The Decision To Drop The Atomic Bomb Maria Tidwell World Cultures III Professor Longfellow 26 November 2000 The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb On August 6th 1945, the world changed forever. The United States dropped the first Atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima, Japan. The surviving witness Miyoko Watanabe describes her experience: I came out of the front dooran intense yellow, orange and white light overwhelmed me the light was thousands of times brighter than a magnesium flash gunI went inside to hideThere were strange sounds, crashing noises and jolts, and I kept no track of the timeI locked back to see how my mom was. She looked worse then a devilish witch. (47) The heat was intolerable; everywhere Miyoko looked there were wounded and dying people, bleeding from all over their bodies like her mom.
Miyoko continues, Those who fled from one or one and a half kilometer from the hypocenter really did have to step over bodies and shake off hands grasping their legs for help. When someone caught hold of their shoes they just had to leave their precious shoes and flee otherwise they wouldnt survive(49). A friend of Miyoko told her that he had to leave his sister to die in the flames to save his life. That day, according to the Japan Times, 140,000 died as a direct result of the bombing. Later the total number of victims claimed in Hiroshima City came to 217,137.
There is one question that comes to my mind reading these terrible stories from the victims of Hiroshima; was this necessary? Scholars have discussed the question for more than half a century. However, they all agree that the answer to this question does not make the use of atomic weapons seem less awesome or less awful, but it merely throw different light on it. The main argument defending the decision to drop the bomb is that it was necessary to end the war. Richard B. Frank in his book, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire defends the American decision.
Relying on a host of original documentary sources, most notably the Japanese messages that were intercepted and decoded by the American forces, he presents a researched work that attempts to explain what might have happened if the bombs had not been dropped. The reader is left with the unshakable conclusion that the use of the bomb was a necessary evil–that the government of Japan was not ready to surrender, and even after the bombing of Hiroshima, the decision was to fight on. However, the conclusion of his book is that the bombing of Nagasaki (though nowhere near as damaging as the bombing of Hiroshima) persuaded the Japanese cabinet that the bomb was not a one off event, and that they faced certain destruction if they didn’t sue for peace. According to Frank, Most American strategists believed that the war with Japan would be a long drown out operation with Japans fanatical resistance extracting mounting casualties the closer the American forces drew to the Home Islands (21). To understand this position, it is necessary to take a closer look at the American experience with the Japanese, during the war. The Japanese were known by their culture of no surrender; they would rather die than surrender.
Particularly, in the Japanese military forces this tradition was prominent. Frank continues with a terrible example of this, The first intimations that the Japanese would literally choose death over surrenderand not merely an elite warrior caste but the rank and filecame in August 1942 at Guadalcanal. Two small Imperial Navy island garrisons fought to virtual extinction. Major general Alexander Archer Vandegrift, the Marine commander wrote: I have never heard or read of this kind of fighting. These people refuse to surrender. The wounded wait until men come up to examine themand blow themselves and the other fellow to pieces with a hand grenade(28).
Another example, maybe as shocking, happened at the island of Saipan; nearly 30,000 Japanese soldiers fought to the death, only 921 (3 percent) were taken prisoner. On this Island there were 20,000 civilians. Only 10,258 surrendered; the rest chose death. In a carnival of death that shocked even battle-hardened Marines, whole families waded into the sea to drown together or huddled to blow themselves up with grenades; parents tossed their children off cliffs before leaping to join them in death (29). According to the American historian John Dower, Japanese political and military authorities inoculated them with the terror that the Americans would rape, torture and murder them, and that it was more honorable to take their own lives(29). Based on such knowledge, the American president, Harry Truman, actually appeared surprised when he heard about the Japanese decision to surrender after the bombing of Nagasaki. Following these experiences the allied chief commander General Marshall declared that an invasion of the industrial heart of Japan was necessary to end the war (30).
Furthermore, the Japanese military was on the verge off a takeover in Japan according to Frank (233-240). This further demonstrated the fact that the Japanese were not ready to surrender. Encrypted messages showed the Japanese Military Ultra girding for Armageddon(238). The Imperial army held the dominant position in Japan. A July 22 edition of the Magic Diplomatic summary (summit of the war events held after the war) reveals that even if offered to keep their emperor via informal talks, foreign minister Togo expressly rejected the idea (239). Even if Togo had accepted these peace conditions, there is no doubt that the military would have seized powers and prevented this from happening.
The Japanese military had their own plan called Ketsu-Go to prevent an American land-invasion. The massive build-up of Japanese air-strength, kamikazes (suicide-airplanes), the creation of an array of suicide vehicles and lying of mines at strategic positions proved their willingness to fight to the end (85, 212). The Japanese needed at least one victorious land battle in order to surrender with pride according to information obtained by decoding the military messages (271). On the basis of this information, it is clear that an American land-invasion would cost a massive amount of American soldiers lives. Estimates vary between 500,000 and one million.
Truman himself said about the decision to drop the bomb, It saved the lives of a million American boys, (Trackstar). Thinking of the bomb in this way many Americans today would never have been alive without the bomb. It literally saved future generations. Americans were not the only ones saved by the bomb. Richard B. Franks research shows that hundreds of thousands of Chinese prisoners in the Japanese camps in Mansjuria would have died if the war had lasted a few more months (322-25).
Moreover, parts of the Japanese civilian population were about to starve to death because of the lack of rice and other food supplies (351). The conclusion from this information is that the only viable alternative to an American land invasion would be conventional bombing of railroads and traffic routes, creating massive famine and severe shortages of basic human needs. Several millions of Japanese would have starved to death. Would this have been a more humane solution? The casualties would have been an estimated ten times higher …