The United States' Decision to Use Atomic Bombs Against Japan

Audrey Ng Society and History: Making of the Modern World Australia World War II Research Essay 2013 Question 4: Discuss the issues surrounding the United States’ decision to use atomic bombs against Japan. What motives were behind this action, and what arguments have been made against it? “I wonder if I can ever have children in the future. ” – Words written from a young girl exposed to radiation from the A-bomb – Nagasaki. Hiroki Sato and Kentaro Okada. (-). A-Bomb Radiation Sickness, 14 May 2013 <http://www. japantimes. co. p/news/2013/05/13/national/a-bomb-survivor /#. UZIEcfBArIU. > During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted the atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On August 6, 1945, the United States B-29 bomber dropped the first atomic bomb intended for the purposes of attack. Ironically dubbed as ‘Little Boy’, the bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima instantly killing approximately 80,000 people. Three days later, on 9 August, a second bomb, ‘Fat Man’, was descended on Nagasaki killing 40,000 people.

Shortly after successfully testing history’s first atomic explosion in New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, the order to drop the atomic bomb on Japan was issued on July 25. The decision to drop these bombs was influenced by the order of US President, at the time, Harry Truman. The two events are the only examples of use of nuclear weapons in war to date and this is because of the horrendous outcome and consequences that were inflicted on Japan, as well as the United States. In the years that the two atomic bombs were dropped, Revisionists have concluded that the use of the weapons had a ‘two-pronged objective’.

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The Revisionists are the historians attempting to revise common perceptions of history, proposing alternative theories and motives. The first intention was to bring the war with Japan to an end; solely a military purpose. This allowed the United States to avoid a conventional invasion of the Japanese mainland and the extraordinary amount of cost in terms of Japanese and American lives. The Revisionists, however, believe that Truman had the objective for more than military reasons. The most common theory of motive mentioned was that it would punish Japan for the attack on Pearl Harbour (1941).

Another reason would be that an atomic bombing of Japan would be the only thing that could justify the expense of the Manhattan Project (1941). Truman would have faced a Congressional inquiry into the misappropriation of $2 billion; the money used to financially support the Manhattan Project. Not only did he want to avoid Congressional hearings, but he also wanted another term of office. His chances of reelection would have been nil if it was learnt that he wasted money and time by shelving a weapon that could have ended the war more quickly. This was a main drive that caused Truman to propel the manufacturing of the bombs.

The second objective was to prove to the world the power and destruction of the new weapons that was in their possession only. Revisionists contend that Truman had ulterior motives in the dropping of the atomic bombs to establish dominance. On August 2, 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt received the Einstein–Szilard Letter in which the fames scientists encouraged the United States to develop nuclear weapons lest Nazi Germany create them first. Spurred by this, Roosevelt authorized the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) to explore nuclear research.

On June 28, 1941, he signed Executive Order 8807 which created the Office of Scientific Research and Development with American engineer, inventor and science administrator Vannevar Bush as the head and director. To directly address the need for nuclear research, the NDRC formed the S-1 Uranium Committee. The S-1 Uranium Committee succeeded Lyman Briggs’ Briggs Advisory Committee on Uranium which later evolved into the Manhattan Project. The S-1 Committee held its first formal meeting on December 18, 1941, only days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Pearl Harbor attack was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. The attack was intended as a preventive action in order to keep the US Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States. Initially dubbed ‘Development of Substitute Materials, the project was latter re-designated the ‘Manhattan District’ on August 13.

During the summer of 1942, the project was led by Colonel James Marshall. Marshall searched appropriate sites for amenities but was unable to secure the needed priority from the US Army. Frustrated by a lack of progress, Bush had Marshall replaced by newly-promoted Brigadier General Leslie Groves. Work on the design and functioning of the bomb itself was largely theoretical, based on fundamental experiments carried out at a number of different locations. In that year, a laboratory directed by J. Robert Oppenheimer was created at Los Alamos, New Mexico.

This laboratory had to develop methods of reducing the fissionable upshot of the production plants to pure metal and formulate the metal to required shapes. Methods of briskly bringing together amounts of fissionable material to achieve a supercritical mass, and, therefore, a nuclear explosion, had to be devised, along with the actual construction of a deliverable weapon that would be dropped from a plane and fused to detonate at the precise and wanted time. The first atomic bomb was exploded at 5. 30 AM on July 16, 1945, at a site on the Alamogordo air base south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The explosion came as an intense light flash, a sudden wave of heat, and later, a tremendous roar as the ferocious wave passed and echoed in the valley. ”A ball of fire rose rapidly, followed by a mushroom cloud extending to 40, 000 feet. The following month, two other atomic bombs produced by the project, the first uranium-235 and the second using plutonium, were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Formed in April 1945, Groves formed the Target Committee chaired by himself and included his deputy, Brigadier General Thomas Farrell; scientists John von Neumann, William C.

Penney and Robert R. Wilson from the Manhattan Project; and members of the United States Army Air Forces Colonel William P. Fisher, David M. Dennison and Joyce C. Stearns. The Committee originally elected four main targets in Japan: Kokura, the site of one of Japan’s largest military capability plants; Hiroshima, an embarkation port and industrial center that was the site of a major military headquarters; Niigata, a port with industrial facilities including steel and aluminum plants and an oil refinery; and Kyoto, a major industrial center. The target election was subject because each city was important in a large urban area, the blast would prove to create an effective damage and because the targets were considered ‘virgin targets’ meaning that they had been generally untouched by the war and the first military bomb attack needed to be “sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized when publicly released”. The need for the bomb to convey the power of the United States as dominant to the public was a strong motivation. The Allies of World War II prepared for an invasion by Japan.

Although the war in Europe ended when Nazi Germany signed their surrender on May 8, the Pacific War continued. The United Sates, along with the United Kingdom and the Republic of China, called for a surrender of Japan in the Potsdam Declaration. On July 6, 1945, the Potsdam Declaration was issued by the Allied leaders. United States President Harry S. Truman, United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Chairman of the Nationalist Government of China, Chiang Kai-shek, issued the document outlining the terms of surrender for the Empire of Japan as agreed upon at the Potsdam Conference which was held in Potsdam, Germany.

Presented as an ultimatum, it stated that without surrender, the Allies would attack Japan. On July 28, it was reported that the declaration had been rejected by the Japanese Government. Prime Minister Suzuki Kantaro intended to ignore it. Threatened with ‘prompt and utter destruction’ the choice to ignore the ultimatum in the Potsdam Declaration resulted in the United States’ act to deploy two nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The refusal of Japan to comply with the Potsdam Declaration is shown as another motive. The United States felt like they needed to force Japan’s surrender and that the atomic bomb would confirm this.

Through this bombing, they also saw the established dominance that would be associated with them because of the effect of power that the bomb owned. During the 1960s, however, it has been said that the United States’ decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had little influence over the ending of the rivalry with Japan. Japan was effectively defeated by 1945, however the US wanted to examine the destructive powers of the bombs and the effect that it would have on a populated area. This is so because the United States were seeking intimidation over the Soviet Union to end the Pacific War before the

Russians became too heavily involved in East Asia. Although Japan was seen as being defeated, Truman still continued with the dropping of the A bomb. The acute effect of the bombing killed 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000–80,000 in Nagasaki, with roughly half of the deaths in each city occurring on the first day. The main causes of death on the day the bomb was dropped were from flame or flash burns and falling debris from the structures besieging the populated areas. During the following months, large numbers died from the effect of burns and radiation illness.

Radiation sickness is a medical condition caused by overexposure to emissions from radioactive material. The bomb was dropped on the city centre of Hiroshima; an area crowded with wooden residential structures and places of business. These factors meant that the death toll and destruction in Hiroshima was horrifically high. The geographical damage result was massive as the fires caused by the bombings ultimately destroyed roughly thirteen square kilometers (five square miles) of the city. Almost 63% of the buildings in Hiroshima were completely damaged and nearly 92% of the structures in the city had been ruined by the blast and fires.

Released over the city at approximately 8:15am, Little Boy fell for fifty-seven seconds before detonating at the predetermined height of 1900 feet with a blast equivalent to 13-15 kilotons of TNT. Aboard the B-29 Super fortress Enola Gay, ‘Little Boy’ created a vicinity of flame and destruction. Its use was quickly followed three days later when ‘Fat Man’, an implosion plutonium bomb, fell on Nagasaki. Generating a blast equivalent to 21 kilotons of TNT, Japan quickly claimed peace. In the 1946 report of Atomic Warfare and the Christian Faith, the emotion of appall is evident: As American Christians, we are deeply penitent for the irresponsible use already made of the atomic bomb. We are agreed that, whatever be one’s judgment of the war in principle, the surprise bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are morally indefensible. ” The bombings were considered as a form of state terrorism. The interpretation is based on the definition of terrorism as the targeting of innocents to achieve a political goal. The reasons for the bombing to be an opportunity to examine the after effects of radiation on a human being have been strongly argued as being cruel and inhumane.

The second atomic bombing that was three days after Hiroshima on Nagasaki, was dropped when the devastation at Hiroshima had yet to be fully comprehended or mourned for. The lack of time between the bombings has led historians to state that the second bombing was unnecessary and gratuitous.

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