Essay: Do we owe Japan an apology for our decision to drop two atomic bombs on their country during World War II?

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  • Published on: August 24, 2019
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  • Do we owe Japan an apology for our decision to drop two atomic bombs on their country during World War II?
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Do we owe Japan an apology for our decision to drop two atomic bombs on their country during World War II? No, not necessarily. The war was the single most costly conflict the American people had ever experienced. President Harry Truman’s decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan in the summer of 1945 was a horrific, yet necessary factor in ending World War II. The bombs saved countless American lives and forced Japan to surrender, which brought an end to three years, eight months, and 22 days of conflict for the United States [8].

President Truman was only responsible for the decision to drop the bombs, not to have them made. The bombs were ultimately approved to be built by Franklin Roosevelt. It was Roosevelt who first learned about the new ideas of nuclear fission and uranium to create bombs through great physicist and Nazi Germany refugee, Albert Einstein. Einstein informed him of Nazi Germany’s plans with the new scientific developments, and how they were going to build a bomb. Not the scientific facts, but rather, the fact that Germany was securing their uranium and planning to build a bomb of their own sparked Roosevelt’s interest. After Germany attacked Poland and world War II had officially begun, the race to build the bomb ensued. American, British, and German scientists were all working to scientifically prove Einstein’s ideas, and to fabricate plans for the bomb. The British scientists ended up finding the procedure first, and shared their findings with the American scientists. Shortly after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and Germany declaring war with America, Franklin Roosevelt gave the orders to build the bomb [4].

By 1945, it was clear to both America and Japan that Japan would not win the war. American leaders knew that despite the odds, Japanese soldiers would continue to resiliently defend themselves against the United States, as surrender was cowardly and dishonourable in Japanese culture. We saw the Japanese represent this cultural trait earlier in the war during the battle on Iwo Jima, where they continued to fight until almost their last soldier. Only 200 of the 21,000 Japanese troops were taken prisoner by American Marines [1]. Japan fought and lost many more lives when they were already completely defeated by America. They were prepared to never surrender in future combat during the war. A less-desired solution to bring about the end of the war was the final invasion of Japan by American soldiers to force their surrender. The issue with this solution was that it would bring about a catastrophic number of casualties to the American forces. President Truman was not fond of this attempt. He said that it would be worth it to prevent the “many thousands of American troops that would be killed in invading Japan” [10]. On the other hand, Army Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall, argued that an invasion would end the war more surely and quickly than other alternatives [7]. These quotes show some of the controversy that happened between government leaders while making the decision. No one was really on the same page. In 2018, there are many more people that believe the bombs were unnecessary and the decision to drop them was racist and cruel. There are strong arguments for and against Truman’s decision, but before anyone can make a legitimate decision, they first must take into account what the times were like during the war. One argument is that the only reasons were to emphasize political dominance and keep the Soviet Union at bay. This argument does make some sense, as America was worried about the Soviet Union’s use of nuclear weapons during the war. Dropping the bombs showed them the mass destruction their weapons were capable of when used in battle, which helped to make them rethink their use of nuclear weapons. The part of this argument about political dominance is frankly an irrelevant factor when talking about the decision to drop the bombs. President Truman was faced with either losing more American lives or ending the war very quickly. It is not apparent that there were many thoughts of dominance, as he was focusing on restoring America’s morale [2].

But was the decision to drop an act of racism? Would the United States have dropped the bomb on Germany? Yes, they would have. It may look like an act of racism to the Japanese because the United States didn’t drop the bombs on Germany, despite America’s “Germany first” strategy throughout the war. If the bombs were ready to be used, America most-likely would have used them against Nazi Germany. They were not ready to be used until after the Nazi’s surrender. The first tests of our nuclear weapons did not take place until two months after the Nazi surrender [6].
Over time, Japan was weakened by relentless attacks from American forces. The United States primarily attacked Japan from the air, dropping many fire bombs, which incinerated cities below. Before the atomic bombs, the United States had also surrounded Japan and cut off all sea traffic coming or leaving the country. These two factors sent Japan into a serious economic and governmental crisis. It may seem like the constant bombings and isolation of Japan would force them to surrender, but they were still holding true to their cultural values and believed surrender was not an option. Their military forces were still intact and ready to resist the US invasion. It wasn’t worth the loss of American lives to eliminate every last Japanese soldier and win the war [9].
Japan was a defeated nation by the summer of 1945. The country had lost nearly all of its population due to the bombings of their city and famine. To this day, there is not a sure explanation to why Japan surrendered, but they most-likely would not have immediately surrendered if it wasn’t for the bombs. In Louis Morton’s book, The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb, he writes, “Whether air bombardment and naval blockade or the threat of invasion would have produced an early surrender and averted the heavy losses almost certain to accompany the actual landings in Japan is a moot question. Certainly they had a profound effect on the Japanese position. It is equally difficult to assert categorically that the atomic bomb alone or Soviet intervention alone was the decisive factor in bringing the war to an end” (Morton 518) [5]. This quote reinforces the fact that it’s hard to tell if the bombing was necessary, but it definitely sped up the end of the war. Morton explains that it’s also hard to tell what really ended the war; it seems like it was the atom bombing, but it could very well have been threats from Soviet Russia or the isolation and countless bombings of Japan.

The decision to drop the bombs may seem inhumane. Americans and the allied forces saw Japanese people as inferior and subhuman. President Truman even called them “beasts”. So how was it okay to drop the bombs on Japan out of hatred for their race? The perception of what racism means has drastically changed since the 1940’s, but America definitely had a few significant reasons to dislike the Japanese people. Japan started the conflict with America themselves by bombing Pearl Harbor and killing 3000 Americans. And the claims of the bombings being inhumane and cruel do not make much sense when one looks at Japan’s dark past. Those claims imply that Japan is the primary victim. This is not true because the Japanese were also very cruel to Americans. They lead death marches and executed many American prisoners. Japan had also killed millions of civilians during the war. They are disliked by China, Korea, and other Asian Countries for the bombings and massacres they committed in the war. They believed that they were above all other Asian Countries, which justified their violent behavior. They had a similar mindset to Nazi Germany, and believed that Japanese people were the master Nationality [3].

Overall, America was definitely justified in their decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan to end World War II. The gruesome effects of the bombs showed the rest of the world what the bombs were capable of, which helped some nations decide against using nuclear weapons. If one can look past the destruction the bombs caused in Japan, one can clearly see that it was simply the most rational choice to end the war. The bombs saved American lives, ended the costly and bloody war, and kept most of the world from turning to nuclear warfare. If it were not for the dropping of the bombs, the Soviet Union and other powerful nations would have went through with their nuclear plans and possibly turned the entire world into a nuclear wasteland.

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