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Why America Dropped the Atomic Bombs on Japan: The Japanese Beliefs

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On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped as an act of war on Hiroshima, Japan. This act was one of the final acts of World War II, leading to the eventual surrender of the Japanese in the war. The dropping of the bomb has become one of the most controversial topics in the twentieth century, not only from a United States, but from the world itself, as well as the Japanese. Harry S. Truman believed an American invasion of Japan would cost 500,000 American lives, as well as Japanese lives. The Japanese disagree with Truman’s reasoning. Not only has it been estimated that far less would die if an invasion took place, it is estimated that only around 40,000 lives. The Japanese believe the real reason for the devastating attacks was for the United States to not only show the Soviet Union their weapons of mass destruction, but to show the world how much of a superpower the United States really was. Also, the threat of the Soviet Union declaring war on Japan was more influential in Japan’s surrender than the atomic bombs.

Due to the United States wanting to show the world their strength, an estimated 70,000 to 100,000 Japanese, including innocent civilians, were killed. The people who survived were devastated, their homes were destroyed, people were dead all around them. Hiroshima was in a terrible condition and no one was able to help. It has been suggested that Japanese Prime Minister Suzuki and Emperor Hirohito were trying to quietly end the war with “behind-the scenes diplomacy.” Harry Truman knew about these efforts by the Japanese, but dropped the bomb anyway. Truman was supposedly pressured by his military advisors, but if the Japanese were going to surrender his decision does not make sense. There was a low chance of the war continuing and Truman losing the lives that he claimed would be lost, yet he chose to take 70,000 to 100,000 lives. This decision supports the theory that the dropping of the atomic bomb was not really related to Japan, it was actually for showing the world the weapons the United

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States had, and to intimidate the Soviet Union.

Another common theme among the Japanese people regarding the atomic bombings is that the atomic bombs were not the reason for the Japanese surrender. They believe that Japan only surrendered because the Soviet Union was threatening to enter the war declare war as well. Japan’s leaders became more combative towards the United States after the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima, they were not really thinking of surrendering. In a cabinet meeting on August 7, 1945, Japan’s leaders discussed lodging a formal protest against the use of an atomic bomb. While the introduction of atomic weapons lead the emperor to believe that “a speedy surrender was the only feasible way to save Japan,” many cabinet members were not ready for Japan to publicly surrender, and were still quietly discussing surrendering through behind-the-scenes diplomacy. If anything, the dropping of the atomic bomb slowed the discussions of a peaceful surrender and made Japan extremely angry. Therefore, on August 7, it was decided that no change of policy was necessary yet. It was not until sometime later, when Prime Minister Suzuki learned of the Soviet Union’s plan to invade, that the Prime Minister was convinced an end to the war was inevitably close. After the dropping of the bomb in Hiroshima, a telegraph was dispatched to Ambassador Sato in Moscow stating “The situation is becoming more and more pressing. We must know the Soviet’s attitudes immediately.” This shows that the Japanese

were much more concerned with the Soviets entering the war than dealing with the Americans.

The Japanese cabinet was extremely concerned that if the Soviets got involved, it would be detrimental to the Japanese people. Although the Japanese anticipated the threat of invasion from the Soviet Union in May 1945, before Germany surrendered, the Japanese never fully prepared for war with the Soviets. They were focused on the United States and had wishful thinking that Russia would not invade. The Japanese general staff was not unanimous in what the Soviet Union’s intentions were, and did not pay as close attention as they should have. Sometime later, Japan began getting word that the Soviets were increasing their threat level and the Soviet Union began to become more of a focus for Japan. The Soviet Union invaded Japan on August 9,1945. This caused a major problem for Japan because now they had to focus on the Soviets, as well as the United States and British. This is arguably the reason the Japanese were so afraid of the Soviet Union getting involved; they are a small country, fighting a war against three different other countries, one of which being the Soviet Union which had a large amount of land and people. Deputy Chief of Staff Kawabe Torashiro said that he found more shock value from the Soviets finally invading than the dropping of the atomic bomb. When he heard the news, he exclaimed “The Soviets have risen!” Because Japan would be fighting a much more difficult war with the Soviet Union involved, Japan eventually surrendered on September 2, 1945.

While the dropping of the atomic bomb is a major influence on world history, it holds a slightly different level of impact for Japan. The Japanese believe that the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima was never really about getting Japan to surrender. Supposedly Harry Truman knew Japan was quietly discussing a possible surrender, but dropped the bomb anyway. The Japanese believe the United States did this in order to intimidate Russia for the impending Cold War and to show the world how much of a super power America was. Although many Japanese lives were lost, there are many other things that were being focused on in Japan. Japanese political leaders were more focused on the possibility of the Soviet Union entering the war than on more bombs being dropped on innocent civilians. The Japanese knew that by the Soviets entering the World War II, they were now battling Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. Because of this, they knew things would not turn out very well for them, thus leading them to surrender. This is a much different perspective than many Western countries have on why Japan surrendered, but these are the trends Japanese people have shown to be their beliefs since the bombings.

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