Online. Integrity Online. 31 Jan 2000. Http://www.he.net/~douglong/guide3.htm.
?A Guide To Gar Alperovitz’s The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb, Part IV.? 8pp. Online. Integrity Online. 31 Jan 2000. http://www.he.net/~douglong/guide4.htm.