The decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was complicated. Initially, the United States perceived World War II as more of a European war. As addressed in the video, the United States was initially more concerned with the Great Depression (YouTube, n.d.). However, after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, people throughout the United States became fearful that Japan would invade (Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, 2013). Yet the American people were rightfully angry that Japan attacked. The lack of American involvement in what was perceived as a European war further supported this anger, as the United States took more of a neutral stance in aiding either side.
In examining the decision to drop the bomb on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Truman had to consider how the Axis powers were behaving. In reviewing the previous actions of the Axis powers, Hitler’s actions were notably bold. Hitler’s hatred of Jews quickly spread to Germany’s hatred of Jews. Hitler invaded and conquered France within six weeks (YouTube, n.d.). Although Japan appeared to have less of an interest in anti-Semitism, they aligned themselves with the Axis powers. In this sense, Japan’s decision to attack Pearl Harbor could have easily been interpreted as another bold move being made by the Axis powers. Furthermore, since the Axis powers were invading countries throughout Europe, it was only feasible that the American people would have been afraid that the Axis powers would invade the United States. Furthermore, it was widely known that the Axis power wanted to develop an atomic bomb. From this perspective, if the United States waited to develop this weapon, it could have been built and deployed by an enemy. In this sense, the United States was more interested in securing its own security rather than the security of the people of Japan.
Although the United States was somewhat aware of the destruction possible from using the atomic bomb, they took the time to attempt to inform the Japanese. According to Yale Law School (2013) prior to dropping the first bomb, fighter jets dropped more than 100,000 pamphlets, trying to inform the Japanese of the weapon they had and would use if necessary. However, these efforts to inform the Japanese seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. Even after the first bomb was dropped, Japan did not believe that the United States had an atomic bomb (Hiroshima & Nagasaki Remembered, 2005). Furthermore, the Japanese failed to surrender. As a result, the second bomb was drooped. From this perspective, it appears as though one bomb alone may not have been sufficient in order to persuade the Japanese to surrender. Yet it could also be argued that the United States was not fully aware of what the atomic bomb could do in terms of damage. The atomic bomb was something new during this period, and the people were unaware of the long-term health affects associated with exposure to radiation.
- 60 Years Later (2005) Hiroshima & Nagasaki Remembered. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from: http://www.hiroshima-remembered.com/
- Decision To Drop The Bomb (2013) Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/hst/d.htm
- The Avalon Project (2013) Yale Law School. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/mp02.asp
- The Century America’s Time: Over the Edge (n.d.) YouTube. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBWQUG9S-g4&list=PLC8D9DC28C3EC5223&index=15