In August of 1945 the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki just three days apart. Five days after the second bomb was dropped Japan would formally surrender marking the end of World War II. Whether or not the United States should have used the atomic bombs on Japan is an argument that has been debated for decades now.
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Those who say using the bombs was a good idea claim that it brought a quicker end to the war and may have saved the lives of thousands of American soldiers. However, the droppings of the bombs were war crimes that killed over two-hundred thousand people, the majority of which were civilians. It is also believed by many that the bombs may have been dropped as a way to intimidate the Soviets and were an unnecessary measure taken to achieve victory (Foner, 884).
The level of damage and destruction caused by the atomic bombs had never been seen before in history. It is estimated that around 140,000 of the 350,000 people living in Hiroshima and 70,000 of the 250,000 people living in Nagasaki were killed either from the immediate impact of the bomb or from the effects of radiation by the end of 1945 (Smith). Akihiro Takahashi was fourteen years old and was attending his school in Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped. According to Takahashi, when the blast came all he could see initially was darkness. When the darkness faded, he realized that the blast had blown him about ten meters from where he was originally standing and when he looked at himself, he noticed that his clothes were basically turned into rags and his skin was peeling and hanging from his body. After leaving the school to walk back to his house he saw several victims that had been burned badly as well including a woman and her baby who both had their skin completely peeled off. Takahashi had to receive medical treatment for a year before he finally recovered. Only ten out of the sixty classmates at his junior high school survived. Takahashi’s testimony really illustrates the total carnage caused by the droppings of the atomic bombs (Testimony of Akihiro Takahashi). This use of warfare violated Article XXV of the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 which prohibited the bombardment of undefended civilians (Dannen).
Another reason why the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not justified is because it was unnecessary. Evidence shows that Japan was close to surrendering already and would have done so regardless of whether or not they had two atomic bombs dropped on them. The day that the Japanese Supreme Council first discussed unconditional surrender was on August 9, 1945. To many Americans that know the dates the bombs were dropped, it would make sense that the Supreme Council met on that day because that was the day when the second bomb was dropped. However, the bombing of Nagasaki happened later in the morning that day after the meeting was already taking place and the leaders of Japan were not informed of the news until early in the afternoon after the meeting was over so that could not have been the reason for them discussing the surrender. Hiroshima is unlikely to be the reason for the meeting either because if the leaders of Japan really considered it a crisis of utmost importance, they most likely would not have waited three days to act. On August 8, 1945, Togo Shigenori, the Foreign Minister at the time even asked for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima be discussed by the Supreme Council but the members of the Council rejected his request (Wilson).
If the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not what the leaders of Japan were concerned with, their concern was most likely the Soviet Union. Since the United States was calling for unconditional surrender, in April 1941 Shigenori signed a neutrality pact with the Soviet Union in hopes that Stalin might moderate an agreement between the United States and Japan should the Japanese lose the war. Even though he knew the plan was a long shot, he knew it was in Stalin’s best interest for the agreement to not be too one-sided in favor of the United States. However, when the Soviets declared war and invaded Manchuria and Sakhalin Island on August 9, 1945, the Soviet Union became a belligerent, meaning that the idea of Stalin being a moderator was no longer possible. With the threat of invasion from both the Soviets and the Americans, Japanese leaders knew that any hope of defending their home islands was no longer feasible. This is why it is unlikely that the bombs were Japan’s reason for surrendering, thus making them unnecessary (Wilson).
Americans often see the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as being justified because they say thousands of lives may have been lost if an invasion were to take place (Foner, 844). However, the evidence shows that the Japanese most likely surrendered due to the threat of being invaded by both the Soviets and the Americans, not because of the bombs (Wilson). The bombings also were war crimes as they violated Article XXV of Hague Conventions (Dannen). Overall, the use of atomic weapons is a horrendous part of history that should never again be repeated under any circumstances.
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