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.
Copyright © W. Keith Beason, 2011
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