Why Did We Drop the Bomb?
In 1945 on August 5th at 8 seconds past 8:16AM the atomic bomb, “The Little Boy”, exploded over Hiroshima , Japan . Fifty-one seconds previously, the bomb was dropped by the B-29 Enola Gay at a height of almost six miles. The explosion occurred at a height of 1,850 feet and created a huge fireball, which possessed for a fraction of a second, the temperature of a million degrees. “The Little Boy” had released the equivalent of 13,500 tons of TNT over the city.
The point of explosion in the air is generally referred to as the epicenter; the point directly below it, on the ground, as the hypocenter. The intense heat of this explosion incinerated virtually everything within a radius of some five hundred yards of the hypocenter. Within a three-hundred-yard radius the heat waves traveled at a speed of around twelve hundred feet per second. Buildings as distant as two miles or more were set ablaze. A thick cloud of smoke mushroomed into the sky to a height of forty thousand feet. The shockwave that followed immediately after the explosion was felt well over a mile away from the hypocenter. Radioactivity within a half mile radius was so intense that almost everyone who managed to survive both the heat and the blast were doomed to eventual death from the effects of radiation. Death for the lucky ones was swift, but for many, the pain lingered for minutes or even days. Some, still a half century later, are suffering and dieing from the painful, cancer causing effects of radiation sickness (Pacific 237).
Even though pre-bomb population information of Hiroshima is not known for sure and the fires that ravaged the city destroyed bodies, most experts estimate the loss of life within that first year after the explosion to be around 140,000. Due to the nature of radiation and its cancer causing effects, over the last half century, that figure has increased to about 200,000 lives. These estimates do not include the deaths of three days later when the atomic bomb “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki ending an estimated 70,000 more lives (Ohba).
The devastation caused by our dropping the bomb on Japan was horrendous. We should never have dropped an atomic bomb on Japan let alone two bombs. The A-bomb should never have been dropped on Japan because: Japan was already beaten, Japan was trying to surrender, and the A-bomb is inhumane.
Japan was already beaten
Approaching the summer of 1945, Japan, already without a navy to speak of and its air force in shambles, really could no longer defend itself. United States bombers could pretty much fly over its mainland carpet bombing any targets it wished with little loss of planes. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey issued this statement in July of 1946:
Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945 and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated. (qtd. in Nuclear)
Japan was in no condition to defend itself let alone make continued war upon its neighbors. Most experts agree that Japan , which was arming its citizens with bamboo spears, would not be able to withstand continued conventional bombing of its infrastructure. Why then did we need to drop the atomic bomb?
Japan was trying to surrender
During the later part of the war, Japan was looking to Russia , to help mediate a surrender agreement with the West. The political structure of Japan at the time of the war left most of the power with the military. Japan ‘s cabinet, through its Foreign Minister Togo , to its ambassador in Russia , clearly stated it wished to discuss surrender. Having broken the Japanese code, the United States was able to clearly see Japan ‘s wish to end the war. Some of the messages intercepted were:
July 18: “Negotiations…necessary…for soliciting Russia ‘s good offices in concluding the war and also in improving the basis for negotiations with England and America .”
July 22: “Special Envoy Konoye’s mission will be in obedience to the Imperial Will. He will request assistance in bringing about an end to the war through the good offices of the Soviet government.”
July 26: “The aim of the Japanese Government with regard to Prince Konoye’s mission is to enlist the good offices of the Soviet Government in order to end the war.” (qtd. Long)
Japan clearly wanted to end its war with the West. Its navy and air force were decimated and its citizens and soldiers were hungry. Japan could have inflicted heavy losses upon an invasion force, but the United States did not need to invade. The bombing and blockade campaigns were doing the work for the Allies. Japan was willing to surrender if its Emperor was left alone. The United States knew this, and Japan knew this, but the United States , when it issued its terms to Japan made no mention of the Emperor’s fate. Japan would not surrender without knowing its emperor’s fate. After the Atomic bomb was dropped, Japan did surrender, and the Emperor was left alone. Experts state that if the United States declaration for unconditional surrender had included a clause proclaiming the fate of the emperor, Japan would have surrendered before the use of the atomic bomb. Why then did we need to drop the atomic bomb?
The A-bomb is inhumane
The use of atomic weapons on cities full of non-combatants is a horrendous action. The United States forever showed to the rest of humanity its overwhelming drive to win at any price. Against international law, it not only bombed cities with conventional weapons (everyone else in the war forgot this provision as well), but also demolished two Japanese cities with the unparalleled power of an atomic weapon.
Death by an atomic weapon is a very messy and painful affair. If you are one of the lucky ones you are incinerated by the blast or killed from the debris of the shockwave instantly. Unlucky ones receive burns ranging from first degree (minor sunburn-like) to fifth degree (destroyed muscle and connective tissue), leaving them suffering in unbearable pain and leaving little resistance to infection. As if this were not enough, nuclear weapons have a secondary killer besides the blast and shockwave. Radiation is released in massive amounts, dancing unseen among the cellular structure of the body. This damage is quite severe, ranging from: nausea, diarrhea, hair loss, and infertility to hemorrhage of the mouth and kidney, destruction of bone marrow, neural disruption, and death. Even years later, survivors, who believed they beat the odds and survived, came down with differing cases of cancer, caused by overexposure to radiation. Killing someone with a gun or bomb is one thing, but making her suffer in pain for days, weeks or years is unfathomable.
Below is a first hand account of the devastation from Ms. Michiko Yamaoka:
When I was rescued, my hair was burned; my face was inflated like a balloon. Though my mother did not say, I knew it. I wondered why my shirt had been burnt and hanging around my arms, I soon realized they were pieces of my skin. It was hell. I saw people looking for water and they died soon after they drank it. I saw many people go to the river in search of water and who died. The whole city was destroyed and burning. (Ohba)
Death and destruction on this scale is unfathomable and irresponsible. Why would any country develop and use such a means to end a war it had pretty much won already? President Truman even believed our country would not abide the genocide of cities, when he spoke to the nation during a radio speech on August 9, 1945 , about the Hiroshima bombing:
The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima , a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians. But that attack is only a warning of things to come. If Japan does not surrender, bombs will have to be dropped on her war industries and, unfortunately, thousands of civilian lives will be lost. I urge Japanese civilians to leave industrial cities immediately, and save themselves from destruction. (National)
Saying this, he knew we had just bombed a heavily populated city, Hiroshima , and had just also bombed Nagasaki , another heavily populated city. Why give warning when you have already dropped two atomic bombs on as many cities? Was Truman just speaking to the American citizens and not giving a warning to the Japanese? Why then did we drop the atomic bomb?
In conclusion, the use of atomic weapons on Japan inflicted a terrible loss of life without need. Brigadier General Carter Clarke, military intelligence officer in charge of preparing intercepted Japanese cables, said it best, “…when we didn’t need to do it, and we knew we didn’t need to do it, we used them as an experiment for two atomic bombs.” (qtd. Long). The United States did use Hiroshima and Nagasaki as experiments to see the effects of a nuclear blast upon a city, and to send the Russian’s a message that the United States had, and would use, nuclear weapons to serve its interests.
In the late twentieth century and creeping into the twenty-first, the United States of America condemns other countries for the slaying of innocent civilians. The United States tells Israel to pull out of the West Bank because of the loss of some civilian lives in their campaign against terror. Why should they? One look at our history shows that when pushed we have, and will use, nuclear weapons. We even used them on a country already beaten by our superior military might. I hope that fifty years without military use of nuclear weapons is a trend, and that they will not be used ever again. Of course, in 1945, the United States had only a few bombs. Today, in countries around the world, the stockpile of nuclear mass destruction totals some 39,000 warheads (Natural). Hopefully, what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki will never happen again.
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Ohba, Mitsuru, John Benson. A-Bomb WWW Museum . 2 July 2000
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National Archives and Records Administration. Truman Presidential Museum & Library.
Apr. 11 2002 http://www.trumanlibrary.org
Natural Resources Defense Council. NRDC. Apr. 17 2002
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Extract from U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey Summary Report.
Apr. 17 2002 <http://www.nuclearfiles.org/docs/1945/45-bomb-survey-x.html >