Ethical Development in a Global Environment



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Ethical Development in a Global Environment


The United States, Japan, and the Atomic Bomb…

Past, Present, and Future



Professor Lusignan

December 5th, 2003
Megan Bordelon

Catalina Morris

Lindsey Regan

Dana Sorensen

A Rocky Relationship

The relationship between Japan and the United States of America properly began in 1853 with the arrival in Japan’s Uraga Bay of the black ships commanded by Commodore Matthew Perry, which was followed by the signing of the U.S.- Japan Treaty of Peace and Amity in 1854. As we mark the 150th anniversary of these events, one may question, in the history of the world, what other two nations that were engaged in war have so rapidly established so strong a partnership? Since their initial encounters to the present, overcoming various trials, Japan and the United States have strengthened exchange in all kinds of fields, including politics, economics, and culture, and forged the friendly and cooperative relations that exist today. Despite the fact that the international community has experienced drastic change and faced a variety of challenges, Japan and the United States have maintained a positive alliance due to their shared values of freedom, democracy, and a market economy. Though the two countries with such differences in history and culture currently have a friendship and basic trust in each other, their relationship in the first half of the 20th century was far from stable.

In 1905, President Roosevelt helped to end the Russo-Japanese War and persuaded Japan to drop its demand for war reparations. Months after, the United States recognized the Japanese control of Korea in return for Japan’s pledge not to get involved in the Phillippines. A decade later, many nations found themselves involved in the First World War. Japan joined the Allied powers, but played only a minor role in fighting German colonial forces in East Asia. President Wilson maintained that the United States would continue to take a neutral stance in the growing war. However, after events like the German U-boat’s attack on the U.S. ship Lusitania, and amidst a burst of patriotic fever, the United States entered the conflict in April of 1917 and joined Japan on the side of the Allied Powers. World War I resolved few of the problems that had caused it and served as a prelude to an even greater war a generation later. The United States was arguably the only nation to emerge from the conflict stronger than when it had entered it, and was now clearly the pre-eminent power in the world. However, Japan was in fact able to expand its influence in Asia and its territorial holdings in the Pacific. The postwar era brought Japan prosperity, and they went to the peace conference at Versailles in 1919 as one of the great military and industrial powers of the world and received official recognition as one of the “Big Five” of the new international order.

The period between WWI and WWII was a chaotic time for the world. For most of those in the civilized world, it seemed as if the majority of the trouble was arising from Europe. Germany and Italy were threatening the free world with their oppressive ideals, and had banded together for their mutual benefit. With Hitler leading the Nazis, and Mussolini leading the Fascists, the future of Europe was hanging in the balance. These problems, however, were not the only ones the world would have to deal with. In the Pacific, an alien and seemingly remote country, that until just under a century ago had been totally un-industrialized, was threatening its neighboring Asian countries. Using their powers of adaptation and an unconquerable spirit, Japan had forced themselves into being one of the most powerful nations in the world. They had seen what the world had to offer, and had “immersed themselves into becoming a force in the world instead of becoming a province of another world power. The nation they would become, in accordance to their method of borrowing outside concepts and re-conceiving them with a distinct Japanese identity attached, was heavily dependent on the interactions that they would experience with other nations” (Butler, p. 67). The actions taken by the Japanese in World War II were arguably a direct result of the relationship that had developed between the United States and Japan between WWI and WWII. The major events that shaped this relationship were the incidents occurring in China, instabilities within the Japanese government, and the actions taken by the United States towards Japan.



Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the fragile world established in the aftermath of WWI suffered a series of devastating economic, political, and military blows. Although actual fighting in WWII seemed inevitable for the Americans, there were actions taken by the United States to try to stay out of the conflict. The U.S. attempted to avoid conflict in the Pacific by allowing the Japanese to conquer some nations in Southeast Asia without any military defense. However, the relationship between the United States and Japan quickly took a turn for the worse. In early 1931, in reaction to Japan’s invasion of Manchuria four months prior, Secretary of State Henry Stimson announced that the U.S. would refuse to recognize any territorial acquisitions that violate American treaty rights. Japan’s seizure had violated the Kellog-Briand Treaty of 1928, which renounced aggression, as well as the nine-power Open Door Policy Pact of 1922 (Adams, p. 82). While most Americans anxiously watched the course of the European war, tension rose in Asia. Throughout the course of 1937, Japan went on to seize Peking, Tietnsin, Shanghai, and Nanking. In the process, they conducted devastating bombing raids during which American hospitals, missions and schools, though clearly marked, were often hit. Japan’s denial that it was at war with China gave U.S. President Roosevelt an excuse not to invoke the provision of the Neutrality Acts, which enabled America to provide arms to China (Daniel, et al., p. 134). In December of that year, Japanese aircraft bombed and sank the U.S. gunboat Panay on the Yangtze River as it was rescuing war-stranded Americans near Nanking. Although Japan apologized for the incident that killed two and wounded thirty, negative tension increased. The following year, Japan put the United States on notice that it no longer recognized the Open Door policy. Rejecting protests that American rights had been repeatedly violated, Tokyo asserted that the U.S. and other countries must recognize Japan’s “New Order” for East Asia. Taking advantage of an opportunity to improve its strategic position, Japan announced this new order in its attempt to exercise control over the entire Pacific. This move by Japan came in the wake of the U.S. State Department’s decision to impose a “moral embargo” on aircraft exports to Japan, which reportedly used American planes to bomb Canton the year prior. Battling for its survival against Nazi Germany, Britain was unable to resist Japan’s aggression, withdrawing from Shanghai and temporarily closing the Burma Road. By 1940, American ambassador to Japan Joseph C. Grew warned that further conciliatory measures towards Japan would be pointless and unwise, for relations between the countries were continually deteriorating (Adams, p. 97). However, the U.S. ignored this and went on to warn the Japanese against putting pressure on the Nichy government to grant Japan further bases on the northern part of French Indochina. Tokyo resented this warning, and eventually won permission from the weak Vichy government to use airfields in Indochina, and by September had joined the Rome-Berlin Axis. As a countermove, the United States imposed an embargo on export of oil and scrap metal to Japan, materials on which they were heavily dependent in its war with China. As expected, Japan was angry. It seemed that they might turn southward toward the oil, tin and rubber of British Malaya and the Dutch East Indies. In July 1941, the Japanese occupied the remainder of Indochina; the United States, in response, froze Japanese assets. Negotiations over the situation in the Far East appeared to have reached an stalemate and war in the Pacific seemed not just possible but likely. General Hideki Tojo became prime minister of Japan in October, and sent a special envoy to the U.S. in November to meet with Secretary of State Cordell Hull. Among other things, Japan demanded that the U.S. release Japanese assets and stop U.S. naval expansion in the Pacific. Hull countered with a proposal for Japanese withdrawal from China and Indochina in exchange for the freeing of the frozen assets. The Japanese asked for two weeks to study the proposal, but on December 1st rejected it. Due to the extreme gravity of the situation, Franklin Roosevelt personally appealed for peace directly to the Japanese emperor, Hirohito, on December 6th. The following morning, however, Japanese aircraft carrier-based planes attacked the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor in a devastating, surprise attack. Nineteen ships, including five battleships, and about 150 U.S. planes were destroyed; more than 2,300 soldiers, sailors, and civilians were killed. President Roosevelt consequently asked Congress to declare war on Japan, and received a unanimous Senate vote. In keeping with the terms of their Tripartite Pact, Germany and Italy responded by declaring war on the United States.

Much of America’s international behavior in the 1920s and 1930s had reflected a desire to insulate the U.S. from any possible future wars. In the end, however, the cautious, limited American internationalism of the inter-war years proved inadequate either to protect the interests of the U.S. or to encourage global stability. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor only confirmed what had been growing obvious for some time: that the U.S. was now so central to the affairs of the world that it could not remain isolated from its troubles.

The attack on the United States disarmed the appeal of isolationists and permitted quick military mobilization. As a result of Pearl Harbor and the fear of Asian espionage, Americans also committed an act of intolerance: the internment of Japanese-Americans. In February 1942, nearly 120,000 Japanese-Americans were removed from their homes and interned behind barbed wire in ten temporary camps, later to be moved to “relocation centers” outside isolated southwestern towns. However, the post-war shame Americans may experience as a result of the internment camps may fail in comparison to that which was caused by our most serious of acts—dropping two atomic bombs in the heart of Japan.

Dropping the Atomic Bomb


We have all seen the photo of the mushroom cloud of smoke rising up into the atmosphere, almost like a scenic painting, yet beneath that cloud lays a question that may never be answered. The United States decision to drop two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been a controversial topic, and was so even before the bombs hit the two Japanese cities. It has turned out to be a very interesting historical case to study. It marked the first time nuclear weapons were used in warfare, and caused the most destruction and death from a single blast. Not since Hiroshima and Nagasaki have we seen a nuclear weapon used during warfare, so why was it necessary to use then? We will never know the exact facts of why our government chose to completely destruct two cities, and kill hundreds of thousands of civilians, but what we can do is analyze the facts, and look at the research and make some sense of all the information that has been uncovered. The facts are clear and there is no argument about when and how the bombs were dropped, but when it comes to the reasons behind the decision there are points of view from both the government, and the scientists involved. The pictures, sociological studies, and interviews with people who had some involvement in the events on August 4th and 9th of 1945 tell a very interesting story with massive implications.

President Truman took office after the abrupt death of President Roosevelt in 1945. Shortly after his being sworn in, Truman learned of a top-secret governmental project that was more commonly known as ‘The Manhattan Project.” Truman had no previous knowledge that this project even existed, let alone its political and social implications. In 1939 Einstein and a few other scientists approached President Roosevelt with information regarding the possibility of developing an atomic bomb. One article headline from a newspaper in 1947 said “Einstein’s Letter prodded F.D.R into Atomic Race Oct 17, 1939.” The article goes on to say “foreign born scientists, in this country as refugees from Facism and Nazism, supplied Mr. Roosevelt with much of the information which motivated him in throwing this government into atomic research.” The scientists were later named in the article as Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard, and Einstein’s letter stated that experiments by Enrico Fermi and Leo Sziliard “led me to expect that uranium could be turned into energy, and that Germany had put an embargo on all exports of uranium from Czech when they invaded” (Blackwelder). After the bomb was dropped on Japan, the government made no secret of the fact that our country developed the bomb because of the possibility that Germany would have a nuclear weapon first. During the U.S. raid on Germany we destroyed all of their nuclear labs, resulting in no real threat of Germany using a nuclear weapon for a long time, so why did we continue with our nuclear weapon development?

Truman was the person who made the ultimate decision, but he was not necessarily the most informed person in the White House. Secretary of War Henry Stimson (1940 -1945) was one of the closest advisors to Roosevelt, and thus Truman, regarding the development and use of the atomic bomb. Two years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Stimson wrote an article to both the Washington Post and Harper’s Magazine addressing the decision to drop the bomb. Stimson was aiming to explain the government’s reasoning, and therefore clear both his name and the names of others involved in making the decision. As an essential player in the decision, the letter contains some definite biases because he can only speak from his side and because he may not have wanted to disclose the exact reasons why they dropped it for fear of negative responses from the American public. Stimson was faced with living with the decision to kill hundreds of thousands of people, so naturally he would want to defend his side.

Stimson’s initial discussions with Roosevelt outlined three important aspects of the atomic bomb question were “1.To suppress doubts that the bomb of this potential could be successful 2 .The implications of success in terms of its long range post war effects 3. The need for public statement upon first use of the weapon” (Dooman, Box 1). When Roosevelt died Truman was suddenly made aware of the power and potential destruction that this new weapon could cause, and a committee was appointed to advise the President on the bomb as it continued to be developed. The committee was termed the Interim Committee and included members of the government, including Henry Stimson, and was assisted by a scientific panel that was involved in building the bomb. The committee came up with three recommendations as a result of their discussions - “1. The bomb should be used against Japan as soon as possible 2. It should be used on a dual target - that is, a military installation or war plant surrounded by or adjacent to houses and other buildings most susceptible to damage 3. It should be used without prior warning of the nature of the weapon.” (Dooman, Box 1)

Stimson did talk about how the committee reviewed some other alternative options, such as using the bomb in a demonstration first, and scaring the Japanese into surrendering. “They were not likely to get Japan to surrender and involved serious risks. It would be devastating to drop a dud in a demonstration.” (Dooman, Box 1) Stimson also discussed why they felt such drastic measure was necessary for surrender and not just a series of bombs dropped, or a ground attack. “I felt that to extract a genuine surrender form the Emperor and his military advisors, they must be administered as a tremendous shock which would carry convincing proof of our power to destroy the Empire. Such an effective shock would save many times the number of lives, both American and Japanese, that this would cost.” (Dooman, Box 1) His point was that the Japanese showed some strength and could continue the fighting for a long period of time, possibly even years and thus cost millions of American lives. While the atomic bomb would kill hundreds of thousands of Japanese it would save lives on both sides in the long run. Stimson claimed that they had knowledge that Japan was showing a willingness to keep fighting and that they were not weakened enough to want to surrender. Stimson said that the Japanese still had 5,000,000 men and about 5,000 kamikazes to fight with.

Stimson closes his letter to the American public with his opinion and belief that the bomb was an effective tool in getting Japan to surrender under the terms that the Allies had wanted, saying “Our great objective was thus achieved, and all the evidence I have seen indicates that the controlling factor in the final Japanese decision to accept our terms of surrender was the atomic bomb.” (Dooman, Box 1) Immediately following this release to Harper’s Magazine and the Washington Post, many involved with the atomic bomb and those with knowledge on the state of Japan shot back with statements claiming that Stimson was not telling the whole truth, that Japan was ready to surrender, and that they were in fact seeking peace when the bomb was dropped.

In Stimson’s letter to Harper’s magazine he also includes a memorandum that he wrote to President Truman regarding the state of Japan and a proposed program for it. Nowhere in this memorandum does it discuss the actual possible use of the atomic bomb, but he does give some facts about what Japan had left.

“Japan has no allies. Her navy is nearly destroyed and she is vulnerable to a surface and underwater blockade that can deprive her of sufficient food and supplies for her population. She is terribly vulnerable to our concentrated attack upon her crowded cities, industrial and food resources. We have inexhaustible and untouched industrial resources to bring to bear against her diminishing potential.”
This excerpt from his memorandum raised a question: If Japan was so vulnerable and could be defeated by cutting off supplies and hitting their industrial resources, why did he think that the only way to get Japan to surrender was through a devastating and shocking atomic bomb? Many people involved, and many historians, have since asked themselves similar questions.

After the bomb was dropped, the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey sent its Morale division into Japan between the months of October and December to study the effects of the bombing. Dr. Alexander H. Leighton was one of the research leaders on the project, and later wrote an article in the April 20 - 26th 1947 issue of Science Service, in which he discussed Japan’s state prior to the bombing there. The article appeared just one month after Stimsons’s article was published in Harpers’s magazine. Leighton wrote the article from his eyewitness accounts and first hand interviews with survivors and other Japanese citizens. Leighton’s findings are in direct contrast to that of Stimson’s and after his studies came to the conclusion that the dropping of the bomb was unnecessary. “The essence of what I saw and heard was that Japan was on her last legs when the war ended. Morale, which began to ebb in the latter part of 1944, had reached an exceedingly low level by the early summer of 1945,” Dr. Leighton. (Dooman, Box 1). Leighton may have had some biases himself, given that he was in Japan after such a devastating weapon was used, and may have been very bothered by the effects and utter destruction that the bomb caused. In addition, he was only seeing the Japanese side of it, which in itself could also have been biased because they were obviously completely opposed to the use of the bomb. However, it is still important to look at his findings and take into account his perspective on the state of Japan. Further research led the bomb survey to conclude that the atomic bomb did not cause a weakening in morale, but rather the fighting in the islands of the coast of Japan did. “After the loss of Saipon, their Japanese morale began to disintegrate. The process was one in which an accumulation of prolonged war weariness, social unrest, increasing consumer shortages - especially food - and a succession of military reveres weakened the will to resist” (Dooman, Box 1). Leighton also pointed out in his article that the U.S. government was given information from the Strategic Bombing Survey in May of 1945 regarding the low morale and decreasing determination to fight. This may have increased his negative feelings about the bomb, knowing that the government ignored what his Strategic Bombing Survey indicated.

It is clear that Leighton and Stimson disagree in their opinions regarding the bomb. Both discuss important points from their first-hand experience, but in reading and assessing both sources it is necessary for us to remember that both have a bias prior to giving their explanations. Stimson will always want to believe that he was right, that the government did in fact make the right decision, and that they did not kill hundreds of thousands of Japanese for nothing. On the other hand Leighton had seen severe destruction and death in Japan, and understandably may have immediately formed an opinion opposing the bomb, therefore publishing research which supported that. While there are biases involved in both of these, each still provides a perspective on this issue that is important to evaluation of the event.

The Franck Report was a report of the committee on Political and Social Problems from Manhattan Project “Metallurgical Laboratory” at the University of Chicago, dated June 11th 1945. The committee consisted of scientists who were essential in developing the bomb. It was chaired by James Franck and included Leo Szilard, whose job it was to inform Roosevelt of the possibility of building a weapon like this and work with Einstein in getting the Manhattan Project under way. He was also one of the scientists who strictly opposed using the bomb in the war, especially on people. This report was given to the government on June 11, 1945, two months prior to the dropping of the bomb. It is important to realize that their opinions were decided before, rather than after, the fact. There was obviously a strong guilt complex over what they knew the bomb was capable of, which led them to come up with this report. Having worked on the bomb, they knew that if it were put to use they would feel at least somewhat responsible for the deaths, because they were the ones that built it.

In this report they go into detail about the political and social consequences of using nuclear weapons. They discuss how using the bomb in the war against Japan could hinder any future possibilities for an international peace agreement regarding nuclear weapons. It goes into detail over how using the bomb could have threatened U.S. security, because any other nation would eventually have the resources and ability to build nuclear weapons since it is impossible to keep the bomb plans secret, and that it is not possible to control all the resources that are necessary for building a bomb. It also offers suggestions about how to use the bomb in a way other than as a secret weapon and dropping it on a city in Japan. They claim that to preserve any possible nuclear arms peace agreements, the U.S. should drop the bomb on an uninhabited land for the United Nations and others to see, so that the rest of the world would realize the potential power that we have in our hands, and how there needs to be some kind of nuclear weapons peace agreement before any of these weapons are actually used on people. At the end of the report the committee gave their recommendation on what to do with the bomb,

“We believe that these considerations make the use of nuclear bombs for an early, unannounced attack against Japan inadvisable. If the United States would be the first to release this new means of indiscriminate destruction upon mankind, she would sacrifice public support throughout the world, precipitate the race of armaments, and prejudice the possibility of reaching an international agreement on the future control of such weapons.” (Franck Report)


The committee also addressed why they, the scientists, have worked to develop the bomb, but now advise against using it because they built it under the notion that Germany was working on a bomb for themselves. “The compelling reason for creating this weapon with such speed was our fear that Germany had the technical skill necessary to develop such a weapon without any moral constraints regarding its use.” (Franck Report)

Six days after the Franck report was released, four more scientists released their recommendation on the immediate use of nuclear weapons on June 16th 1945. This report discussed much of what the scientists on the Franck report had, but differed in that it advised use of the bomb. “Those who advocate a purely technical demonstration would wish to outlaw the use of atomic weapons, and have feared that if we use the weapons now our position in future negotiations will be prejudiced. Others emphasize the opportunity of saving American lives by immediate military use….We find ourselves closer to these latter views; we can propose no technical demonstration likely to bring an end to the war, we see no acceptable alternative to direct military use.” (Scientific Panel) They go on to say that while they have more insight and knowledge on the issue, they are not in the position to solve the political, social, and military problems.

Leo Szilard wrote a preliminary petition to the President on July 3, 1945, which was later rewritten into a broader version and submitted to the President on July 17, 1945. As discussed earlier, Szilard was one of the first scientists working on the project and played a crucial role in getting the ‘Manhattan Project’ under way. In interviews with Szilard, and through analyzing his writings, it is easy to tell that he felt most responsible for what eventually happened, and for being part of a weapon that killed so many civilians. Szilard explains how in the beginning of the project the only defense from atomic bombs was to build one of our own, but since that was no longer an immediate threat, the need for the bomb changed entirely. Szilard directly addressed the destructive capabilities of the weapon, which had been overlooked in the last two scientific recommendations. He states that “Atomic bombs are primarily a means for the ruthless annihilation of cities. Once they were introduced as an instrument of war it would be difficult to resist for long the temptation of putting it to use….Thus a nation which sets the precedent of using these newly liberated forces for purposes of destruction may have to bear the responsibility of opening the door to an era of devastation on an unimaginable scale.” (Szilard Petition, July 3, 1945) This petition was signed by 60 scientists from the Chicago project, and was delivered to the President through official channels, but it has never been verified that the President actually received the petition.

An interview that appeared in the U.S. News & World Report on August 15, 1960 featuring Leo Szilard, was titled “President Truman Did Not Understand”. This interview took place 15 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed, and as a result contained more of the after-the-fact opinion rather than what was exactly happening at that time. Szilard’s convictions against the bomb were most likely intensified after the bomb was dropped, and the devastation and the death toll numbers were released, especially once the world realized that the majority of victims were in fact civilians. The main point in this interview is to get a better or more in-depth understanding of the events that had occurred, and the feelings Szilard had, as well as the actions he took to voice his opposition.

When asked about the possibility of staging a demonstration of the bomb, Szilard replied: “It is easy to see in retrospect how an effective demonstration could have been staged. We could have communicated with Japan through regular diplomatic channels - and explained to the Japanese that we didn’t want to kill anybody, and therefore proposed that one city - say, Hiroshima - be evacuated. Then one single bomber would come and drop one single bomb…My point is that violence would have not been necessary if we had been willing to negotiate.” When asked about whether his views have changed since 1945, he responded: “Today I would put the whole emphasis on the mistake of not insisting on unconditional surrender. I would say that the confusion arose from considering the fake alternatives of either having to invade Japan or having to use the bomb against her cities.” Szilard later says that “there was no need to demand for unconditional surrender of Japan.” Szilard then gave his response to some of the comments that Stimson made in his article in Harper’s magazine. Specifically he responded to Stimson’s comment that a demonstration would have been impossible because they had no bombs to waste,” (Harper’s Magazine). Szilard claimed that this was invalid because while it was true that they only had the two bombs, “it would not have been necessary to wait very long before we would have had several more.” Whether Stimson had knowledge of this or not, is not known. Szilard made no comment on whether the government knew that the production of more bombs would be that quick.

These last three sources are a fairly reliable in understanding how a few of the scientists felt. They are all official documents that were once classified as secret, but have been opened up to the public for reading. The biases of each of them lay entirely in the hands of the authors of the documents, and not who published them. The different arguments between the Franck Report and the Scientific Panel’s Recommendation are very interesting because they oppose each other yet the people involved in both are similar in that they are all were scientists who built the bomb.

Before the U.S. dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they dropped leaflets on the cities warning them of the attacks to come. The leaflets contained some very questionable phrasing and were vague in the dates that they were actually dropped on. In the leaflet it asks the Japanese people to listen to what America has to say, and then goes on to say that “we are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised by man” (Larson, Clarence Folder ). In the next paragraph it goes on to say, “We have just begun to use this weapon on your homeland. If you still have any doubt, make inquiry as to what happened to Hiroshima when just one atomic bomb fell on the city.” But this is supposed to be the first leaflet dropped, and the Japanese people were supposed to evacuate their cities, but how were they supposed to evacuate Hiroshima if the bomb was already dropped? The leaflet then goes on to say “Before using this bomb to destroy every resource of the military by which they are prolonging this useless war, we ask that you now petition your Emperor to end the war.” According to a secondary source, these leaflets were dropped on Japan on August 7th, the day after the first atomic bomb. Then a second leaflet was dropped on Japan on August 9th, the day of the Nagasaki bombing, but it is believed that they didn’t reach Nagasaki until the 10th. So we only gave the Japanese people two or three total days to petition their Emperor to surrender so that another bomb would not be dropped and another city would not be destroyed. How they expected an entire country, or entire city, to petition their Emperor in just two days in very unclear. In the second leaflet it states that “Before we use this bomb again and again to destroy every resource of the military by which they are prolonging this useless war, petition the Emperor now to end the war.” (Larson, Clarence Folder 1) How are they supposed to petition the Emperor to avoid a second bomb when they don’t receive this warning until the day of the bombing? At the end of the second leaflet it says “Act now or we shall resolutely employ this bomb and all our other superior weapons to promptly and forcefully end the war.” How are they supposed to take any action if the bomb that they are supposed to be preventing has already destroyed them? Also, in both leaflets they say “evacuate your cities”, but that isn’t possible if the bomb has already been dropped.

From just examining the leaflets it seems that the U.S. intended on dropping both bombs and that they really just dropped the leaflets as a way of claiming that they warned Japan and that she still didn’t surrender. Essentially it is the government’s way of blaming the bombing on the Japanese people because they had a chance to surrender, and that they knew what would happen if they didn’t. The wording in the leaflet is very vague and doesn’t allow time for what they are asking of the Japanese people. The leaflets don’t really back up the statements by Stimson and the President which say that Japan had warning of what was to come if they didn’t surrender.

President Truman made the ultimate decision to drop the bomb, but it wasn’t just his decision. There were several close advisors to the President that all gave their input and who shared in the final decision, especially the Secretary of War Henry Stimson. However it is still important to look at Truman’s role in the whole process, because he did have some say. In Truman’s autobiography he says that the decision to drop the bomb was decided at the Potsdam Conference on July 26, 1947 (Harry S. Truman autobiography). During the conference the President received the message that the New Mexico test had been successful. On July 26th Japan was asked to make an unconditional surrender, and on July 28th, an announcement was made to the Japanese people that the surrender was denied. In his diary Truman wrote about the decision to drop the bomb, “this weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10. I have told the secretary of war Mr. Stimson, to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children.” (Truman Library Online) What ended up happening, which is a proven fact, is that the majority of the people that were hurt or killed were in fact civilians, including women and children. The diary of Truman is a useful source in helping us know what exactly it was that Truman was thinking at the time of the decision. However, as with Stimson, we must understand that whether it is a source from that time or an after the fact, he still has a bias in the event. Because he was the one who made the ultimate decision, and he is the one who has to live with its consequences, he will naturally be more likely to want to defend and justify his decision. However, diary entries from his Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission David Lilienthal lead us to believe that Truman had doubts upon seeing photographs of the destructions caused by the blasts. “You have got to understand that this isn't a military weapon. (I shall never forget this particular expression). It is used to wipe out women and children and unarmed people, and not for military uses”(Long). Truman gave another warning to the Japanese when he addressed the nation on August 9th. He said,“If Japan does not surrender, bombs will have to be dropped on her war industries and, unfortunately, thousands of civilian lives will be lost. I urge Japanese civilians to leave industrial cities immediately, and save themselves from destruction” (Truman autobiography). However, this speech was not delivered till after the bomb was dropped, another useless warning to the Japanese people that seemed to simply ease American minds.

Shortly after the bombing, political leaders gave their opinion on the decision. It must be noted that the opinions of these people came after the fact, as well as after seeing how devastating and horrific the bomb really was. Also they were aware of the fact that more civilians were killed than military which probably did not make them an advocate of the decision, but at the same time these are people who know a great deal about foreign affairs and their opinion is much more knowledgeable than an average person. Roosevelt and Truman’s Chief of Staff William Leahy: “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.” Stimson met with General Dwight Eisenhower to give him the facts about the possible usage of the bomb, and Eisenhower recalls his reaction from the conversation, “It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude” (Long).

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will never be forgotten. Debates will continue and arguments will occur, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t look through the research and read what was said, and examine the events that occurred and come to our own personal decisions. Hopefully the continuing research and the long running debates will keep nuclear weapons from being used and prevent the need for a decision such as this one.

Present-day Nuclear Weapons

After looking at the controversy surrounding the United States’ decision to drop the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki even before the bombs hit the two Japanese cities, it is important to see how this argument has progressed, especially with the debate over the spread of nuclear weapons. Throughout the 1990’s the international community has been in constant apprehension of what is to come as more and more countries are building nuclear weapons capabilities. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, four states (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakstan) inherited portions of the nuclear weapons arsenal. Also in 1991, after the Gulf War, we found that Iraq was very close to developing an arsenal as well before the Desert Storm attack. More countries such as Pakistan, South Africa, North Korea, Japan, Libya, Iran, Algeria and others are either know to be developing nuclear weapons or already have them. Thus, there is no way to deny that nuclear weapons are spreading to different countries and there will soon be a greater amount of nuclear states. Now what this will mean to the well-being of our world is the question. Although it seems that this could potentially lead us to disaster, there are many arguments stating that the spread of nuclear weapons will only make this world a more stable place. Two International Relations theorists—Kenneth N. Waltz and Scott D. Sagan respectively, present very convincing arguments for the opposing sides.

Kenneth N. Waltz’s argument of the positive effects of the spread of nuclear weapons is largely based around the idea of deterrence. When looking at what will prevent a state from attacking another there are two main paths to take. One is the defensive, which is building up forces in order to look too strong for another to take on. The other is deterrence, which is to “build retaliatory forces able to rain unacceptable punishment upon a would-be aggressor…deterrence is achieved not through the ability to defend but through the ability to punish” (Sagan & Waltz, p. 5). Waltz argues that no force could provide more of a punishment than nuclear forces. He argues if a country has second-strike capabilities no state will take the risk of attacking because of the fear of being attacked by a nuclear weapon themselves. Even if a state believes that they are more powerful in other factors than the one they want to attack, they won’t because the other state can still say that, “Although we are defenseless, if you attack we may punish you to an extent that more than cancels your gains” (p. 5). Thus, states will be less likely to attack another state for a small gain if the chance of a huge loss is possible.

The idea of Second-strike deterrence leads to the idea that, “nuclear weapons induce caution in any state, especially the weak ones (p.13).” Therefore, with more caution we can rely on states to make more rational decisions. With states working to make these rational decisions we will see less or no miscalculation. In order for states to make an attack, they must be completely sure that they know all the information in order to protect their state from devastation. With this in mind we see that, “few states have been radical in the conduct of their foreign policy, mainly because the mere offensive use of nuclear weapons multiplies uncertainties…Uncertainty about the course that a nuclear war might follow, along with the certainty that the destruction would be immense, strongly inhibits the first use of nuclear weapons” (p. 12-15). Thus, with the factor of nuclear weapons, there really is no way for any state to be certain of anything other than the fact that the outcome will be intense, which will hopefully prevent any nuclear attacks.

Nuclear weapons also puts states on even ground. A large nuclear arsenal is not much more beneficial than a small one, so even small states who can only finance a small arsenal are not put at a disadvantage. This also prevents huge arms races because there is really no large advantage to building up a states nuclear power. One worry that goes along with this argument though, is that if smaller weaker perhaps chaotic countries are able to get a hold of nuclear weapons, can we rely on them to act responsibly? The answer is that, “nuclear weapons require administrative and technical teams able to formulate and sustain programs of considerable cost that pay off only in the long run [and] the more unstable a government, the shorter the attention span of its leaders. [So], beneath what may be a chaotic political surface, a potential nuclear country, must have certain social-political equilibrium (p. 10-11).” What may seem like an irresponsible country must have some stability and intelligence in order to even produce and maintain a weapon of this sort.

These main arguments presented by Waltz seem logical but perhaps the most convincing factor is the world has been in a relatively peaceful state since 1945, which is a record for the longest period without a war between the major powers of the world. This is remarkable when considering all the changes that have occurred in the past half-century. When thinking about the Cold War we have to ask: What kept it “cold” and prevented it from getting hot? The most logical answer is nuclear weapons. The entire world saw the effects and the aftermath of the nuclear drops on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and made decisions in order to prevent such a tragedy from becoming a reality in their own country. The system of anarchy that the world exists under causes all states to act in a self-help manner, and the most important aspect to consider is security. Nuclear weapons have proven to be too great of a risk to this security.

Although Waltz’s argument is effective, it is important to look at the opposing arguments. Scott D. Sagan, a professor at Stanford University provides the opposing argument that the spread of nuclear weapons is potentially devastating. The first part of Sagan’s argument centers around the idea that “professional military organizations…display organizational behaviors that are likely to lead to deterrence failures and deliberate or accidental war (p. 51).” Many organizations have standard operating procedures and rules that govern their behavior rather than individual decisions relating to specific events. Thus, certain decisions could be made that do not reflect the rational thinking that should involve those concerned with nuclear weapons. Decisions are also biased, as countries also make decisions based on past experiences that narrow their view and do not gather information from all aspects. Sagan also states that, “complex organizations commonly have multiple, conflicting goals, and the process by which objectives are chosen and pursued is intensely political (p. 51).” Thus, at times actions are decided by portions of organizations rather than the organization as a whole unit.

The idea of the states being one rational actor also leads to Sagan’s second main point which is that “many nuclear armed states will lack the positive mechanisms of civilian control (Sagan & Waltz, p. 48).” Some states that have nuclear capabilities are either run by the military or the military has a very influential role in decision-making. In these counties where the military holds a crucial role, there are many clues that lead us to believe that military actors are much more inclined to work offensively and launch a preemptive strike to protect their country rather than to be hesitant and act defensively against other states. Sagan states that, “military officers, because of self-selection into the profession and socialization afterwards, are more inclined than the rest of the population to see war as likely in the near term and inevitable in the long run (p. 54).” With this belief that war is coming in the near future their logic is that they should get the advantage of making the first move and work offensively rather than defensively. Many military officers are also short-sighted, and focus on what they are able to achieve in the short run, rather than look at the long term consequences of their actions. These views will continue if we look at the fact that, “organizational learning tends to occur only after failures (p. 65).” When dealing with nuclear weapons there is a large chance that there will not be a learning and revising period. The launch of a nuclear weapon has a very high possibility of leading countries to a fatal end.

The idea of second-strike capabilities when examined closely also seems to produce some problems. Nuclear capabilities are supposed to deter “rational” states from striking because of the possibility of a second strike, but if the deterrence happens to fail, how is it a rational decision to launch a counter attack. By launching a counter attack and retaliating, “one may prompt the enemy to unleash more warheads (p. 23).” Therefore, the concept of rationality takes on a whole new meaning. “A ruthless aggressor may strike believing that the leaders of the attacked country are capable of following such a “rational” line of thought. To carry out the threat may be “irrational” (p. 23).” So by looking at rationality from a different angle we see that second strike capabilities are perhaps meaningless, if all actors are rational.

Sagan’s argument although very convincing in content does have this half century of peace working against his argument. He acknowledges this fact and says that “this should be a cause of celebration and wonder; it should not be an excuse for inaction with either arms control or nonproliferation policies. The superpowers’ experience with nuclear weapons in the cold war was like walking across thin ice (p. 87).” So, although it seems as though Waltz’s argument has more actual facts to base it on, time will tell what nuclear weapons actually mean for the well-being of the world.




The United Nations & Nuclear Disarmament

In light of the immense destructive capabilities of nuclear weapons, countries around the world have joined to avoid further destruction caused by such powerful weaponry. In recent years more attention has been paid to the issue of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons as more countries gain the resources and desire to own their very own nuclear weapons. In January 1998, the Department for Disarmament Affairs (DDA) of the United Nations was re-established, after having been originally established in 1982 and disbanded in 1992. The DDA’s purpose is to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation; along with pushing forward other disarmament plans concerning chemical, biological, and conventional weaponry. The DDA’s responsibility also falls upon supporting the disarmament and demobilization of participants in a conflict once the fighting has ceased. The DDA also helps them re-enter civil society. Along with these activities, the DDA puts much of its resources into supporting motivated bodies working towards disarmament.

Within the Department for Disarmament Affairs exists the Weapons of Mass Destruction Branch. Weapons of mass destruction are nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. This Branch of the UN focuses on supporting UN activities involving weapons of mass destruction, along with providing the Secretary-General, Member States, and the international community with up-to-date information on existing and possible threats of the use of weapons of mass destruction. They are responsible in knowing the latest advancements and news on all weapons of mass destruction. In order to efficiently achieve its goals, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Branch must cooperate with other agencies and bodies associated with the UN.

One prominent body active in the issue of nuclear disarmament is the Conference on Disarmament (CD), a yearly international forum dedicated to achieving disarmament goals and other related objectives involving weapons of mass destruction. The CD was established in 1979 for the international community to meet and negotiate disarmament policies and actions. Presently there are sixty-six countries partaking in the CD, with many others showing interest in becoming involved in the Conference. The following is a list of the current countries listed as Member States in the Conference:

Algeria Germany Peru

Argentina Hungary Poland

Australia India Republic of Korea

Austria Indonesia Romania

Bangladesh Iran, Islamic Russian Federation

Republic of

Belarus Iraq Senegal

Belgium Ireland Slovakia

Brazil Israel South Africa

Bulgaria Italy Spain

Cameroon Japan Sri Lanka

Canada Kazakhstan Sweden

Chile Kenya Switzerland

China Malaysia Syrian Arab Republic

Colombia Mexico Tunisia

Cuba Mongolia Turkey

Democratic People’s Morocco Ukraine

Republic of Korea

Democratic Republic Myanmar United Kingdom of Great Britain

of Congo and Northern Ireland

Ecuador Netherlands United States of America

Egypt New Zealand Venezuela

Ethiopia Nigeria Viet Nam

Finland Norway Yugoslavia

France Pakistan Zimbabwe
All of these countries play a major role in deciding on measures to solve current-day issues. At the top of the CD’s agenda list in 2002 was the termination of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament, followed by the prevention of nuclear war. Nuclear war is still a live threat to all those living in today’s world. In the 2002 Conference session no specific actions were decided on, but the countries support in finding solutions to increasingly threatening issues was reaffirmed and dates were planned for the 2003 session.

There are other pressing issues on the CD’s agenda other than the two mentioned above, including the prevention of an arms race in outer space, international agreements to guarantee the safety of non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, an approach to new types of weapons of mass destruction, and a detailed plan of disarmament. All of these matters hope to better control the use of weapons of mass destruction, (mostly nuclear weapons), and ensure that no rash decisions will be made without the consent of the rest of the world. After the world witnessed the effects of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is obvious that no country wants a nuclear weapon dropped on one of their own cities.

Over the years, the CD and its predecessors have negotiated two landmark treaties that have affected the use and spread of nuclear weapons in our world today. These two treaties are the force behind the CD that binds member states to act as stated in the treaties concerning decisions involving nuclear weapons. The first is the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), effective on March 5, 1970. This treaty strives to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons information, to support international collaboration in peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to move forward towards entire nuclear and general disarmament. Nuclear weapon and weapon technology containment is monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is responsible for conducting inspections. According to UN sources, “more countries have ratified the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement, a testament to the Treaty’s significance.” (Weapons)

The second landmark treaty is the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). This treaty was open for signature in September of 1996, and is not yet in force. The Treaty bans any and every type of nuclear explosions, for any reason at all.

Recently, Iran has violated the NPT by not accounting its attempts to enrich uranium, but according to the Director General of IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, Iran is already taking steps to correct its mistake. Instances like this will continue to occur as non-nuclear countries strive to level the playing field with nuclear countries. In order to prevent living in a world where every country owns the destructive power of nuclear weapons, world cooperation must flourish in organizations and treaties such as those currently existing due to UN efforts. If all goes as intended and countries look towards a more peaceful future, nuclear development will be monitored and finally ceased, while keeping in sight an ultimate goal of complete nuclear disarmament.

Works Cited


Atomic Bomb: Decision – documents on the decision to use atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. http://www.dannen/decision/ includes the following documents: “Leo Szilard Interview: President Truman Did Not Understand” from U.S. World News & Report, August 15, 1960; “Recommendations on the Immediate Use of Nuclear Weapons, June 16, 1945, by the Scientific Panel of the Interim Committee; “Szilard Petition, First Version, July 3, 1945.”; “Truman Speech, August 9, 1945 (excerpt)”.
.Adams, M. America & World War II. (1994)

Agnew, Harold Melvin. Motion Picture Film, 1945. Explosion of atom bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hoover Institution Archives, 1 reel.


Blackwelder, Richard E. Clippings from, 1945 – 1950., Relating to the development of atomic bomb. Hoover Institution Archives, 1 box.
Butler, P. History of the First World War. (1985).

Capp, Robert L. Papers, 1943 – 1998, sound recording of interview/photograph relating to the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. Hoover Institution Archives, 1 box.


Daniel, C., Kirshon, J., & Berens, R. Chronicle of America. (1997)

Dooman, Eugene H. Papers, 1918 – 1973. Speeches and writings, correspondence, diaries, and printed matter, relating to American Foreign Policy in the Far East, Japanese – American relations, the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, and Allied policy regarding the occupation of Japan. Hoover Institution Archives, 2 ms. Boxes, 1 envelope.


Hiroshima – Nagasaki Publishing Committee. Motion Picture Film, 1982. Atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, 1945. Hoover Institution Archives, 2 reels.
Larson, Clarence E. Leaflets, 1945. Leaflets dropped on Japanese cities in conjunction with atomic bombing. Hoover Institution Archives, 1 folder.
Long, Doug “Hiroshima: Harry S. Truman Diary and Papers” and “Random Ramblings” with diary excerpts from David Lilienthal, “Hiroshima: Who Disagreed with the Atomic Bombing.”
Sagan, Scott D. and Kenneth N. Waltz. The Spread of Nuclear Weapons. (2003)

Truman, Harry S. The Autobiography of Harry S. Truman. (1980)



Weapons of Mass Destruction Branch Department for Disarmament Affairs. http://disarmament2.un.org/


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