The Atomic Bomb


American Military History
Position Paper No. 5
The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a
military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as
possible, the killing of civilians. But that attack is only a warning of things to come. If
Japan does not surrender, bombs will have to be dropped on her industries and,
unfortunately thousands of civilian lives will be lost.
Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who
attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten
and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense
of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it to shorten the agony of war, in
order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.
We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan’s power to make
war. Only a Japanese surrender will make us stop.1
With this statement, Harry S. Truman changed the course of world warfare. The
most devastating weapon ever created had just been dropped on Japan. On the same day,
the United States dropped a second bomb on the coastal city of Nagasaki. Within a few
days, Japan agreed to an unconditional surrender and World War II was concluded.
However, the debate over the use of the bomb had just began. Should the United
States have dropped such a bomb on another human civilization? The devastation of the
bombs were quickly realized. After the Enola Gay dropped the first bomb on Hiroshima,
four square miles of a seven square mile city disappeared and 80,000 people died
instantly with the remaining population of the city left to suffer from the effects of
radiation.2
Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki,
instantly killing another 40,000 to 75,000 people.3
Scholars have argued the atomic
bomb was dropped on Japan for suspect reasons and may not have been needed to bring
Japan to surrender. In this paper the author will attempt to prove the United States
dropped the bomb on Japan for many reasons. However, the main reason the United

1
Truman, Harry S, “Public Statement concerning the bombing of Hiroshima, 8/9/45,” The Public Papers of
the Presidents, Harry S. Truman, 1945, pg. 212.
2
Stokesbury, James L., A Short History of World War II, (New York, 1980), pg. 375.
States dropped the bomb on Japan was to save American lives from an assault on the
Japanese Islands.
The first issue that must be explored in the debate over the atomic bomb is
whether it was necessary to drop the bomb in the first place. American historian James
Patterson argued in America in the Twentieth Century that the Japanese leaders knew by
July 1945 that they would be unable to win the war against the United States and were
moving in the direction of securing peace with the United States. Patterson also argued
that the Japanese may have been willing to negotiate a peace on the condition that they
could retain their emperor, which at that point the United States was unwilling to do.
Patterson further points out that Truman, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin had agreed
at the Potsdam meeting to allow the Japanese to retain their emperor. However, the Big
Three did not issue this provision in the Potsdam Ultimatum, and Truman only told Japan
to surrender or be completely destroyed. Therefore, according to Patterson, the United
States wanted to drop the bomb to show the world the power of the United States.4
Along the same lines, World War II historian, Stephen Ambrose questioned the
timing of the bombing in his book Rise to Globalism. Ambrose argued that the bomb
may have been dropped prematurely. Despite his warning that an invasion of the
Japanese Islands was imminent, Truman knew that the United States had no major
military operation planned for Japan before the first of November, 1945. In addition,
Ambrose argued, many observers felt that the planned declaration of war by Soviet Union
on August 8 would convince Japan they could not survive an invasion from the north and
from the south and would surrender. According to Ambrose, however, the world did not

3
Patterson, James T., America in the Twentieth Century, (Orlando, 1989), pg. 296.
4
Ibid.
get the opportunity to see if Japan would have surrendered with the Soviet declaration,
because Truman ordered the bomb to be dropped on August 6.5

These facts have led many historians,