U.S Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Controversy over the Atomic Bombing

The decision of the President of the United States to drop atom bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the World War II has been clouded by controversy, with several people supporting it and others criticizing it.

Many people, including Congressional Republicans, veteran groups and self-proclaimed patriot groups backed U.S President Harry Truman’s famous decision {while he steadfastly claimed it was his own decision (Lawrence 2005), from all indications he was heavily influenced by his military advisers who inflated the possible number of American fatalities, and by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson who said the decision represented ‘the least abhorrent choice’ (Vce.com 2006)}.

Truman defended his decision saying that the atomic bombings shortened the war, thereby saving nearly half million (Lawrence 2005) American lives {the number portrayed by Truman’s military advisers (Vce.com 2006)} that would have been lost if America had to engage Japan in traditional warfare and invade it (Lawrence 2005).

The people who criticized Truman’s decision put forward two powerful arguments. Firstly, the projected cost of a U.S invasion of Japan {500,000 American lives} was so ridiculously exaggerated that it even exceeded the total number of American lives lost in all active military operation regions of the War; they contended that a more realistic figure was 46,000 {maximum}.

Secondly, the Strategic Bombing Survey {sponsored by the U.S government} interacted with U.S and Japanese military leaders before submitting its report in 1946 that confirmed Japan was on the verge of surrendering by the end of 1945 irrespective of whether an American invasion took place or not.

The criticism of Harry Truman’s decision not only came from prominent historians {such as those at Smithsonian and Stanford}, but also by a significant number of the President’s own aides and several prominent U.S military leaders such as General MacArthur, Undersecretary of State Joseph Grew, Undersecretary of the Navy Ralph Bard, General Eisenhower and Admiral William Leahy.

General Eisenhower went on to later make his opinion public; a 1963 issue of Newsweek quoted him as saying: “The Japanese were ready to surrender, and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”

Admiral Leahy’s comments were more vitriolic; he charged the atomic bombings with having reduced the U.S to “an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages,” also reiterating that the atom bombs “were of no material assistance in our war against Japan” (Lawrence 2005).

Difference between the Atomic Bombing and Traditional Bombing of Civilians during the War

The only similarity between atomic bombing and traditional bombing is that they both resulted in civilian deaths/wounded as well as material damage. However, there were several differences between the two types of bombing of civilian targets.

The first difference lay in the number of aircraft used. Each of the 2 atomic bombs were dropped by a separate B29 bomber – ‘Enola Gay’ flown by pilot Tibbets on 6 August 1945 that hit Hiroshima, and ‘Bockscar’ flown by pilot Sweeny on 9 August 1945 that hit Nagasaki (Vce.com 2006).

In comparison, bombing of civilians during World War II involved the deployment of hundreds of aircraft in different theaters, during which hundreds of bombs were dropped.

Secondly, the loss of lives and injuries to civilians caused by the two atomic bombs was vastly greater than that caused by traditional bombs on civilians during the War. Hiroshima suffered between 60,000 and 70,000 dead and over 140,000 injured. 42,000 people died in Nagasaki, and a further 40,000 were injured (Vce.com 2006).

In contrast, the number of civilian deaths and wounded during traditional bombings on civilian targets during the War was much lesser. For example, the total number of civilian casualties in all cities of the U.K during the War was only 60,000 (Web.jjay.cuny.edu).

Thirdly, the material damage to civilian areas caused by the atom bombs was much larger than that created by traditional bombs. Two-thirds of Hiroshima’s 90,000 buildings were destroyed, while 39% of all standing structures were demolished in Nagasaki (Vce.com 2006).

Lastly, the atomic bombings introduced a hitherto unknown fatality factor: deadly radiation. Thousands {in Hiroshima alone the number was 100,000} of people suffered radiation sickness as a result of exposure to deadly radiation caused by the 2 bombs, each of which was nearly equal to the effect of exploding 20,000 tons of TNT.

Victims within a 1 km radius were severely affected, those within a 1 and 2 km radius were moderately affected, and victims within a 2 to 4 km radius were slightly affected (Vce.com 2006). In contrast, conventional bombs dropped on civilian targets during the War did not generate radiation.

References used

“The Bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki.” Vce.com. 2006.

Lawrence, James R. “.” Lewrockwell.com. 2005.

“World War II: Combatants & Casualties (1937 – 45).” Web.jjay.cuny.edu. (N.d).

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *