Although WW II ended over 50 years ago there is still much discussion as to the events which ended the War in the Pacific. The primary event which historians attribute to this end are the use of atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Although the bombing of these cities did force the Japanese to surrender, many people today ask "Was the use of the atomic bomb necessary to end the war?" and more importantly "Why was the decision to use the bomb made?" Ronald Takaki examines these questions in his book Hiroshima. The official reason given for dropping the bomb was to bring a quick end to tht war and save American lives. However, Takaki presents many different explanations as to why the decision to use the bomb was made. He disagrees with the popular belief that the decision to use the bomb was made solely to quickly end the war in the Pacific and to save American lives. Takaki presents theories such as international concerns, American sentiment, and racism in an attempt to more fully explain why this decision was made.
The United States entered WW II immediately following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The U.S. entry was a major turning point in the war because it brought the strongest industrial strength to the Allied side. The Americans helped the Allies to win the war in Europe with the surrender of Germany on May 7, 1945. However, the war in the Pacific continued. The war with Japan at this point consisted primarily of strategic bombings. America had recently completed an atomic bomb and was considering using this weapon of mass destruction for the first time. The goal was to force the "unconditional surrender" of the Japanese. Roosevelt had used the term "unconditional surrender" in a press conference in 1943 and it had since become a central war aim. Truman and his staff (still feeling bound by FDR's words) demanded unconditional surrender from the Japanese. Consequently on July 26, 1945 Truman issued an ultimatum to Japan. This ultimatum stated that Japan must accept "unconditional surrender" or suffer "utter devastation of the Japanese Homeland". This surrender included abdication of the throne by their emperor. Japan was not willing to surrender their dynasty and ignored the ultimatum. On August 6th and August 9th, atomic bombs were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. These citied suffered the "utter devastation" that Truman had promised and the Japanese surrendered on August 10th. Many of the key military and political figures who advised President Truman supported the use of the atomic bomb to end the war in the Pacific. One of the most instrumental forces in Truman's decision to use the bomb was the Interim Committee. The Interim Committee was assembled by Secretary of War Stimson. This Committee's purpose was to advise Truman regarding the possible use of the atomic bomb. The Committee consisted of prominent atomic scientists, General Marshall, General Groves, and James Byrnes, the personal representative of the president. Stimson appointed himself chairman. The Committee considered using a test demonstration of the bomb in the hopes of inducing Japan to surrender. However, the Committee feared that if the test did not lead to the surrender of Japan the element of "surprise" would be lost in a later attack. General Marshall also believed that Japan was ready to surrender and that it would be more wise to keep the atomic bomb as the secret weapon of the U.S. He believed this would increase the security of the nation following the war; "We would be in a stronger position with regard to future military action if we did not show the power we had". (123) Many of the scientists including James Conant, Arthur Compton, and Edward teller believed in the use of the atomic bomb in combat. They felt that combat usage was the only way to show the true destruction and horrible results of the bomb that would show the...
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