On August 6th, 1945, a B-29 Superfortress bomber named ‘Enola Gay’ took off from Tinian Island carrying the world’s first atomic bomb. Weighing in at more than 5 tons, the atomic bomb was one of the most expensive military investments of WWII, only second to its carrier, the B-29 (Macias) (Hall). The people of Japan believed that their emperor, Hirohito was from the gods. They would do anything that he told them to do and do everything he said. The US decision to drop the atomic bomb was justified because other countries’ developments in atomic technology and Japan’s refusal to accept unconditional surrender.
A lot of the US’s motivation for making the atomic bomb came from the fear of what might happen if another nation from the axis powers were to do it 1st. Our biggest concern was Germany. If anyone had the budget and the motives to make this weapon besides us, it was Germany. In 1941, Germany had the largest military GDP expenditure in the world. They also seemed to have the brains for it to, as reported in his book, “Hitler’s Bomb,” Berlin historian Rainer Karlsch claims Germany “almost achieved similar results with only a handful of physicists and a fraction of the budget.” (Wiegrefe).
If Germany had got their hands on atomic bomb technology, the results could have been catastrophic. Since Germany had already dehumanized the entire world in their eyes, giving them atomic bomb technology would have resulted in a much higher chance that the allies lost the war because they could have easily destroyed all of the allies’ stuff that they wanted. Even if they didn’t use the bomb to destroy all of the allies’ stuff, they could have very easily used it as a last resort in case they were going to lose the war. Also, since they were in a direct partnership with Japan, Germany could have helped prevent Japan from losing by bombing the US first.
Japan’s ambition to take over the world was also unignorable. The Japanese believed in a thing that they called “death before dishonor,” meaning that if you didn’t die at war, you were dishonoring your country and family. The people saw it as their duty to their emperor to seat him as the number one global leader, and anything that stood in their path needed to be eliminated. Because of this, the people were more than willing then to die at war. The Japanese soldiers would literally jump off cliffs to their deaths to avoid surrender (Bartlit). According to the US Marine Corps’ historical monograph in the Battle of Tarawa, of the 4,836 Japanese soldiers that fought, only 17 surrendered and were taken as Prisoners of War. Again, in the Battle of Saipan, 32,000 Japanese soldiers fought and only 921 surrendered (Kingston).
Furthermore, in the Battle of Iwo Jima out of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers, only 216 surrendered and were taken prisoner (Burrell). Japan’s unwillingness to surrender had been clearly demonstrated to the United States government and to the rest of the world. Even the Japanese saw the path of destruction they were headed on. During interrogation, a Japanese Army officer in Yokohama said, “We would have kept on fighting until all Japanese were killed, but we would not have been defeated” (Compton). Japan’s carelessness for their people’s lives is what got them into this mess. If Japan had valued their peoples’ lives, the US wouldn’t have been forced to drop the bomb.
The US government realized that Japan was not going to surrender without serious convincing. The US knew needed to do something big to grab their attention and make them realize that they had no option but to surrender. The US government was posed with a few options to do this: their first option was to use conventional bombs and bomb the Japanese home islands; their second option was to invade the Japanese home islands from the ground (Operation Downfall); their third option was to demonstrate the power of the atomic bomb by dropping it on an unpopulated area; their fourth option was to use the atomic bomb in a populated area (National Park Service). The first option was ruled out because on the night of March 9th, 1945, the city of Tokyo was firebombed. Despite it being regarded as “the single deadliest air raid of World War II,” killing “upwards of 100,000 people,” the Japanese government was not deterred (Long). The second option – Operation Downfall – was quickly ruled out because of Japan’s high resistance to surrender. Option three, demonstrate the atomic bomb on an unpopulated area was also ruled out because there were only two atom bombs in existence at the time and it wasn’t worth using 50% of the atomic bombs in a demonstration. Also, the President Truman had a personal committee “to advise [him] about matters pertaining to the use of nuclear energy and weapons,” and they said “We can propose no technical demonstration likely to bring an end to the war. We can see no acceptable alternative to direct military use” (National Park Service). The fourth option, using the atomic bomb on a populated area, was determined by Truman and his advisors to be the least deadly to us and our allies, and the one with the highest chance of success (National Park Service).
There is an argument to be had that the United States should have gone with a different option like letting Japan keep its emperor. This was a possibility; however, it was too risky to let Japan keep its emperor in fear that they might cause trouble again. This is supported by the fact that doing so could have easily been interpreted as a weakness by the Japanese leadership and could have encouraged them to fight on (History on the Net).
Despite being controversial, the US was justified in their action taken to drop the first atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Japan.?
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