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The Atomic Bomb

Little Boy at Hiroshima
Fat Man at Nagasaki

The decision to drop two atomic bombs on mainland Japan in August, 1945 was made within a complex historical sphere of technological, political, and military influences. Conventional history has it that the bombs were dropped in order to save American lives by avoiding an invasion of the Japanese home islands planned for November of that year. Essentially, that is what President Truman told the American public at the time and that is what the public, by and large, believed and still believes today.

For years, this simple view has been challenged by a seemingly more sophisticated academic perspective that the bombs were wrongfully used against innocent civilians, did not genuinely factor into the surrender of Japan, and would have better served the war effort as part of a diplomatic “carrot and stick” package. Some have criticized the use of the bombs as a form of “atomic diplomacy” directed by the United States against the Soviet Union.

Invariably, most of these positions are selective in focus and tend to view the decision to drop the bombs in a kind of vacuum, disassociated from other events, particularly events in Europe. The “atomic diplomacy” variation has much validity to it, but attempting to cast such diplomatic tactics as immoral in the face of the destruction wrought by the bombs falls on its face, as I will show.

Equally, the simple “military truth” about the use of the bombs is little more than a government public relations effort. Again, there is some basic validity to the position, but the whole story is much more complex than just preventing an American invasion of the Japanese home islands.

Little Boy & Fat Man
My analysis of this historic event and the controversy surrounding it will be critical of both views. The “official” version of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is worthy of criticism because it is shallow and fails to account for President Truman’s full perspective on the matter. The revisionist and unorthodox telling is essentially myopic and is largely tainted by a wider anti-nuclear bias which does not give sufficient weight to many of the complex factors that lead to the dropping of the bomb.

Copyright © W. Keith Beason, 2011
Version 1.2

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This page is affectionately dedicated to my long-time friend, Ted Smith. Although he probably doesn't agree with its conclusions, he inspired me to delve more deeply into the matter in a conversation on the subject during a cabin trip to Cloudland Canyon State Park in the winter of 1999. Ted has always challenged me with his insights and understandings. His friendship is highly valued and, while we don't always agree on what's what, he's usually up for a good debate and we respect each other's opinions, as all good southern gentlemen should.