The atomic bomb is the subject of much controversy. Since its first detonation in 1945, the entire world has heard the aftershocks of that blast. Issues concerning Nuclear Weapons sparked the Cold War. We also have the atomic bomb to thank for our relative peace in this time due to the fear of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The effects of the atomic bomb might not have been the exact effects that the United States was looking for when they dropped Little Boy and Fat Man on Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively (Grant, 1998).
The original desire of the United States government when they dropped Little Boy and Fat Man on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not, in fact, the one knew: that the two nuclear devices dropped upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki were detonated with the intention of bringing an end to the war with Japan, but instead to intimidate the Soviet Union. The fact of Japan’s imminent defeat, the undeniable truth that relations with Russia were deteriorating, and competition for the division of Europe prove this without question.
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Admittedly, dropping the atomic bomb was a major factor in Japan’s decision to accept the terms laid out at the Potsdam agreement otherwise known as unconditional surrender. The fact must be pointed out, however, that Japan had already been virtually defeated. (McInnis, 1945) Though the public did not know this, the allies, in fact, did. Through spies, they had learned that both Japan’s foreign minister, Shigenori Togo and Emperor Hirohito both supported an end to the war (Grant, 1998). Even if they believed such reports to be false or inaccurate, the leaders of the United States also knew Japan’s situation to be hopeless.
Their casualties in defending the doomed island of Okinawa were a staggering 110,000 and the naval blockade which the allies had enforced whittled trade down to almost nothing. Japan was quickly on the path to destruction. (Grant, 1998). Of course, the Allies ignored this for the reason that dropping the atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would intimidate Russia. Had they truly been considering saving more lives and bringing a quick end to the war in Japan, they would have simply waited them out without the major loss of life seen at both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
At the Yalta conference, Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked Josef Stalin for Russian support in the war with Japan. (Claypool, 1984) “In return for Russian Support against Japan, Roosevelt agreed to terms that some historians feel helped create more tension between the two countries because it gave Russia too much power in world affairs.” (Claypool, 1984, Pg. 53) At the time, Roosevelt was not confident that the United States could win the war easily without Russian support. He simply assumed that Japan would have to be invaded (Claypool, 1984). After Roosevelt’s death on April 12, 1945, Truman was sworn in as President of the United States (Claypool, 1984). As situations developed and progress on the atomic bomb continued to increase, Truman felt that a Russian invasion of Japanese territory might not be necessary. “If the atomic bomb was effective, there was no need to have the Russians invade Manchuria. . .
There was always the possibility that a Russian invasion might mean communist rule after the war.” (Claypool, 1984, Pg. 78) It was quite apparent, in fact, to many world leaders that the United States did not want Russian intervention once work on the atomic bomb had been completed. In fact, Prime Minister Winston Churchill has been quoted writing: “‘It is quite clear that the United States do not at the present time desire Russian participation in the war against Japan.’” (Claypool, 1984, Pg. 78) As World War II came to a closure, two new superpowers emerged: the United States and the Soviet Union. The United States obviously felt that if they could prove to the world that they had superior weaponry, that it would be held in the highest regard by all nations of the world. Hiroshima and Nagasaki gave them the power to do just that. It is apparent that because of the troubled relations with Russia, and the confidence that the United States had in the atomic bomb, that they did, in fact, use it to intimidate Russia and not to force a closure to the war with Japan.
Once World War II had concluded, much of Europe lay in ruins. Most of the fascist governments that had dominated Europe during the war and in pre-war times had been dismantled and the two superpowers were in a race to occupy Germany and her surrounding countries in the hopes of influencing their government in one particular way. By 1945, Poland was under a communist regime and the chances were high of the rest of Europe becoming communist. (Legvold, 1999) The United States, despite being allies with Russia during the Second World War, disliked Communism with an extreme passion.
The United States obviously hoped that, through the use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, the Russians would be intimidated and thus be more agreeable in negotiations for the division of Europe. Without such a weapon, the Russians would have been ruthless in their ideological takeover of Europe. Of course, since Stalin knew almost everything the Americans did about the atomic bomb, through use of Klaus Fuchs and an accomplice, they were as cool and calm as ever. The United States, however, did not know this, and thus had the right to be as confident as they were at Potsdam. (Claypool, 1984) With such motivation to back them, the United States felt justified in dropping the atomic bomb in order to prevent the spread of communism in Europe by intimidating Russia.
It is quite apparent that the United States did, in fact, drop the two atomic bombs, Little Boy and Fat Man on Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively for the primary reason of intimidating Russia. Japan had suffered severe losses of life and were close to surrender even when they were unaware of the existence of atomic weaponry. The allies knew this and still ignored that fact. Relations with the Russians were becoming increasingly tense at that point and the United States wanted to prove to the world that they, and not the Russians, were the most superior country in the world. By intimidating Russia, all these goals could be realized. It’s quite apparent that Truman and Roosevelt felt no compassion for human life, having dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki simply to intimidate Russia. For, instead of the desired effect that the United States had wished for, the Russians responded more hostilely and thus the Cold War began. Perhaps if the atomic bomb was never dropped, the threat of nuclear war might not have been upon us. Building on that, if there was no threat of nuclear war to scare governments and the vast majority of people, would nuclear war have broken out more easily? Perhaps so, for, mankind only agreed to put down their arms once they had seen the horror that such weapons of mass destruction could evoke.
Claypool, Jane (1984). Turning Points of World War II: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Toronto: Grolier, 1984.
Legvold Robert. “The Cold War” Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia. 1999 Edition.
McInnis, Edgar. (1946) The War: Sixth Year. Toronto: Oxford University Press
Grant, R.G. (1998) New Perspectives: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Austin: Raintree Steck-Vaughn
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