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History of the A-Bomb

In early August 1945 atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These two bombs quickly yielded the surrender of Japan and the end of American involvement in World War II. By 1946 the two bombs caused the death of perhaps as many as 240,000 Japanese citizens1. The popular, or traditional, view that dominated the 1950s and 60s – put forth by President Harry Truman and Secretary of War Henry Stimson – was that the dropping of the bomb was a diplomatic maneuver aimed at intimating and gaining the upper hand in relations with Russia. Today, fifty-four years after the two bombings, with the advantage of historical hindsight and the advantage of new evidence, a third view, free of obscuring bias and passion, can be presented. First, the dropping of the bomb was born out of complex infinite military, domestic and diplomatic pressures and concerns. Second, many potentially viable alternatives to dropping the bombs were not explored by Truman and other men in power, as they probably should have been. Lastly, because these alternatives were never explored, we can only conjecture over whether or not Truman’s decision was a morally just one, and if indeed it was necessary to use atomic energy to win the war.

The war in Asia had its roots in the early 1930s. Japan had expansionist aims in Eastern Asia and the Western Pacific, especially in Indochina2. In July of 1940 the United States placed an embargo on materials exported to Japan, including oil in the hope of restraining Japanese expansionism. Nevertheless, tensions remained high in Asia, and only increased in 1939 when Germany ignited World War II with an invasion of Poland. America’s determination to remain isolated changed abruptly following Japan’s “surprise attack” on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941. Military strategists and politicians poured the majority of American war effort into the European theater, and before the United States could fully mobilize most of South-East Asia had fallen to Japan, including the Philippines. Slowly, the United States recaptured the many small islands invaded by Japan, including Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. These “Japanese forces waged a stubborn, often suicidal battles were ferocious; although the Americans won each, resistance.” They demolished the Japanese fleet and established air bases3, for at the naval...

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Category:   World War II

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