The Second World War was characterized by great technological advancements that were used in attacking the opponent. The dominant one was the atomic bombing of Japan. The bombs were dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The decision to use the bomb was issued by Harry Truman who had then been the President of United States for less than three months at that time. The creation of the atomic bomb involved massive funding and intensive research as such a bomb was the most powerful weapon in the world. The first bomb was dropped at Hiroshima while the other one was dropped at Nagasaki three days later. The bombings led to the deaths of more than 1,000,000 Japanese while thousands were poisoned with radiation. The bombings of the Japanese cities were not a calculated strategy to end the war but a gratuitous display of America’s atomic power because Americans had other military alternatives at their disposal. The paper will lay emphasis on the events that had transpired during the bombing, effects of the bombs, and factors that compelled President Truman to bomb Japan. The paper will also culminate in a critical analysis of whether the detonation of the two bombs was necessary.
Events that Transpired during the Bombing
The atomic bombs were dropped from an American B-29 super fortress. The aircraft was known as Enola Gay and it took off from Tinian Island air base at 2:45 A.M local time (Wainstock 79). According to the crew of the plane, smoke rose and intense fire sprang up right after the bombing. The 4-ton Hiroshima bomb was 3 meters long and 0.7 meters wide, and its code name was “Little Boy”. The nuclear material used was Uranium 235 and it released about 12.5 kilotons of energy (Wainstock 112). The detonation of the bomb at Hiroshima took place at 8:15 A.M., and it exploded by forming fireballs.
The atomic bomb dropped at Nagasaki exploded at 11:00 Am on August 9. The nuclear material used was Plutonium with an explosive power of about 20 kilotons (Wainstock 89). The code name for the Nagasaki bomb was “Fat Man”. Initially, four cities were chosen as the possible target for the bombing. They were Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Niigata, and Kokura. The cities had been chosen because they had not been subject to much damage during the war. Particularly, the American military chose Hiroshima because of its high concentration of troops and military facilities as well as military factories. The “Little Boy”, which was detonated at Hiroshima, was meant to be spectacular for the weapon to earn public recognition.
The Aioi Bridge was set as a target for the bombing, but the pilots missed by approximately 800 feet when dropping the bomb (Wainstock 99). The atomic bomb dropped at Nagasaki was meant to be stronger than the Hiroshima one but the terrain deterred it from doing great damage. Japan agreed to the terms of the surrender unconditionally five days after the second bomb was detonated. This marked the end of the Second World War.
Effects of the Atomic Bombs
The bombs had damaging effects such as thermal heating that was as the result of intense heat from the fireballs. These caused thermal burns on the skin while combustible materials were consumed. The bombs also gave rise to cases of radiation-induced cancers due to the intensity of the radiation. Numerous injuries caused by the atomic explosion manifested themselves within the first four months after the bombing (Chun 74). The symptoms included vomiting, nausea, fever, lack of appetite, and bodily injuries. The after-effects encompassed leukemia and massive scar tissues on the burned areas.
Why President Truman Ordered to Drop the Atomic Bomb
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He served his presidential term from April 12, 1945 to January 20, 1953 (Wainstock 111). Truman believed that dropping the bombs on two major cities would help him accomplish several things. In this respect, releasing the atomic bombs would retaliate the Japanese actions of bombing the Pearl Harbor as well as the detrimental treatment of American prisoners (Majerus 87). He also believed that the bomb would have the effect of justifying the expenses of the Manhattan project that covered up the misappropriation of $2 billion.
The United States also aimed at reducing the number of American casualties and it had to look for a precipitate action that would force Japan to surrender. Moreover, the United States looked forward to being the world’s first nation to use the atomic bomb and observe its repercussions. Additionally, using the bomb would have given America dominance before the Soviet Union took part in war against Japan (Majerus 112). This also accorded them an unequivocal control of the peace process. The atrocities perpetuated by the Soviet Union would have been intense if it had been accorded the prerogative to attack from the North.
America had also not subscribed to the belief that a military blockade would end the war since they did not believe that Japan as a nation was close to the surrender.
United States also lacked an incentive not to use the bomb whereas there was an on-going practice of bombing the civilians. Truman would have considered engaging in the atomic diplomacy and sending a warning to Stalin in addressing issues pertinent to the Soviet Union (Wainstock 118). In fact, prior to the detonation of the bomb, the intelligence officials believed that the war would have ended when the USA had made it clear that the Japanese emperor did not have to leave his throne. Similarly, the Soviet army had to instigate an attack before the war would end. The events were on the right track because the Soviet Union had already declared a war against Japan, while the USA had explained to Japan that their emperor could remain in power (Majerus 127).
In this respect, the conditions that would bring the war to a halt were already partially fulfilled, and they would be instigated on the August 6, 1945. However, the American pilots dropped the bomb on August 6, which was unnecessary and showed a lack of patience. Americans believed that dropping more than one bomb would be necessary because hard liners would negate the repercussion of the first explosion and explain it as a natural catastrophe (Chun 84). This is what had actually happened before the second bomb was dropped because the Japanese war minister was reluctant to admit that the first bomb was atomic.
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After the detonation of the atomic bomb, ground temperature exceeded 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, thus roasting those on the ground. Thousands of bodies were also seen floating in rivers. Most buildings were destroyed and this was followed by a radioactive rain that fell upon the city, leading to more casualties (Wainstock 59). Even though dropping the bombs had ended the Second World War and defeated imperial Japan, the decision to drop them has been the major criticism for years.
The ulterior objective of the atomic bombings was not defeating the Japanese army because they had surrendered even before the drop of the first bomb. Apparently, the American government wanted to exert their power and gain an undisputed victory. According to Truman, the imposition of unconditional surrender was important because anything short of that would make him appear weak.
In fact, military leaders were against the use of the atomic bombs, as they knew it would amount to an excessive force with diverse repercussions. For example, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was reluctant regarding the use of the bomb, as he knew the Japanese were close to surrendering (Chun 115). The inappropriate use angered him and other scientists involved in the development of the bomb. Moreover, Admiral William Leahy, an expert in explosives, advised the president that bombing Japan would be a foolish mistake because the impacts of the bomb would be felt for a long time. The United States was also a great humanitarian nation and dropping such bombs even without a warning was not a prudent act.
Prior to dropping the bomb on the Japanese cities, the American government had three major alternatives at their disposal, all of which should have been explored. The first alternative was to allow the Soviet Union to declare a war against Japan. This was a primary objective instigated by President Theodore Roosevelt. The second alternative was the intensification of conventional bombing as well as the naval blockade, even though it would have taken more time. The third alternative was to give Japanese people the right to retain their emperor (Majerus 91). It would have made sense if the American government had considered using the weapon in an outside demonstration where the Japanese would witness its power before it was used on them.
The atomic bombing of Japan was not necessary for victory in the Second World War. The attack was cruel and inappropriate because the adversary had been already defeated. The Japanese had also surrendered due to the effective sea blockade as well as the successful bombing with conventional weapons. Being the first country to use the atomic bomb, America was an exhibition of the ethical standards that were portrayed in the barbarians of the dark ages. Even though there were several reasons that justified the use of the bomb, other alternatives should have been explored.