Dropping of the Atomic Bomb

Dropping the Atomic Bomb: America’s Justification Explored

Dropping of the Atomic Bomb: Was America justified in dropping the atomic bomb on Japan?

In August 1945, the world witnessed the cataclysmic power of nuclear weapons as the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These bombings hastened the end of World War II, yet they also sparked intense debates that persist even today. Was America’s decision to unleash such unprecedented devastation justified? This essay aims to dissect the complex web of ethical, strategic, and historical perspectives that surround this momentous decision.

The decision to deploy the atomic bomb was not made lightly. It came on the heels of one of the most brutal and widespread wars in history. The bombings stand as a testament to the extremities of human conflict and the lengths nations might go to ensure victory. As we venture into the heart of this debate, it’s crucial to comprehend the broader context of World War II, the intense pressure the leaders felt, and the global stakes that influenced this pivotal moment.

While some argue that the bombings were a necessary evil to bring about a swift end to the war and prevent further casualties, others contend that they were a gratuitous display of power, an act with grave moral implications. By exploring both sides of this debate, we hope to shed light on the multifaceted issues surrounding one of the most controversial decisions in history.


The road to the deployment of the atomic bomb was marked by years of covert research and development known as the Manhattan Project. Initiated in 1939 and backed by significant resources and scientific minds like Robert Oppenheimer and Richard Feynman, this project was a race against time to develop a super-weapon before the Axis powers could.

Parallel to this, in the Pacific theater, the conflict between the United States and Japan had reached unprecedented levels of intensity. The battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa showcased Japan’s determination to resist, often resulting in significant casualties for both sides. With Japan’s refusal to surrender and the prospect of a bloody invasion looming, America faced a formidable challenge.

Given the broader context of World War II, where allies battled on multiple fronts and endured countless tragedies, the atomic bomb emerged as a potent tool, promising swift victory but also ushering in unparalleled ethical dilemmas.

Arguments in Favor of the Bombing

Speedy End to the War

Foremost among the reasons to deploy the bomb was the anticipation that it could precipitate a swift conclusion to a drawn-out war. Military strategists believed that the sheer devastation of the atomic bomb would compel Japan to surrender, saving countless lives that would have been lost in a potential invasion. Indeed, after the bombings, Japan’s swift capitulation suggested that the strategy had the desired effect.

Strategic and Tactical Consideration

Beyond the immediate goal of victory, the use of the atomic bomb was also seen as a demonstration of American military prowess, particularly to the Soviet Union. In a rapidly changing post-war landscape, it served as a stark warning to potential adversaries about America’s capability and willingness to deploy overwhelming force when deemed necessary.

Retaliation and Deterrence

The memories of the attack on Pearl Harbor and other wartime atrocities perpetrated by the Axis powers weighed heavily on American minds. For some, the bombings were viewed as a form of retaliation, a way to mete out justice. Additionally, the atomic bomb’s deployment was meant to serve as a deterrence, ensuring that no nation would dare challenge the U.S. in a similar manner again.

Arguments Against the Bombing

Moral and Ethical Implications

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in the immediate deaths of over 100,000 people, the majority of whom were civilians, with countless more suffering from long-term effects such as radiation sickness, cancers, and birth defects. From an ethical standpoint, the deliberate targeting of civilian populations, irrespective of the strategic motivations, remains one of the most contentious aspects of the bombings. Critics argue that even in the context of war, such indiscriminate killing is morally indefensible.

Alternatives to the Bomb

Many historians and scholars have proposed that there were viable alternatives to the atomic bombings. Some have suggested that a more extended blockade, continued conventional bombings, or a demonstration of the atomic bomb’s power on an uninhabited area could have brought about Japan’s surrender without the need for the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These arguments are predicated on the belief that Japan was already on the brink of surrender and that the atomic bombings were, therefore, unnecessary.

Political and Post-War Considerations

Beyond the immediate tactical considerations, some critics suggest that the bombings were motivated more by geopolitical strategies than military necessity. With the Soviet Union rapidly advancing in Asia and the dawn of the Cold War, displaying America’s nuclear capability might have been a calculated move to check Soviet expansion and establish U.S. dominance in the post-war order. Such perspectives insinuate that the bombings were as much about shaping the future geopolitical landscape as they were about ending the war.

The Long-Term Consequences and Legacy

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not merely end a war; they forever altered the trajectory of human history. The immediate aftermath saw cities obliterated, families torn apart, and a once-proud nation grappling with an unparalleled catastrophe.

Environmental repercussions were dire. Radiation from the bombs permeated soil, water, and air, leading to mutations in flora and fauna and rendering parts of the cities uninhabitable. Survivors, or “hibakusha”, bore the brunt of these aftereffects, facing social stigma, chronic health issues, and psychological trauma.

On a global scale, the bombings catalyzed the dawn of the nuclear age. Nations rushed to develop their atomic arsenals, leading to an arms race and a geopolitical landscape overshadowed by the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation. The bombings also influenced diplomatic relations, especially between Japan and the U.S., fostering a complex mix of resentment, understanding, and collaboration.


The decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki remains one of the most hotly debated actions of the 20th century. While there are compelling arguments on both sides, it’s undeniable that the bombings brought profound and lasting consequences, both for the immediate victims and for the world at large.

From an ethical standpoint, the sheer scale of civilian casualties and the long-term suffering of survivors present a somber reflection on the lengths to which nations can go in the name of victory. Strategically, while the bombings hastened the end of World War II, they also laid the foundation for future geopolitical tensions and the challenges of nuclear diplomacy.

In understanding this pivotal moment in history, we are reminded of the profound responsibility that comes with wielding immense power and the importance of pursuing paths of peace and diplomacy to prevent such tragedies from recurring. The lessons from Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain as relevant today as they were nearly a century ago.

Class Outline and Notes: Was America justified in dropping the atomic bomb on Japan?

The dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan ended world war two. The decision to do so was solely that of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Harry S. Truman. As President Truman had to ask himself whether or not it was justifiable to use a weapon of untold destructive force. The answer would change the world.

I. The Dropping of the Atomic Bomb

A. How was the atomic bomb created?

1. The atomic bomb was created in the south western desert of the United States under top secret conditions. The Manhattan Project was run by Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, a German Jew who had fled the Nazi’s.

2. The Germans and Americans had been racing to complete the bomb first but with Germany’s destruction and the persecution of many of her top scientists who were Jewish the German effort was severely hampered.

3. The first atomic bomb was detonated in a test in the New Mexico desert on July 16th 1945. It was considered a spectacular success.

B. Why did Truman decide to drop the atomic bomb?

1. The army estimated that it would have cost between 500,000 to 1,000,000 soldiers lives to mount a successful full scale invasion of Japan.

2. Truman wanted an unconditional surrender of Japan.

For more information on the decision to drop the bomb see hate following web site:

C. When was the bomb dropped?

1. President Truman issued his executive order to drop the bomb on July 26th 1945.

2. The Army created a list of 5 military targets and the bomb would be dropped depending on weather conditions. The first available target was the industrial city of Hiroshima.

3. The bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th 1945. The bombs nickname was “Little Boy.”

4. The second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki after the Japanese government failed to offer their unconditional surrender. The bomb, nicknamed “Fat Man” was dropped on August 9th 1945.

D. What was the effect of the dropping of the atomic bomb?

1. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were utterly destroyed. Over thirty thousand people were killed at Hiroshima when the bomb was exploded. Over twenty thousand were killed at Nagasaki.

2. Over the span of four months tens of thousands more died of
various illnesses that can be attributed to radiation exposure.

3. The day after Nagasaki Japan signaled its unconditional surrender to the United States.

4. America sent a strong message to Josef Stalin that we had a weapon that he could not counter. It was a strong signal that we were the worlds only nuclear superpower.

The following is a survivors account:

by Kiyoko Tanimoto
An eye witness account of the Hiroshima atomic bomb

I lay there buried alive under our house when the bomb hit our city. The bomb started great fires. The fires came nearer and nearer to us as workers tried to reach us. “Hurry!” they cried to one another as the flames came nearer. At last the workers reached us and pulled me and my mother out from under everything, before the flames reached us.

Now later, as I thought of the pilot of the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on our city, I cried, “I hate him. I hate him.” The people with marked faces from the effects of the bomb made me cry, “I hate him.” I saw people suffering a terrible, slow death. Again and again I cried, as I saw these people, “I hate that pilot, I hate him!”


Now some time later I was in USA and that pilot appeared in a meeting I attended. As I looked at him, I hated him with a bitter hatred.

But then I listened to what he told us of his experience the day when he dropped the bomb on our city. I heard him say, “When I flew over the city after we dropped the bomb, I cried, ‘O God, what have I done’.” I realized he found it difficult to speak of that day. He could hardly speak for tears.

As this happened I suddenly realized my hatred of him was wrong. It only made me unhappy also. As I did this, it was as if a heavy load fell off my shoulders. I cried, “God, help me to forgive him. Please God, forgive my wrong feelings towards him. Please give me Your Spirit to control my thoughts.”

I also told God, “I am sorry for all my wrong thoughts.” I believe Jesus Christ died for my sin. As I did this my life was changed.

I now help people that suffer from hating other people. I seek to help them to love everyone, as I am now able to do.

“We saw Hiroshima…
or what little is left of it.”
— LIFE photographer Bernard
Hoffman, September 3, 1945.