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Essay: The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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  • Subject area(s): History essays
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  • Published: 18 March 2022*
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  • Words: 1,819 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 8 (approx)
  • Tags: World War II

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The first cause of the Bombings that occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is the Imperialist policies that Japan adopted, a policy of extending one’s nations power by conquering other nations.

In 1929 the depression hit Japan hard, affected imports of natural materials from other countries, such as oil. These imports were vital as Japan was not self-sufficient in terms of natural resources. It was because of this struggle that the government collapsed and the army took over, adopting a policy of imperialism. This policy eventually built up to the invasion of Manchuria, China. The events in Manchuria and the ever-constant presence of the Japanese in China, lead to tensions between the two powers. The tension eventually grew into a full-scale war, the Second Sino-Japanese War. Japan had gained resources by invading Manchuria but wasn’t prepared to stop there and set about invading other nations in the pacific. Even after Hitler had committed suicide and Germany had surrendered, Japan was still at large and vowed to fight to the bitter end in the Pacific. Japan refused to surrender even when threatened with “prompt and utter destruction” by the allies if they didn’t.

Japan fighting on and refusing to surrender is a direct cause of the bombing. The USA needed to end the war and were willing to resort to desperate measures to do so. The idea of an invasion of Japan was calculated by America and rejected as it would ensue too many casualties. Therefore, it was decided to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the hope that it would end the war.

Another cause of the event is the letter that reached the Whitehouse and started it all.

In 1939 the monumental letter was sent to United States President Franklin D Roosevelt, it was written by Hungarian scientist Leó Szilárd and signed by Albert Einstein. This letters intent was to warn Roosevelt of the threat that nuclear weapons posed, “…it has been made probable […….] that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future” and of the consequences that would arise if Germany was to develop the atomic bomb before the United States, “I understand that Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium from the Czechoslovakian mines which she has taken over. That she should have taken such early action might perhaps be understood on the ground that the son of the German Under-Secretary of State, von Weizsäcker, is attached to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut in Berlin where some of the American work on uranium is now being repeated…”. Roosevelt replied to this letter and decided to take immediate action in the form of establishing the Manhatten project, a research initiative involving some of the country’s top scientific minds to attempt to develop a functional atomic bomb.

The Szilard-Einstein letter is a cause of the bombing because it kickstarted the nuclear weapons program in America.

The most direct cause of the event was the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbour.

On the 7th of December 1941 Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, an American naval base in Hawaii. They attacked with vigor, with 353 Imperial aircraft in two waves, using bombs and torpedoes to successfully destroy almost 20 American ships and over 300 Airplanes. Also killing 2,403 people killed and wounding about 1,000.

The reason behind this attack was that Japan saw war as inevitable and thought that the only option was to strike first and hit hard. America had expanded their navy massively and put restrictions on the Japanese Navy, strategically banned certain goods from reaching Japan and could not afford luxury materials such as silk from Japan because of the depression.

Attacking Pearl Harbour was seen as a quick, surefire way to obtain their goals of making sure that America didn’t interfere in their Pacific expansion and to force America to stop the economic sanctions and seek a compromise.

The attack on Pearl Harbour was the main cause of the aggressive American rebuttal of the atomic bombings as Japan had directly engaged in combat against America. American President Franklin D Roosevelt referred to the event as a “day that will live in infamy” and the next day America entered the War, declaring war on Japan.


On the 6th of August at 8:15 am the first Atomic Bomb ever to be used against people in earnest was detonated 1,900 feet above Hiroshima, Japan. The bomb, codenamed, “Little Boy” was dropped from the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, Enola Gay. The blast leveled 70% of buildings in a 5-mile radius and killed thousands of people. From the initial blast, 71,000 civilians were killed

On August 9th at 11:02 am the second nuclear bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. This bomb, codenamed “Fat Man” was dropped from another B-29 bomber, “Bockscar”, flown by Major Charles Sweeney. This blast killed 73,884 people on impact and a further 30,000 through complications. “Fat Man” was a plutonium bomb and more powerful than Little Boy but didn’t do the damage it was intended to as Nagasaki was shielded by a valley and had rivers that quenched the damage so that only 2.8 square miles were affected.


The direct and immediate impact of the bombs being dropped is the official end of World War 2.

After the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a considerable amount of Japan’s military leaders were keen to keep fighting the but after the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and at the same time Manchuria was invaded by the USSR, Japan had no choice but to surrender. In the late hours of August 9th, the day after the second bomb, the Supreme War Council met, including Emperor Hirohito and Prime Minister Suzuki, and decided to surrender and accept the Potsdam Declaration of peace. On August 15th, 1945, Emperor Hirohito went on national radio for the first time and announced Japans surrender, the surrender was immediately accepted by the USA. 18 days later on September the second 1945, Japan officially signed the surrender document on the deck of the warship, the USS Missouri. The document was signed by two Japanese officials, Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu on behalf of the government and General Yoshijiro Umeze on behalf of the army. The fact that these two entities were represented by separate people very much eludes to the fact that the government and the army still weren’t cooperating. It was the army in the first place that took control and invaded Manchuria because the government in their eyes was too weak to do anything about their situation. Also representing this separation is the attempted coup immediately following the surrender and the alleged tears in the eyes of the Generals aids as he signed the document. The surrender may have brought peace between the USA and Japan but the tensions between Government and Armed Forces is a different situation altogether.

The end of World War 2 is a direct result from the bombs being dropped as Japan could not realistically keep fighting on with their country in so much devastation. There was also the threat of another aggressive rebuttal from the USA and they could not risk that, therefore their best option was to surrender.

Another effect of the bombing was the anti-nuclear policy that spread across the world.

Ever since the bombing an anti nuclear movement has spread across the world. Hibakusha, meaning survivors of the bombings, have been a central voice in this effort and a reminder to many people the horrors that occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Ever since the event, there has been anti-nuclear protests and rallies throughout the world, including the largest in New York in 1982 where one million people marched against Nuclear Weapons. In 2010 there was first talk of a treaty regarding Nuclear Weapons, but it did not go through as it was opposed by some powerful nations that supported Nuclear Weapons, such as the USA. Negotiations carried on for years after as well as proposals being introduced and rejected, until July 2017 when the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons passed, however is yet to be in effect as it needs 50 ratifications until it is active and it only has 10 so far. The treaty is definitely a step in the right direction, however only applies to countries that signed the treaty and all the states with the most extensive nuclear arsenals, such as the USA and Russia boycotted the treaty. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki made the world aware of the devastation that nuclear warfare cause and sparked movements across the globe. It certainly had a positive effect in the way that 15 countries have no nuclear powerplants and have pledged to stay that way and that 8 countries have pledged to phase out nuclear power. The world still has ways to go in terms of becoming nuclear free but the devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki has sparked a movement that is making big changes.

This anti-nuclear movement is a result from the bombings because the devastation caused made the world and people aware of the reality of Nuclear War.

Another effect of the bombing is the lasting effects of the radiation and the people that are still affected today.

Aside from the thousands of people who died in the initial blast, there has been people dying ever since from various complications due to exposure to radiation. Five years after the bombing, the rate of leukaemia had noticeably increased, research done by the Center for Environmental Health Studies later has linked exposure to Ionizing Radiations to cancer. About a decade after the bombing increases in thyroid, breast, lung and other cancers were also noted. Women who were pregnant during the bombing who survived experiences higher rates of infant mortality and miscarriages, infants that did survive birth were more likely to disabilities and stunted growth.

People dying from complications due to exposure to radiation is a result of the bombs being dropped as even those who did not die in the initial blast were still affected, even years later.

New Zealand

The event impacted New Zealand because a lot of Kiwi men and women were fighting the Japanese in the pacific so when the bombs were dropped and the war was over they would’ve been happy because they could go home.

The news of the Japanese surrender originally arrived in New Zealand at 11 am 15th August. This news brought immediate celebration, sirens were sounded, and people celebrated in the streets. There was a two-day public holiday and celebrations reigned. Parades, services, dances and bonfires were part of the celebrations. Although the celebrations seem inappropriate now, at the time it was a huge relief because all the tension from having a war so close to home was gone. Kiwi soldiers, nurses and engineers stationed overseas got to go home because the war was over.

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