Hmmm…I’m not sure on this one. I’ve always taken the Utilitarian point of view on this passage of history .i.e. the Atomic strikes were a necessary evil to force the Japanese to end the war.
But there are a few issues of concern.
1) Is it ever acceptable to knowingly cause mass civilian deaths in such a cold and calculated way? In this age where the US considers itself to be the World’s Policeman it is still the only nation to have unleashed WMD, and in the ’Sixties used chemical weapons in Vietnam. In addition there was the carpet bombing of the North in that war which resulted in nearly a million deaths.
The Vietnam War all told cost 2 million lives.
2) It is accepted now that the Japanese Government, or at least a section of it, was seriously interested in opening negotiations via the Soviets. Japan was not a dictatorship in the sense that the other Axis Powers were. They operated a Cabinet system of Government. Did the US try hard enough to make contact with the doves in the enemy administration?
3) At Potsdam the initial communiqué called for total surrender. This caused wavering amongst even the hawks in the Japanese Government. However it was amended to allow the retention of the Emperor. This was meant to give the hawks a way out but instead unwittingly sent a message of indecision thus encouraging the Tokyo Government to fight on.
4) The received opinion at the time was that the Japanese would have fought to the last man. On what basis? Kamikaze? Stereotyping? This theory merits more academic investigation.
5) Why the second bomb so soon? How much effort was made to open channels between the bombings?
On the counter balance the line had been well and truly crossed regarding civilians with the barbaric fire bombing of Hamburg and then Dresden, in the European theatre and of Tokyo in the East, so I suppose Truman was immune to considering such an argument.
This, however doesn’t make it right and anyway, I‘m convinced that the Allies wouldn‘t have used Nuclear Weapons on the Continent of Europe. It‘s a lot easier to justify, and stomach blowing up homogenous Japanese stereotypical Bad Guys, the Yellow Peril, than to condemn people like you, and in the US case many were directly descended from German stock.
Dropping the bombs in the sea or on land would not have had the same effect and they only had a limited supply of devices.
At the end of the day the Japanese hadn’t exactly played it by the Geneva Convention ,and operations during the island hopping campaign had caused tremendous death and suffering on both sides, so at least it brought it to a head.
The Bombs had the effect of preventing a Nuclear conflagration during the Cold War due to the fact that people could see the consequences.
Agnostic as charged on this one. There was plenty of Hot Action as a result of the US/Soviet rivalry, as large swathes of Africa, Asia and South America will testify to. Just because it didn’t affect European White Developed Nations didn’t mean it wasn’t happening. I feel the sobriquet Cold War is quite offensive actually.
But in the end we will never know whether it was possible to bring the War to a close by any other means, because as is usual Capital demanded a quick end so that it could continue on it’s merry way. The reinvention of the defeated nations shows that as long as the flow of money is protected there is no problem. Hence the use of Nazi technicians on the Space Programme…