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Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Were the Atomic Bombs Necessary for Victory?

Updated on August 6, 2017
Larry Slawson profile image

Larry Slawson is a graduate student who specializes in the field of Russian and Ukrainian history.

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Introduction

The American decision to drop atomic bombs on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in August of 1945, resulted in the death of several hundred thousand Japanese military personnel and civilians. Reports indicate that the bombs, in total, claimed around 150,000 to 200,000 lives (O'Reilly and Rooney, 57). Official deaths are widely unknown, however, due to the thousands of Japanese civilians that died of bomb-related illnesses and complications following the atomic explosions. As a result of these tragic casualty figures, historians, for many decades, have debated President Harry Truman’s decision to employ atomic weaponry. For years, historians have asked: were the atomic bombs necessary for the United States to achieve total victory over the Japanese Empire? Were the bombs justifiable given that the war was coming to a close by 1945? Finally, and most importantly, did more peaceful and less destructive alternatives exist to the bombs?

Historiographical Context

From the moment the Enola Gay bomber crew delivered their devastating payload to the unsuspecting people of Hiroshima, two schools of thought emerged between historians over the use of atomic bombs in Japan: those who supported their use, and those who opposed their implementation. Debates continued between both groups until the early 1990s, when the historiographical debate reached a boiling point during the unveiling of the Enola Gay exhibit by the Smithsonian Institute. Instead of appealing to a broad range of historians and observers, the exhibit’s presentation style sought to reject ideas held firm by those who advocated the atomic bombs’ usage in favor of the revisionist explanation that denounced their use (O'Reilly and Rooney, 1-2). As Charles O’Reilly and William Rooney describe in their book The Enola Gay and the Smithsonian Institution, the exhibit advocated that “Japan was on the brink of surrender in the summer of 1945,” and that racial tensions led President Truman to bomb Nagasaki and Hiroshima (O'Reilly and Rooney, 5). As a result, historians from both sides of the debate took to the offensive in order to support and defend their own viewpoints. Thus, it is here that the modern historiographical debate over the atomic bombs begins.

In 1995, Ronald Takaki, a revisionist historian from the University of California, largely agreed with the findings of the Smithsonian in his book Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Bomb. Takaki proclaims that the decision to drop atomic bombs resulted from racist sentiment that pervaded America following the attacks upon Pearl Harbor. As he states, the American people suffered from “racialized rage” that originated from the unprovoked attack on Hawaii in December of 1941 (Takaki, 8). Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Takaki asserts that the Truman administration felt enormous pressure from both civilians and Congressional leaders in the final months of the war to decisively and effectively terminate the conflict with the Japanese as quickly as possible (Takaki, 8). Thus, as Takaki demonstrates, Truman quickly cast aside more peaceful and less-destructive alternatives that existed to the bombs in order to rapidly end the war.

In 1996, Gar Alperovitz, a revisionist historian from the University of Maryland, largely agreed with the statements of both Takaki and the Smithsonian Institute. In his book, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, Alperovitz, like Takaki, asserts that racist sentiment pervaded American culture following the attacks upon Pearl Harbor (Alperovitz, 528). Alperovitz adds, however, that the American government used this sentiment to their advantage in order to justify the use of atomic weaponry (Alperovitz, 648). Through the use of propaganda, Alperovitz proclaims that the United States government purposely mislead the American people, following the atomic bomb drops, into believing that no other practical alternatives existed to end the war. As Alperovitz states, however, the American government clearly realized that more peaceful “alternatives to the bomb” existed, yet they chose to avoid them (Alperovitz, 7). Alperovitz attributes this avoidance to the fact that the United States government recognized future Soviet influence as a “problem” and, therefore, wished to intimidate the Russian leadership through the use of atomic bombs as a “diplomatic weapon” (Alperovitz, 479-482). Using the “racialized rage,” as first described by Takaki, therefore, allowed American leaders to more easily convince the civilian population that the bombs were justifiable since the Japanese were personified for years as being inhumane and, thus, incapable of accepting peaceful settlements (Takaki, 8).

In 1996, Dennis Wainstock, a revisionist historian from Fairmont State University, reiterated many of Alperovitz’s earlier claims in his book The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Wainstock asserts that the American and Allied governments were keenly aware of Japan’s impending demise and that the war was already over in the weeks before the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki took place (Wainstock, 165). As he argues, the dire situation facing the Japanese Empire during 1945 nullified the necessity of the bombs altogether. Faced with the prospect of complete devastation, Wainstock states that the decision to use atomic weapons “only hastened the surrender of an already defeated enemy” (Wainstock, 166). Therefore, like Takaki and Alperovitz, Wainstock proclaims that racism played a tremendous role in the decision to bomb Japan since “hatred” and “revenge against the Japanese,” following Pearl Harbor, pervaded the American mindset (Wainstock, 167).

Following the release of more government World War II documents in the late 1990s, Richard Frank, in 1999, largely rejected the statements issued by the revisionist movement. In his book, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire, Frank argues that the atomic bombs were the only practical means of defeating the fanatical Japanese leadership that regarded “surrendering” as shameful (Frank, 28). Within a few years of his book’s publication, Frank’s sentiments were, again, reiterated by Charles O’Reilly and William Rooney in 2005 with their book The Enola Gay and the Smithsonian Institution. O’Reilly and Rooney, like Frank, rejected the revisionist movement’s earlier arguments and proclaimed that the bombs did not result from racial motivations. Rather, as they demonstrate, atomic bombs were the only available means of subduing the Japanese leadership that was preparing for a final showdown against the Allied armies (O'Reilly and Rooney, 44). Moreover, O’Reilly and Rooney attack the notion of the bombs being racist in nature since the atomic weapons program began as a means of stopping the Nazi regime in Europe (O'Reilly and Rooney, 76). If the bombs were racially motivated, as revisionists asserted, O’Reilly and Rooney state that American leaders would have never contemplated using them against the German people since they, like Americans, are predominantly white (O'Reilly and Rooney, 76).

Finally, in 2011, Lizzie Collingham systematically rejected earlier arguments by revisionist historians as well in her book The Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food. Throughout her study, Collingham examined the alternative measures available to the United States government in regard to the atomic bombs. As she proclaims, the United States faced no clear alternative to the bombs since additional military options placed millions of soldiers and civilians in a dire situation (Collingham, 316). In her study, Collingham attacks the aerial bombardment and naval blockade alternatives to the bombs since she believes that more people would have died in the long run if these measures continued, primarily through hunger and famine (Collingham, 310-311). Thus, as she proclaims, the atomic bombs saved more lives than they destroyed (Collingham, 316).

As seen, a clear divide remains between historians over the atomic bombs. One of the obvious questions that arises from the controversy, however, is which group of historians is correct in their assessment? Revisionists or historians in support of the bombs? Revisionists, as seen, offer many interpretations regarding the use of atomic weapons. In a quote by historian Richard Frank, the entire revisionist viewpoint is summarized as follows:

"The challenges [revisionist claims] share a common foundation of three basic premises. First, that Japan’s strategic position in the summer of 1945 was catastrophic. Second, that its leaders recognized their hopeless situation and were seeking to surrender. Finally, that access to decoded Japanese diplomatic communications armed American leaders with the knowledge that the Japanese knew they were defeated and were seeking to surrender. Thus, argue an array of critics, American leaders comprehended that neither the atomic bomb nor perhaps even an invasion of the Japanese home islands was necessary to end the war." (Frank, 65).

But do these claims by revisionists hold up to scrutiny? Were the Japanese truly ready to surrender by 1945? Did alternatives to the atomic bomb exist? Or are these claims by revisionists simply assumptions? In light of these questions, this article assumes the latter and, in turn, seeks to provide specific evidence that challenges revisionist claims; thus, providing a bedrock of support to President Truman’s decision to use atomic weapons. In doing so, this article seeks to demonstrate that racism played no role in Truman’s overall decision-making process, and that other factors proved far more prominent in his decision to employ atomic weapons.

Debate Over "Unconditional Surrender"

One of the principal concerns of revisionist thinkers is the notion that Japanese leaders readily accepted the prospect of surrendering by the middle of 1945. But this notion does not hold up under scrutiny, as previous engagements with the Japanese and failures in diplomacy seemingly prove otherwise. In the months leading up to Truman’s decision to implement atomic weapons into the war, American leaders faced the daunting task of forcing Japan’s leadership into accepting unconditional surrender (Frank, 35). This task, contrary to revisionist beliefs, proved exceedingly difficult since Japanese culture dictated that it was better to die for one’s country rather than surrender to one’s enemy (Frank, 28). At the battle of Tarawa alone, Richard Frank states that only “eight” Japanese soldiers were “captured alive” out of a total of “2,571 men” (Frank, 29). When faced with the prospect of defeat, Japanese soldiers often committed suicide as a result of their fanatical loyalty to their Emperor and their country. As Frank describes, Japanese military personnel and civilians felt “that it was more honorable to take their own lives” than to face the humiliation of surrender (Frank, 29). This concept is further reinforced with the battle for Saipan, where entire Japanese families “waded into the sea to drown together” instead of surrendering to the American Marines (Frank, 29). Because of this aspect, American leaders found themselves greatly limited in the amount of military and diplomatic options available during the summer of 1945. Yet, as seen with the Potsdam Declaration of 1945, American leaders continued in their efforts to diplomatically resolve hostilities with the Japanese leadership before resorting to weapons of mass destruction. Historian Michael Kort provides a general summary of the Potsdam Declaration’s demands in the following:

“It [Potsdam Declaration] began by warning Japan that its armed forces had to surrender unconditionally or the country would face ‘prompt and utter destruction.’ …Japan would not be destroyed as a nation, its economy would be allowed to recover, the occupation would be temporary, and Japan’s future government, which would be democratic, would be established in accordance with the freely expressed will of the Japanese people” (Kort, 56).

As seen with the Potsdam Declaration of 1945, however, the Allied demands for the Japanese government to agree to unconditional surrender did little to change Japan’s stance toward the war. In a press release from the White House on August 6th, 1945, this sentiment is seen in the following quote by President Truman: “It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam…their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum” (trumanlibrary.org). Despite criticisms within the Japanese government by Ambassador Sato to accept the conditions of surrender set forth by Allied Forces, the Japanese military and political leadership, according to the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, maintained that “the war must be fought with all the vigor and bitterness of which the nation [Japan] was capable so long as the only alternative was the unconditional surrender” (nsarchive.org). Surrender, in other words, was not an option for the Japanese.

Had the Japanese leadership been willing to surrender, as revisionists proclaim, they certainly missed out on multiple opportunities to do so. Charles O’Reilly and William Rooney attribute the Japanese rejection of unconditional surrender to the fact that its leaders still felt that victory was attainable (O'Reilly and Rooney, 51). By standing firm with their open defiance of surrender, the Japanese leadership made the prospect of further military action a reality for Allied Forces. As historian Ward Wilson states, open hostilities would greatly lengthen the overall war and, in turn, force the American government and people to face the potential of bloodshed on a scale of which the European theatre of the war experienced (Wilson, 165). By delaying and refusing to surrender, Charles O’Reilly and William Rooney proclaim that the Japanese hoped to use the war fatigue of the Allied forces to end hostilities and “achieve an honorable peace settlement” without the need to surrender (O'Reilly and Rooney, 48-51).

Here, revisionist historians proclaim that the United States government missed a great opportunity to reach a negotiated peace with the Japanese had they removed their demands for unconditional surrender in favor of less-strict terms (Wainstock, 21). However, revisionists fail to acknowledge that American leaders during this time greatly remembered the lessons learned from World War I and Germany only a few decades before. By not occupying Germany for an extended period after the war, German power once again emerged to threaten Europe only a few decades later (Frank, 26). Thus, as the Joint Chief of Staff Planners concluded in 1945, “the creation of conditions which will insure that Japan will not again become a menace to the peace and security of the world” was the direct aims of unconditional surrender (Frank, 34-35). Given this sentiment, therefore, it is clear that modifications to the terms of surrender were not acceptable. With the desire of the Japanese to hold out against Allied Forces, it appears as though nothing short of a full-scale invasion and the continuance of aerial and naval blockades of Japan seemed feasible. But did these alternatives offer a practical means of ending the war following the obvious failures of diplomacy? More specifically, did they nullify the necessity of using atomic bombs altogether?

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Option #2: Invasion

Revisionists often claim that the planned invasion of Japan served as an impetus for the atomic bombs to be dropped and that Truman never intended to land troops on the mainland of Japan to engage the Imperial Army (Wainstock, 93). Revisionists assert that the prospect of invasion provided American leaders with an ability to justify the use of atomic weapons through the proclamation that the bombs saved thousands of American lives (Wainstock, 94). As revisionist historian Barton Bernstein states, the projected casualty numbers from such an invasion were drastically exaggerated by the Truman administration in order to gain civilian and governmental support for atomic weaponry use following their implementation (Bernstein, 8). As he proclaims, the expected casualties for the invasion of Japan were “outlandish” and that Truman, himself, likely did not perceive these numbers as “reliable” (Bernstein, 8).

The problem with this assessment by revisionists, however, lies with the fact that casualty rates proposed by Truman do not appear misguided or misleading. Furthermore, given the supporting evidence that Japanese leaders possessed no plans of surrendering in the summer of 1945, the prospect of invasion did not appear out of the question as revisionists proclaim. During a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on June 18th, 1945, Admiral Leahy of the United States Navy informed President Truman that great casualties could be expected from an invasion of the Japanese mainland based on casualty rates from previous engagements with the Imperial Army. According to official records of the meeting:

“He [Admiral Leahy] pointed out that the troops on Okinawa had lost 35 percent in casualties. If this percentage were applied to the number of troops to be employed in Kyushu, he thought from the similarity of the fighting to be expected that this would be a good estimate of the casualties to be expected [at Kyushu]” (nsarchive.org).

During the same meeting, General Marshall concurred that “the total assault troops for the Kyushu campaign” were estimated to be over 750,000 (nsarchive.org). Using Leahy’s estimates, therefore, it is estimated that roughly 250,000 American troops faced the prospect of injury or death by engaging the Japanese in the event of an invasion. Moreover, this estimate provides no casualty rates for Japanese soldiers and civilians. According to a statement by General Marshall, “eight Japanese divisions or about 350,000 troops [Japanese]” occupied Kyushu (nsarchive.org). Therefore, given the Japanese resolve to fight to the bitter end, as seen in the Philippines and Iwo Jima (to name only a few), it is logical to conclude that several hundred thousand casualties could have been expected by the Japanese during the defense of their mainland. In a statement by Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, the former advisor to Truman stated that “if we could judge by previous experience, enemy casualties would be much larger than our own” (Stimson, 619). As a result of the fierce fighting expected by American leaders, Stimson argued that Japan faced the prospect of destruction on a scale far higher than Germany experienced during their last stand against the Allied Forces (Stimson, 621).

Moreover, American leaders found themselves greatly troubled by the prospect of Japanese suicide attacks against the Allied invasion, primarily through attacks by kamikaze pilots (Stimson, 618). In August of 1945, American forces intercepted a message from Japanese military leaders that detailed their plans to repel an American led invasion. The message stated:

“The emphasis in [Japanese] training will be on improving suicide aircraft and surface and underwater suicide strength. Air strategy is to be based on total suicide air attacks” (nsarchive.org).

According to memoirs by Henry Stimson, kamikaze pilots “inflicted serious damage” upon the American Navy in battles prior to the summer of 1945 (Stimson, 618). At Okinawa alone, Lizzie Collingham states that kamikaze pilots managed to sink “thirty-six American ships and damaged 368 more” (Collingham, 315). Similarly, historian Barrett Tillman states that the American invasion of Kyushu faced the prospect of “5,000 kamikazes” during the invasion (Tillman, 268). Though, according to information obtained by Lizzie Collingham, this figure possibly reached as high as “12,275 kamikaze planes” (Collingham, 316). Combined with Stimson’s assessment that “slightly under 2,000,000” Japanese troops existed on mainland Japan to engage Allied Forces, the amount of casualties expected from American leaders did not appear unfounded (Stimson, 618).

In addition to these casualty assessments, historian D.M. Giangreco proclaims that the revisionist claims of “falsified” casualty figures is further diminished by the fact that the United States government placed several hundred thousand orders for purple hearts in the months preceding the planned invasion of Kyushu (Giangreco, 81-83). Purple hearts, according to their official description, are awarded to a soldier upon receiving a combat related wound or when they are killed in action during “any action against an enemy of the United States” (purpleheart.org). Given the vast quantity of purple hearts ordered, therefore, it is abundantly clear that the casualty rates were not overestimated, as revisionist historians proclaim. Moreover, the vast amount of purple hearts ordered greatly discredits the revisionist notion that the planned invasion was deceptive and would only be used as an excuse to use atomic weapons. This large order, as a result, clearly demonstrates that the American military and political leadership took the prospect of invasion quite seriously, and that leaders expected tremendous casualty rates.

Besides placing thousands, if not millions of lives in danger, however, the prospect of an invasion also prolonged the overall time frame of the war. This was particularly problematic for the American leadership since any delay in achieving victory could create unrest amongst the war-fatigued American public and, perhaps more importantly, allow the Soviet Union to make significant gains in territory as well as influence. By the summer of 1945, American and Allied leaders readily acknowledged the rising power of the Soviets. The Red Army’s tremendous achievements against Nazi Germany proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the Soviet Union would play a great role in postwar politics for many years to come. Because the Soviet system revolved around “an atmosphere of dictatorial repression,” however, Allied leaders feared that the Soviets posed a significant problem for the postwar occupation and recovery efforts, particularly in East Asia and Japan (Stimson, 638). By the summer of 1945, the Soviet Union quickly began to trouble the American leadership after maintaining relatively good relations with the United States for much of World War II. Historian Richard Frank states that American leaders, following the Potsdam Conference of 1945, began to understand that “Soviet demands revealed unrestrained ambitions” in regard to future occupation and territorial gains in the postwar climate (Frank, 250). American leaders, particularly Henry Stimson, “saw clearly the massive brutality of the Soviet system and the total suppression of freedom inflicted by the Russian leaders” (Stimson, 638). Consequently, any gains by the Soviet Union posed a significant threat to the spread of democratic values and principles and could not be allowed. With Stalin agreeing to “enter the war with Japan on August 15” of 1945, therefore, American leaders recognized that the war needed to end quickly and decisively before the Soviets could make a move into Japan (Walker, 58). Because of this, the prospect of an invasion into Japan did not appear logical since it required significant planning and time to implement. Atomic bombs, alone, offered the American leadership an opportunity to decisively and effectively terminate the war before the Soviets made any further advances (Walker, 65).

Given the problems with Soviet relations and the tremendous number of casualties expected, therefore, it is logical to assume that these dire prospects only reinforced and strengthened Truman’s decision to implement atomic weapons in Japan. Faced with the prospect of a tremendously high level of American casualties and the ever-looming threat of Communism, it is no wonder that Truman carefully began considerations for implementing the atomic bomb drops over Japan.

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Option #3: Aerial Bombardment and Blockade

While revisionists often reject the reality of a full-scale American led invasion they, conversely, advocate that bombardment and blockades needed to be continued to win the war. By doing so, such measures, they proclaim, brought the Japanese to their knees and would have ended the war without atomic weapons being implemented (Walker, 39). As Dennis Wainstock proclaims, “the U.S. naval and air blockade had cut off imports of fuel, food and raw materials” to the Japanese population, thus, severely disrupting overall morale within the country (Wainstock, 19-20). Given time, therefore, revisionists state that the outcry of Japanese civilians would have ended the war within months (Alperovitz, 327). The problem with this alternative to the atomic bomb, however, lies with the prospect of countless Japanese civilian deaths. As Lizzie Collingham demonstrates, “United States analysts thought that a strategy of blockade and bombardment would be slow and painful” (Collingham, 314). Revisionists themselves, acknowledge that by the summer of 1945, “the average caloric intake of the Japanese” rested around “1,680” which falls short of the recommended “2,000 calories a day” (Wainstock, 18).

Collingham acknowledges, like revisionists, that blockades over time would have driven “the desperate urban population” to demand peace. (Collingham, 313). However, she states that this would likely only occur after nearly a year of suffering on minimal food rations (Collingham, 313). This, as she proclaims, put millions of Japanese civilians at risk of starving to death before an end to hostilities prevailed (Collingham, 314). Moreover, Collingham states that revisionists in their assessment, too often, ignore the amount of prisoners of war (POWs) under Japanese control in the summer of 1945. Given that, under starvation conditions, the Japanese would likely choose to ignore prisoner needs in regard to food so that their own needs could be met, Collingham states that it is highly logical to conclude that “between 100,000 and 250,000” Allied prisoners would likely die each month that the war continued after the summer of 1945 (Collingham, 314). This sentiment is reiterated by historian Barrett Tillman who states: “as in every despotic nation, in times of hunger the army eats before the civilians” (Tillman, 268). This assessment by both Collingham and Tillman is highly relevant since Japanese military personnel often mistreated their prisoners throughout WWII. As Collingham proclaims, nearly “34.5 per cent of American prisoners of the Japanese” died as a result of ill-treatment by their Japanese captors (Collingham, 462). Thus, given these expectations, it is not difficult to see why a policy of blockading the Japanese mainland was not extended by the Truman administration since it placed thousands of Allied prisoners and civilians in harm’s way.

In addition to the staggering figures proposed under Collingham, the option of continued aerial bombardment offered a bleak outlook as well. By the summer of 1945, aerial bombardment “had flattened Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Yokohama, Kobe, and Kawasaki” (Collingham, 309). Beginning with the European theatre of World War II, Allies adopted a policy of “area bombing” which used “hundreds of aircraft, carrying tons of explosives and incendiaries” to bomb entire cities into oblivion (Grayling, 117).

As seen with cities like Hamburg and Dresden in Germany, such aerial attacks by the Allies produced devastating results upon both civilians and military personnel. In Hamburg alone, aerial bombardment killed “at least 45,000” people and destroyed “a total of 30,480 buildings” (Grayling, 20). In the early months of 1945, Tokyo witnessed the devastating effectiveness of area bombing first-hand when the city received “1,667 tons of incendiary bombs” on March 9, 1945 (Grayling, 77). As historian A.C. Grayling proclaims, the bombing of Tokyo created more “death and destruction” than “either of the atom bombs dropped in August that year on Hiroshima and Nagasaki” (Grayling, 77). In total, around “85,000 people” died over the course of two days of bombing in Tokyo (Grayling, 77). Thus, like the naval blockade that promised death to millions of Japanese and POWs through starvation, aerial bombardments, had they continued, ensured that thousands of Japanese would suffer innumerable casualties. Given these prospects, Lizzie Collingham’s assessment that Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs over Japan saved more lives than they destroyed appears highly plausible (Collingham, 314).

Were the atomic bombs necessary for victory over Japan?

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Conclusion

In conclusion, the various alternatives explained demonstrate that no diplomatic or military options existed for American leaders in the summer of 1945 that appeared reasonable or logical given the conditions of the war. Thus, it is no wonder that President Truman and the American military leadership opted for atomic bombs to be dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki since they offered the only possible means of ending the conflict quickly and decisively with the Japanese. The Japanese leadership, as seen, clearly possessed no desire to accept the terms of unconditional surrender set forth by Allied Forces in 1945. In addition, the continued use of aerial and naval bombardment by Allied Forces did not appear feasible since it placed millions of Japanese civilians in danger of starving from famine, or from being killed by intense area bombing by the USAAF. Moreover, the prospect of invasion promised complete devastation for the Japanese mainland in regard to both human loss and the destruction of the Japanese way of life.

Given the problems associated with all three of these alternatives, therefore, the decision to drop atomic bombs saved a multitude of lives when compared to the amount that would have surely perished if the war continued over the course of another year. Thus, the revisionist argument that Truman’s decision stemmed from racial prejudices does not appear logical given that no clear alternatives existed for American leaders to undertake. In a correspondence between Senator Richard Russell and President Truman in 1945, this notion becomes apparent with Truman’s proclamation that his chief concern was “to save as many American lives as possible” (trumanlibrary.org). Truman’s sentiment toward saving lives extended far beyond saving only American lives, however. Later into the letter, Truman states: “I certainly regret the necessity of wiping out whole populations” because “I also have a humane feeling for the women and children in Japan” (trumanlibrary.org). As this quote clearly demonstrates, the thought of killing innocent civilians, particularly women and children, greatly troubled Truman and was not something he took great pride in doing. Without racial motivations and no clear alternatives to the bombs, therefore, it is logical to conclude that the implementation of the bombs stemmed from pure necessity and nothing more.

Works Cited:

Primary Sources

Forrestal, James. Japanese Peace Feeler, July 24, 1945. Diary Entry. National Security Archive, Naval Historical Center. http://www.nsarchive.org/ (Accessed: March 22, 2013).

“Harry S. Truman to Richard Russell,” August 9 1945. Letter. Truman Papers, Truman Library. http://www.trumanlibrary.org/ (Accessed: April 7, 2013).

“Magic—Far East Summary,” August 4, 1945. Intercept. National Security Archive, RG 457. http://www.nsarchive.org/ (Accessed: April 1, 2013).

“Minutes of Meeting Held at the White House,” June 18, 1945. Top Secret Document. National Security Archive, Record Group 218: Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. http://www.nsarchive.org/ (Accessed: April 4, 2013).

“Press Release by the White House,” August 6, 1945. Truman Papers, Truman Library. http://www.trumanlibrary.org/ (Accessed: March 2, 2013).

Stimson, Henry, and McGeorge Bundy. On Active Service in Peace and War Volume II. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1947.

Secondary Sources

Alperovitz, Gar. The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.

Bernstein, Barton. “Hiroshima Revisited,” The Wilson Quarterly Vol. 27, No. 3 (2003): 8, (Accessed: April 5, 2017).

Collingham, Lizzie. The Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food. New York: The Penguin Press, 2012.

“Eligibility Requirements to Become a Member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart,” Military Order of the Purple Heart, N.P., n.d. http://www.purpleheart.org/membereligibility.aspx/

Frank, Richard. Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire. New York: Penguin Books, 1999.

Giangreco, D.M., and K. Moore. “Half a Million Purple Hearts: Why a 200-year old Decoration Offers Evidence in the Controversy Surrounding the Hiroshima Bombing.” American Heritage Vol. 51 (2000): 81-83, EBSCOhost (Accessed: April 7, 2013).

Grayling, A.C.. Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan. New York: Walker & Company, 2006.

Kort, Michael. The Columbia Guide to Hiroshima and the Bomb. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

O’Reilly, Charles, and William A. Rooney. The Enola Gay and the Smithsonian Institution. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2005.

Takaki, Ronald. Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb. Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1995.

Tillman, Barrett. Whirlwind: The Air War Against Japan 1942-1945. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.

Wainstock, Dennis. The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. New York: Enigma Books, 1996.

Walker, J. Samuel. Prompt & Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs Against Japan. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

Wilson, Ward. “The Winning Weapon?: Rethinking Nuclear Weapons in Light of Hiroshima,” International Security Vol. 31, No. 2 (2007): 165, (Accessed: April 3, 2013).

Images:

History.com. Accessed August 06, 2017. http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/bombing-of-hiroshima-and-nagasaki/videos/eyewitness-account-of-hiroshima-bombing.

History.com Staff. "Battle of Okinawa." History.com. 2009. Accessed August 06, 2017. http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/battle-of-okinawa.

"Technical Reports and Standards." Reports US Strategic Bombing Survey at Library of Congress-Tech Reports/Standards (Science Reference Services, Library of Congress). Accessed August 06, 2017. https://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/trs/trsbombingsurvey.html.

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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 13 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very well done. I often wonder if a figure I heard was correct. There would have been well over a million Japanese deaths had the bombs not be dropped.

      Maybe a concept we should apply today. In order to spare our enemies lives in great numbers we should resolve to immediately take out a few hundred thousand.

      Of course that is crazy but,....

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 2 weeks ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Truman, obviously, had no real alternative to use of the atomic bombs to end the war. To invade the Japanese mainland would have resulted in heavy U.S. casualties. The Japanese were not going to surrender (which was proved when Emperor Hirohito wouldn't even surrender after the first atomic bomb destroyed Hiroshima. It wasn't until Nagasaki suffered the same fate that the emperor agreed to surrender.) The Japanese mainland was very well defended and any invasion by the Allies would have resulted in unacceptable casualties. As bad as the death toll was ... it would have been much worse if an invasion were attempted. That is very clear.