Hiroshima

Independent Study Unit
Hiroshima and Nagasaki:
The Terror that Saved Millions


The atomic bomb and it\'s use over the two Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is still a source of heated debate even over fifty years later. Many people on both sides -Japan and The United States- hold the belief that Truman\'s decision to drop the bomb was a mistake and that under no circumstances should such drastic measures be taken in war. What these people do not realize are the far more horrible alternatives than the destruction of just two cities: an invasion of mainland Japan where millions of more deaths would have occurred, Soviet aid resulting in the division of Japan into a communist nation and the destruction of their culture, the deaths of thousands of Allied prisoners of war held in Japan, and the threat of renewed hostilities from Japan not to mention the possibility of several more years of bloody conflict. Throughout the course of this paper all of these examples will be discussed, as well as why Truman\'s decision was the most humane and rational for all the nations involved, including Japan.

Axis power in Europe was destroyed, Hitler and Mussolini were dead, their armies annihilated, their nation\'s in ruins, Japan however was not. Though weakened from a near four year long war with the Allies, the Japanese continued fighting, as was their code, to fight to the death, and never surrender. President Harry Truman in the interest of saving both American and Japanese lives from an invasion of mainland Japan, authorized the use atomic bombs against Japan.

The first atomic bomb to be used on Japan was composed of uranium. It was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945. The explosion, which had the force of more than 15,000 tons of TNT, instantly and completely devastated 10 square kilometers of the heart of this city of 343,000 inhabitants. Of this number, 66,000 were killed immediately and 69,000 were injured, more than 67 percent of the city\'s structures were destroyed or damaged. The next atomic bomb to be exploded was of the plutonium type, it was dropped on Nagasaki three days later, producing a blast equal to 21,000 tons of TNT. The terrain and smaller size of Nagasaki reduced destruction of life and property, but nevertheless 39,000 people were killed and 25,000 injured, while 40 percent of the city\'s structures were destroyed or seriously damaged.

Preceding the bombing of Hiroshima the Americans had pledged that if the Japanese did not agree to an unconditional surrender and an immediate conclusion to all hostilities that they would bomb Japan with atomic weapons. The Japanese called the Americans on a bluff or simply dismissed the American\'s words as "tough talk" and nothing more, unfortunately for the Japanese, the Americans did have the weapons they claimed they did, and weren\'t afraid to use them. Hiroshima was destroyed, though a catastrophe for the Japanese, it still did not mean their surrender. The Japanese, urged by their military establishment to continue the pursuit of victory still did not respond to the American threat. It took the Japanese another lost city in Nagasaki three days later to commence peace negotiations. It was too late for over 100,000 people by the time the treaty was signed aboard the American Battleship U.S. Missouri on September.2nd 1945.

Japan had in essence, been defeated months before the bomb was dropped, the problem no longer existed to defeat Japan, but to secure her surrender- a far more difficult task. Quite simply, the Japanese did not believe in surrender. Their nation had never lost a war. In addition, Japan\'s fighting men held ingrained beliefs that to surrender was to disgrace one\'s self and one\'s nation. So deeply were these thoughts held that even after both bombs had been detonated and the entry of the Soviet Union into the war, the Japanese military still opposed surrender bitterly, and would prefer death than dishonorable capitulation. With a foe with a mind set such as this, only two options could be considered by the United States government. One being the use of atomic weapons and the other being the invasion of mainland Japan.

According to Truman\'s top military advisors, an invasion of mainland Japan would cost and an estimated 500,000 American lives, not