The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki_Joseph_Herzberg
The End ofWorld War IIMushroom cloud over Nagasaki 1On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bombwas dropped on the Japanese city ofHiroshima followed by a second atomicbombing on August 9, 1945, on Nagasaki.Six days later on August 15th theJapanese surrendered to the Allies.Although the bombings quickly endedWorld War II, almost seventy years latermany historians continue to question boththe moral and psychological implicationsof using the atomic bomb.
PrologueIn March of 1945, Tokyo was “firebombed”by U.S. bombers as part of ongoing air raidattacks on Japan. The attack on the capitalleft over 100,000 people dead or severelyburned. A majority of those killed werecivilians.The impact of the firebombing weredevastating and considered much worsethan the quick death that was associatedwith atomic bombings.On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered tothe Allies. Now, the focus of the U.S. was toend the war with Japan as quickly aspossible.Tokyo burns from firebombing 2
Invasion of JapanIn the spring of 1945, preparations were underway for a U.S. invasion ofJapan. The invasion plan called for a two part strategy of sending U.S. troopsto the Japanese islands of Kyushu and Honshu. Due to the lack of easilyaccessible invasion targets, the Japanese predicted where the U.S. would beinvading. In response, the Japanese sent millions of troops to these coastalareas to protect their homeland from an invasion by the Allies.In June of 1945 after a study was commissioned by the Joint War PlansCommittee, invasion plans were put on- hold. The committee found that theinvasion of Japan would cause a significantly high amount of U.S. causalities.In addition, the amount of Japanese build- up of troops to protect their coastalterritories was alarming. After much consideration, alternative methods ofpersuading the Japanese to agree to surrender were examined.
Alternative PlansThe U.S. mission was to end the war withJapan as soon as possible with the smallestamount of U.S. casualties. The atomicbomb was ultimately chosen as the quickestmeans to end the war against Japan.U.S. research relating to the impact of theatomic bomb began in 1939 as a responseto the Nazi’s intended development of theweapon. In 1945, the German armysurrendered. Consideration of the use ofthe atomic bomb against another enemynow focused on Japan.Big Boy type bomb used in Japan3
Preparations to Bomb JapanIn April of 1945, a Target Committee was formed and chaired by U.S. MajorGeneral Leslie Groves. Groves had been instrumental in the initialdevelopment and design of the first atomic bomb. After thoroughly researchinglocations, the committee chose four potential targets to bomb in Japan. Thepotential target locations were: Kokura, Hiroshima, Niigata, and Kyoto.Eventually, final targets were selected. Hiroshima was chosen as the primarytarget with Kokura and Nagasaki as secondary targets. Hiroshima wasultimately picked as the primary target due to its large military presence andits many industrial factories.Spared from previous firebombing attacks and generally untouched from thewar, Hiroshima at the time of the bombing had a population close to 350,000individuals. For all times after the bombing, Hiroshima would represent whatdevastating damage could be done by the atomic bomb.
The Potsdam Ultimatum andBombing of HiroshimaJapan was provided an opportunity tosurrender to the Allies on July 26, 1945. ThePotsdam ultimatum was issued by theU.S., Great Britain, and China. Theultimatum called for unconditionalsurrender of Japan. In particular, theultimatum threatened the quick and totaldestruction of Japan if they failed tosurrender immediately. The ultimatum fellon deaf ears, and two days later on July28, 1945, the ultimatum was rejected byleaders of the empire of Japan. TheJapanese appeared oblivious to the factthat the U.S. had nuclear capabilities thatthey planned to use on Japan.On August 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber named the Enola Gay left the island of Tinian targeted for the cityof Hiroshima. Shortly after daylight, the bomb (referred to as “Little Boy”) was dropped over the city ofHiroshima. The bomb blast sent shock waves through the city of Hiroshima; many died instantly. Thebomb destroyed most of the city.Hiroshima before and after the bombing 4
The Bombing of NagasakiFollowing the destruction of Hiroshima, President Truman issued Japananother warning: unconditionally surrender or face more bombs. JapansSupreme War Council still would not agree to the terms of the PotsdamUltimatum.On August 9, 1945, a B-29 Superfortress (referred to as “Bockscar”) took offwith the atomic payload known as “Fat Man”. The B-29 headed toward itsintended target of Kokura; it was unable to deliver its payload because ofheavy cloud cover. With Kokura spared due to the heavy cloud cover, thebomber now focused on Nagasaki.In late morning, the atomic bomb known as “Fat Man” was dropped over theindustrial section of Nagasaki. Once again, the very destructive force of theatomic bomb instantly destroyed a large percentage of the city and killed tensof thousands of people. A majority of the city was spared from the bomb’sbrute force by the city’s surrounding hills. Most of the worst damageimpacted the Urakami Valley.
The Surrender of JapanJapan’s situation continued todeteriorate. Atomic bombs had beendropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.The Soviet Union declared war onJapan. Finally, he combination of theseevents led Japan to accept the termsof the Potsdam Declaration.On September 2, 1945 after a myriad ofdeliberations and negotiations, thesurrender ceremony was held aboardthe USS Missouri. Japanese officialssigned the Instrument of Surrender, andWorld War II was ended.General Douglas MacArthur accepting JapaneseSurrender on battleship USS Missouri 5
EpilogueAlmost seventy years after the end of World War II, many continue to debateimplications of the U.S. choosing to use the atomic bomb against Japan. Arecent USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll indicated that 59% of Americans believethe U.S. was correct in dropping atomic bombs on Japan in August, 1945; aGallup poll taken in August, 1945 showed 85% approval of the bombings. 6 Itmust be remembered that the surprise attack by the Empire of Japan at PearlHarbor on December 7, 1941, was the catalyst that brought the United Statesinto WW II. Finally, geopolitical researchers remind us of the ramificationssurrounding the U.S. decision at the time to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki:• The bombings saved lives on both sides by preventing a full scale invasionof Japan and kept the Soviet Union from claiming post-war territory inJapan.• The Japanese were very determined and had no intentions of eversurrendering.• The bombings brought about a quick ending to the war.• The decision to bomb Japan indicated strength of the U.S. on the worldstage.
Footnotes1 Levy, Charles. 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Atomic_bombing_of_Japan.jpg (accessed June 12, 2013).2 Library of Congress. Tokyo burns under B-29 fire bomb assault. 1945. Library of Congress.http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/94506803/ (accessed June 10, 2013).3 Williams, Harris. 2008. How Nuclear Bombs Work. How Stuff Works.com.http://www.howstuffworks.com/nuclear-bomb7.htm (accessed June 10, 2013).4 Kingendai/AFLO. Aerial Photo of Before and After of Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. Corbis Images.http://www.corbisimages.com/stock-photo/rights-managed/42-34838297/aerial-photo-of-before-and-after-of(accessed June 11, 2013).5 National Archives. General Douglas MacArthur Accepts Japanese Surrender on USS Missouri. MuseumSyndicate. http://www.museumsyndicate.com/item.php?item=35242 (accessed June 10, 2013).6 Hoversten, Paul.1995. A-bomb was justified, most still say. USA Today.http://www.museumsyndicate.com/item.php?item=35242 (accessed June 10, 2013).
BibliographyHoversten, Paul.1995. A-bomb was justified, most still say. USA Today.http://www.museumsyndicate.com/item.php?item=35242 (accessed June 10, 2013).Kingendai/AFLO. Aerial Photo of Before and After of Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. Corbis Images.http://www.corbisimages.com/stock-photo/rights-managed/42-34838297/aerial-photo-of-before-and-after-of(accessed June 11, 2013).Levy, Charles. 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Atomic_bombing_of_Japan.jpg (accessed June 12, 2013).Library of Congress. Tokyo burns under B-29 fire bomb assault. 1945. Library of Congress.http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/94506803/ (accessed June 10, 2013).National Archives. General Douglas MacArthur Accepts Japanese Surrender on USS Missouri. MuseumSyndicate. http://www.museumsyndicate.com/item.php?item=35242 (accessed June 10, 2013).Williams, Harris. 2008. How Nuclear Bombs Work. How Stuff Works.com.http://www.howstuffworks.com/nuclear-bomb7.htm (accessed June 10, 2013).