Sixty four years ago, an atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima and the controversy over the decision continues to rage in America. There is no question of the vast support for the Truman decision among those who were alive in 1945, but young Americans today quite frequently believe it was an act of immorality. A problem in posing the question to younger Americans is the reality few have any knowledge of World War II, let alone military concerns in the summer of 1945.
It is difficult for those who were not alive in 1945 to grasp the situation in America as its leaders prepared to drop the atomic bomb. During previous months, American forces had suffered high casualties in taking the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In the battle of Okinawa US forces suffered thousands of deaths including five thousand killed and wounded in the new Kamikaze suicide bomb attacks on ships. General Marshall, who was the brilliant head of the US army estimated there would be over a hundred thousand dead and wounded if American and British troops invaded the Japanese mainland.
We now know due to release of Japanese Cabinet meeting sessions that General Anami and the Japanese army actually believed they could defeat an Allied invasion of their nation and were ready to fight to the death despite dropping of the first atomic bomb. They had over 5,000 Kamikaze planes and at least three million soldiers prepared to die on the beaches. The assumption of the Japanese army was a defeat of the invasion would compel America and Great Britain to agree on an armistice. We now know that Japanese officers attempted to intercept the Emperor’s message of surrender and even killed guards at the Imperial Palace in their effort to thwart any message of surrender.
The reality is Japan behaved in a barbarous manner during World War II killing over four million Chinese including the rape and massacre of thousands in the city of Nanking. The Japanese killed 10,000 American and Filipino soldiers who had surrendered in the Philippines. They killed thousands of British POWs. There was no love or concern for the people of Japan in 1945 due to these actions. The bottom line is that the Allies offered an opportunity for Japan to surrender prior to dropping of the atomic bomb and it was rejected.
No American president could have done other than what Harry Truman did in August, 1945 but to order the dropping of the atomic bomb. In reality, that decision although killing two hundred thousand Japanese people also saved the lives of millions of Japanese. The Japanese army was prepared to have millions of their own people die in the cause of fighting to protect their “honor” as warriors.
War is hell and the innocent die because of armies which fight for honor and glory. Unfortunately, the Japanese people had no say in whether to continue fighting. Most probably, most actually believed they were winning so why surrender? Japanese naval leaders knew it was hopeless but until the Emperor made the decision to surrender there was no group that could accept defeat. Harry Truman concluded that peace could only be attained by use of the bomb. Historical documents now prove he made the right decision. If you doubt what I write, please read meetings of the Japanese Cabinet after the Hiroshima bomb was dropped.