6 Advantages and Disadvantages of Dropping the Atomic Bomb

On August 6 and August 9 of 1945, the United States of America (with consent from the United Kingdom) dropped nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To this day, the dropping of atomic bombs on those two Japanese cities remains that only use of nuclear weapons in war. Done towards the end of the Second World War, the bombings resulted in the death of 129,000 people.

Nazi Germany has already signed its instrument of surrender on May 8, 1945 resulting in the conclusion of the war in Europe. However, the Japanese refused to accept the demands of the Allies for unconditional surrender. As a result, the Pacific War continued to wage on.

The Japanese continued to ignore the unconditional surrender of their forces even when the United States, United Kingdom and China called for it in the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945. The clause was that if they don’t, they will suffer “prompt and utter destruction.”

President Harry S. Truman called for the surrender of Japan 16 hours after the August 6 bombing of Hiroshima, otherwise they would “expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.” Three days later, the city of Nagasaki was bombed with a plutonium implosion-type bomb.

Most of the deaths that occurred in each cities happened on the first day. The following months saw a number of people die because of the effect of burns, radiation sickness and other injuries. Although there was a sizable garrison in Hiroshima, most of the victims were civilians.

Japan then surrendered on August 15, days after Nagasaki was bombed and Soviet Union declared war. September 2 marked the day Japan signed the instrument of surrender thus ending the Second World War.

To this day, the role of the bombings as well as their ethical justification are still being debated. Let’s look at the two sides of the argument:

List of Advantages of Dropping the Atomic Bomb

1. It ended the war.
The short answer is that yes, bombing the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did bring the Second World War to an end. Americans go into moral reflection (particularly during the anniversaries of the nuclear strikes) on whether or not it was right of President Truman to drop those bombs. It is now more than seventy years after the events and views on the matter have changed significantly.

Asked in 1945, most Americans were in support of dropping the bomb. But that isn’t the case today. In fact, most of those who are still in support of the bombing tend to be older people. Tom Nichols, writing for the National Interest, said that “to judge the decisions of people in 1945 by the standards of 2015 is not only ahistorical, it is pointless. Truman and his advisers made the only decision they could have made; indeed, considered in the context of World War II, it wasn’t really much of a decision at all.”

2. It was preferable compared to invasion.
In a speech to the British House of Commons on August 1945, Opposition leader Winston Churchill said, “There are voices which assert that the bomb should never have been used at all. I cannot associate myself with such ideas. […] I am surprised that very worthy people – but people who in most cases had no intention of proceeding to the Japanese themselves – should adopt the position that rather than throw this bomb, we should have sacrificed a million American and a quarter of a million British lives.”

Operation Downfall was the planned invasion of Japan and those who have argued in favor of dropping the atom bombs believe that an invasion would have caused more casualties.

3. It saved the lives of civilians.
Those who support the bombings have argued that waiting for the Japanese to give up would have cost lives. When the war ended, millions of workers who labored under harsh conditions under forced mobilization were liberated.

Former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said of the bombings: “But they also showed a meanness and viciousness towards their enemies equal to the Huns’. Genghis Khan and his hordes could not have been more merciless. I have no doubts about whether the two atom bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary. Without them, hundreds of thousands of civilians in Malaya and Singapore, and millions in Japan itself, would have perished.”

List of Disadvantages of Dropping the Atomic Bomb

1. It resulted in the loss of life.
People died, whether it was during the bombing or after it. And most of those who perished were civilians. Yes, people were dying each day because of the continued war in the Pacific but those against the bombing believed there could have been another way.

Ralph Bard, the assistant secretary of the Navy, believed that standard bombardment and naval blockade were enough to convince Japan to surrender. Bard was also convinced that the Japanese were already looking to for a way to get out of the war. His idea was to threaten with the bombs, inform about the plan of the Soviet Union to join the war and assure fair treatment will be given at the coming Big Three Conference.

2. It was considered a war crime.
A number of organizations have criticized the bombings as war crimes, crimes against humanity and state terrorism. Albert Einstein was even one of the critics of the bombings and Dr James Franck (who worked on the bomb) was against its use.

3. It was an immoral act.
The Federal Council of Churches released a report called Atomic Warfare and the Christian Faith in 1946. It said: “As American Christians, we are deeply penitent for the irresponsible use already made of the atomic bomb. We agree that, whatever be one’s judgment of the war in principle, the surprise bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are morally indefensible.”

Conclusion

One takeaway of the atomic bombings is this: the bombings did bring the war to an end but did the solution ever have to be that brutal? After all, Japan was already war weary and their economy had collapsed, their army lacked food as well as industrial materials and there was even threat of an internal revolution. Surely, they would have eventually surrendered. But according to supporters of the 1945 bombings, it ended the war much quicker.