Truman's Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb

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history 138w-38|
Why did Truman use the atomic bomb against Japan? What did his decision say about priorities of American foreign policy?| Truman decision and reasons behind deployment of the atomic bomb| |

Min Yong Jung|


Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, deployed the atomic bomb on Japan to ensure the end of the Pacific War with minimal US casualties. Upon rejection of the Potsdam Declaration and calls for unconditional surrender by the Japanese, the US in direct retaliation deployed the atomic weapon ‘Little Boy’ on the city of Hiroshima in August 6, 1945 and continued by bombing Nagasaki with ‘Fat Man’ on August 9th. The Allies had concluded the European front by capturing Berlin and defeating the remainder of Axis forces in May 1945. The Pacific front however remained and was different from combat in Europe; the ferocity of the Japanese to defend their homeland resulted in a higher level of casualties suffered by the US. Truman “never had any doubts… had felt no qualms, about the atomic bombings because they forced an end to the war and saved American lives.”Thus in an effort to conclude the Pacific War, Truman deployed the Atomic Bomb in order to end the war that entrenched US resources and manpower for over 5 years and as a simple bonus to increase the bargaining capability of the US against the Soviet Union. The decision to deploy the atomic weapon was largely due to the fact that it would save the lives of American troops. Woodrow Wilson had been hailed as the man who kept the US out of a bloody First World War. US foreign policy of limiting casualties from war by whatever means necessary still exists in US foreign policy today, as it had back when Truman decided to deploy the atomic bomb. It is hard to measure the number of casualties for a war or an invasion that never occurred and the Pacific War in particular because of the fact that the Japanese were so fervent to fight until the last man, woman and child. The Joint War Plans Committee concluded that “the two phases of the invasion of Japan would cost about 46,000 American deaths and another 174,000 wounded and missing.” It is important to keep in mind that the battle of Okinawa resulted in “American casualties of 12,000 killed and missing and another 60,000 wounded” and the battle for Iwo Jima, “6,821 killed and nearly 20,000 wounded.” Truman and his advisors strenuously argued that the direct consequence of the atomic bomb was the ultimate surrender of the Japanese government and this achieved both US primary goals to both shorten the war and save American lives. Truman and his advisors decided on a course of action to limit American casualties whilst the Japanese, despite all claims that they were ready to surrender, were showing a level of intensity and ferocity in battle that the US troops had not encountered before. Thus it was impossible, whatever the pre-estimated figures of US casualties, to invade the mainland of Japan when military leaders of Japan decided that the “only course left is for Japan’s one hundred million people to sacrifice their lives by charging the enemy to make them lose the will to fight.” The military leaders of Japan argued that “all man, woman, child and elderly would be drafted to fight the US troops, not to defeat it out right in battle but to ensure that increasing US casualties would bring about a turn in public sentiment” towards the war and thus ensure better terms for the post war Japan. The Japanese were both considered by the American public and fighting men to be racially inferior but at the same time considered to be super human in battle. It was clear that the Japanese were running out of supplies and the military means to engage in successful battle. Thus they employed measures such as the Kamikaze pilots “The kamikazes were in many cases not effective… But all too frequently they successfully carried out their missions.” The Kamikaze in direct translations...
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