Debate over the atomic bombings
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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 The debate over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a subject of contention concerning the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which took place on August 6 and 9, 1945 and marked the end of World War II. The debate amongst scholars, popular media, and cultures tends to focus on the ethics and necessity of the bombings. The role of the bombings in Japan's surrender and the United States' justification for them has been the subject of scholarly and popular debate for decades. J. Samuel Walker writes in an April 2005 overview of recent historiography on the issue, "the controversy over the use of the bomb seems certain to continue." Walker notes that "The fundamental issue that has divided scholars over a period of nearly four decades is whether the use of the bomb was necessary to achieve victory in the war in the Pacific on terms satisfactory to the United States."[1]




Preferable to invasion


A map outlining the Japanese and U.S. (but not other Allied) ground forces scheduled to take part in the battle for Japan. Two landings were planned:
(1) Olympic — the invasion of the southern island, Kyūshū,
(2) Coronet — the invasion of the main island, Honshū.

Those who argue in favor of the decision to drop the atom bombs argue that there would have been massive casualties on both sides in Operation Downfall, the planned invasion of Japan.[2]

The Americans anticipated losing many soldiers in the planned invasion of Japan, although the actual number of expected fatalities and wounded is subject to some debate. Truman after the war stated that he had been advised that American casualties could range from 250,000 to one million men.[3] Other sources put the highest estimates at 30,000 to 50,000.[4] Millions of Japanese military and civilian casualties were expected.[5] An Air Force Association history says, "Millions of women, old men, and boys and girls had been trained to resist by such means as attacking with bamboo spears and strapping explosives to their bodies and throwing themselves under advancing tanks,"[6] and also that "[t]he Japanese cabinet had approved a measure extending the draft to include men from ages fifteen to sixty and women from seventeen to forty-five (an additional 28 million people).[7]

Supporters also point to an order given by the Japanese War Ministry on August 1, 1944, ordering the disposal and execution of all Allied prisoners of war, numbering over 100,000, if an invasion of the Japanese mainland took place.[8]

Speedy end of war saved lives

Supporters of the bombing also argue that waiting for the Japanese to surrender was not a cost-free option. "For China alone, depending upon what number one chooses for overall Chinese casualties, in each of the ninety-seven months between July 1937 and August 1945, somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 persons perished, the vast majority of them noncombatants. For the other Asians alone, the average probably ranged in the tens of thousands per month, but the actual numbers were almost certainly greater in 1945, notably due to the mass death in a famine in Vietnam. Newman concluded that each month that the war continued in 1945 would have produced the deaths of 'upwards of 250,000 people, mostly Asian but some Westerners."[9][10]

The end of the war also liberated millions of laborers working in harsh conditions under a forced mobilization. In the Dutch East Indies alone, there was a forced mobilization of some 4 million — although some estimates are as high as 10 million — romusha (manual laborers). About 270,000 romusha were sent to the Outer Islands and Japanese-held territories in Southeast Asia, where they joined other Asians in performing wartime construction projects. At the end of the war, only 52,000 were repatriated to Java.[11]

The firebombing of Tokyo alone had killed well over 100,000 people in Japan since February 1945, directly and indirectly. Intensive conventional bombing would have continued or increased prior to an invasion. The submarine blockade and the United States Army Air Forces's mining operation, Operation Starvation, had effectively cut off Japan's imports. A complementary operation against Japan's railways was about to begin, isolating the cities of southern Honshū from the food grown elsewhere in the Home Islands. "Immediately after the defeat, some estimated that 10 million people were likely to starve to death," noted historian Daikichi Irokawa.[12] Meanwhile, fighting continued in The Philippines, New Guinea and Borneo, and offensives were scheduled for September in southern China and Malaya. The Soviet invasion of Manchuria, Operation August Storm, had in the week before the surrender caused over 80,000 deaths.[13]

Philippine justice Delfin Jaranilla, member of the Tokyo tribunal, wrote in his judgement:

"If a means is justified by an end, the use of the atomic bomb was justified for it brought Japan to her knees and ended the horrible war. If the war had gone longer, without the use of the atomic bomb, how many thousands and thousands of helpless men, women and children would have needlessly died and suffer ...?[14]

Part of "total war"

Supporters of the bombings have argued that the Japanese government waged total war, ordering many civilians (including women and children) to work in factories and military offices and to fight against any invading force. Father John A. Siemes, professor of modern philosophy at Tokyo's Catholic University, and an eyewitness to the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima wrote:

"We have discussed among ourselves the ethics of the use of the bomb. Some consider it in the same category as poison gas and were against its use on a civil population. Others were of the view that in total war, as carried on in Japan, there was no difference between civilians and soldiers, and that the bomb itself was an effective force tending to end the bloodshed, warning Japan to surrender and thus to avoid total destruction. It seems logical to me that he who supports total war in principle cannot complain of war against civilians."[15]

Supporters of the bombings have emphasized the strategic significance of the targets. Hiroshima was used as headquarters of the Fifth Division and the 2nd General Army, which commanded the defense of southern Japan with 40,000 military personnel in the city. Hiroshima was a communication center, an assembly area for troops, a storage point and had several military factories as well.[16][13][17] Nagasaki was of great wartime importance because of its wide-ranging industrial activity, including the production of ordnance, ships, military equipment, and other war materials.[18]

An article published in the International Review of the Red Cross notes that, with respect to the "anti-city" or "blitz" strategy, that "in examining these events in the light of international humanitarian law, it should be borne in mind that during the Second World War there was no agreement, treaty, convention or any other instrument governing the protection of the civilian population or civilian property."[19] The Blitz was not one of charges against Hermann Göring, commander of the Luftwaffe, at the Nuremberg Trials.[20]

On June 30, 2007, Japan's first defense minister Fumio Kyuma said the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan by the United States during World War II was an inevitable way to end the war. Kyuma said "I now have come to accept in my mind that in order to end the war, it could not be helped that an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and that countless numbers of people suffered great tragedy." Kyuma, who is from Nagasaki, said the bombing caused great suffering in the city, but he does not resent the U.S. because it prevented the Soviet Union from entering the war with Japan.[21] Nagasaki mayor Tomihisa Taue protested against Kyuma, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized over Kyuma's remark to Hiroshima A-bomb survivors.[22]

In the wake of the outrage provoked by his statements, Kyuma had to resign on July 3.[23] However, the comments of Kyuma were almost similar to those made by emperor Showa when, in his first ever press conference given in Tokyo in 1975, he was asked what he thought of the bombing of Hiroshima. Hirohito then answered : "It's very regrettable that nuclear bombs were dropped and I feel sorry for the citizens of Hiroshima but it couldn't be helped because that happened in wartime."[24]

In early July, on his way to Potsdam, Truman had re-examined the decision to use the bomb. In the end, Truman made the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan. His stated intention in ordering the bombings was to bring about a quick resolution of the war by inflicting destruction, and instilling fear of further destruction, that was sufficient to cause Japan to surrender.[25]

In his speech to the Japanese people presenting his reasons for surrender, Emperor Hirohito referred specifically to the atomic bombs, stating that if they continued to fight it would result in " ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation..."[26]

Japan's leaders refused to surrender

Some historians see ancient Japanese warrior traditions as a major factor in the resistance in the Japanese military to the idea of surrender. According to one Air Force account,

"The Japanese code of bushido — "the way of the warrior" — was deeply ingrained. The concept of Yamato-damashii equipped each soldier with a strict code: never be captured, never break down, and never surrender. Surrender was dishonorable. Each soldier was trained to fight to the death and was expected to die before suffering dishonor. Defeated Japanese leaders preferred to take their own lives in the painful samurai ritual of seppuku (called hara kiri in the West.). Warriors who surrendered were not deemed worthy of regard or respect."[7]

Japanese militarism was aggravated by the Great Depression, and had resulted in countless assassinations of reformers attempting to check military power, among them Takahashi Korekiyo, Saitō Makoto, and Inukai Tsuyoshi. This created an environment in which opposition to war was a much riskier endeavor.[27]

According to an article in the Weekly Standard

"The intercepts of Japanese Imperial Army and Navy messages disclosed without exception that Japan's armed forces were determined to fight a final Armageddon battle in the homeland against an Allied invasion. The Japanese called this strategy Ketsu Go (Operation Decisive). It was founded on the premise that American morale was brittle and could be shattered by heavy losses in the initial invasion. American politicians would then gladly negotiate an end to the war far more generous than unconditional surrender."[28]

The U.S. Department of Energy's history of the Manhattan Project lends some credence to these claims, saying that military leaders in Japan

".... also hoped that if they could hold out until the ground invasion of Japan began, they would be able to inflict so many casualties on the Allies that Japan still might win some sort of negotiated settlement."[29]

While some members of the civilian leadership did use covert diplomatic channels to attempt peace negotiation, they could not negotiate surrender or even a cease-fire. Japan, as a Constitutional Monarchy, could legally enter into a peace agreement only with the unanimous support of the Japanese cabinet, and in the summer of 1945, the Japanese Supreme War Council, consisting of representatives of the Army, the Navy and the civilian government, could not reach a consensus on how to proceed.[27]

A political stalemate developed between the military and civilian leaders of Japan, the military increasingly determined to fight despite all costs and odds and the civilian leadership seeking a way to negotiate an end to the war. Further complicating the decision was the fact that no cabinet could exist without the representative of the Imperial Japanese Army. This meant that the Army and the Navy could veto any decision by having its Minister resign, thus making it the most powerful posts on the SWC. In early August 1945 the cabinet was equally split between those who advocated an end to the war on one condition, the preservation of the Kokutai, and those who insisted on three other conditions : leave disarmament and demobilization to Imperial General Headquarters, no occupation and delegation to Japanese government of the punishment of war criminals.[30] The "hawks" consisted of General Korechika Anami, General Yoshijiro Umezu and Admiral Soemu Toyoda and were led by Anami. The "doves" consisted of Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki, Naval Minister Mitsumasa Yonai and Minister of Foreign Affairs Shigenori Togo and were led by Togo.[27] Under special permission of the Emperor Showa, the president of the Privy council, Kiichiro Hiranuma, was also member of the imperial conference. For him, the preservation of the Kokutai implied not only that of the Imperial institution but also the continuation of Emperor Showa's reign.[31]

Japan had an example of unconditional surrender in the German Instrument of Surrender. On July 26, Truman and other allied leaders issued The Potsdam Declaration outlining terms of surrender for Japan. The declaration stated that "The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction." It was rejected. The Emperor, who was waiting for a Soviet reply to Japanese peace feelers, made no move to change the government position.[32] In the PBS documentary "Victory in the Pacific" (2005), broadcast in the "American Experience" series, the historian Donald Miller argues that in the days after the declaration, the Emperor seemed more concerned with moving the Imperial Regalia of Japan to a secure location than he was with "the destruction of his country." This comment is based on the declarations made by the Emperor to Koichi Kido on 25 and 31 July 1945, when he ordered the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal of Japan to protect "at all cost" the Imperial Regalia.[33]

It has sometimes been argued that Japan would have surrendered if simply guaranteed that the Emperor would be allowed to continue as formal head of state. However, Japanese diplomatic messages regarding a possible Soviet mediation — intercepted through Magic, and made available to Allied leaders — have been interpreted by some historians to mean that "the dominant militarists insisted on preservation of the old militaristic order in Japan, the one in which they ruled."[28] They also faced potential death sentences in trials for Japanese war crimes if they surrendered.[10] This was also what occurred in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and other tribunals.

Professor of history Robert James Maddox wrote that "Another myth that has attained wide attention is that at least several of Truman’s top military advisers later informed him that using atomic bombs against Japan would be militarily unnecessary or immoral, or both. There is no persuasive evidence that any of them did so. None of the Joint Chiefs ever made such a claim, although one inventive author has tried to make it appear that Leahy did by braiding together several unrelated passages from the admiral’s memoirs. Actually, two days after Hiroshima, Truman told aides that Leahy had 'said up to the last that it wouldn’t go off.'" "Neither MacArthur nor Nimitz ever communicated to Truman any change of mind about the need for invasion or expressed reservations about using the bombs. When first informed about their imminent use only days before Hiroshima, MacArthur responded with a lecture on the future of atomic warfare and even after Hiroshima strongly recommended that the invasion go forward. Nimitz, from whose jurisdiction the atomic strikes would be launched, was notified in early 1945. 'This sounds fine,' he told the courier, 'but this is only February. Can’t we get one sooner?'" "The best that can be said about Eisenhower’s memory is that it had become flawed by the passage of time." "Notes made by one of Stimson’s aides indicate that there was a discussion of atomic bombs, but there is no mention of any protest on Eisenhower’s part."[34]

He also writes that "Even after both bombs had fallen and Russia entered the war, Japanese militants insisted on such lenient peace terms that moderates knew there was no sense even transmitting them to the United States. Hirohito had to intervene personally on two occasions during the next few days to induce hardliners to abandon their conditions" "That the militarists would have accepted such a settlement before the bombs is farfetched, to say the least." He also states "Some historians have argued that while the first bomb might have been required to achieve Japanese surrender, dropping the second constituted a needless barbarism. The record shows otherwise. American officials believed more than one bomb would be necessary because they assumed Japanese hard-liners would minimize the first explosion or attempt to explain it away as some sort of natural catastrophe, precisely what they did. The Japanese minister of war, for instance, at first refused even to admit that the Hiroshima bomb was atomic. A few hours after Nagasaki he told the cabinet that 'the Americans appeared to have one hundred atomic bombs . . . they could drop three per day. The next target might well be Tokyo.'"[34]

Another argument by Tsuyoshi Hasegawa is that it was the Soviet declaration of war in the days between the bombings that caused the surrender. Other scholars disagree.[35][36][37]

The "one condition" faction, led by Togo, seized on the bombing as decisive justification of surrender. Kōichi Kido, one of Emperor Hirohito's closest advisers, stated: "We of the peace party were assisted by the atomic bomb in our endeavor to end the war." Hisatsune Sakomizu, the chief Cabinet secretary in 1945, called the bombing "a golden opportunity given by heaven for Japan to end the war."[38]



The cenotaph at the Hiroshima Peace Park is inscribed with an
ambiguous sentence: "Rest in peace, for this mistake will not be
" This construction, natural in the Japanese language,
was intended to memorialize the victims of Hiroshima without
politicizing the issue.

Fundamentally immoral

On August 8, 1945, Albert Camus addressed the bombing of Hiroshima in an editorial in the French newspaper Combat:

"Mechanized civilization has just reached the ultimate stage of barbarism. In a near future, we will have to choose between mass suicide and intelligent use of scientific conquests[...] This can no longer be simply a prayer; it must become an order which goes upward from the peoples to the governments, an order to make a definitive choice between hell and reason."[39]

In 1946, a report by the Federal Council of Churches entitled Atomic Warfare and the Christian Faith, includes the following passage:

"As American Christians, we are deeply penitent for the irresponsible use already made of the atomic bomb. We are agreed that, whatever be one's judgment of the war in principle, the surprise bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are morally indefensible."

The bombings as war crimes

A number of notable individuals and organizations have criticized the bombings, many of them characterizing them as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and/or state terrorism. Two early critics of the bombings were Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard, who had together spurred the first bomb research in 1939 with a jointly written letter to President Roosevelt. Szilard, who had gone on to play a major role in the Manhattan Project, argued:

"Let me say only this much to the moral issue involved: Suppose Germany had developed two bombs before we had any bombs. And suppose Germany had dropped one bomb, say, on Rochester and the other on Buffalo, and then having run out of bombs she would have lost the war. Can anyone doubt that we would then have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and that we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them?"[40]

A number of scientists who worked on the bomb were against its use. Led by Dr. James Franck, seven scientists submitted a report to the Interim Committee (which advised the President) in May 1945, saying:

"If the United States were to be the first to release this new means of indiscriminate destruction upon mankind, she would sacrifice public support throughout the world, precipitate the race for armaments, and prejudice the possibility of reaching an international agreement on the future control of such weapons."[41]

Mark Selden writes, "Perhaps the most trenchant contemporary critique of the American moral position on the bomb and the scales of justice in the war was voiced by the Indian jurist Radhabinod Pal, a dissenting voice at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, who balked at accepting the uniqueness of Japanese war crimes. Recalling Kaiser Wilhelm II's account of his duty to bring World War I to a swift end-"everything must be put to fire and sword; men, women and children and old men must be slaughtered and not a tree or house be left standing." Pal observed:

"This policy of indiscriminate murder to shorten the war was considered to be a crime. In the Pacific war under our consideration, if there was anything approaching what is indicated in the above letter of the German Emperor, it is the decision coming from the Allied powers to use the bomb. Future generations will judge this dire decision...If any indiscriminate destruction of civilian life and property is still illegal in warfare, then, in the Pacific War, this decision to use the atom bomb is the only near approach to the directives of the German Emperor during the first World War and of the Nazi leaders during the second World War."

Selden mentions another critique of the nuclear bombing, which he says the U.S. government effectively suppressed for twenty-five years, as worth mention. On August 11, 1945, the Japanese government filed an official protest over the atomic bombing to the U.S. State Department through the Swiss Legation in Tokyo, observing that:

"Combatant and noncombatant men and women, old and young, are massacred without discrimination by the atmospheric pressure of the explosion, as well as by the radiating heat which result therefrom. Consequently there is involved a bomb having the most cruel effects humanity has ever known. . . . The bombs in question, used by the Americans, by their cruelty and by their terrorizing effects, surpass by far gas or any other arm, the use of which is prohibited. Japanese protests against U.S. desecration of international principles of war paired the use of the atomic bomb with the earlier firebombing, which massacred old people, women and children, destroying and burning down Shinto and Buddhist temples, schools, hospitals, living quarters, etc. . . . They now use this new bomb, having an uncontrollable and cruel effect much greater than any other arms or projectiles ever used to date. This constitutes a new crime against humanity and civilization." [42]

Prof. Seldon concludes that despite the war crimes committed by the Empire of Japan, nevertheless, "the Japanese protest correctly pointed to U.S. violations of internationally accepted principles of war with respect to the wholesale destruction of populations." [43]

In 1963 the bombings were the subject of a judicial review in Ryuichi Shimoda et al. v. The State.[44] On the 22nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the District Court of Tokyo declined to rule on the legality of nuclear weapons in general, but found that "the attacks upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused such severe and indiscriminate suffering that they did violate the most basic legal principles governing the conduct of war."[45]

In the opinion of the court, the act of dropping an atomic bomb on cities was at the time governed by international law found in the Hague Regulations on Land Warfare of 1907 and the Hague Draft Rules of Air Warfare of 1922–1923[46] and was therefore illegal.[47]

As the first military use of nuclear weapons, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki represent to some the crossing of a crucial barrier. Peter Kuznick, director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University, wrote of President Truman:

”He knew he was beginning the process of annihilation of the species. It was not just a war crime; it was a crime against humanity."[48]

Kuznick is one of several observers who believe that the U.S. was largely motivated in carrying out the bombings by a desire to demonstrate the power of its new weapon to the Soviet Union. Historian Mark Selden of Cornell University has stated "Impressing Russia was more important than ending the war in Japan."[48]

Takashi Hiraoka, mayor of Hiroshima, upholding nuclear disarmament, said in a hearing to The Hague International Court of Justice (ICJ):

"It is clear that the use of nuclear weapons, which cause indiscriminate mass murder that leaves [effects on] survivors for decades, is a violation of international law".[49][50]

Iccho Itoh, the mayor of Nagasaki, declared in the same hearing:

"It is said that the descendants of the atomic bomb survivors will have to be monitored for several generations to clarify the genetic impact, which means that the descendants will live in anxiety for [decades] to come. [...] with their colossal power and capacity for slaughter and destruction, nuclear weapons make no distinction between combatants and non-combatants or between military installations and civilian communities [...] The use of nuclear weapons [...] therefore is a manifest infraction of international law."[49]

John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations, used Hiroshima and Nagasaki as examples why the US should not adhere to the International Criminal Court (ICC):

"A fair reading of the treaty [the Rome Statute concerning the ICC], for example, leaves the objective observer unable to answer with confidence whether the United States was guilty of war crimes for its aerial bombing campaigns over Germany and Japan in World War II. Indeed, if anything, a straightforward reading of the language probably indicates that the court would find the United States guilty. A fortiori, these provisions seem to imply that the United States would have been guilty of a war crime for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is intolerable and unacceptable."[51]

Although bombings do not meet the definition of genocide, some consider that this definition is too strict, and that these bombings do represent a genocide.[52][53] For example, University of Chicago historian Bruce Cumings states there is a consensus among historians to Martin Sherwin's statement, that "the Nagasaki bomb was gratuitous at best and genocidal at worst."[54]

Historical accounts indicate that the decision to use the atomic bombs was made in order to provoke an early surrender of Japan by use of an awe-inspiring power. These observations have caused some commentators to state that the incident was an act of "war terrorism". Michael Walzer wrote, "... And, finally, there is war terrorism: the effort to kill civilians in such large numbers that their government is forced to surrender. Hiroshima seems to me the classic case."[55] This type of claim eventually prompted historian Robert Newman, a supporter of the bombings, to argue that the practice of terrorism is justified in some cases.[56]

State terrorism|

[It has been suggested that Atomic bombings of Japan as a form of state terrorism be merged into this article or section. (Discuss)]

Main article: Atomic bombings of Japan as a form of state terrorism

Certain scholars and historians have characterized the atomic bombings of Japan as a form of state terrorism. This interpretation centers around a definition of terrorism as the targeting of innocents to achieve a political goal. As Frances V. Harbour points out, the meeting of the Target Committee in Los Alamos on 10 and 11 May 1945 suggested targeting the large population centers of Kyoto or Hiroshima for a "psychological effect" and to make "the initial use sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized."[57][58] As such, Professor Harbour suggests the goal was to create terror for political ends both in and beyond Japan.[58] However, Burleigh Taylor Wilkins has written that it stretches the meaning of "terrorism" to include wartime acts.[59]

Militarily unnecessary

Those who argue that the bombings were unnecessary on military grounds hold that Japan was already essentially defeated and ready to surrender.

The 1946 United States Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that it had been unnecessary to the winning of the war. After interviewing hundreds of Japanese civilian and military leaders after Japan surrendered, it reported:

"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."[60][61]

Historians, such as Bernstein, Hasegawa, and Newman, have criticized Paul Nitze, the author of the Survey report, for drawing a conclusion that went far beyond what the available evidence warranted, in order to promote the reputation of the Air Force at the expense of the Army and Navy.[62][63][64]

In any case, the survey's counterfactual assumed that conventional bombing attacks on Japan would greatly increase as the bombing capabilities of July 1945 were ...a fraction of its planned proportion...[65] due to a steadily high production rate of new B-29s and the reallocation of European airpower to the Pacific. When hostilities ended, the USAAF had approximately 3,700 B-29s of which only about 1000 were deployed.[66]

Had the war gone on, these and still more aircraft would have brought devastation far worse than either bomb to many more cities. The results of conventional strategic bombing at the cease-fire were summed up thusly:

"...On the basis of photo coverage, intelligence estimated that 175 square miles of urban area in 66 cities were wiped out. Total civilian casualties stemming directly from the urban attacks were estimated at 330,000 killed, 476,000 injured, and 9,200,000 rendered homeless." General Haywood S. Hansell.[66]

One of the most notable individuals with this opinion was then-General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower. He wrote in his memoir The White House Years:

"In 1945 Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives."[67][68]

Other U.S. military officers who disagreed with the necessity of the bombings include General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy (the Chief of Staff to the President), Brigadier General Carter Clarke (the military intelligence officer who prepared intercepted Japanese cables for U.S. officials),[68] and Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet.[69]

"The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan." Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.[61]

"The use of [the atomic bombs] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender." Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Truman.[61]




What was originally the Hiroshima Prefectural
Industrial Promotion Hall has now been turned
into the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. The atomic
bomb exploded almost directly overhead.

Historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's research has led him to conclude that the atomic bombings themselves were not even the principal reason for capitulation. Instead, he contends, it was the swift and devastating Soviet victories in Manchuria that forced the Japanese surrender on August 15, 1945,[70] though the War Council did not know the extent of the losses to the Soviets in China at that time.

Nagasaki bombing unnecessary

As discussed above, there are several strategies for justifying the atomic bombing of Japan, as preferable to more negative outcomes and to promote Japanese surrender such as to avoid them. In the foregoing debate, however, the two bombings and decisions for each of them, are treated largely as a unity. This works to obscure the fact that there were two separate bombings and the second, on Nagasaki, came only three days after the bombing of Hiroshima, at a time when the devastation at Hiroshima had yet to be fully comprehended by the Japanese.[71] The lack of time between the bombings has lead some historians to suggest that the second bombing, of Nagasaki, was "certainly unnecessary,"[72] "gratuitous at best and genocidal at worst,"[73] and no longer jus in bello, acceptable conduct in war.[71]

Racism and dehumanization

Historian James J. Weingartner sees a connection between the American mutilation of Japanese war dead and the bombings.[74] According to Weingartner both were partially the result of a dehumanization of the enemy. "[t]he widespread image of the Japanese as sub-human constituted an emotional context which provided another justification for decisions which resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands." [75] On the second day after the Nagasaki bomb, Truman stated: "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 like a beast. It is most regrettable but nevertheless true".[76][77]


  1. ^ Walker, J. Samuel (April 2005). "Recent Literature on Truman's Atomic Bomb Decision: A Search for Middle Ground". Diplomatic History 29 (2): 334. Retrieved on 2008-01-30. 
  2. ^ Tsuyoshi Hasegawa (2005). Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 298–299. 
  3. ^ Giangreco, Dennis M. (1998-02-16). "Transcript of "Operation Downfall [U.S. invasion of Japan]: US Plans and Japanese Counter-Measures"". Beyond Bushido: Recent Work in Japanese Military History. Retrieved on 2008-03-16.
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  5. ^ Paulin, Joseph H. (May 2007). ""America’s Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb on Japan"" (PDF). Louisiana State University. Retrieved on 2008-08-27.
  6. ^ "The Mission". The Smithsonian and the Enola Gay. U.S. Air Force Association. Retrieved on 2008-03-16.
  7. ^ a b Correll, John T. (1994-03-15). ""The Smithsonian and the Enola Gay"". U.S. Air Force Association. Retrieved on 2008-03-16.
  8. ^ The only existing original copy of general order was found by Jack Edwards after the war in the ruins of the Kinkaseki prisoner of war camp. (Edwards References Page 260)
  9. ^ Murphey, Dwight D. (January/February 1996). "Book Review: Truman and the Hiroshima Cult [by Newman, Robert P. 1995]" pp. 32–36. Conservative Review. Retrieved on 2008-03-16.
  10. ^ a b Rising, Gerry (2001-11-08). "Book review: Downfall [by Richard B. Frank, 1999]". ArtVoice of Buffalo. Retrieved on 2008-03-16.
  11. ^ Library of Congress, 1992, "Indonesia: World War II and the Struggle For Independence, 1942-50; The Japanese Occupation, 1942–45" Access date: February 9, 2007.
  12. ^ Frank, Downfall, p. 351; citing Irokawa, The Age of Hirohito: In Search of Modern Japan (1995), p. 37.
  13. ^ a b Hanson, Victor Davis (2005-08-05). ""60 Years Later: Considering Hiroshima"". National Review. Retrieved on 2008-03-24.
  14. ^ John Dower, Embracing Defeat, p. 473
  15. ^ "The Avalon Project : The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki". Retrieved on August 6, 2005.
  16. ^ "Hiroshima Before the Bombing". Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Retrieved on 2008-03-16.
  17. ^ Hiroshima: Hubertus Hoffmann meets the only U.S. Officer on both A-Missions and one of his Victims Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann
  18. ^ The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima
  19. ^ International Review of the Red Cross no. 323, p. 347–363, The Law of Air Warfare (1998)
  20. ^ Stein, Stuart D. (2001-10-28). "Judgment of International Military Tribunal on Hermann Goering". Retrieved on 2008-03-16.
  21. ^ "Japanese Defense Chief: Atomic Bombing 'Couldn't Be Helped'", Fox News (June 30, 2007). 
  22. ^ "Japan's Abe apologizes to Hiroshima A-bomb survivors over defense minister remark", International Herald Tribune (August 5, 2007). 
  23. ^ Japan News Review "Kyuma steps down over A-bomb gaffe" 3 July 2007
  24. ^ H. Bix, Hirohito and the Making of modern Japan, p. 676; J. Dower, Embracing Defeat, p. 606
  25. ^ Allen, Thomas; Norman Polmar (1995). Code-Name Downfall. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 266–270. ISBN 0684804069. 
  26. ^ "Emperor Hirohito, Accepting the Potsdam Declaration, Radio Broadcast." (14 August 1945). Retrieved on July 09, 2007.
  27. ^ a b c The Pacific War Research Society (2005). Japan's Longest Day. Oxford University Press, 352. 
  28. ^ a b Frank, Richard B. (2005-08-08). ""Why Truman Dropped the Bomb"". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved on 2008-03-16.
  29. ^ Rezelman, David; F.G. Gosling and Terrence R. Fehner (2000). "Japan Surrenders, August 10–15, 1945". The Manhattan Project: An Interactive History. U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved on 2008-03-16.
  30. ^ H. Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, 2001, p. 512.
  31. ^ Bix, ibid, p. 513
  32. ^ Bix, Herbert (1996). "Japan's Delayed Surrender: A Reinterpretation", in Michael J. Hogan, ed.: Hiroshima in History and Memory. Cambridge University Press, 290. ISBN 0-521-56682-7. 
  33. ^ Kido Koichi nikki, Tokyo, Daigaku Shuppankai, 1966, p. 1120–1121
  34. ^ a b Robert, James Maddox (May/June 1995). ""The Biggest Decision: Why We Had to Drop the Atomic Bomb"". American Heritage. Retrieved on 2008-03-16.
  35. ^ Michael Kort (January/February 2006). ""Racing the Enemy: A Critical Look"". Historically Speaking: The Bulletin of the Historical Society. Boston University. Retrieved on 2008-03-23.
  36. ^ ""Book Review: Racing the Enemy"". The Journal of American History (June 2007). Retrieved on 2008-03-23. “This is an important book, but it is also deeply flawed in its argumentation and unconvincing in its central argument relating to U.S. policy.”
  37. ^ "Roundtable Reviews: Racing the Enemy" (links to PDFs). (January–February 2006). Retrieved on 2008-03-23.
  38. ^ Kristof, Nicholas D. (2003-08-05). ""Blood On Our Hands?"". New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-03-16.
  39. ^ Albert Camus in Combat newspaper, August 8, 1945, available in French here
  40. ^ "Leo Szilard, Interview: President Truman Did Not Understand.", U.S. News and World Report: 68–71, 15 August 1960, <>  (republished at [1], reached through Leo Szilard page at [2])
  41. ^ John Toland, ibid, p. 762.
  42. ^ The Atomic Bomb: Voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Mark Selden, Kyoko Selden; M. E. Sharpe, 1989
  43. ^ The Atomic Bomb: Voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Mark Selden, Kyoko Selden; M. E. Sharpe, 1989
  44. ^ Shimoda et al. v. The State, Tokyo District Court, 7 December 1963
  45. ^ Falk, Richard A. (1965-02-15). "The Claimants of Hiroshima", The Nation.  reprinted in (1966) "The Shimoda Case: Challenge and Response", in Richard A. Falk, Saul H. Mendlovitz eds.: The Strategy of World Order. Volume: 1. New York: World Law Fund, pp. 307–13. 
  46. ^ Boyle, Francis A. (2002). The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence. Atlanta: Clarity Press, 58. 
  47. ^ Falk, op. cit., p. 308.
  48. ^ a b "Hiroshima bomb may have carried hidden agenda". (21). Retrieved on July 28, 2006.
  49. ^ a b November 1995 Public Sitting, in the Case of Legality of the Use by a State of Nuclear Weapons in Armed Conflicts at La Hague International Court of Justice
  50. ^ See also 1995 Peace Conference, by Takashi Hiraoka, Mayor of Hiroshima
  51. ^ "The Risks and Weaknesses of the International Criminal Court from America's Perspective", by John Bolton, current US ambassador to the United Nations, Winter 2001.
  52. ^ Frey, Robert S. (2004). The Genocidal Temptation: Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Rwanda and Beyond. University Press of America. ISBN 0761827439.  Reviewed at: Rice, Sarah (2005). "The Genocidal Temptation: Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Rwanda and Beyond (Review)". Harvard Human Rights Journal Vol. 18. 
  53. ^ Dower, John (1995). "The Bombed: Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japanese Memory". Diplomatic History Vol. 19 (no. 2). 
  54. ^ Cumings, Bruce (1999). Parallax Visions. University Press of Duke, 54.  Sherwin, Martin (1974). A World Destroyed: The Atomic Bomb and the Grand Alliance. 
  55. ^ Walzer, Michael (2002). "Five Questions About Terrorism" (PDF) 49 (1). Foundation for the Study of Independent Social Ideas, Inc.. Retrieved on 2007-07-11. 
  56. ^ Newman, Robert (2004). Enola Gay and the Court of History (Frontiers in Political Communication). Peter Lang Publishing. ISBN 0-8204-7457-6. 
  57. ^ Record Group 77, Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, Manhattan Engineer District, TS Manhattan Project File (1945-05-26). "Minutes of the second meeting of the Target Committee". Retrieved on 2005-08-06. “It was agreed that psychological factors in the target selection were of great importance. Two aspects of this are (1) obtaining the greatest psychological effect against Japan and (2) making the initial use sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized when publicity on it is released. B. In this respect Kyoto has the advantage of the people being more highly intelligent and hence better able to appreciate the significance of the weapon. Hiroshima has the advantage of being such a size and with possible focussing from nearby mountains that a large fraction of the city may be destroyed. The Emperor's palace in Tokyo has a greater fame than any other target but is of least strategic value.”
  58. ^ a b Harbour, Frances Vryling (=1999). Thinking About International Ethics: Moral Theory And Cases From American Foreign Policy, 133f. ISBN 0813328470. 
  59. ^ Wilkins, Burleigh Taylor. Terrorism and Collective Responsibility. Routledge, 11. ISBN 041504152X. 
  60. ^ "United States Strategic Bombing Survey; Summary Report" pg. 26. United States Government Printing Office (1946). Retrieved on July 28, 2006.
  61. ^ a b c Freeman, Robert (August 6 2006). "Was the Atomic Bombing of Japan Necessary?". 
  62. ^ Gentile, Gian P. (2000-12-01). How Effective is Strategic Bombing? — Lessons Learned from World War II to Kosovo. NYU Press. ISBN 978-0814731352. Retrieved on 2008-08-06. “Paul Nitze recalled in his memoirs that he believed in July 1945 that Japan would surrender [in a matter of months] "even without the atomic bomb." ... It was natural for Nitze to begin his analysis with a hypothesis concerning the effects of the atomic bombs on ending the war with Japan. Yet Nitze remained committed to that notion even when the evidence — the interrogations of Japanese officials — did not reasonably support his conclusions. And Nitze's bold statement that his conclusions on why Japan surrendered were based on "all the facts," after a mere three months of evidence gathering, stretches the limits of believability.” 
  63. ^ Hasegawa, Tsuyoshi. "The Atomic Bombs and the Soviet Invasion: What Drove Japan’s Decision to Surrender?". Japan Focus. Retrieved on 2008-08-06.
  64. ^ Newman, Robert P. (2004-08-02). "Remember the Smithsonian's Atomic Bomb Exhibit? You Only Think You Know the Truth". History News Network. George Mason University. Retrieved on 2008-08-06.
  65. ^ "United States Strategic Bombing Survey; Summary Report" (Transcription of original work). Report pg. 29. United States Government Printing Office (1946). Retrieved on July 28, 2006.
  66. ^ a b Hansell, Haywood S., The Strategic Air War Against Germany and Japan, ISBN 0-912799-39-0 Chapter 6, p. 256: "The total inventory of B-29s on hand in the Army Air Forces was about 3,700. ...On the basis of photo coverage, intelligence estimated that 175 square miles of urban area in 66 cities were wiped out. Total civilian casualties stemming directly from the urban attacks were estimated at 330,000 killed, 476,000 injured, and 9,200,000 rendered homeless."
  67. ^ Eisenhower, Dwight D. (1963). The White House Years; Mandate For Change: 1953-1956. Doubleday & Company, pp. 312–313. 
  68. ^ a b "Hiroshima: Quotes". Retrieved on August 6, 2005.
  69. ^ "Decision: Part I". Retrieved on August 6, 2005.
  70. ^ Hasegawa, Tsuyoshi (2005). Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan. Belknap Press, pg. 298. ISBN 0-674-01693-9. 
  71. ^ a b Polkinghorn, Brian (1994). "History Held Hostage: Learned Lessons from the Conflict over the Smithsonian Institute's Enola Gay Exhibit". George Mason University. Retrieved on 2008-08-27. References
    Okamoto, Mitsou. "War Memories or History: The Enola Gay Debate and the Peace Prayer Memorial". Peace Studies Association Conference, Tufts University, March 10, 1994.
  72. ^ Sherwin, M: "A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and Its Legacies", page 237. Stanford University Press, 2001.
  73. ^ Cummings, B: "Parallax Visions", page 54. University Press of Duke, 1999.
  74. ^ James J. Weingartner (Feb 1992). "Trophies of War: U.S. Troops and the Mutilation of Japanese War Dead, 1941–1945". Pacific Historical Review 61 (1): 556. 
  75. ^ Weingartner, p. 67
  76. ^ Weingartner, p. 54.
  77. ^ Weingardner further attributes the Truman quote to Ronald Schaffer, Wings of Judgement: American Bombings in World War II (New York, 1985), p. 171

Further reading

Debates over the bombings

Concludes the bombings were justified.

Weighs whether the bombings were justified or necessary, concludes they were not.

Weighs whether the bombings were justified or necessary.

"The thing had to be done," but "Circumstances are heavy with misgiving."

Philosophical/moral discussion concerning the Allied strategy of area bombing in WWII, including the use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Argues the bombs were not the deciding factor in ending the war. The Russian entrance into the Pacific war was the primary cause for Japan's surrender.

Author is diplomatic historian who favors Truman's decision to drop the atomic bombs.

An analysis critical of postwar opposition to the atom bombings.

Covers the controversy over the content of the 1995 Smithsonian Institution exhibition associated with the display of the Enola Gay; includes complete text of the planned (and canceled) exhibition.

External links