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To What Degree Was the United States Justified in Using the Atomic Weapons on Japan during WWII?

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2015 marked the seventieth anniversary of using atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, yet the debate over the necessity and justification of that decision is still going on. Hiroshima had been selected as the aim of bombing because of its significance as a transportation and military hub in Japan, which made it one of the key cities in the country. The atomic bombs dropped on Japan on August 6 and August 9 had been developed at Los Alamos. They were the uranium-based “Little Boy” and plutonium-based “Fat Man.” The former was dropped on Hiroshima from a B-29 bomber plane Enola Gay, it instantly killed between 70,000 and 100,000 civilians. Within three days, the other bomb was exploded over Nagasaki, killing at least 40,000 civilians. Tens of thousands people would die later from the effects of radiation. MIAN CLAIM: The United States cannot be justified in using the atomic bombs in Japan during World War II because the bombs were dropped for other than military reasons and affected the civilian population whose death toll reached unprecedented levels.

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The proponents of bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki argue that the use of the two nuclear bombs was justified for several reasons. First, they say, it caused Japan’s final surrender and made the Emperor announce it on August 15, 1945 while mentioning the use of “a new most cruel bomb.” Second, they assert, the Americans were able to save the lives of their soldiers in future combats and avenge for their dead in the war. Third, they point out, the bomb showed the Soviet Union who was dominant in Asia and intimidated it. On the contrary, the opponents of the A-bombs use claim that the bombings were unnecessary and that some explanations of their utility came much later. They say that the surrender of Japan would have occurred at any rate because the country had already been critically weakened and a powerful political faction advocating surrender. Moreover, they argue, the true causes of bombings were the wish to experiment and the need to demonstrate political dominance.

On balance, the main, military argument is too weak to believe it whereas other-than-military arguments seem reasonable enough to claim that Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were unnecessary. Given hundreds of thousands of dead civilians in the days and years following the disaster, one can say that the price of the U.S. experimentation and political bragging was too high.

  • “Hiroshima. Justified Bombings? A Survivor’s Reply.” The New York Times, Aug. 6, 1995, Accessed 10 February, 2018.
  • Kagan, Donald. “Why America Dropped the Bomb.” Commentary, September 1, 1995: 17-23.
  • Leaflet Dropped on the Japanese, August 6, 1945. Miscellaneous Histroical Documents Collection, n.d.,
  • “Virtual Museum.” Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, 2018, Accessed 10 February, 2018.