WWII Atomic Bombs
When the atomic bomb went off over Hiroshima on Aug. 6th, 1945, 70,000 lives were ended in a flash. To the
American people who were weary from the long and brutal war, such a drastic measure seemed a necessary,
even righteous way to end the madness that was World War II. However, the madness had just begun. That
August morning was the day that heralded the dawn of the nuclear age, and with it came more than just the loss
of lives. According to Archibald MacLeish, a U.S. poet, What happened at Hiroshima was not only that a
scientific breakthrough . . . had occurred and that a great part of the population of a city had been burned to
death, but that the problem of the relation of the triumphs of modern science to the human purposes of man had
been explicitly defined. The entire globe was now to live with the fear of total annihilation, the fear that drove the
cold war, the fear that has forever changed world politics. The fear is real, more real today than ever, for the
ease at which a nuclear bomb is achieved in this day and age sparks fear in the hearts of most people on this
planet. According to General Douglas MacArthur, We have had our last chance. If we do not devise some
greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The decision to drop the atomic bomb on
Japanese citizens in August, 1945, as a means to bring the long Pacific war to an end was justified-militarily,
politically and morally.
The goal of waging war is victory with minimum losses on one’s own side and, if possible, on the enemy’s side.
No one disputes the fact that the Japanese military was prepared to fight to the last man to defend the home
islands, and indeed had already demonstrated this determination in previous Pacific island campaigns. A
weapon originally developed to contain a Nazi atomic project was available that would spare Americans
hundreds of thousands of causalities in an invasion of Japan, and-not incidentally-save several times more than
that among Japanese soldiers and civilians. The thousands who have died in the atomic attacks on Hiroshima
and Nagasaki were far less than would have died in an allied invasion, and their sudden deaths convinced the
Japanese military to surrender.
Every nation has an interest in being at peace with other nations, but there has never been a time when the
world was free of the scourge of war. Hence, peaceful nations must always have adequate military force at their
disposal in order to deter or defeat the aggressive designs of rogue nations. The United States was therefore
right in using whatever means were necessary to defeat the Japanese empire in the war which the latter began,
including the use of superior or more powerful weaponry-not only to defeat Japan but to remain able following
the war to maintain peace sufficiently to guarantee its own existence. A long, costly and bloody conflict is a
wasteful use of a nation’s resources when quicker, more decisive means are available. Japan was not then-or
later-the only nation America had to restrain, and an all-out U.S. invasion of Japan would have risked the victory
already gained in Europe in the face of the palpable thereat of Soviet domination.
Finally, we can never forget the maxim of Edmund Burke: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that
good men do nothing. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought us into a war which we had vainly hoped
to avoid. We could no longer do nothing but were compelled to do something to roll back the Japanese
militarists. Victims of aggression have every right both to end the aggression and to prevent the perpetrator of it
from continuing or renewing it. Our natural right of self defense as well as our moral duty to defeat tyranny
justified our decision to wage the war and, ultimately, to drop the atomic bomb. We should expect political
leaders to be guided by moral principles but this does not mean they must subject millions of people to
needless injury or death out of a misplaced concern for the safety of enemy soldiers or civilians.
President Truman’s decision to deploy atomic power in Japan revealed a man who understood the moral issues
at stake and who had the courage to strike a decisive blow that quickly brought to an end the most destructive
war in human history. Squeamishness is not a moral principle, but making the best decisions at the time, given
the circumstances, is clear evidence that the decision maker is guided by morality.
The atomic bomb was considered a quick and even economical way to win the war; however, it was a cruel
and unusual form of punishment for the Japanese citizens. The weapon that we refer to as quick was just the
opposite. On one hand, it meant a quick end to the war for the United States, and on the other hand, a slow and
painful death to many innocent Japanese. According to a book called Hiroshima Plus 20 the effects of radiation
poisoning are horrific, ranging from purple spots on the skin, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, bleeding from the
mouth, gums, and throat, weakened immune systems, to massive internal hemorrhaging, not to mention the
disfiguring radiation burns. The effects of the radiation poisoning continued to show up until about a month after
the bombing. In fact the bomb also killed or permanently damaged fetuses in the womb. Death and destruction
are always a reality of war; however, a quick death is always more humanitarian.
When this powerful nation called the United States dropped the bomb, we sent out the official go ahead for the
rest of the world that nuclear weapons were a viable means of warfare. We unofficially announced that it was
O.K. to bomb women, children, and elderly citizens. The thought that atomic weapons are needed to keep the
peace is exactly the idea that fueled the cold war. Albert Einstein said in a speech, The armament race
between the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R., originally supposed to be a preventative measure, assumes hysterical
character. On both sides, the means of mass-destruction are perfected with feverish haste . . . The H-bomb
appears on the public horizon as a probably attainable goal. Its accelerated development has been solemnly
proclaimed by the president.
In short, according to Hiroshima Plus 20, by now, the military has at least 50, 000 nuclear warheads in storage
and ready with a handful of people in charge of them. In the words of James Conant, President of Harvard, The
extreme dangers to mankind inherent in the proposal wholly outweigh any military advantage.
Has the atomic bomb introduced the fear of total annihilation …that has forever changed world politics? That
seems to be the main point of the argument against dropping the atomic bomb on Japanese cities in August,
1945. Yet this judgment completely abstracts from the concrete circumstances in which the decision was
made-a world exhausted by war; an implacable, cunning and ruthless enemy; hundreds of thousands of
casualties in an allied invasion of Japan; permanent strategic considerations; and the like. In other words, the
reply fails to meet the argument for dropping the bomb and changes the subject from the immediate decision to
the long-term consequences of the decision.
But even if one grants the point about fear of annihilation, it is not clear that the world has fundamentally changed
nor that the whole world is always in danger of nations from time immemorial. For example, ancient Rome
sacked Carthage, plowed it under and salted the earth. Medieval and modern religious wars have annihilated
millions. More recently, there was Hitler’s genocidal six-million-death final solution to the Jewish problem, and
the Communists’ ten of millions of mass murders continue to this day. All this has been done without benefit of
Gen. MacArthur’s comments came at the beginning of the atomic or nuclear age, and while the source and the
judgment deserve respect, experience has shown that nuclear power in Western hands deterred a third world
war and ultimately caused the collapse of the greatest threat to world peace since World War II, namely, the
Soviet Union. But even during the much-decried arms race of the Cold War years, both East and West refined
their crude nuclear technology to suit the requirements of waging war, e.g. targeting the enemy’s missiles,
aircraft and submarines, rather than putting all their eggs in the nuclear annihilation basket. War is a terrible
thing but the fear of annihilation will curb even the greatest tyrants’ bloodlust.
In short, fear is part of the human condition and those peaceful nations which learn to live with the destructive
potential of nuclear power are capable of great good. Great evil is more likely to be the result of unchecked
nuclear power in hands of lawless nations. As ever, peace and safety depend upon military power being in the