Dropping the Atom Bomb Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2582 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 11  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Military

The orders were approved by Secretary of War Henry Stimson and Army Chief of Staff George Marshall, as well as by President Truman. The instructions listed the targets to be attacked. Hiroshima was an industrial area with many military installations. Nagasaki was a major port with shipbuilding and marine repair facilities. In general, the participants in the decision to use multiple bombs largely based their decision on the expected psychological effect on the Japanese government and the desire to end WWII. As expected, just after the bombs were dropped, Japan's Emperor Hirohito was convinced that further resistance would be useless and took an unprecedented step in Japanese history by surrendering to save the lives of his people from additional attacks.

As a result of the atomic bomb, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was leveled and thousands of people died (Kreiger, 2003, p. 3). The world's second test of a nuclear weapon proved the tremendous power of nuclear weapons for killing and maiming.

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President Truman wrote in his diary on July 25, 1945, that he had ordered the atomic bombings of two Japanese cities (Ferrell, 1980, pp. 55-56). His diary suggests that he ordered the bomb dropped on a "purely military" target, so that "military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children." He wrote (Ferrell, 1980, p. 56): "I have told the Sec. Of War, Mr. Stimson, to use it [the atomic bomb] so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital or the new."

In his first speech to the U.S. public about the bombing of Hiroshima, which he delivered on August 9, 1945, after dropping the bomb on Nagasaki, Harry Truman reported (Kreiger, 2003, p. 3): "The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians."

Term Paper on Dropping the Atom Bomb on Assignment

Among the critics of the use of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were leading U.S. military figures. General Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander Europe during World War II and later U.S. president, described his reaction upon having been told by Stimson that atomic bombs would be used (Kreiger, 2003, p. 3): "During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, attempting to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face'. . . ."

Despite these criticisms from U.S. World War II military leaders, however, there is still a powerful sense in the United States and among its allies that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary and fruitful.

Hamby (1997, p. 27) sums up the debate eloquently with the following statement: "The major questions about the events of the summer of 1945 are for the most part moral, or at least nonempirical. Who can disprove a belief that any resolution of World War II would have been preferable to the atomic solution? Who can say with absolute assurance that the second bomb was necessary? Who can prove that it was necessary to drop the second bomb just three days after the first? Who will ever know for certain that Japan would not have been forced by hunger, fuel shortages, and infrastructure collapse to surrender before an invasion? But most of us also have talked to veterans, British as well as Americans, recounting their roles in the planned invasion of Malaya or Japan and ending with the conclusion, 'The atomic bomb saved my life.' Such beliefs, reflecting the sentiments of men who lived and breathed a desperate situation that we can scarcely comprehend, were also part of the historical reality of 1945."


Had the bombs not been used, an enormous number of Americans and Japanese may have been killed in further battles. In 1995, Washington, DC's Smithsonian Institution summed up the atomic bombings in an Enola Gay exhibit (McManus, 1995, p. 34). Enola Gay was the B-29 bomber that delivered the A-bomb over Hiroshima. A wall display read: "[The bombs] destroyed much of the two cities and caused many tens of thousands of deaths. However, the use of the bombs led to the immediate surrender of Japan and made unnecessary the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands. Such an invasion, especially if undertaken for both main islands, would have led to heavy casualties among American, Allied, and Japanese armed forces and Japanese civilians."

Immediately after the end of WWI, Truman publicized the view of wartime Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall that an invasion of the Japanese mainland would have required "a million men for the landing and a million more to hold it, and ... half a million casualties" (McManus, 1995, p. 34).

Of all the political and military decisions in history, few have been the subject of more analysis and controversy than the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Miles, 1985,121). For decades, historians have argued over and deeply contemplated the decision to use the atomic bomb near the end of WWII (Oh, 2002).

While there will always be differences in opinion, it appears that Truman's decision to drop the bomb on Japan was a mixture of military, political and social motivations used to end a tragic war and spare many more lives from being sacrificed in an attempt to get the Japanese to surrender.

Works Cited

Bernstein, Barton J. (1976). The Atomic Bomb: The Critical Issues. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.

Ferrell, R. (1980). Off the Record: The Private Papers of Harry S. Truman. New York: Harper and Row.

Takaki, Ronald. (1995). Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Miles, Rufus E. (1985). Hiroshima: The Strange Myth of Half a Million American Lives Saved.

Oh, Jung. (Winter, 2002). Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Decision to Drop the Bomb. Michigan Journal of History.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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