The Use of the Atomic Bomb on Japan – Great or Grave


President Harry S. Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb on Japan to end W.W. II was the best choice out of the options he had. At the time, the pressure to end the war without U.S. bloodshed was mounting on President Truman. He believed a huge invasion of the mainland of Japan was the only alternative to using this weapon. With the world simply tired of this war, President Truman ordered atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The decision to use the atomic bomb on Japan was the best, but not the only, alternative to a huge mainland invasion of Japan which may have cost the United States as much as one million lives.

Peter Kross, an expert of W.W II as he is the author of “The Encyclopedia of World War II Spies” believes that the use of the bomb as necessary to win the war. According to his article “The Decision to Drop the Bomb,” Kross writes:

American casualties on Iwo Jima had been high, and as the president considered his options, thousands more were dying in Okinawa. The Joint Chiefs’ projections on the number of casualties the United States would suffer in an invasion of the Home Islands were estimated to be 50,800 by D-day plus-30 alone. If the war continued into 1946, which was expected, casualties would rise to well in excess of 100,000. (Kross)

In Kross’ analysis, the importance of winning the war with the least American bloodshed was the most important debate the United States had. They knew that the Japanese would fight to the death, so it only added to the logical thinking behind using the atomic bomb. It has been documented how cruel and gruesome the Japanese treated the Americans. So, to end the war, the United States used a new, experimental weapon that made them the superpower they are today. However, the use of the atomic bomb is shrouded in conspiracy.

Many scholars believed that the use of the atomic bomb on Japan would lead to more uses of the bomb on other countries. This is what many scholars wrote during and after the bombings. Dr. Rudolph Winnacker, a member of the history departments of the Universities of Michigan and Nebraska, stated that he was against the use of the bomb. Winnacker asserts his position by quoting Albert Einstein:

Before the raid on Hiroshima, leading physicists urged the War Department not to use the bomb against defenseless women and children. The war could have been won without it. The decision was made in consideration of possible future loss of American lives-and now we have to consider possible loss in future atomic bombings of millions of lives. The American decision may have been a fatal error, for men accustom themselves to thinking a weapon which was used once can be used again…(Winnacker)

History has shown that this statement is inaccurate. The atomic bombings of Japan remain the only times a country has used an atomic bomb against another country. As Einstein says, President Truman made the decision to use the bomb to avoid the loss of more American lives. Because millions of more lives have not been taken due to other nuclear attacks, it’s safe to say it was a good decision at the time. In addition, Ellergy C. Stowell, author of “The Laws of War and the Atomic Bomb” writes that it is a false notion that war is supposed to be fair, and that the discovery of a new weapon shouldn’t be regarded as an unfair or treacherous act. The simple truth is that during times of war, the country with the best technological and military will win. In W.W. II, this was the United States. Winnacker’s argument that the bomb wasn’t necessary is incorrect and invalid. Peter Kross provides many details of the time, such as intercepted communications by the United States from Japan stating that Japan was moving many soldier’s inland in anticipation of an attack. Albert Einstein gave the United States the information they needed in the late 1930s to develop the bomb before the Germans had any chance. And Stowell makes a great point that technological advantages are what makes a country stronger than the other. Overall, these arguments are stronger and better than Winnacker’s argument that Japan was going to surrender anyways.

Alvin Johnson, in “Twaddle on the Atomic Bomb,” writes

If it [the atomic bomb] does not deserve the credit for bringing Japan to her knees, that is only because the knees of Japan were already flexing under the overwhelming blows of non-atomic bomb power, non-atomic ships and guns and above all, non-atomic American soldiers. The fact remains that if German science had been six months ahead the outcome of the war would have been entirely different. You and I would have tasted the bitter bread of Nazi torture, unless a gentle atomic bomb had restored us to the eternal flux of the perishable atoms. Now this is an interested viewpoint. He is basically stating that, all in all, we (as in the United States) ended up in a great position. If we didn’t develop the Atomic Bomb, a different country would have. And because we were and are the only country to use the bomb, we are the only ones that were able to prove the strength of the weapon (Johnson). Johnson also proves to be somewhat of a future reader. He writes, “Under the atomic bomb there can be no war, as we have known it… ” (Johnson). All the wars since W.W II have been very different, and careful in not using the atomic bomb. MAD, or Mutually Assured Destruction, proved that we didn’t use the bomb since W. W. II. Peter Kross states it the best, writing:

It seems clear now that only an attack as devastating as those carried out at Hiroshima and Nagasaki would ever have forced the most militant elements of Japanese society to lay down their arms. President Truman’s decision to drop the bomb, whether we agree with it or not, spared further bloodshed on both sides and ended a war that had gone on for far too long. (Kross).

It seems that Kross, who wrote his article in 2005, is using more information to come to this conclusion than any of the other authors cited, which wrote there articles between the years of 1945-1947. That is actually a big difference between the primary and secondary sources regarding this subject. Primary sources didn’t have enough access to information as compared to secondary sources that have recently been released. It’s well known that it takes our government many years to declassify documents, and only secondary sources have information from declassified documents. Thus, more information has been released in the last fifty years that Kross examines to come to the above conclusion.

Winnacker admits that it’s impossible to know if Japan would have surrender without the use of the atomic bomb. He writes, “No one will ever know for certain at what tie Japan would have surrendered without the use of the atomic bomb and without an invasion of the home islands (Winnacker).” It seems that the use of the atomic bomb was indeed the correct choice. Also, it seems that the use of the atomic bomb had a great side effect that helped propel the United States into the cold war, and than as the unrivaled leader of the world. Kross writes:

It now seems clear that Truman decided to drop the bomb in order to meet two distinct political objects. First, and most important, was to end the war and prevent the deaths of countless thousands of lives in an American-led invasion of Japan. Second, the atomic blasts sent a clear political message to the Soviet Union and others about the United States’ military capabilities.

It seems safe to say that, because the U.S. is the #1 country and the Cold War witness no atomic bombings, the use of the bomb on Japan proved to be the wise choice. Because the Soviet Union beat the German’s almost single handedly, it’s possible to speculate that the Soviet Union might have been the leader of the world if the United States didn’t use the atomic bomb. But, we established military superiority by using the weapon. Even though the Cold War years were risky, history has shown that the theory of MAD, or Mutually Assured Description, kept both countries away from the Atomic Trigger. Johnson seems to have viewed that the use of the atomic bomb was too strong to use in war. In “Twaddle” he argues that traditional warfare will be back and that nuclear weapons are simply too strong to use. Again, this proved correct, as we haven’t used these weapons again.

There is no conclusion to a subject like this. Sure it’s easy to say that America saved many lives by using the Atomic Bomb. And it’s true that this was the best decision to make. There were alternatives, but President Truman’s decision to use the bomb proved to be a great decision. It ended W.W. II, made Japan surrender, made the US the major technological power house, and propelled the United States into a marvelous superpower status that we continue to enjoy today. As much of history, this subject has many “what if’s”. For instance, “What if the Japanese had surrendered without a mainland invasion?” Well, there are no answers to these questions. The fact remains that, at that time, everybody thought that Japan would fight to the death. There actions, our interceptions, and the global community seems to indicate that Japan wouldn’t simply surrender. So President Truman made what can be regarded as the hardest decision any human had to make: He saved the lives of his own soldier’s in exchange for the lives of another nation’s soldiers. And when it comes down to it, the leader of a nation’s first commitment is to safeguard his citizenry, and this is exactly what President Truman did.

Works Cited Johnson, Alvin, Twaddle on the Atomic Bomb- American Journal of Economics and Sociology > Vol. 5, No. 2 (Jan., 1946), pp.201-222 This is a primary source. Alvin Johnson wrote a great article that I interpreted as meaning that the development of the atomic bomb will change war, but the strength of the bomb will make nations reluctant to use it (again). Kross, Peter, The Decision to Drop the Bomb (cover story); World War II, Jul/Aug2005, Vol.20 Issue 4, p.20, 5p, 9bw. This is a great secondary source. Peter Kross wrote this article as the cover story for the journal World War II. Peter Kross’ work is used throughout my Review Essay because his article has declassified material and he is regarded as a World War II expert. Stowell, C. Ellergy, The Laws of War and the Atomic Bomb, The American Journal of International Law > Vol. 39, No. 4 (Oct., 1945). Pp. 784-788This primary source is useful because it says that there is nothing fair or rational about war. The country with the better technology and/or military wins, and the United States using the Atomic Bomb was simply the case of us developing a technology for our military to use to win a war. Winnacker, A. Rudolph, The Debate About Hiroshima. Military Affairs > Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring, 1947), pp. 25-30 This is a primary source I used to mainly argue against in my Review Essay. I used Ellergy’s, Kross’, and Johnson’s work to undermine Winnacker’s article and viewpoint.