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The Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki in Historical Perspective The decision by President Harry S. Truman to use an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima and then again on Nagasaki is today seen as one of the more controversial executive orders in twentieth century American history…
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HIST - American History Since 1865
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Download file to see previous pages It is the legacy of that decision which since 1945 has come to have a variety of interpretations among both laymen and scholars alike. Despite the ensuing controversy, the bombing of Nagasaki was both necessary and militarily expedient. Shortly after the Hiroshima bombing President Truman addressed the American people regarding his decision and the implications it and nuclear weapons would have for the future of the country and the world. …It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.2 The President in no uncertain terms sought to justify his decision as one that would prevent the costly use of manpower needed to carry out an amphibious invasion of Japan. This comes as little surprise given that by 1945 some “7,000 American families had already sacrificed two or more of their boys for freedom.”3 Many Americans had grown tired of the war, then in its fourth year. Truman made it clear that his decision stemmed from the sole desire to utterly destroy and annihilate Japan’s war-making capacity and shock that country into surrender. The decision to bomb Nagasaki therefore was a pragmatic one. Secretary of War at the time, Henry L. Stimson, played a major role in the decision to use the bomb on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A recent biography of Stimson by Prof. Sean L. Malloy has claimed that Stimson took part in the most significant foreign policy decision of the twentieth century: “to use nuclear weapons against Japan and as a diplomatic tool against the Soviet Union.”4 Revisionist historians have long sought to claim that the use of the bomb was to intimidate the USSR and not due to real military needs. Many historians today look to Truman and Stimson as being the two biggest factors in the decision to use the bomb. They assert the president’s role by virtue of his office and Stimson’s role by virtue of his political influence with the president. Stimson supported both Truman’s reasoning and his decision. The fact that he saw the practical effects of the bomb for diplomatic and political ends after the war is not surprising. Given that the post-war world was shaping up to be one dominated by the US, a weakened Britain, and a war-ready and war-ravaged Soviet Union, men like Stimson (who had far more foreign policy experience than Truman) were well aware of the implications of atomic weaponry. And yet the war in the Pacific Theatre had been an especially sanguine one. This is not to say that the European Theatre was nothing to fret about, after all death and mayhem are, in the end, death and mayhem. Many accounts of American soldiers who fought in both Europe and the Pacific often detail the outright perseverance, refusal to surrender, fight-til-death mentality of the Japanese as being somehow more pronounced than in other armies’ soldiers. Japanese tenacity was well demonstrated and DOWNFALL (the code name for an invasion of the Japan) assumed a death toll of at least 500,000 and as much as 1 million.5 The unanimity of Japanese defense commanders is striking. Navy and air commanders presided over mere remnants of their forces, but the Japanese spirit, and their suicide devices, still gave them hope. The army, short as it was of fuel, was almost manic because of its powerful defense of ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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American History Since 1865
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