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History of the Atomic Bomb

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Published: Tue, 19 Dec 2017

Around the world, there is a debate whether America’s choice of dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan was moral or immoral. The horrific bombing at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two important cities in Japan, helped end the Second World War. America had hatred towards Japan because they bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, which was the last straw before America entered the war. Harry S. Truman, the United States thirty-third president, gave authorization to bomb the two cities, in hopes of ending the war. America bombed Hiroshima with Little Boy, the name of the bomb, on August 6, 1945, at 8:16 in the morning. The bombing of Nagasaki happened on August 9, 1945, at 11:02 in the morning. The bomb used in this attack was named Fat Man. During the years of World War II, 1939-45, Hiroshima was the headquarters of the Second Army of Japan and Chugoku Regional Army. Nagasaki, on the other hand, was a major seaport. Killing 220,000 people between the two bombs, the explosions were the most lethal bombings ever. The Allies, an alliance between Italy, France, the United Kingdom and the United States, demonstrated their first signs of bombing Japan during the Tokyo fire bombings. Killing several 100,000 people during the first few months of the firebombing caused a higher death toll than both atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those two atomic bombs killed less people. Nonetheless, the atomic bombs caused a quick, devastating catastrophe that would affect Japanese lives for decades. The atomic bomb has its pros and cons, which allows the world to think if it was worth all the effects to end this deadly war.

Albert Einstein, a German physicist who came up with the theory of relativity, thought of the idea of the atomic bomb with other noted physicists. In the beginning of World War II, Fritz Strassmann and Otto Hahn, German physicists, thought of splitting uranium atoms by nuclear fission. Later in the war, a group of American scientists began The Manhattan Project, formally known as The Manhattan Engineer District. General Leslie Groves led the project and the scientific research department managed by physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, known as “The Father of the Atomic Bomb.” The experiment created atomic bombs, which were funded by the Americans, Canadians, and the British. The Manhattan Project had four laboratories where they created bombs. The locations were Richland, Washington, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Chalk River, Ontario, Canada. Shockingly, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the thirty-second president of the United States, kept the production of the bombs a secret from Congress and the public during World War II. In fact, Truman figured out about this project when he was sworn into his presidency. The scientists created three bombs, the Gadget, Little Boy and Fat Man. The Gadget was a similar type of bomb as the Fat Man; however, the scientists were unsure if either of this type of bomb would work. The test, called Trinity, conducted to detonate the Gadget in New Mexico on July 16, 1945, at 5:30 in the morning. Every scientist was thrilled by the success of the bomb, and citizens one hundred miles away from the testing location could feel and see the bright light from the explosion. Astonishingly, a blind girl saw the flash up 120 miles away (Bellis). The Trinity was the green light that the bombs were usable. They would be used three weeks later in Japan.

On August 6, Colonel Paul Tibbets flew the B-29 Enola Gay, named after Tibbets’ mother. The B-29 was a type of plane flown in World War II and the Korean War. Taking off at the United States’ base in Tinian, which is an island outside of Japan, the Enola Gay left with Little Boy. Flying 26,000 feet above Hiroshima, Tibbet’s cc rew dropped the bomb, which ignited a few thousand feet above ground (1945: Atom bomb hits Nagasaki). The crew put on their safety goggles immediately, turned away from the mushroom shaped explosion, and returned home safely. Three days later, Major Charles W. Sweeney flew the B-29 named Bockscar, which is a pun on “boxcar” and after Frederick C. Bock the Commander of the plane. At 11:02, the crew dropped Fat Man with a parachute attached, because this bomb was much heavier than Little Boy and it would hit the ground quicker. The American plane wanted to be as far away from the explosion as possible in order to ensure their safety. The bomb exploded 1,625 feet above ground and it destroyed Nagasaki almost instantly (1945: Atom bomb hits Nagasaki). The two atomic bombs still frightens people today because they can destroy a city instantly, and the pilots that dropped the bombs would not be harmed. Furthermore, the city that was attacked would be too wounded to rebel.

Truman wanted to end the war immediately because many American soldiers died and he feared of losing more lives. The war was slowing down and Germany, a country of the Axis Powers that opposed the Allies Powers, surrendered on May 7, 1945. They surrendered because the Soviet Army was coming from the East, and the Americans were attacking from the west. The Armies would eventually trap Germany and attack. Furthermore, the Nazi leadership, controlled by Adolf Hitler, knew the war was over. Hitler realized his defeat and was afraid of other countries capturing him, which caused him to commit suicide and the other Nazi leaders surrendered. Japan was the last country to surrender, which bothered the whole world, because every country wanted the war to end.

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved many American and Japanese lives. A few months before the nuclear attack, the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa occurred, which the Japanese fought to their death for honor. In these two battles, the casualties totaled to 128,375 people (US Troops in Action). However, the American casualties were 84,525 people (US Troops in Action), which is considerably less people. If Japan continued fighting, America was planning to invade Japan’s Island of Kyushu in November of 1945. This attack would cause 20,000 more dead Americans (Cooper). Since Japan did not know how many atomic bombs the United States possessed, they were frightened that more bombs would attack them. Five days after the bombing of Nagasaki, the Japanese agreed to an unconditional surrender that ended the war. This event saved thousands of Japanese and American soldier’s lives.

If Japan did not surrender after the two atomic bombs strike, America was planning to invade Japan in the fall. Furthermore, many European countries were developing an attack in the spring. In October 1944, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in World War II, destroyed the Japanese Navy. Since Japan had a devastated Navy, their ports were unprotected. Therefore, they had a shortage of food because they did not get any imported. Their population was suffering because their food was mostly being distributed to the troops. The Japanese people were having trouble holding their dignity, because of their hunger, and The Allies from many angles were attacking them. Once Little Boy and Fat Man exploded, the Japanese did not know how many more atomic bombs America obtained. They feared that one airplane could fly by dropping a bomb killing thousands and not be affected by the blast. Though the fire bombings of Tokyo killed more people over a longer period, the Japanese were apprehensive that there would be more atomic bombings killing their citizens in a shorter period.
The amount of casualties suffered by the Japanese was appalling. There were 150,000 casualties at Hiroshima and approximately half were killed instantly (Effects of the Atomic Bomb). At Nagasaki 35,000 people were killed. Around twenty to thirty percent of deaths were caused by flash burns, fifteen to twenty percent of radiation sickness and fifty to sixty percent died of other related injuries (Effects of the Atomic Bomb). Sadly, the Japanese citizens had no warning of these brutal attacks. They were going about their daily tasks, when a bright, sudden flash would permanently devastate their lives. Many of the civilians would never see their families again. Since the people had no warning of the attack, they were unable to find shelter or stay behind with their loved ones. The surprise of the atomic bombs killed many people instantly during their daily routines.

The lucky died instantly from the blast. Otherwise, they could have suffered radiation poisoning. Surprisingly, there was more radiation poisoning in Hiroshima than Nagasaki, because they were different types of bombs. The s ickness from radiation came in many forms including diarrhea, vomiting, impulsive hemorrhaging, blurring of the eye lens, and temporary infertility in boys, intensive burns, blood cell irregularity, fevers, depression, fatigue, and hair loss (Anhalt). Furthermore, many people got infections in their wounds because radiation lowers the immune system. Since many of the doctors were injured or died from the bomb, the hospitals in Hiroshima opened five days later for patients. This wait cost many people their lives that had a chance of recuperating. Some statistics from Hiroshima and Nagasaki estimates that ninety to one-hundred percent of all losses happened within the first two weeks (Solomon 270). In addition, the Japanese police records says that half of the people who were severely injured died by the sixth day; an additional twenty-five percent past by day twelve, and ninety percent of all deaths caused by the bombings happened before forty days (Solomon 270). Another long-term effect of the atomic bombs was cancer. Doctors were realizing that people were growing more tumors after the bombs struck. However, the radiation did not cause the tumors, yet it enhanced the tumor growth (Solomon 331). On the other hand, leukemia, cancer of the blood, was another type of cancer that increased after the bombing. The higher rate of leukemia was the longest seen side effect for the Japanese people. However, since tumors are not present in this type of cancer, many people died without knowing they had this disease. Radiation poisoning causes a horrendous death.

Many years following the bombing, babies were suffering from birth defects. The radiation mutated the DNA, which is the genetic instruction for all living organisms, causing the DNA to cut at places and rejoin at others. This would change the code of the DNA, which would increase birth defects and the likelihood of cancer. Three years after the bombing, the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) demanded that all pregnant women in their fifth month tell the government (Neel 3). The Japanese government would give the pregnant women additional supplements rather than the supplements they obtained before. In fact, all Japanese citizens had to take vitamins after the bombing to improve their health. This investigation allowed the ABCC to be aware out of the 76,626 births occurring over this six-year period, statistics of feasibility, birth defects, number of infant deaths, gender, and birth-weight (Anhalt). After the six years of testing was over, the government ended the study because of the lack of evidence. However, the government did say that the information documented should be used for further study in the future. TToday, the infant mortality rate is lower than it was right after the bombings, it is believed that the remains of radiation are gone (Y).

The two atomic bombs were unnecessary; instead, America should have shown the Japanese a video of the testing of the Gadget. Truman could have threatened Japan by saying that if they do not surrender, bombs like the one shown would decimate their cities. However, he would not announce the number of bombs that America had produced. If the Japanese did not believe him, Truman could have showed them pictures of the bombs already made and tell them a time frame for the possible bombings. However, this would just be a threat and America would never bomb Japan. The Japanese government would become worried and would consider surrendering. Though the most important thing to the Japanese was honor, there could have been a more civilized way of ending the war. Instead of forcing Japan to an unconditional surrender, the countries should have made a truce. This would have saved many more lives and been the peaceful way of solving the issue. Furthermore, Truman could have been more sympathetic to the Japanese by realizing the amount of casualties and the long-term effects of the bombing. It is a shame that innocent families died in a war that they did not favor. Families never had a chance to say goodbye to their loved ones because they had no warning. People were minding their own business in the street and were suddenly killed. Children were wondering the streets looking for their families and coming across their scorched mother or father dead on the pavement. These types of memories will always be imprinted in their brains. This same type of situation happened in Pearl Harbor. Nonetheless, the Americans that lost their families would not want anyone else to deal with the situation either. Anyways, two contemptible actions do not cancel each other out and make everything fine. No one needs to endure this agony, including your enemy.

Truman would not back down to the Japanese, and forced an unconditional surrender, which entails no promises to the surrendering faction. In fact, Truman said that he always intended using the bomb by saying, “I regarded the bomb as a military weapon and never had any doubt that it should be used” (The Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Surrender – The Great WWII Debate). Before the bombing of Japan, the Potsdam Declaration, also known as The Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender, was written. This document was an agreement between Truman, United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Churchill, and China’s president Chaing Kai-shek. One of the points said, “We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction” (Truman). This point means that if Japan is unwilling to surrender unconditionally, the three countries involved in the declaration will bomb Japan until it would not exist anymore. Since Japan did not surrender, America dropped the bomb. On August 14, after witnessing his distressed country, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito pronounced their surrender. Truman was pleased with the results of the bombing, because he achieved what he wanted, an end to the war.

Approval of the atomic bombing is debated by its pros and cons. A poll was taken and it showed that seventy-three percent of people over the age of fifty-five approved the bombing (Christoffersen). Furthermore, Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, stated, “Support drops with age, from the generation that grew up with the nuclear fear of the Cold War to the youngest voters, who know less about World War II or the Cold War” (Christoffersen). This means younger people are less likely to approve of the use of the atomic bombs. They did not have to live through the drills in school. The drills in school consisted of the children climbing under their desk while protecting their heads. However, people do not believe these drills would help anymore, because there would be no warning for the bombs, the explosion would be too powerful, and the desk would become useless. Religion, political views and race all had an effect on their beliefs on the bombing too, since all of those categories educate peoples morals (Christoffersen).

People will always support or oppose the atomic bomb because of the deaths and affects it caused to end the frightful war. On August 6 and August 9, 1945, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki occurred, respectively. Though the bombing ended the war almost immediately, the Japanese were suffering from total war and they were unaware of how many more bombs were to come. Additionally, the Japanese were unable to find shelter or say goodbye to their loved ones. In addition, Japan lost thousands of innocent civilians by a huge explosion that shocked them caused by an atomic bomb. These bombs saved countless American lives but destroyed hundreds of thousands of Japanese, whether they died immediately or suffered from its lasting effect. Many people think there could have been a civil way of negotiating with the Japanese to save more lives and end the war quicker. Though it was a wakeup call for the Japanese, a threat could have been just as satisfying. However, the future could not be predicted and everyone should interpret and learn from history, so the remorseful events are never repeated. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will never be justified and forever will be debated.


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