Were two atomic devices required to end the war with Japan?
On the 6th August 1945, a terrific flash of light and a wave of heat rippled across Japan, tearing window frames and doors off their hinges, simply melting innocent civilians as they looked on in awe at ‘Little Boy’, the first ever atomic device to be used in warfare fell from the sky.During the First World War, Japan had fought with the allies; British people lived happily in Japan and enjoyed the benefits of trading with America. What went so utterly wrong to force Truman to sign the death warrant of over 200,000 people?After the horror of the First World War Japan started to become more westernised, to complete the new look they needed an empire all the western nations had one and the Japanese had their eye on Manchuria in China. However the League of Nations stepped in and condemned the Japanese bid for an empire.
The Japanese felt penalised, the Japanese people started to ignore their new lifestyles and re-engage the old ways of the east, the old culture was fully embraced, the emperor of Japan become a demigod, his word was final. The emperor gave command to his imperial army; they ruled with an iron fist. Huge numbers of soldiers underwent brutal training to prove their loyalty and worth. The people of Japan embraced the changes believing everything they where told about the good of the pure race.
The Japanese government indoctrinated its soldiers and people into hating the Chinese people they where told that the Chinese where worth less barely human and should be disposed of. The army invaded Nanking. The Chinese capitol was ransacked, the brutal training and anti Chinese propaganda was taking its effect, as people were burned and raped.The allied forces mocked the Japanese invasion, thinking them primitive and useless, however the Japanese forces where far superior to the Chinese and on a par with many western armies.
The Japanese war machine set about carpet-bombing china; the army wreaked a bloody havoc, leaving a trail of destruction behind them. Meanwhile in Japan a mini renaissance was occurring and Japan was flourishing in its new, old world.In this new super power Germany saw a new ally, and began talks, the Japanese army set about claiming the colonies of Germanys enemies to seal their pact. The USA issued an ultimatum to the Japanese.
It didn’t go down well and Japan responded by bombing Pearl Harbour, the American south pacific fleet was completely destroyed. The USA retaliated with an invasion of Hong Kong. The Japanese army knew the American view of them, and responded with a powerful counter-attack, destroying even army hospitals. Thousands of prisoners where taken and kept in appalling conditions, many British still living in Hong Kong found themselves helpless.The USA reeled in shock; they had seriously underestimated the Japanese army. The Japanese relished the success; huge parts of Asia now belonged to Japan.
A strong love for the emperor kept the nation together, the emperor himself issued a statement to the army that he himself would personally pray for every soldier that died for his emperor, for the Japanese this was worth dying for. The army was told surrender was dishonourable and that it is better to kill yourself than surrender.The American forces attacked Japanese islands such as Okinawa, the Japanese fought back bravely and brutally, the Americans mocked them more for fighting a lost battle, in New Guinea the Japanese began to eat their dead as a mark of respect. In towns across Japan people would kill themselves rather than be captured by the Americans, suicide missions and kamikaze pilots where used to halt the American advance, the Americans began a titanic bombardment to force surrender, the Japanese kept fighting.
Brutal tactics where used by the Japanese army. They dug themselves into the land itself and waited for the Americans to land. There were huge casualties on both sides but neither would surrender, most of the allied deaths where POW’s, the Japanese marched the POW’s across huge areas of Asia sometimes across entire countries.Even with all this the Japanese still believed in they’re riotousness. Then the Americans were left with no options, the Japanese were seeking the help of Moscow, apparently to discuss surrender terms, but the Americans could not take the risk.
An atomic bomb was dropped, soon after a second. The Japanese surrendered.The question is asked were the atomic bombs necessary to end the war, what would have happened if America had not dropped them would Japan have surrendered anyway?The reasons for dropping the bombs can be split into two sections, winning the war and beating Japan and secondly, seeking revenge or justice for the atrocities suffered by America up to this point. Firstly winning the war.
The first point to consider is the mindset of the Japanese people their Prime Minister Suzuki issued this statement as the Americans where invading.”I expect the 100,000,000 people of the glorious empire to join themselves into a shield to protect the emperor and the imperial land from the invader.”Statements like these prove the Japanese people were not prepared to give up at any cost. In addition to the civilians of Japan the millions of Japanese soldiers where willing to fight to the death for there beloved emperor and the thousands of pilots were also prepared to give their lives to become kamikazes, to an American negotiations with a people as blinkered and brutal as these were simply not possible. Food production and distribution came second to the inhabitants of Japan the defence of the islands was paramount above everything.
Further proof that a peace treaty was out of the question.So with the option of truce completely removed the next step is conventional attack similar to the ones already used and those used by the allies to reclaim Europe. However, prior to the drop of the bomb these attacks had proved useless, to stage an all out attack would have cost somewhere around 900,000 American lives. Plus, the American fleet was completely destroyed at Pearl Harbour so the attack would have been poorly supported leading to further losses.
A conventional attack would have been completely suicidal for the Americans. The loss of lives would have been nowhere near worth the outcome.With options running out the American government had to make a decision as the longer the war went on the more suffering there would be for both sides. It makes sense to me for the Americans to look around desperate for a solution and see the A-bomb, an untried risky weapon that would undoubtedly cause terrific damage but at an unknown price. Surely it would be worth the risk if it meant ending the war for good?We can now see why the atomic bomb was necessary from the point of view of ending the war but what about from America’s pride how would that have affected the decision.Firstly it seems that the atomic bombs served, as revenge for Pearl Harbour, where Japanese planes destroyed the South Pacific Fleet to America this was a real blow.
Then the treatment of their prisoners of war, American POW’s where treated very badly, beaten, starved and marched across Japan many of them died or were executed. This further enraged America, a treaty had been offered to the Japanese, which they had thrown back at America. These three points may have blurred slightly America’s ability to make completely rash decisions. We cannot say that this is reason for the Americans to regret dropping the bomb as all of these things where the fault of the Japanese, the Japanese had effectively created their own enemy.Practically, the atomic bomb killed less people than the bombing of Tokyo, the bombing of civilians is perfectly allowed in total war, the Japanese had used tactics not agreed in international law and the bombing of cities had become conventional practice after the Blitz, the Japanese bombing of China.
Another point the allied commanders would almost defiantly have considered is the effect the bomb would have on other nations, Russia for example, the Americans couldn’t directly attack Russia but they could flex their muscles in front of them. The atomic bomb would be a perfect way to achieve this and hopefully avoid a war with the USSR.Some people ague the Japanese didn’t have enough time to surrender, however, once the USSR had seen the power of the device they had time to declare war on Japan rather than face their enemy America.These points further legalise and justify the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan.
However there are issues against dropping the atomic bomb. Firstly some people ague the morality of use of the atomic bomb as it causes painful deaths and mutilations; the sheer destructive power of the bomb encourages many people to think it should not have been used. The targets were both civilian cities, a huge majority of the people killed were innocent citizens, although this is allowed in total war it is usually avoided wherever possible. The Japanese may have been brutal but they never staged a major attack on a civilian location. Many Japanese officials said they already defeated and a treaty was currently in discussion when the bombs where dropped. Many people also believe the Japanese where not given enough time to respond to the first atomic bomb before the second was dropped.
These points are mostly valid and where almost defiantly taken into account before the decision was made.In conclusion I believe that the dropping of the atomic devices on Hiroshima and Nagasaki where both necessary and justified to end the war with Japan. If they had not have been used we would still be waiting for them to be used which, in my opinion is far more frightening then knowing they have been used, at least we can be almost certain they will not be used again without severe reason. If the Americans had tried for a treaty or conventional attack the war could have dragged on for another year, another ten years it could still be going on today, resulting it the completely unnecessary loss of lives.
“If the bomb kills Japanese and saves casualties on our side I am naturally not going to favour the killing of our people unnecessarily…war is crazy. It is a crazy thing that we are fighting at all.
But it would be even more crazy if we were to have more casualties on our side to save the Japanese.”