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The Drop of the Atomic Bomb

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With the aftermath of World War II, the world became a different place. A new weapon of mass destruction emerged: a weapon far more frightening than any before. It was the atomic bomb. Supporters would argue that the atomic bomb was a brave and necessary move on the part of the United States. Critics, however believe that the atomic bomb introduced an element of constant danger to the world; its use in World War II would have extreme repercussions. So what justified its use? The moral implications of using the atomic bomb was not lost on President Truman, but it reflected a culmination of viewpoints at the time.

Japan started the conflict with the United States on December 7, 1941 when 353 Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor without warning. Overnight Japanese forces invaded Hong Kong, Guam, Midway, the Philippines, and other American bases in the pacific. With the near entirety of American public opinion in support, the United States entered the conflict.

Throughout the war, the United States and Britain had already dropped countless bombs on German cities as a part of their saturation techniques; by destroying cities through air strikes they could diminish civilian morale. It was only a matter of time before aerial warfare would be a regular occurrence in Japan as well. In Japan, bombers known as "superfortresses" were designed for long flights and heavy bomb loads. Bombs were dropped on major cities in an act of war that affected military and civilians alike. One air raid alone destroyed over 250,000 buildings and killed 83,000 people. These air raids are predecessors to the destruction that would be caused by the atomic bombs.

In 1939 a team of scientists, led by Albert Einstein, communicated to president Franklin Delano Roosevelt that Nazi powers were attempting to build nuclear weapons. Shortly after, the United States government commissioned the Manhattan Project in the attempt to beat the Germans to the punch. Through the combined effort of scientists across the allied powers, the world's first atomic bomb was created.

Truman believed that the greatest marvel of the bomb lie in just that: "the scientific brains in putting together infinitely complex pieces of knowledge held by men in different fields of science into a workable plan." He believed that the atomic bomb was the "greatest achievement of organized science in history." These statements, taken from his broadcast in 1945, reflect his belief that the atomic bomb was a feat of scientific progression. They suggest that the atomic bomb was a symbol of human ingenuity and ability. In his address to the American people Truman also suggests that the atomic bomb could have scientific implications. The new understanding of nature's forces could lead to understanding nuclear energy. This idea appears to have come to fruition; even though atomic energy was not economically viable during or immediately after world war two, it has become a possibility in the modern world.

Economic issues are also important in this issue, as it is with so many others. In Truman's Announcement of the Dropping of the Atomic Bomb in 1945, he offers some numbers on the building of the bomb. Certainly the Manhattan Project offered many jobs for American workers. Employment peaked at 125,000 individuals working on developing nuclear weapons at once. Of course, they did not know the full details on the product they were creating and the number was small, but nonetheless they were offered jobs. A much larger effect was the amount of money spent into the Manhattan Project. From 1939 to 1945, $2 billion was poured into the development of nuclear weapons. The amount of industrial and financial resources used was quite incredible as well. Only the United States had the producing capabilities to undertake the project. Though the information and resources were pooled between The United States and Great Britain, it was decided that the United States was safer because of its distance from the battlefield. Nonetheless, the two billion dollars used came from American pockets.

"The fate of the Empire rests on this enterprise every man must devote himself totally to the task in hand." This sentiment, expressed by Admiral Yamamoto, Commander in Chief of the Japanese Navy, describes the mentality of the Japanese people. They were not about to give up even when faced with defeat. Centuries with the Bushido code had instilled a mentality of perseverance and honor in the Japanese population. The emphasis of loyalty in the Bushido code trained them to be brave reckless enemies. One manifestation of their incredible resistance to defeat lie in their use of kamikaze, or suicide bombings, in warfare. Coupled with this was their prolonged exposure to the relationship dynamics of Confucianism and group mentality. Combined, the philosophies of the Japanese people created extreme commitment to their cause. As a result, any diplomatic attempts to wrestle peace from the Japanese failed. As Einstein put it, "the threat of naked power" would be the only technique possible in future negotiations. "Considerations of national prestige" were just too prominent. Perhaps one of the most important reasons behind the use of the atomic bomb was the failure of Japan to cooperate without violence.

The atomic bomb was in some ways a last resort for the allied powers. Because Japan was difficult to negotiate with, President Truman felt that more lives would be lost if he did not take action. Truman's ultimate justification was his adamant stand that more lives would be saved, American or otherwise, had the atomic bomb not been dropped. For him, the bomb would end the war early, saving the United States and other allied powers from further invasion of Japan. In his address to the nation, Truman also posited that "atomic power can be a powerful and forceful influence toward the maintenance of world peace." Truman appears to suggest that nuclear weapons could help facilitate peace. Other prominent figures, such as Albert Einstein, supported this belief.

Some historians, however, believe that this belief was flawed. In retrospect, many believe that the dropping of the two atomic bombs could have been avoided. Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz of the Pacific Fleet posits that "The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive



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