Hiroshima & Nagasaki
1945 ... Terror
Together with the United Kingdom and the Republic of China, the United States called for a surrender of Japan in the Potsdam Declaration on 26 July 1945, threatening Japan with "prompt and utter destruction". The Japanese government ignored this ultimatum, and two nuclear weapons developed by the Manhattan Project were deployed.
The myth of necessity
I was against it on two counts. First, the Japanese were ready to surrender, and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing. Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon.
The consensus among scholars is that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan and to end the war within a relatively short time. It is clear that alternatives to the bomb existed and that Truman and his advisors knew it.
The rather stark truth, however, is that with one very "iffy" exception [THE DECISION, pp. 358-65] virtually all the important high-level World War II military leaders who had access to the relevant top secret information are on record as stating that the use of the atomic bomb was not a matter of military necessity. Indeed, many repeatedly, forcefully and consistently stated positions which in today's parlance would be termed strongly "revisionist."
There is no way we can know for certain whether this approach would have ended the Pacific war sooner and with fewer deaths.
The decision to drop the bomb has been laundered through the American myth-making machine into everything from self-preservation by the Americans to concern for the Japanese themselves-as if incinerating two hundred thousand human beings in a second was somehow an act of moral largesse.
Why were they dropped?
By mid-1945, it was clear the Soviet Union would enter into the war in the Pacific and thereby be in a position to influence the postwar balance of power in the region. U.S. officials recognized there was little chance of preventing this, although they preferred a U.S.-led occupation of Japan rather than a co-occupation as had been arranged for Germany. Some U.S. policymakers hoped that the U.S. monopoly on nuclear technology and the demonstration of its destructive power in Japan might influence the Soviets to make concessions, either in Asia or in Europe. Truman did not threaten Stalin with the bomb, recognizing instead that its existence alone would limit Soviet options and be considered a threat to Soviet security.
Intentional mass murder
Hiroshima burn victims
The atomic bombs killed several hundred thousand people, many instantly in the nuclear fire, many later with burns, injuries and radiation sickness, and still many others, over the years, with cancers and birth defects. These deaths continue to this day. Like most of the cities bombed in World War II, the majority of the inhabitants were women, children and the elderly.
In the summer of 1945, the U.S. Army Air Force carried out one of the most intense campaigns of city destruction in the history of the world. Sixty-eight cities in Japan were attacked and all of them were either partially or completely destroyed. An estimated 1.7 million people were made homeless, 300,000 were killed, and 750,000 were wounded.
Hiroshima in ruins
The particular horrors of each individual's experience were multiplied by the scale of the destruction.
We can sum it up in one sentence: Our technical civilization has just reached its greatest level of savagery. We will have to choose, in the more or less near future, between collective suicide and the intelligent use of our scientific conquests.
Barack Obama said on Sunday his visit to Hiroshima, the first city to suffer an atomic bombing, would emphasize friendly ties between former enemies. But the US president reiterated he would not apologize for the devastating attack.
Does winning World War II and the Cold War mean never having to say you're sorry? The Germans have apologized to the Jews and to the Poles. The Japanese have apologized to the Chinese and the Koreans, and to the United States for failing to break off diplomatic relations before attacking Pearl Harbor. The Russians have apologized to the Poles for atrocities committed against civilians, and to the Japanese for abuse of prisoners. The Soviet Communist Party even apologized for foreign policy errors that "heightened tension with the West".