The Atomic Age Begins
Contributor: Barry Fetzer
View of “The Bomb” over Hiroshima, August 6, 1945
Debate rages even 78-years later and will continue to rage for decades, even centuries, (if we don’t first blow ourselves back to the Stone Age) about whether Americans should have used its terrible weapon against Japan during WWII. Were the Japanese about to surrender with the Russians massing in Manchuria and the allies’ defeat of Japanese forces in Okinawa and the push toward attacking the home islands of Japan? Would the Japanese have unconditionally surrendered without the use of the atomic bomb? We may never know all the answers. Therefore, historians will continue to debate the morality of the decisions that led to the use “the Bomb” to end WWII.
From History.com: “On August 6, 1945, the United States becomes the first and only nation to use atomic weaponry during wartime when it drops an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Approximately 80,000 people are killed as a direct result of the blast, and another 35,000 are injured. At least another 60,000 would be dead by the end of the year from the effects of the fallout.
Though the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan marked the end of World War II, many historians argue that it also ignited the Cold War.
Since 1940, the United States had been working on developing an atomic weapon, after having been warned that Nazi Germany was already conducting research into nuclear weapons. By the time the United States conducted the first successful test (an atomic bomb was exploded in the desert in New Mexico in July 1945), Germany had already been defeated. The war against Japan in the Pacific, however, continued to rage. President Harry S. Truman, warned by some of his advisers that any attempt to invade Japan would result in horrific American casualties, ordered that the new weapon be used to bring the war to a speedy end.
On August 6, 1945, the American bomber Enola Gay dropped a five-ton bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. A blast equivalent to the power of 15,000 tons of TNT reduced four square miles of the city to ruins and immediately killed 80,000 people. Tens of thousands more died in the following weeks from wounds and radiation poisoning. Three days later, another bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki, killing nearly 40,000 more people. A few days later, Japan announced its surrender.
By August 1945, relations between the Soviet Union and the United States had deteriorated badly. The Potsdam Conference between U.S. President Harry S. Truman, Russian leader Joseph Stalin, and Winston Churchill (before being replaced by Clement Attlee) ended just four days before the bombing of Hiroshima. The meeting was marked by recriminations and suspicion between the Americans and Soviets. Russian armies were occupying most of Eastern Europe. Truman and many of his advisers hoped that the U.S. atomic monopoly might offer diplomatic leverage with the Soviets. In this fashion, the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan can be seen as the first shot of the Cold War.
If U.S. officials truly believed that they could use their atomic monopoly for diplomatic advantage, they had little time to put their plan into action. By 1949, the Soviets had developed their own atomic bomb and the nuclear arms race began.”