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Were the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Were the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified?

"Japan was already defeated and dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary." Who's words are these you may ask. As Robert Freeman says, "Those are not the words of a latter-day revisionist historian or of a leftist writer. They are certainly not the words of an American-hater. They are the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe and future president of the United States."1

There has been no military action that has been met with as much criticism than the decision to drop two atomic weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. During the course of this post I will be debunking the reasons given from dropping the bombs as well as showing why it was inherently a bad idea.

The main reason that was given for the neccesitiy of the bombing was the belief that Japan would not surrender. This may have been true for the troops themselves but this was certainly not the position held by the government. Japans Commanders of War, the Big Six, had been discussing peace agreements with the Soviet Union for months whilst still saying they would fight to the death.2 The Japanese had been defeated already with the destruction of their navy and the loss of the sea around Japan, the fact that we controlled the air above Japan and the fact that we had been firebombing some of their major cities. They had no means of getting supplies into the country thus it is safe to say they were already defeated. Their army was decimated. Many top military commanders regarded the Japanese position as "hopeless"1 as well as saying [they] "...were already defeated and ready to surrender".1 

The next claim that is made in favor of the bombings is the ludicrous notion that they "saved American lives by preventing a land invasion". If one does not delve deeper into this it may sound convincing but after one looks at the facts here it is easy to see that this is false. First off, the Japanese had already lost most of their army on the islands around Japan and they were, as shown above, essentially defeated. In fact, the USSBS (US Strategic Bombing Survey) said, "Certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped."3 "The November 1 date is important because that was the date of the earliest possible planned U.S. invasion of the Japanese main islands."1 This combined with the fact that Japan had been trying to surrender-conditional surrender*-meant that there was absolutely no need for the atomic weapons. 

The first and most obvious reason why the atomic bombings were bad is because they killed over 200,000 innocent civilians as well as leaving thousands more wounded. Next off, the liver cancer rate in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is the highest in the world!4 This is over 60 years later! The rate of other types of cancer has also been greatly increased. Cancer rates have increased from 217 to 301 out of 100,000 in males and 176 to 197 out of 100,000 in females.4 (This is during a year) The highest cancer rate in males in the US is 163 out of 100,000 and for females, 113 out of 100,000, a massive difference!5

The next and probably the most important reason to us is the fact that the atomic bombings really started the Cold War. Even before the bombings the US and the USSR had great distrust that was magnified by the fact that we showed our dominance by developing a weapon that could destroy an entire town first. Once the USSR saw that we had this technology they felt threatened and thus the Cold War began.

So in conclusion, one can see that many top military generals were against the bombings as well as the fact that as new information has come to light we see that the bombings served no strategic military purpose and were only used to assert America's dominance. 



*As stated above Japan wanted a conditional surrender whereas the US had a policy of unconditional surrender. We knew they would surrender conditionally yet our policy dictated we ignore that. the truth is not that Japan ignored our "pleas" for surrender but quite the contrary. We knew they wanted to surrender yet we said no. 

1: Freeman, R. (2006, August 26). Was the Atomic Bombing of Japan Necessary?. Common Dreams . Retrieved May 14, 2011, from

2: 1945., & Pacific, t. J. (n.d.). Surrender of Japan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved May 14, 2011, from

3: Hiroshima: Quotes. (n.d.).Hiroshima: Was It Necessary? The Atomic Bombing of Japan. Retrieved May 14, 2011, from

4: Cancer incidence in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan,... [Eur J Cancer. 1994] - PubMed result. (n.d.). National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved May 14, 2011, from

5: Cancer Incidence in the United States (SEER), 1987-91. (n.d.) Retrieved May 14, 2011, from

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At May 14, 2011 at 8:02 PM , Anonymous Meyer said...

Did Mr. Baugh say this? Gah! You shoulda picked Featherstone, peter...

At May 15, 2011 at 11:53 AM , Blogger Peter said...

He said it would "save lives" and that Japan would not surrender.

At June 28, 2011 at 4:45 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you on a lot of your topics, but not this one at all.

Just because the Japanese army was "essentially defeated" did not mean the troops would stop fighting. Hiroo Onoda was the last Japanese soldier to surrender. In what year? 1974.Their troops and superiors in the field were fanatic. The effects of shame were, and still are, a very powerful force in the Japanese society. Do you really think that an army that performed banzai charges and kamikaze attacks would surrender when Americans set foot on their homeland? No. They would fight even harder then ever.

The Allies issued the Potsdam Ultimatum, but the Japanese wouldn't listen.

About casualties, it was estimated by the Joints Chief of Staff that Operation Downfall would cost 1,200,000 in casualties, with 267,000 fatalities. A study done for Secretary of War Henry Stimson's staff estimated 1.7-4 million American casualties, including 400,000-800,000 fatalities. This doesn't even include civilian casualties, which were estimated to range from 5-10 million due to the assumption of widespread civilian participation.

The Battle of Okinawa alone cost 72,000 US casualties with 12,510 fatalities in 82 days, and that estimate is conservative, because it excludes several thousand U.S. soldiers who died after the battle indirectly from their wounds.

At June 28, 2011 at 6:07 PM , Blogger Peter said...

I'm glad we agree on a lot :)

Ok so first off it is true that the soldiers themselves were crazy fighters and they may not have surrendered alone but the fact remains, the government was a) looking for a way to surrender and b) their supply line were severed, they were barricaded and we were continually bombing them which was weakening them even more. These facts combined with my above evidence make it seem that they would surrender.

It is true that they refused Postdam but they refused it because of the terms. One of the terms was "The Japanese military forces shall be completely disarmed" which is not a good idea since a country must protect itself and we can look back in history and see that that was one of the things that angered the Germans before WWII, their military was rationed. Also, the declaration made no mention of nuclear bombs, it just said "prompt and utter destruction" which is what was happening anyways so there was no reason to accept this treaty over the ones that they were already attempting to achieve.

About casualties, I am aware that these are the estimates but again, if one looks at the evidence one can see that a full scale land invasion would not have even been needed.

I agree that Okinawa was a brutal battle but it does not change the evidence I have presented.

But I want to thank you for taking the time to comment. Thank you :)


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