Research Paper: Atomic Bomb Historians Like Gar

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[. . .] S. would be able to dominate the Soviets diplomatically. Secretary of State Byrnes, who had always had presidential ambitions and still resented that Truman had been selected as vice president in 1944 rather than himself, was a great enthusiast for atomic diplomacy, and thought that the bomb might "put us into a position to dictate our own terms at the end of the war" (Alperovitz 32).

Military and Civilian Opposition to the Use of the Bomb

Although largely unknown at the time, behind the scenes a number of scientists and military and civilian officials opposed using the atomic bombs. McGeorge Bundy, who had helped Stimson prepare his memoirs and write his 1947 article in Harper's, also came to the conclusion that Japan probably would have surrendered without the use of the bomb or an invasion (Alperovitz 23). In private, Stimson had also warned Truman shortly after he became president that the existence of this new weapon "made cooperation with Stalin a necessity, not a choice" (Sherwin 143). Dwight Eisenhower thought that the bomb was an "awful thing" and its use was "completely unnecessary," and in 1945 he personally urged Truman not to use it since the Japanese were already defeated (Alperovitz 24). Douglas MacArthur, William Leahy, George Marshall and other military leaders were also on record at the time in opposing use of the atomic bomb. Arthur Compton, one of the leading national scientific advisors, transmitted a memorandum from the University of Chicago scientists that called for "a technical but not a military demonstration of the bomb," out of concern that military use would lead to a postwar arm's race (Compton to Secretary of War, June12, 1945). Joseph Davies the former ambassador to Moscow also warned Byrnes that threats and atomic diplomacy would not work with Stalin and in fact might backfire. He was correct in this prediction, but at the time Byrnes was in no mood to listen. Given the fact that the complete record about the decision to use the atomic bomb was declassified on forty or fifty years after the war ended, the American public simply never knew the full truth about why these weapons were used.

Conclusion

Virtually none of this information in the classified documents was available to the public at the time or for decades afterward, so most citizens only knew that the atomic bombs were dropped to end the war and save American lives. In reality, racism, the desire for revenge against Japan and most importantly, the intention of using the bomb as an instrument of diplomatic and military coercion in the postwar period were all factors in the decision, although it was also done over the protests of many military and civilian leaders. Henry Stimson confirmed this official version of events in his 1947 article, although his explanation was far from complete. In records that were kept secret for decades, Stimson showed that he was well aware of the political and diplomatic uses of the atomic bomb that went far beyond the defeat of Japan. He even noted in the secret records that he and Truman agreed that the Potsdam meeting should be delayed until the test was successful. Behind the scenes, he was also concerned that the use of these weapons and the threat to use them on the Soviets might lead to a postwar nuclear arm's race, and this is indeed what happened. Far from making the Soviets more tractable, Joseph Stalin simply ordered a speedup of work on their own bomb, which was tested in 1949. Nor did the Russians withdraw from Eastern Europe or other areas that they had conquered during the war, so in this sense the Byrnes-Truman version of atomic diplomacy was a failure.

WORKS CITED

Alperovitz, Gar. "Hiroshima: Historians Reassess." Foreign Policy, No. 99, Summer 1995: 15-34. Newsweek Interactive, LLC.

http://www.jstor.org/stable/1149003

Arthur H. Compton to Secretary of War (Secret), June 12, 1945. National Security Archive, George Washington University.

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB162/16.pdf

Dower, John W. War without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War. Pantheon, 1987.

J. Robert Oppenheimer to General Farrell (Top Secret), May 11, 1945. National Security Archive, George Washington University.

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB162/5.pdf

"Japan Hit by Atom Bomb." San Francisco Chronicle, August 7, 1945.

http://imglib.lbl.gov/ImgLib/COLLECTIONS/BERKELEY-LAB/images/XBB_817-6924.lowres.jpeg

Joseph Davies Diary, May 21, 1945. National Security Archive, George Washington University.

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB162/8.pdf

Sherwin, Martin J. A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and Its Legacies, 3rd Edition. Stanford University Press, 2003.

Stimson, Henry. "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb." Harper's Magazine,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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