WHY DID TRUMAN ELECT TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB AGAINST JAPAN?

Harry Truman led the United States into its new responsibility as post-war world superpower and upheld the extended task of the federal government.1 Acknowledging and appreciating the increased significance of the presidency during the Cold War era and the welfare state period, Truman changed the executive arm of the government. In addition, he expanded the advisory agencies and thus increased the efficiency of the federal government.2 However, his decision to use atomic bombs against Japan triggered a major debate. While some argued in favour of the decision, others strongly opposed the move.

There are a number of reasons that informed the decision to bomb Japan. First and foremost, the bomb was dropped with an aim of speeding the end of the war. This was the perception of Truman and those in support of his decision.3 The reason was attributed to the fact that it would have saved lives, referring to the lives of the American soldiers. The lives of the Japanese soldiers and the civilians perhaps counted for nothing.4 In addition, dropping the bomb would have prevented the Japanese Emperor and other leaders from shame, which in essence was an important factor going by the Samurai culture of the Japanese. As a matter of fact, at the end, few major leaders desired to make the final sacrificial stand.5 However, they were overruled by the rest in support of the Emperor, who called for a retreat, having confirmed from Washington that the Emperor would stay in the event that he adhered to the rules of the American army commander.6 The last reason was attributed to the fact that America wanted to impress Russians.

However, different opinions were given in regard to the reasons of Truman to bomb Japan. One major finding of the past years was that the United States casualty projections did not start to hit the one million mark, while the estimated American deaths in the event of an invasion were much lower than half a million.7 The projected deaths from an invasion stood at 46, 000 in the worst case scenario. The main debate was however based on whether Truman was motivated by military or political reasons in deciding to bomb Japan. While there is a strong disagreement among the scholars, there has been some form of consensus.8 As far as the scholars were concerned, Truman never influenced the decision to bomb Japan with an aim of saving hundreds of thousands of American soldiers.

Even though they share the view that he used the bomb to shorten the war, the population of American lives saved would have ranged in the tens of thousands as opposed to hundreds of thousands.9 In addition, the specialists view the diplomatic goal as a secondary trigger or motivation in Truman’s decision. They have failed to acknowledge the revisionist claim that Truman acted in order to create an impression on the Soviets and advance the political objectives of the Americans.10 However, it appears that the political implications in using the bomb figured in the deliberations of the administration. The consensus of the scholars was centred on the fact that the war would have culminated within a short period without necessarily using atomic bomb and the fact that the invasion of the Japanese islands was in essence an unlikely possibility.11 In addition, it maintains that there were a number of alternatives in stopping the war without the need for an invasion and the fact that Truman and his colleagues were well versed with the options.

I do not agree with the decision of Truman to bomb Japan. For one, the sanctity of human life must be respected by all regardless of their societal status. The decision to use atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was in itself futile in America’s war against Japan.12  The reason behind this was the fact that Japan was already defeated and had no option other than to surrender.13 The second reason is that by being the first nation to use the atomic bomb, America embraced an ethical standard that was common among the barbarians present during the Dark Ages.14  There is no way that victory can be attained by killing women and children.

What had been described by Truman as the biggest thing in history was indeed, from the perspective of his military leaders, an action of unparalleled cowardice, and mass killing of women and children. The incorporation of the atomic bombs marked the end of an air war that was staged against civilians in Japan and Germany, a war that portrayed increasing contempt for civilian lives and for the laws that govern wars.

Bibliography

Kelly, Charles. The Way Life Is. New York: Author House, 2010.

Krieger, David. Were the Atomic Bombings Necessary? 30 July 2012. http://www.wagingpeace.org/articles/db_article.php?article_id=381 (Accessed 18 March, 2013)

Landesman, Charles. Rawls on Hiroshima: An Inquiry into the Morality of the use of Atomic Weapons in August 1945. The Philosophical Forum, 34(1), 21-38.

Lemoine, Florence, and Strickland, John. Government Leaders, Military Rulers, and Political Activists. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001

Walker, Samuel. History, Collective Memory, and the Decision to use the Bomb. Diplomatic History, 19(2), 319-328.

1  Florence Lemoine, and John Strickland, Government Leaders, Military Rulers, and Political Activists (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001), 188.

2  Florence Lemoine, and John Strickland, Government Leaders, Military Rulers, and Political Activists (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001), 188.

3 Charles Landesman, Rawls on Hiroshima: An Inquiry into the Morality of the use of Atomic Weapons in August 1945, The Philosophical Forum, 34(1), 21-38.

4  Charles Landesman, Rawls on Hiroshima: An Inquiry into the Morality of the use of Atomic Weapons in August 1945, The Philosophical Forum, 34(1), 21-38.

5  Charles Landesman, Rawls on Hiroshima: An Inquiry into the Morality of the use of Atomic Weapons in August 1945, The Philosophical Forum, 34(1), 21-38.

6  Charles Landesman, Rawls on Hiroshima: An Inquiry into the Morality of the use of Atomic Weapons in August 1945, The Philosophical Forum, 34(1), 21-38.

7  Samuel Walker, History, Collective Memory, and the Decision to use the Bomb, Diplomatic History, 19(2), 319-328.

8  Samuel Walker, History, Collective Memory, and the Decision to use the Bomb, Diplomatic History, 19(2), 319-328.

9  Samuel Walker, History, Collective Memory, and the Decision to use the Bomb, Diplomatic History, 19(2), 319-328.

10  Samuel Walker, History, Collective Memory, and the Decision to use the Bomb, Diplomatic History, 19(2), 319-328.

11  Samuel Walker, History, Collective Memory, and the Decision to use the Bomb, Diplomatic History, 19(2), 319-328.

12  David Krieger, Were the Atomic Bombings Necessary? 30 July 2012, http://www.wagingpeace.org/articles/db_article.php?article_id=381 (Accessed 18 March, 2013)

13Charles Kelly, The Way Life Is (New York: Author House, 2010), 183.

14  David Krieger, Were the Atomic Bombings Necessary? 30 July 2012, http://www.wagingpeace.org/articles/db_article.php?article_id=381 (Accessed 18 March, 2013)

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