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World war II essay

To what extent were the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombings justifiable?

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are often regarded as a terrible act of humans or a horrific
decision by the United States of America (USA), however this is not the case. The USA had many
reasons that justified their choice to utilise nuclear weapons on the two Japanese cities, Hiroshima
and Nagasaki. Leading up to the bombings, Japan had bombed Pearl Harbour and had angered many
other nations that were apart of the war, this being one of the USA’s main motives to bomb Japan.
The other main reason that the USA justified its attacks was by arguing that this was the best
possible ending to a war that would otherwise go on for ever, the bombings being both cheaper and
resulting in a lower death toll, around 200,000.1 On the other hand, the USA did still choose to bomb
Japan knowing that it would kill thousands of innocent civilians and would also let the rest of the
world about how the USA stood in terms of military. The bombings, however terrible they were,
were seemingly the only option to end the horrific war.2

Firstly, the bombings by the USA were not simply out of the blue, leading up to the bombings Japan
had had many disputes that aggravated the USA and much of Asia, possibly even making the bombs
justifiable. On December 7th, 1941 Japan launched a surprise aerial attack on a USA naval base at
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This was the turning point at which America joined the war as apart of the
allies. Japan’s aerial attacking force consisted of some 353 planes which in total killed 2,404 united
states military and civilians3, President Truman saying that ‘when you have to deal with a beast you
have to treat him as a beast.’4 Prior to the bombings Japan had also invaded Korea and undertaken
the Rape of Nanking in China, which has been referred to by many as enough of as reason to bomb
any country. All these invasions and attacks on other countries, unsurprisingly, gave Japan a
reputation that was far from positive. Although these reasons provide an excuse for bombing Japan,
the terrible things Japan did to other countries were primarily bound to the war in which they were
apart of. Moreover, Japan’s choice to many commit horrific crimes to other nations was not enough
alone to justify bombing their whole country.

Furthermore, the only other alternatives to The Bombings had far worse implications and would lead
to the loss of many more lives and resources. At this time in the war Japan had already been given
significant warning and they were not about to surrender; the bombings saved money and even

1 "Total Casualties | The Atomic Bombings Of Hiroshima And Nagasaki | Historical Documents | Atomicarchive.Com".

2019. Atomicarchive.Com. Accessed March 16 2019. http://www.atomicarchive.com/Docs/M

2 "Bombings Of Hiroshima And Nagasaki - 1945". 2019. Atomic Heritage Foundation. Accessed February 24 2019.

https://www.atomicheritage.org/history/bombings-hiroshima-and-nagasaki-1945.

3"Pearl Harbor Attack | Date, History, Map, & Casualties". 2019. Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed February 24 2019.
https://www.britannica.com/event/Pearl-Harbor-attack/media/448010/216657.
4 "Was It Right To Bomb Hiroshima?". 2019. BBC Guides. Accessed February 22 2019.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zq7yg82.
lives5. In the same year of the bombings, President Truman writes in his diary that ‘…we will issue a
warning statement asking the Japs to surrender and save lives.’ 6 This letter was later sent and
warned the Japanese Government that if they did not surrender they would suffer ‘complete
destruction.’ 6 The Japanese government made the choice to not respond therefore giving the USA
another reason to later bomb Japan. As Japan was the only remaining AXIS force in World War Two
they were the final power that The Allies needed to overcome in order to end The War. Their
solutions to this were the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or the full invasion of Japan.
The full invasion of Japan had already been planned and was known as ‘Operation Downfall.’ The
proposed estimate for American casualties in this invasion was around one million. In past battles
with Japan and the allies, Japanese casualties were always far greater and in Operation Iceberg
Japanese (April 1945) alone casualties were around five times that of the USA. The only other
alternative to the bombings would have been far more damaging in terms of money; this invasion
would’ve taken longer, and more importantly casualties, further reinforcing the USA’s decision to
drop the two nuclear bombs. 7

However, the bombings were simply the USA’s means of asserting their military dominance over the
rest of the world, the fact remains that the bombings were a terrible war crime. The USA made the
choice to bomb Japan, knowing that this would, in turn, kill thousands of innocent citizens. In war,
there a number of ‘rules’ that all countries involved must follow. These consist of basic values
including; rape not being allowed, torture of detainees forbidden and the killing of civilians was
strictly banned. Although in the 1900’s these rules were very different, the same guidelines
pertaining to the killing of innocent civilians still remained.8 The USA knew these rules, but still
threatened Japan with ‘prompt and utter destruction.’9 This choice of by USA goes against the few
‘guidelines of war’ there were in these times and is one of the features of these bombings that may
possibly condemn them un-justifiable. However, this wasn’t the only negative of the bombings. As
well as killing many civilians, to the USA, the bombings were ‘seen as a small price to pay’ for

5 Lives, Back. 2016. "Back To Hiroshima: Why Dropping The Bomb Saved Ten Million Lives". ABC Religion & Ethics. Accessed

March 15 2019. https://www.abc.net.au/religion/back-to-hiroshima-why-dropping-the-bomb-saved-ten-million-

lives/10096982.

6 "Hiroshima And Nagasaki Bombings Justified". 2019. Prezi.Com. Accessed March 2019.

https://prezi.com/izzlx3lv2buw/hiroshima-and-nagasaki-bombings-justified/.

7 "Operation Downfall: How America Would Have Invaded Japan (It Would Have Been Hell)". 2018. The National Interest.

Accessed March 2 2019. https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/operation-downfall-how-america-would-have-invaded-

japan-it-would-have-been-hell-28112.

8 "Rules Of War (In A Nutshell)". 2019. Youtube. Accessed March 7 2019.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwpzzAefx9M.

9 "The Manhattan Project And The Atomic Bomb". 2019. Khan Academy. Accessed March 16 2019.

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/us-history/rise-to-world-power/us-wwii/a/the-manhattan-project-and-the-
atomic-bomb.
‘dominance on the world stage.’10 This shows us that perhaps ending war was not USA’s only motive
to these bombings and leads us the further question how justified the bombings really were.

Ultimately, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki not only held immediate effects to Japan, but
even still continue to impede on the daily lives of Japanese.11 The USA knew the implications these
bombs would cause, but nevertheless, continued with their plan which would force Japan to
surrender. Moreover, the deaths and destruction caused by the bombings were justified as this
alternative allowed there to be a lower death toll on both sides as Japan had to be stopped sooner
or later. To conclude, these bombings were not a random un-provoked series of attacks, leading up
to the bombings Japan had done many horrific things to countless nations.

10 War, Second. 2019. "Was The US Justified In Dropping Atomic Bombs On Hiroshima And Nagasaki During The Second

World War? You Debate". History Extra. Accessed March 16 2019. https://www.historyextra.com/period/second-world-

war/atomic-bomb-hiroshima-nagasaki-justified-us-debate-bombs-death-toll-japan-how-many-died-nuclear/.

11 "Seventy Years Later, Atomic Bombs Still Influence Health Research". 2015. Inside Science. Accessed March 16 2019.
https://www.insidescience.org/news/seventy-years-later-atomic-bombs-still-influence-health-research.
Bibliography:

"Bombings Of Hiroshima And Nagasaki - 1945". 2019. Atomic Heritage Foundation. Accessed February 24 2019.
https://www.atomicheritage.org/history/bombings-hiroshima-and-nagasaki-1945.

"Hiroshima And Nagasaki Bombings Justified". 2019. Prezi.Com. Accessed March 2019.
https://prezi.com/izzlx3lv2buw/hiroshima-and-nagasaki-bombings-justified/.

Lives, Back. 2016. "Back To Hiroshima: Why Dropping The Bomb Saved Ten Million Lives". ABC Religion & Ethics.
Accessed March 15 2019. https://www.abc.net.au/religion/back-to-hiroshima-why-dropping-the-bomb-saved-ten-
million-lives/10096982.

"Operation Downfall: How America Would Have Invaded Japan (It Would Have Been Hell)". 2018. The National
Interest. Accessed March 2 2019. https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/operation-downfall-how-america-would-
have-invaded-japan-it-would-have-been-hell-28112.

"Pearl Harbor Attack | Date, History, Map, & Casualties". 2019. Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed February 24 2019.
https://www.britannica.com/event/Pearl-Harbor-attack/media/448010/216657.

"Rules Of War (In A Nutshell)". 2019. Youtube. Accessed March 7 2019.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwpzzAefx9M.

"Seventy Years Later, Atomic Bombs Still Influence Health Research". 2015. Inside Science. Accessed March 16 2019.
https://www.insidescience.org/news/seventy-years-later-atomic-bombs-still-influence-health-research.

"The Manhattan Project And The Atomic Bomb". 2019. Khan Academy. Accessed March 16 2019.
https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/us-history/rise-to-world-power/us-wwii/a/the-manhattan-project-and-
the-atomic-bomb.

"Total Casualties | The Atomic Bombings Of Hiroshima And Nagasaki | Historical Documents | Atomicarchive.Com".
2019. Atomicarchive.Com. Accessed March 16 2019. http://www.atomicarchive.com/Docs/M

War, Second. 2019. "Was The US Justified In Dropping Atomic Bombs On Hiroshima And Nagasaki During The Second World

War? You Debate". History Extra. Accessed March 16 2019. https://www.historyextra.com/period/second-world-

war/atomic-bomb-hiroshima-nagasaki-justified-us-debate-bombs-death-toll-japan-how-many-died-nuclear/.

War? You Debate". History Extra. Accessed March 16 2019. https://www.historyextra.com/period/second-world-


war/atomic-bomb-hiroshima-nagasaki-justified-us-debate-bombs-death-toll-japan-how-many-died-nuclear/.

"Was It Right To Bomb Hiroshima?". 2019. BBC Guides. Accessed February 22 2019.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zq7yg82.