Justifying the Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb


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As World War 2 broke out in Europe, the United States promised its’ citizens that they wouldn’t get involved. After the unwarranted attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan, the US was left with no other choice but to declare war against Japan and join WW2. As the war continued, Japan continued to poke at the US by committing murderous war crimes at The Bataan Death March and using suicidal war tactics at the battles of Okinawa and Iwo Jima resulting in mass casualties of US soldiers. All of these actions by Japan led to US president Harry Truman making the decision to drop an atomic bomb on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Truman’s decision to drop an atomic bomb on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki is justified by the attack on Pearl Harbor and The Bataan Death March, firebombing not being effective to ending the war quickly and effectively, and because a homeland invasion of Japan would have cost both Japan and the US hundreds of thousands of casualties.

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The first reason justifying the decision to drop the bombs was because of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the war crimes that occurred at The Bataan Death March. On December 7, a Sunday in 1941, at 8:00am, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes descended on the US naval base of Pearl Harbor. Many of these bombers drove their planes straight into naval ships and idle air planes. At the end of the attack Japan had managed to destroy about 20 American naval vessels, over 300 airplanes, and about 3,400 US casualties. (“Pearl Harbor”) The attack devastated Americans and forced them to declare war on Japan and thus joining WW2. The Bataan Death March which occurred 4 months later was a 65 mile walk from the Bataan peninsula to a railhead inland by US and Filipino soldiers captured by Japan in a battle in the Philippines. 75,000 injured and starving soldiers embarked on this treacherous 5-10 day march in the scorching heat. Along the way 30,000 soldiers died to disease and others who fell were beaten and some even beheaded. When the rest of the Americans found out about these war crimes Japan had performed, it angered them and many wanted their revenge on the Japanese people via an invasion of Japan or by other means. (Mansoor) As a result of both the attack on Pearl Harbor and the war crimes committed during The Bataan Death March, Harry Truman felt it was only necessary to treat Japan in a similar way to how they treated them, he didn’t want to lose any more Americans but he still had to defeat Japan. In a letter to Christians who were against the use of atomic bombs Truman said, “I was greatly disturbed over the unwarranted attack on Pearl Harbor and their murder of our prisoners of war. The only language they seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them. When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast.” (“Harry Truman Defends…”) This means that after the horrific actions by Japan, the only way to treat them is through the use of atomic bombs which are the only thing that can actually “tame the beast”.

The next reason justifying the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan is because Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have been firebombed and destroyed either way. The use of atomic bombs was simply a bigger statement of the US power and ended the war much quicker than firebombing could have. In March of 1945, Tokyo was firebombed by the US resulting in 100,000 casualties in a single night. (Vespa) Despite the mass casualties and utter destruction of Tokyo by firebombing, Japan still didn’t think of surrendering. If Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been firebombed, they would still have insane amounts of casualties, and the cities would still be destroyed. These would be similar results to that of the atomic bomb but Japan most likely wouldn’t have even thought of surrendering. (“Harry S Truman’s Decision…”) The main difference is how much bigger of a statement the atomic bombs were. They showed the United State’s true power and striked instant fear among civilians, then resulting in Hirohito surrendering not wanting anymore innocent lives to suffer. If atomic bombs hadn’t been used Japan wouldn’t have surrendered and the war would have lasted much longer and have added more and more casualties to both sides.

The final reason justifying Harry Truman’s decision to drop an atomic bomb on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki was because messages were interpreted saying that Japan was prepared to use the same suicidal methods in case of a homebase invasion. At the battles of Okinawa and Iwo Jima Japanese soldiers used the suicidal methods of fighting to the death to maximize US casualties. Combined, roughly 20,000 US soldiers died at these two battles and if these same suicidal methods were used during a homeland invasion, the casualty rates would probably be in the millions for both sides together. Harry Truman said, “My object is to save as many American lives as possible but I also have a human feeling for the women and children of Japan”. (Harry S Truman’s Decision…”) This shows how much death would come out of a Japanese homeland invasion. The invasion would be very difficult and extend the war on for a few more months or even years. The result of the atomic bombs were about 250,000 casualties, while a home land invasion would cost millions of casualties. The use of atomic bombs stopped the war quickly and more importantly saved many lives.

Some people think that atomic bombs shouldn’t have been used and that they were “overkill” because Japan was already on its last legs. One well known believer of this was General Dwight Eisenhower. Even though Japan may have been on its last leg, they still weren’t planning on surrendering considering Hirohito rejected the offer at Potsdam and they were prepared for an invasion by using fight until the death war methods. (Butow) If the US would have tried a homeland invasion instead of using atomic bombs, hundreds of thousands of American and Japanese soldiers would be killed. Others say that using atomic bombs introduced a dangerous precedent for the use of nuclear weapons in the future. Thought this might be true, it was the “only language they seem to understand” and was the only viable means of ending the war quickly and easily. (Harry Truman Defends…”) Lastly, some people think that firebombing would have been a slow and sure way to force Japan to surrender. This would not have worked considering Japan lost 100,000 people in Tokyo and the city got completely destroyed yet Hirohito had no thought of surrendering. To conclude, Harry Truman’s controversial decision to drop an atomic bomb on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan was justified by the attack on Pearl Harbor and the murderous war crimes expressed by Japan at the Bataan Death March. His decision was also justified by firebombing not being an effective means to ending the war quickly or without mass casualties. Finally, Harry Truman’s decision was justified because a homeland invasion of Japan would have cost millions of casualties for both sides and would have only extended the war longer. 

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