Should We Have Dropped The Atomic Bomb?This print version free essay Should We Have Dropped The Atomic Bomb?.
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Should we have Dropped the Atomic Bomb?
The atomic bomb killed many innocent people, but it was necessary to end World War II.
After World War II began in 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced the neutrality of the United States. Many people in the United States thought that their country should stay out of the war. The people wanted the Allied Forces to have the victory. President Roosevelt also wanted an Allied victory because an Axis victory might endanger democracies everywhere. The United States equipped nations fighting the Axis with ships, tanks, aircraft, and other war materials. The Axis did not like this. Japan wanted to take over China, but China refused. China was led by Chiang Kai-Shek at the time. Japan wanted the United States to stop sending China supplies, but the United States refused. The United States opposed the expansion of Japan in Asia, so they cut off important exports to Japan.
General Hideki Tojo was the Premiere of Japan. He and other Japanese leaders did not like the fact that Americans were sending war supplies to China and other countries in Asia. A surprise attack was ordered by Japan on December 7, 1941. The target was the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. 360 planes bombed the naval base killing about 3,000 people and destroying many warships, aircraft carriers, and submarines. This was a catalyst that brought the United States into World War II.
Albert Einstein predicted that mass could be converted into energy early in the century and was confirmed experimentally by John D. Cockcroft and Ernest Walton in 1932. In 1939, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann discovered that neutrons striking the element uranium caused the atoms to split apart. Physicists found out that among the pieces of a split atom were newly produced neutrons. These might encounter other uranium nuclei, caused them to split, and start a chain reaction. If the chain reaction were limited to a moderate pace, a new source of energy could be the result. The chain reaction could release energy rapidly and with explosive force.
Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner, and Edward Teller, Hungarian-born physicists were frightened by the possibility that Germany might produce an atomic bomb. They insisted that Albert Einstein inform President Roosevelt about the possibility of the Germans making an atomic bomb. In late 1939 President Roosevelt ordered an American effort to make an atomic bomb before the Germans. This project to produce the atomic bomb was named the Manhattan Project. Industrial and research activities took place at such sites as Los Alamos, New Mexico; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Hanford, Washington. The Manhattan Project was led by J. Robert Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer directed the design and building of the bomb. He and other scientists worked on this project from 1943 to 1945. He was known as the father of the atomic bomb. The first atomic bomb was successfully exploded on July 16, 1945, near Alamogordo, New Mexico.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945. Vice President Harry S. Truman became President of the United States because of the death of Roosevelt. On May 7, 1945 Germany surrendered. Truman proclaimed May 8 as V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day). In July, President Truman went to Potsdam, Germany, to discuss war issues with Prime Minister Churchill of Great Britain and Premier Stalin of the Soviet Union. During his time in Posdam, the President received secret word that the atomic bomb had been successfully tested. On his way back to the United States, President Truman ordered American fliers to drop an atomic bomb in Japan.
On August 6, 1945, a B-29 Superfortress named Enola Gay left the Pacific island of Tinian to bomb the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The Enola Gay was named by the pilot, Colonel Paul Tibbets, after his mother. The crew of Enola Gay were told that no one could be sure what would happen when the atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima. The atomic bomb was named "Little Boy." The Enola Gay carried the "Little Boy" and 7,600 gallons of fuel that made it very heavy. No one was sure if the Enola Gay could be able to lift of the ground, so the final assembly of the bomb was done in the air. The bomb was dropped from an altitude of 31,600 feet and detonated at 1,800 feet above the center of the city. The copilot of the Enola Gay recalled:
"I don't believe anyone ever expected to look at a sight quite like that. Where we had seen a clear city two minutes before, we could now no longer see the city. We could see smoke and fires creeping up the sides of the mountain."
The atomic bomb wiped out 4.1 square miles of Hiroshima. That is about sixty percent of the city. The atomic bomb crashed with the explosive power of 20,000 tons of TNT. The explosion from the bomb was indescribably loud. There was a tremendous fireball of white light. This fireball was a hundred times brighter than the sun and was 250 feet in diameter. The fireball sucked up millions of tons of dust and debris and formed a mushroom cloud that rained radioactive material on the city. The smoke cloud was visible as much as 160 miles at sea and hung over the city for at least four hours. Eighty percent of all buildings in Hiroshima were destroyed and the rest were severely damaged. All means of communication were gone. Eighty percent of the firefighting personnel could not respond to alarms and most of the firefighters were killed or wounded. Seventy percent of the firefighting equipment was destroyed. Water mains broke and pipes melted in the heat. Of Hiroshima's forty-five hospitals only three were standing. The city burned for three days. No one knows exactly how many people were killed in the initial blast, because thousands disappeared without a trace. The official estimates vary between seventy thousand and eighty thousand. Many more were injured. Thousands died after days, months, and years later from radiation effects. Through the Potsdam Conference that had ended a few days earlier had resulted in a general threat. At Potsdam, the allies had issued an ultimatum that called for unconditional surrender. The ultimatum was apparently ignored by the Japanese leaders. The New York Times quoted President Truman as saying:
"It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not know except our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air the like of which has never been seen on this earth."
August 9, 1945, three days after the bombing of Hiroshima, when the Japanese government did not surrender, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. This atom bomb was named "Fat Man." It was more powerful than the one dropped in Hiroshima. "Fat Man" was dropped by a bomber named Bock's Car. New York Times reporter, William L. Laurence rode in an observation plane that accompanied the bomber. After the bomb was dropped, he described the blast:
"...a giant ball of fire rose as though from the bowels (and) a giant pillar of purple fire ...shooting skyward with enormous speed."
Laurence said of the mushroom cloud that it was:
"...even more alive ...seething and boiling in a white fury of creamy foam, sizzling upward and then descending earthward, a thousand geysers rolled into one."
The citizens of Nagasaki was very surprised because the Japanese government tried to minimize knowledge of the extent of damage to Hiroshima. The Japanese government told the people of Japan that it was a "special-type bomb." The "Fat Man" bomb killed nearly a hundred thousand people. Twelve hours later fires in Nagasaki were burning so brightly that pilots two hundred miles away could see the blaze.
Japan surrendered to the Allied forces on August 14, 1945. In his announcement of intention to surrender, the Emperor of Japan included this statement:
"...I cannot endure the thought of letting my people suffer any longer. A continuation of the war would bring death to tens, perhaps even hundreds, of thousands of persons. The whole nation would be reduced to ashes."
President Truman justified his decision to drop atomic bombs on television in February 1965. He said:
"It was a question of saving hundreds of thousands of American lives. I don't mind telling you that you don't feel normal when you have to plan hundreds of complete, final deaths of American boys who are alive and joking and having fun while you are doing your planning. You break your heart and your head trying to figure out a way to save one life.
The name given to our invasion plan was "Olympia," but I saw nothing godly about the killing of all the people that would be necessary to make an invasion of the Japanese mainland. The casualty estimates called for 750,000 Americans -- 250,000 killed, 500,000 maimed for life.
I could not worry about what history would say about my personal morality. I made the only decision I ever knew how to make. I did what I thought was right."
Why the United States dropped the Atomic Bomb: Persuasive Essay
The atomic bomb is the subject of much controversy. Since its first detonation in 1945, the entire world has heard the aftershocks of that blast. Issues concerning Nuclear Weapons sparked the Cold War. We also have the atomic bomb to thank for our relative peace in this time due to the fear of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The effects of the atomic bomb might not have been the exact effects that the United States was looking for when they dropped Little Boy and Fat Man on Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively (Grant, 1998). The original desire of the United States government when they dropped Little Boy and Fat Man on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not, in fact, the one more commonly known: that the two nuclear devices dropped upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki were detonated with the intention of bringing an end to the war with Japan, but instead to intimidate the Soviet Union. The fact of Japan's imminent defeat, the undeniable truth that relations with Russia were deteriorating, and competition for the division of Europe prove this without question.
Admittedly, dropping the atomic bomb was a major factor in Japan's decision to accept the terms laid out at the Potsdam agreement otherwise known as unconditional surrender. The fact must be pointed out, however, that Japan had already been virtually defeated. (McInnis, 1945) Though the public did not know this, the allies, in fact, did. Through spies, they had learned that both Japan's foreign minister, Shigenori Togo and Emperor Hirohito both supported an end to the war (Grant, 1998). Even if they believed such reports to be false or inaccurate, the leaders of the United States also knew Japan's situation to be hopeless. Their casualties in defending the doomed island of Okinawa were a staggering 110,000 and the naval blockade which the allies had enforced whittled trade down to almost nothing. Japan was quickly on the path to destruction. (Grant, 1998). Of course, the Allies ignored this for the reason that dropping the atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would intimidate Russia. Had they truly been considering saving more lives and bringing a quick end to the war in Japan, they would have simply waited them out without the major loss of life seen at both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
At the Yalta conference, Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked Josef Stalin for Russian support in the war with Japan. (Claypool, 1984) "In return for Russian Support against Japan, Roosevelt agreed to terms that some historians feel helped create more tension between the two countries because it gave Russia too much power in world affairs." (Claypool, 1984, Pg. 53) At the time, Roosevelt was not confident that the United States could win the war easily without Russian support. He simply assumed that Japan would have to be invaded (Claypool, 1984). After Roosevelt's death on April 12, 1945, Truman was sworn in as President of the United States (Claypool, 1984). As situations developed and progress on the atomic bomb continued to increase, Truman felt that a Russian invasion of Japanese territory might not be necessary. "If the atomic bomb was effective, there was no need to have the Russians invade Manchuria. . . There was always the possibility that a Russian invasion might mean communist rule after the war." (Claypool, 1984, Pg. 78) It was quite apparent, in fact, to many world leaders that the United States did not want Russian intervention once work on the atomic bomb had been completed. In fact, Prime Minister Winston Churchill has been quoted writing: "Ð’â€˜It is quite clear that the United States do not at the present time desire Russian participation in the war against Japan.'" (Claypool, 1984, Pg. 78) As World War II came to a closure, two new superpowers emerged: the United States and the Soviet Union. The United States obviously felt that if they could prove to the world that they had superior weaponry, that it would be held in the highest regard by all nations of the world. Hiroshima and Nagasaki gave them the power to do just that. It is apparent that because of the troubled relations with Russia, and the confidence that the United States had in the atomic bomb, that they did, in fact, use it to intimidate Russia and not to force a closure to the war with Japan.
Once World War II had concluded, much of Europe lay in ruins. Most of the fascist governments that had dominated Europe during the war and in pre-war times had been dismantled and the two superpowers were in a race to occupy Germany and her surrounding countries in the hopes of influencing their government in one particular way. By 1945, Poland was under a communist regime and the chances were high of the rest of Europe becoming communist. (Legvold, 1999) The United States, despite being allies with Russia during the Second World War, disliked Communism with an extreme passion. The United States obviously hoped that, through the use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, the Russians would be intimidated and thus be more agreeable in negotiations for the division of Europe. Without such a weapon, the Russians would have been ruthless in their ideological takeover of Europe. Of course, since Stalin knew almost everything the Americans did about the atomic bomb, through use of Klaus Fuchs and an accomplice, they were as cool and calm as ever. The United States, however, did not know this, and thus had the right to be as confident as they were at Potsdam. (Claypool, 1984) With such motivation to back them, the United States felt justified in dropping the atomic bomb in order to prevent the spread of communism in Europe by intimidating Russia.
It is quite apparent that the United States did, in fact, drop the two atomic bombs, Little Boy and Fat Man on Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively for the primary reason of intimidating Russia. Japan had suffered severe losses of life and were close to surrender even when they were unaware of the existence of atomic weaponry. The allies knew this and still ignored that fact. Relations with the Russians were becoming increasingly tense at that point and the United States wanted to prove to the world that they, and not the Russians, were the most superior country in the world. By intimidating Russia, all these goals could be realized. It's quite apparent that Truman and Roosevelt felt no compassion for human life, having dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki simply to intimidate Russia. For, instead of the desired effect that the United States had wished for, the Russians responded more hostilely and thus the Cold War began. Perhaps if the atomic bomb was never dropped, the threat of nuclear war might not have been upon us. Building on that, if there was no threat of nuclear war to scare governments and the vast majority of people, would nuclear war have broken out more easily? Perhaps so, for, mankind only agreed to put down their arms once they had seen the horror that such weapons of mass destruction could evoke.
1. Claypool, Jane (1984). Turning Points of World War II: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Toronto: Grolier, 1984.
2. Legvold Robert. "The Cold War" Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia. 1999 Edition.
3. McInnis, Edgar. (1946) The War: Sixth Year. Toronto: Oxford University Press