As World War II was coming to an end during 1945, the creation of one of the most destructive weapons known to humanity occurred within the United States. This weapon, known as “the atomic bomb,” was used on the two Japanese cities: Hiroshima and Nagasaki, resulting in a death toll unprecedented by any military weapon used before and an immediate, unconditional surrender. Some historians believe President Truman decided to drop the atomic bomb in order to intimidate the Soviet Union whereas others believe it was a strictly military measure designed to force Japan’s unconditional surrender.
In the Report of a Scientific Panel of nuclear physicists, some scientific colleagues believed the atomic bomb was a “purely technical demonstration” to induce surrender. Other scientists believed that the use of the atomic bomb will improve international prospects in that they are more concerned with the prevention of war than with the elimination of this special weapon (Doc G). Thus, the United States dropped the atomic bomb to both force Japan’s unconditional surrender and to intimidate the Soviet Union.
One can argue that the dropping of the atomic bomb by the United States was strictly a military measure designed to force Japan’s unconditional surrender. First, as stated in the Memoirs of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, Japan was willing to literally “fight to the death” and the war was guaranteed to be prolonged for many months against the Japanese. Many more millions of American casualties were bound to happen and the U. S. wasn’t willing to risk all those lives.
Because of this unwillingness to surrender, both Truman and Americans found it strenuous to figure out a way to end the war quicker. Charging into Japan or bombing Japanese cities with regular bombs would take up too much time and the number of casualties would only increase. Therefore, having the decision to use an atomic bomb to blow an entire city up within seconds, Truman undoubtedly ordered the use of the atomic bombs on Japan. (Doc A). Next, shown in the Agreements of Yalta Conference, the main goal of the U. S. as to end the war with Japan. At the Yalta Conference the U. S. and Britain agreed to give back much of the land that the Soviet Union lost during the war including the southern part of Sakhalin as well as islands adjacent to it. If the U. S. wanted to intimidate the Soviet Union, they most likely saw it as a threat, so why would the U. S. agree to give land to a nation they felt threatened by (Doc D)? Last, as stated in Harry S. Truman’s radio address, the U. S. dropped the bomb as retaliation against their enemies of war.
Truman explained saying America “…Used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war…” (Doc H). Hence, one can argue that the dropping of the atomic bomb by the United States was strictly a military measure designed to force Japan’s unconditional surrender. On the other hand, one can argue that the dropping of the atomic bomb was a diplomatic measure calculated to intimidate the Soviet Union. To start, according to the memoirs of General H. H.
Arnold, Commander of the American Army Air Force in WWII; atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse. Most Japanese industries were destroyed and they were unable to receive critical items through cargoes to carry on a large-scale war (Doc B). Second, as stated by Dwight Eisenhower, President Truman did not want Soviet aid in the war against the Japanese. Truman believed it would not have been a preferable position for the U. S. to be begging for Soviet aid. (Doc C). Next, Winston Churchill’s recollection of the Potsdam Conference also emphasized the need to end the war before Soviet intervention.
It seemed to be a mutual agreement between the U. S. and Britain that the two powers should not need the Red Army to end the war with Japan (Doc E). Finally, nuclear physicist Leo Szilard’s recollection of a 1945 meeting between James Byrnes and a group of concerned atomic scientists supports the idea that America dropped the atomic bomb to intimidate the U. S. S. R. The scientists were very concerned about the rapid spreading of Russian influence in Europe, which probably contributed to the U. S. policy of containment.
Due to this fear, James Byrnes and the atomic scientists believed that demonstrating the bomb would make the Soviet Union more manageable in Europe. One can also argue that this approach can be related the John Foster Dulles theory of massive retaliation, which is the belief that the threat of “massive of retaliation” with nuclear weapons would stop Soviet aggression. Therefore, one can argue that the dropping of the atomic bomb was a diplomatic measure calculated to intimidate the Soviet Union and one can argue that this idea was backed by the theories of containment and massive retaliation.
Essentially, the theory behind the dropping atomic bomb on Hiroshima was dichotomous; some argue that it was to induce prompt and unconditional surrender by Japan, while others argue that it was to threaten the Soviet Union. As a result of the U. S. discovery and use of the massive weapon, the Soviet Union successfully tested an atomic bomb in 1949, aided by communist spies in America. In the years following, this lead to intense aggression between the two superpowers known as the Cold War, which consisted of a hugely competitive arms race and many nuclear threats, putting national security of both nations in jeopardy.