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Dropping the Atomic BombDo you think the United States made the right decision by using...

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Scott Locklear | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted April 1, 2008 at 3:05 PM via web

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Dropping the Atomic Bomb

Do you think the United States made the right decision by using atomic weapons to end World War II?

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santari | eNotes Employee

Posted April 1, 2008 at 3:44 PM (Answer #2)

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I wrote a paper on this in high school. My conclusion was that there were several things short of dropping the bomb that the United States might have first done, such as demonstrating the weapon on an island in the Pacific near Japan.

One has to also wonder if dropping multiple bombs was really necessary. The damage inflicted by the first bomb in Hiroshima was quite enough, and I think a pause followed by a threat to drop another would have been enough.

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alexb2 | eNotes Employee

Posted April 1, 2008 at 3:53 PM (Answer #3)

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I once read a hypothesis that said that dropping one in an uninhabited area would have been enough to end the war with Japan, but that the bomb was dropped in order to show the Soviets the immense power of the US Military.

Another thing that often gets lost in these discussions is that the firebombing of Tokyo and other Japanese cities caused far more death and destruction then the use of the Atomic bombs. However it's hard to imagine the psychological impact of dropping those two bombs, which is why we're still discussing them today and not the firebombings of Tokyo or Dresden.

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted April 15, 2008 at 11:40 AM (Answer #4)

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I haven't been able to verify this, but I understand that the first round of atomic weapons developed numbered only 5, and it would have taken on the order of years to refine enough uranium for more. Two bombs were used in test; two on Japan. Harry Truman agonized over the decision to use them, but having lived in the trenches during WWI and having received reports of upward of 200,000 to 800,000 American casualties to invade and conquer mainland Japan and extending the war by years, he made his choice. Part of these numbers were derived from the US's experience of driving out the Japanese island by island with huge casualties. Invading the island of Okinawa alone cost 25,000 casualties. And yes, it was a show of force to dissuade the Soviets, who were planning to take as much of Japan as they could. It's important to understand the context in which these decisions were made and not paste our own perceptions on the past. The fact Japan did not surrender after ONE bomb negates the argument of showing them a test; we were not dealing with a rational government. After Hiroshima, the government didn't believe the city had been obliterated; they also thought we only had 1 bomb. Had we invaded, Japan in the day would have fought on with bamboo spears if necessary, and it was only by the Emperor telling the people to lay down arms did the fighting end, and he did that only after a show of force....twice.

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted April 15, 2008 at 11:42 AM (Answer #5)

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I haven't been able to verify this, but I understand that the first round of atomic weapons developed numbered only 5, and it would have taken on the order of years to refine enough uranium for more. Two bombs were used in test; two on Japan. Harry Truman agonized over the decision to use them, but having fought in the trenches during WWI and having received reports of upward of 200,000 to 800,000 American casualties to invade and conquer mainland Japan and extending the war by years, he made his choice. Part of these numbers were derived from the US's experience of driving out the Japanese island by island with huge casualties. Invading the island of Okinawa alone cost 25,000 casualties. And yes, it was a show of force to dissuade the Soviets, who were planning to take as much of Japan as they could. It's important to understand the context in which these decisions were made and not paste our own perceptions on the past. The fact Japan did not surrender after ONE bomb negates the argument of showing them a test; we were not dealing with a rational government. After Hiroshima, the government didn't believe the city had been obliterated; they also thought we only had 1 bomb. Had we invaded, Japan in the day would have fought on with bamboo spears if necessary, and it was only by the Emperor telling the people to lay down arms did the fighting end, and he did that only after a show of force....twice.

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jilllessa | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted April 15, 2008 at 9:26 PM (Answer #6)

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Dropping the Atomic Bomb

Do you think the United States made the right decision by using atomic weapons to end World War II?

It is easy to talk in hindsight as to whether we should have used the bomb.  Knowing the destruction and the continuing effects of radiation as we do it seems that perhaps it was overkill.  However, Truman was not well versed in any aspects of the bomb when he had to make the decision of whether to use it; no one really had a knowledge of the lasting effects that the radiation would have.  What Truman did know was that the Japanese had been fighting viciously for every inch of territory and that invasion with firebombing could cast thousands upon thousands of American lives and the war could drag on for months or even years.  Although he might have dropped the bomb on an uninhabited island for effect, he would have lost the element of surprise, and given the Japanese attitude (it did take two attacks before an unconditional surrender) he may well have had to drop a bomb in any case.  With these factors in mind, it seems that Truman made the choice that he thought would save the lives of American servicemen.  I find it hard to fault him for that.

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted April 27, 2008 at 11:53 AM (Answer #7)

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This is a very complex question.  A large part of me thinks Truman was justified in making the decision to drop the atomic bomb.  I truly believe he was thinking of all of the American service-people who were in danger.  I believe that he didn't want to risk losing thousands more lives.  It was a swift and decisive move that was truly devastating, but it definitely served its purpose.  Another smaller part of me aches for the people who died and for their families.  The devastation was so widespread and horrible that the kind of suffering that many of the Japanese people had to endure is truly mind-numbing and heartbreaking.

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engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted August 14, 2008 at 7:01 AM (Answer #8)

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Dropping the bomb was necessary. War is hell, to quote an old General Sherman adage, and the bomb drop proves just how hellish it really is. Another school of thought will tell you that "You can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs," and in this case, we broke the whole dozen.

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childoflight | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 28, 2009 at 7:15 PM (Answer #9)

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I once read a hypothesis that said that dropping one in an uninhabited area would have been enough to end the war with Japan, but that the bomb was dropped in order to show the Soviets the immense power of the US Military.

Another thing that often gets lost in these discussions is that the firebombing of Tokyo and other Japanese cities caused far more death and destruction then the use of the Atomic bombs. However it's hard to imagine the psychological impact of dropping those two bombs, which is why we're still discussing them today and not the firebombings of Tokyo or Dresden.

According to other history books and resources, even after dropping the 2nd Atomic bomb, the Japanese still didn't want to surrender. They thought they could pull it off and still win the war. So, dropping it on an uninhabited place probably wouldn't do anything.

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kao5228 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 14, 2009 at 11:54 AM (Answer #10)

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FYI:

The US Army had calculated that it would incur a million casualties in the invasion of Japan, and with typical military efficiency, contracted for the manufacture of one million Purple Hearts, the military decoration for those killed or wounded in action.  When Truman dropped the atomic bomb, those medals went into a warehouse.  However, neither Korea, Vietnam, Granada, the Gulf War, Kosovo, Bosnia, not even the War in Afghanistan have made any significant dent in the supply of medals, which will probably last forever.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 17, 2010 at 2:30 PM (Answer #11)

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As a non-American on the whole I think that America was not justified in dropping the atomic bomb. Yes, it did help speed up the end of the war, but at what cost? I don't think that the slaughter of many, many Japanese civilians was the right way to go about it. At least soldiers new what they were signing up for. Though as other editors have established this is an extremely complex issue.

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revolution | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted July 1, 2010 at 6:12 AM (Answer #12)

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No, Japan was already on the brink of defeat, so the atomic bomb was rather unnecessary, and it also incurs huge amount of deaths, about a million, which is shocking and sickening .

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jacobjinglheimer | Student, Grade 11 | eNoter

Posted September 19, 2010 at 10:50 AM (Answer #13)

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Yes, the show of force demonstrated by the bombing, has kept all out war at bay for decades. Also leaflets warning civilians to evacuate were dropped all over Japan after the bombing of Hiroshima.
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moustacio | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted June 21, 2014 at 4:31 PM (Answer #14)

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Controversies have arose over the moral nature of using atomic bombs to end the war against Japan, thus killing millions of innocent civilians. Such actions seemed to represent an attempt by the US to impose total control over Japan. Others have also claimed that there were other morally preferable ways to end the war in the Pacific. However, these claims are more than unjustified since it suggests that the morally better way to end the war was to continue relying on the Allied blockade, which would have starved the Japanese masses to death. Similarly, a bombing offensive was impossible as most of the infrastructure in Japan was already gone - in fact, Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been chosen as the targets as they were the only cities that were relatively intact in Japan. Any attempt to invade Japan would have only resulted in an Asia-wide bloodbath and a staggering number of casualties, prolonging the war. Therefore, there seemed to be no other viable alternatives to turn to, which could provide a quick end.

In evaluating whether the decision made by the US was the right one, one had to consider the fact that the circumstances or context in which the decision was made then were different from those of today. The world itself had been brutalized by prolonged fighting and had grown to accept a set of norms in warfare. They were thus able to agree with the notion that one final strike with a stronger weapon was not unreasonable. Submerged in so many years of total war, the atomic weapons appeared to be a viable option to end the war quickly, and in the eyes of the Allies, the fear of Japanese casualties was, unfortunately, not a significant concern of theirs. Perhaps it is the decision to use the second atomic bomb that was more problematic and morally ambiguous in nature since the first bomb had already clearly displayed the prowess that the Americans had at their disposal.

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