Justification for the Use of Atomic Bombs in WWII
World War II is the only time in the history of the Earth that nuclear weapons were used. On June 6, 1945, World War II became a nuclear war. Three days later, a second nuclear weapon was used. Warfare was transformed forever because of the atomic bombs. Countless lives were either taken, or changed forever on those two days. How could something so devastating be justified in ending the war? How could this save lives?
Beginning in 1941, in the middle of the Second World War, a program was created under the code name “The Manhattan Project”. The Manhattan Project was a top-secret program with the primary goal of developing the first atomic bomb for use in the war. According to Edward Condon, a nuclear physicist who participated in the Manhattan Project, the atomic structure studies which were conducted in the early 1900’s were public. The information was available to other nations, not just the United States. Other nations had the scientists capable of developing a similar weapon of mass destruction. If the United States did not act, then how long would it be before Japan developed a bomb of their own? Japan had been gaining territory before the war broke out and had been advancing rapidly. The United States simply could not know if or how much progress had been made by Japan on developing a WMD of their own. Over 100,000 Chemists and Physicists spread throughout the United States began working on the development of the atomic bomb. The Manhattan Project was approved during the Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. However, the final decision to use the atomic bomb came under the Presidency of Harry Truman following Roosevelt’s death. The choice to drop the atomic bomb came as the European Theater came to an end following Germany’s surrender. However, the Pacific Theater was just heating up. The committee that Truman assembled to decide whether or not to use the bomb had mixed feelings about what to do. Some were for it, some were against it. In the end, the decision was made to go forth with using the atom bomb on Japan. After deciding that the atomic bombs were necessary to end the war, the next question was where to drop them? The United States had bombed 37 different Japanese cities. Many of those cities were completely destroyed. The scientists behind the Manhattan Project did not fully understand the true power of the atom bomb. The bomb was tested only once before it was used. The test came in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in what is now known as the infamous “Area 51”. The test took place only a few weeks before the bomb was first used against Japan. Deciding where to detonate the bombs was the next step in the process. The United States wanted to use it against a city that had not been devastated. They wanted this so that the scientists could understand the true power that the bombs possessed. The test conducted at Los Alamos could not possibly show the pure devastation that the bomb was capable of. Also, the United States wanted to use it on a military city. Fires broke out, the remaining buildings collapsed. Those who were not vaporized instantly from the explosion were going through a living hell as a majority of their body was burned or their bones were broken. An estimated 66,000 people were killed from the bomb at Hiroshima while another 69,000 were injured. The bomb dropped at Nagasaki killed an estimated 39,000 and left another 25,000 injured. While the bomb on Nagasaki was only about half as devastating, the total from the two is staggering. Almost 200,000 people were either hurt or killed between the two bombs. This was viewed as the only way to end the war in the Pacific Theater without forcing the United States to fully invade Japan.
The problem with the atomic bomb is that the scientists did not fully understand what the bomb was capable of. The tests were rushed at Los Alamos, and after seeing that it worked, the bomb was deemed ready for use. A small, mock town was built at the test range to see the damage produced. However, this did not even come close to showing what would happen if the bomb was dropped on an actual city with real people in it. Not just mannequins. The true field test did not come until June 6th, when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. It was inhumane and morally wrong to do this without knowing the bomb’s real power. The scientists knew that radiation was going to come from the bombs; however, they did not know of the long-lasting genetic effects that was going to come from this. To this day, Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb has remained highly controversial. Some believe that Truman was a racist and simply did not like the Japanese and other Asians. Others believe that it was about revenge, to get back at the Japanese for the destruction they caused by bombing Pearl Harbor in 1941. When asked, Truman proclaimed that it was to end the war early. However, this cannot be proven. All that can be certain is that because of this, Truman gained the nickname “The Butcher of Asia”. Truman will always be in history as the first president to authorize the use of a nuclear weapon in warfare.
I believe that the other side of the argument is a bit more compelling. When the atomic bomb was first in development, the war in the Pacific was just getting started. There was no end in sight. The Japanese military were trained to fight to the death, literally. They would not stop fighting until they were killed. The United States had used the tactic of island hopping to make their way through the islands surrounding Japan. Eventually, the United States were right on Japan’s doorstep. Two options were presented to the United States. One was to launch a full scale invasion of Japan. An invasion which would cost the U.S. military countless numbers of lives and prolong the war indefinitely. The other option was to prepare to use a weapon of mass destruction, which was under development, against Japan. The use of the atomic bomb would likely end the war. This would save both American and Japanese lives. The number of lives lost in the Pacific Theater were on a pace to pass the lives lost in the European Theater. The only nations involved in the Pacific Theater were Japan and the United States. No one was coming to the aid of the Americans. The right choice seemed to be to use the atomic bomb against a military area in Japan. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki emerged as two locations to use them against. The cities were military installations; however, there were still civilians in the area. Finally, on June 6, 1945, the atomic bomb named “Little Boy was dropped over Hiroshima. After detonation, a mushroom could rose up through the air. The city was reduced to rubble. Three days later, on June 9, 1945, “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki. The fighting dropped dramatically in the weeks and few months following the detonation of the atomic bombs. Finally, on August 14, 1945, the world was told of Japan’s surrender. Known as V-J Day (Victory in Japan Day), World War II was over. All fighting had stopped. The atomic bombs put an end to the ruthless tactics of the Japanese military and to the brutal and bloody combat that occurred in the Pacific Theater.
No one will ever know what Truman’s true intentions were with his decision. This debate all boils down to one’s own opinion on the issue at hand. The evidence and documents are out there that show each side thoroughly. According to Nick Hankoff, writer for Voices of Liberty, initially, 85% of Americans supported the use of the atomic bomb. Today, roughly 74% of Republicans and 52% of Democrats agree that the use of the atomic bomb was justified. After my research, I stand by my decision that using the atomic bomb was the right move for the United States. This decision crippled the Japanese and put them into submission. The atomic bombs caused a military, that literally would fight to the death, to put down its arms and wave the white flags of surrender.