“I am a death, destroyer of worlds”
J. Robert Oppenheimer quoting the Bhagavad Gita
Traveling back to 1945, an era where World War II had wiped tens of millions off the face of the Earth, resulted in genocide and mass murder on an unimaginable scale, we find the world plunged into darkness for nearly 6 years. By the time the Germans had surrendered, the war with Japan was also coming to an end(May 1945). The atomic bomb was a poker hand play by President Truman to force the Soviet Union into submission on deals across Europe and Asia. By doing so, the US could maintain its hegemony over the entire world and expand its influence into Eastern Europe.
President Harry Truman himself wrote after the Potsdam conference that “We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world.” Six out of seven Five Star Generals during World War II were against the use of the devastating weapon on Japan because they knew Japan was going to surrender and that the use of such weapon could not be undone. Here is some direct information discussing why some high ranking military officials were against the use of the atomic bomb:
In his “third person” autobiography (co-authored with Walter Muir Whitehill) the commander in chief of the U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations, Ernest J. King, stated “The President in giving his approval for these [atomic] attacks appeared to believe that many thousands of American troops would be killed in invading Japan, and in this he was entirely correct; but the dilemma was an unnecessary one, for had we been willing to wait, the effective naval blockade would, in the course of time, have starved the Japanese into submission through lack of oil, rice, medicines, and other essential materials.”
The use of nuclear weapons did not bring Japan closer to surrender. The Japanese had wanted to reach peace with the Allies as early as March of 1945, but also be able to have their Emperor and Prime Minister have a role in determining military decisions, which was something the Truman administration would not accept.
General Carl “Tooey” Spaatz, who in July 1945 commanded the U.S. Army Strategic Air Force (USASTAF), recalled in a 1962 interview that he gave “notification that I would not drop an atomic bomb on verbal orders–they had to be written–and this was accomplished.” Spaatz also stated that the dropping of the atomic bomb was “done by a military man under military orders. We’re supposed to carry out orders and not question them.” In a 1965 Air Force oral history interview, Spaatz stressed that the bombing “was purely a political decision, wasn’t a military decision. The military man carries out the order of his political bosses.”
The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not about winning a war, it was about testing a new weapon on an enemy many people believed to be subhuman (the Japanese). The bombings targeted civilians populations like modern terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Those left alive from the atomic bombs suffered a cruel death from radiation poisoning and severe burns. Estimates of killed and wounded in Hiroshima (150,000) and Nagasaki (75,000) considered over conservative by the Children of Atomic Bomb project.
General Douglas MacArthur, the US commander in the Pacific, thought that the use of such bomb was completely unnecessary from a military point of view. General Curtis “Demon” LeMay, a staunch anti-Communist who gained notoriety after being selected as segregationist candidate George Wallace’s running mate in the 1968 Presidential Election said that “Even without the atomic bomb and the Russian entry into the war, Japan would have surrendered within two weeks. The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war.”
In every US history class, we are told the opposite, in that the use of the atomic bomb on Japan saved lives and resulted in a speedy victory against Japan. That statement is unequivocally false. The US didn’t have to invade the Japanese mainland or use the atomic bomb. The United States could have ended the war sooner without unconditional surrender and many people paid the price of politics of the war with their lives. The atomic bomb was a political weapon more so than a military one. The atomic bomb now poses a threat to wiping out the human species, as nuclear weapons have become significantly more powerful with the new Hydrogen Bomb and now numbers in the thousands across the globe. Currently, the US and Russia hold 90% of world stockpiles and the stakes for war between both countries are much higher than they were during the height of the Cold War (roughly between 1955 and 1963) because of US troops on Russian borders and other areas like North Korea.
The scientist and people who developed the Manhattan project circulated a petition with over a 70 people signing it against the use of such a bomb. The petition stated that“If after this war a situation is allowed to develop in the world which permits rival powers to be in uncontrolled possession of these new means of destruction, the cities of the United States, as well as the cities of other nations, will be in continuous danger of sudden annihilation. All the resources of the United States, moral and material, may have to be mobilized to prevent the advent of such a world situation. Its prevention is at present the solemn responsibility of the United States — singled out by virtue of her lead in the field of atomic power.”
The US had a moral responsibility to prevent the use of the weapon and make sure others weren’t pushed to pursue it. The Truman Administration failed to realize the long-term problems of using nuclear weapons. Because he used them the Soviets put tons of time and energy into developing the technology. Truman not considering the advice from the scientist ignored warnings that the rest of the world would catch up, specifically the Soviet Union, which the scientists claimed could lead to a Cold war and destroy human civilization. An accidental mishap could mean triggering a nuclear war, which has come close to happening during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and a few other times, most notably in 1979, 1983, and 1995. It should be known that these weapons aren’t safe and that mistakes have been before, where atomic weapons have almost been set off. For example, unarmed nuclear weapons were accidental dropped by the US Air Force in South Carolina in 1958 and North Carolina in 1961. Luckily neither incident resulted in the detonation of the bombs. Another time a maintenance worker while fixing things around a nuclear warhead accidental armed it with his tool belt. These are just a few instances of how a weapon endangered the lives of countless people. There are also the nuclear weapons that are missing not to ruffle your feathers.
A world without nuclear weapons is a safe one and the United Nations just passed a resolution to ban Nuclear Weapons with many European countries and the US abstaining. The resolution goal is to hold a conference in March 2017 to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.
- Japan was going to surrender just under terms it felt would allow them to keep their Emperor.
- Most high-level military Generals were against the use of Atomic weapons.
- Hundreds of thousands of civilians killed.
- Bombs had no military or strategic importance.
- Truman made decision to drop bomb not experts.
- US leaders failed to understand they would lose nuclear monopoly in the future(20 years later).
- Scientists who developed the bomb were against its use.
- UN resolution to ban Nukes on table recently.
- For those less tech savoy words highlighted in blue if clicked link to sources.
I recommend watching the video below, it is graphic but shows the horrors of nuclear attack on Japan.
Oliver Stone Untold History of the US (Season 1 Episode 3) Goes into detail on Atomic Weapon Use and why it was Immoral
Conversations with History: Kenzaburo Oe University of California Television (UCTV): Japanese man who lived through Bombings/Outspoken against nuclear weapons