The U.S. and the Decision to Drop the Bombs

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Universität Kassel
(University of Kassel in Germany)

The U.S. and the decision
to drop the bombs

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Table of Contents
1. Introduction.......................................................................................................1 2. Main position of the experts..............................................................................6 3. Conclusion.........................................................................................................8

4. Works cited............................................................................................10

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1 Introduction
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the atomic bombs that the United States dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War Two. There are many different schools of thought on the issue amongst politicians, historians, and scholars, some of which are for, and others against the bomb’s use. While some claim the bomb was military necessary to end the war quickly, to preserve American lives, opponents believe that the bomb was an unnecessary display of power and that the United States exploited Japan in order to gain a competitive advantage against the Soviets, marking the start of the Cold War between the two nations in the process (cf. Chafe, Sitkoff, 7; cf. Sherwin, 77).

The first atomic bomb detonated many meters above the city of Hiroshima on the 6th of August, 1945, causing a devastating explosion wich destroyed almost the entire city. After this great shock, which shook the entire world, Japan still would not surrender. Thus Truman felled compelled to drop a second atomic bomb on August 9th on the seaport of Nagasaki with similar results. Almost 200.000 were killed and 150.000 injured (cf. Messer, 10).In the following years, many more victims died from nuclear radiation which often resulted in cancer. Six days later, on the 15th of August Japan’s capitulation, in agreement with the Potsdam Declaration, was announced by Emperor Hirohito. This capitulation ended one of the most devastating wars in history, but perhaps started another.

The elimination of the two Japanese cities made a cont ribution to the beginning of the Cold War, as well as the decision to withhold any information from the Soviets , therefore denying them any “postwar control over atomic energy” (Bernstein, Hiroshima, 136). The use of the bomb also influenced American and S oviet policies and societies, as well as their economic and military institutions and caused ideological conflicts (cf. Painter, 1). The original intention to build the bomb was backed by the fear of a nuclear arms race against Germany (cf. Bernstein, Why We). The bombs’ intentions shifted from a military to a diplomatic usage as well as from Germany to Japan, “mostly because experts believed, that Germany was not making a bomb and would surrender before the American bomb was available as a usable weapon” ( Bernstein, Why We). In order to understand why Truman made the decision to drop the bombs, we should begin with the legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt . He took the initiative to build the bomb, “to establish a partnership on atomic energy with Britain” (Ber nstein, 122) after 3

the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, to leave the Soviets without any knowledge, and encourage “an American, and partially British monopoly” (Alperovitz, Atomic Dip., 21). When Truman inherited the presidency on April 12, 1945, he also inherited control over the weapons project (cf. Bernstein,Saving Ame., 124). Even though he left no clear statement on the use of the bomb, Roosevelt often choose policies which supported the potential of the bomb to realize “postwar diplomatic aims” and were equal with the monopolistic and anti-Soviet attitude of the former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill (Sherwin,79; cf. Sherwin, 80). The assumption that they saw the bomb as a “lawful weapon”, “was phrased as policy on a number of occasions”, for example “..that the...
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