On August 6 and August 9, 1945, the United States under Harry Truman and despite criticism from General Eisenhower and Manhattan Project scientists dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. The first explosion destroyed 90 % of Hiroshima and immediately and indiscriminately killed 80,000 people alongside tens of thousands afterwards due to radiation exposure; the second nuclear bomb killed 40,000 people in Nagasaki, according to the History.Com website.
The official pretext for the dropping of the atomic bombs was to defeat the adamant and even suicide-driven Japanese army and to avoid or cut down on American casualties. Dropping the bomb would, according to US authorities, lead Japan to its knees and would accelerate their complete surrender, thus ending the war more quickly in the Americans’ favor.
Although most of that is true (lives, on the American side at least, had been spared and the war came to a much faster conclusion) I believe that the main motives for dropping the atomic bombs are, in fact, comprised of other more strategic reasons.
I think that the first and main reason was to show the rest of the world the power and might of the United States with its newly acquired arsenal of destructive weapons. The second reason was that this would serve as a type of real-life experiment on the effects and consequences of the atomic bomb both as a vivid and indelible warning to others but also as a type of research project using the Japanese as guinea pigs.
Particularly after World War II, the United States was preparing to become a superpower and the capability and addition of nuclear weapons managed to reinforce that status. After the plight and chaos that had befallen upon Europe through the Nazis and the subsequent defeat of their so-called Third Reich, the two powers that came into global focus were the United States and the Soviet Union, setting the stage and groundwork for the ensuing decade-spanning Cold War.
Although the US government claimed that the atomic bombs were a necessary evil to ensure the winning of the war against Japan, in reality, the war with Japan was not a significant threat to the US at that stage. In fact, Japan was already on the losing side and it would have been only a matter of time until they would have had to surrender anyhow.
Yet this situation posed an occasion for the US to flex its muscles before the eyes of the world. This was the perfect opportunity to use atomic bombs without fearing any kind of serious or damaging reprisal by the enemy as Japan was weaker and had no manner of responding in a similar vein.
In fact, the Japanese did not have access to any even remotely destructive weapons of that ilk. By utterly destroying Japan through the devastating use of nuclear weapons, the US would then be able to instill fear in all of its enemies and adversaries and would begin to dictate global politics.
Yet my question has always been, why did the US drop two instead of one bomb and why in such successive fashion with a time span of merely a few days? There are claims that Japan was ready to surrender after the effects of the first bomb on Hiroshima, but that they were given little time to make this known or to respond.
As the war was not that pressing from the point of view of the United States, meaning they were not cornered in any substantial way, why not wait at least a week before such devastating destruction. In fact, the first bombing would have sufficed, so why did they do it twice and kill additional Japanese civilians in the process?
One of the possible factors could be the study of the after-effects of the bomb. What would it be like to unleash this mega-bomb on a real city with civilians? The second plutonium-based bombing provided additional cases and data with which Americans could study more closely what happens to the cities and the people; in fact, the second bomb known as “Fat Man” was even stronger and more powerful than the first one, the uranium-based bomb entitled “Little Boy” dropped on Hiroshima.
All of this might also be the underlying motive for sending doctors and scientists to Japan for supposedly aiding them; in fact, they were more interested in documenting what happens to people that are exposed to radiation.
Seen from a moral perspective, this has been a very shameful blot in the history of the United States. Had they just dropped one bomb and shown regret at the devastation, it would have been perhaps somewhat - to a very small degree, of course – understandable. But to repeat the same deplorable and highly immoral action twice is unforgivable and reeks of injustice.
All of this puts certain matters into perspective as well. The US, as a superpower, is in the driver’s seat of deciding who can and who cannot have access to nuclear power. The recent talks regarding Iran is a clear example of that. Yet ironically, the US is also the only power in the world that has actually used nuclear weapons, so they might not be the best judge in such matters due to their own checkered history.
From a compassionate and humane point of view, I think that nuclear weapons should have been banned from the get-go especially after one has clearly witnessed its catastrophic effects on the Japanese populace. Yet, in reality, it had the opposite effect and was used as a driving force to gain power over others, leading to the nuclear arms race between the Americans and the Soviets.
They say that today’s bombs have a much more devastating effect than the ones used in Japan. I do not doubt that. Yet I also find it hard to understand the logic behind it all. How can more nuclear weapons make any country, let alone the world, safer?
This is not a Second Amendment issue as the Founding Fathers could not have remotely fathomed what degrees of destruction this land of opportunity would be capable of inflicting down the line. Also, with recent threats of atomic weapons falling into fanatic hands or volatile presidents, this danger has only increased the gravity of this situation.
Come to think of it, how can atomic bombs possibly protect us from the enemy? This is one of the cases where using it would not only wipe out your enemy but you yourself in the process. So what is exactly the point here? Who wins a war that both sides will lose?
Finally, I would like this horrible tragedy in Japan some seventy years ago to serve as an example for future generations and politicians in the world to refrain from ever using weapons of such kind, no matter what the underlying circumstances.
In addition, one should stay far away - preferably a million miles away - from gung-ho cowboy presidents who think that wars and bombs are the solution for world peace. It happened once in Japan, and it ought to never ever happen again!