The End of World War Two
The secret race to complete the atomic bomb was the beginning of the end for Japan, the War in the Pacific and arguably many people's respect for United States of America. The Nazi surrender in early May 1945 was credited to the Soviets, who were the first to reach Berlin and witness the mysterious disappearance of Hitler and many of his nearest subordinates. Thus victory in Europe was achieved. However, in the Pacific the ruthless war with Japan was still well under way. The United States was moving forward from island to island in a process known as 'island hopping', quickly taking control of the Philippines, while Britain and China overpowered Japan in Burma. By this period, American forces had closed in on Japan, agonizing over the island of Midway and gianing control of Iwo Jima in March and Okinawa in June. [1]On July 11,1945, the Allied leaders gathered in Potsdam, in Germany to review agreements about Germany. They also met to discuss Japan’s unconditional surrender, and the alternative, which would be that “Japan would be in prompt and utter destruction”. But, Japan continued to oppose the Potsdam ultimatum, which eventually provoked the United States to drop the atomic bombs, 'Little Boy' and 'Fat Man' on the cities of Hiroshima, and Nagasaki in August. Meanwhile, the Soviets invaded Manchuria, which was then controlled by Japan, and on August.15,1945, VJ Day, the Japanese surrendered, ending World War Two.[2]

The Nazi Surrender
The Nazi Surrender

Japanese International Relations
Before they were hit by the infamous atomic bombs, Japan’s international relationships were in an uncomfortable state. Since the beginning of the early twentieth century, Japan dominated over China; when some Chinese nationalists tried to resist, they were met with by Japanese military actions. This led to Japan’s withdrawal from the League of Nations in 1933; The League expressed a great deal of disapproval of Japan’s actions in China. In 1937, Japanese went into a war with China, occupying most of the Chinese Coastal region and acting brutally and aggressively against the Chinese population. This heightened the world’s disapproval of the Japanese foreign policy.

The Japanese joined the Axis powers, Germany and Italy, in 1940. This fueled the dispute between Japan and Allied nations, The United States and Great Britain. They responded by imposing sanctions on oil, driving Japan to compensate for the oil loss by capturing oil from The Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. When the Japanese peacekeeping was deemed unsuccessful, the Japanese initiated a war against The US and Great Britain.

The Japanese air force attacked Pearl Harbor December 7th, 1941[4]. Though this was not the main target of the Japanese Military, it was the most severely damaged after the Japanese attack. This assault hindered the American military strength in the Pacific, though it was not fully successful: the US aircraft carriers, the targets of the Japanese, were out of port at the time. This attack provoked the US and drew it into the war, full-scale.

On the other side of the Pacific, the Japanese were formulating their foreign policy. They reasoned that, due to the attack on Pearl Harbor, America would not be able to round up enough muscle to go on the offensive against the Japanese for at least 18 to 24 months. This logic led the Japanese to believe that retaining their militarily gained territories– T he Philippines and The Dutch Indies, amongst others– would be with ease. It was with this reasoning assumption that the Japanese made their plans.

A Picture of The Potsdam Conference
A Picture of The Potsdam Conference
Later, in early May 1945, when Germany surrendered, America could focus more of its energy and power on the Pacific conflicts. President Truman, along with Prime Minister Winston Churchill of England Joseph Stalin of Russia, met in Germany for the Potsdam Conference[5] from July 17th until August 2nd. The focus of the conference was to discuss the conflict of democracy vs. communism. An important issue confronted at the conference was the conflict with the Far East. They demanded an absolute surrender from the Japanese government on July 27th. Truman was confident in his demands; he knew the dangerous weapon he held his country’s control: The Atomic Bomb.[6]

When the Japanese government refused to surrender on those terms, America made its decision to drop the bombs: One on Hiroshima on August 6th and One on Nagasaki on August 9th. Japan surrendered on August 14th of that year.

Whose decision was it?
President Harry S. Truman
President Harry S. Truman
The decision to bomb the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is arguably the most controversial in the world of international relations. Since then many have speculated whether the judgment was in fact the right one. But whose decision was it? Who decided to drop the bomb that changed the future of warfare forever?
As Vice President to Franklin Delaney Roosevelt, Harry S Truman had scarcely seen his boss let alone heard anything about the covert operations of the Manhattan Project. [7]All of a sudden, the death of FDR brought the problems of the world directly to Truman's lawn. Although by the time Truman had come to power, the threat of Germany proliferating nuclear weapons had been deterred, the war in the Pacific was still going on. Truman was faced with how to deal with the relentless Japanese forces. After the decision at Potsdam in July 1945 to call for 'unconditional' surrender on the basis that a refusal would mean "prompt and utter destruction", and Japan's subsequent decline, the choice became whether to drop the bombs on the Japanese nation or not. Truman chose to, citing a quick end to the war as his reasoning.

Why the Atomic Bombs were dropped?

It all started four years before the atomic bombs were dropped, when the Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor initiating a quarrel with the United States. Even though America avenged the Japanese four years later, the attack was still fresh on many Americans' minds. In mid 1945, the United States decided it was time to put an end to the war. The United States had been working on the Manhattan project for 2 years to use it against Germany to end the war, but, since Germany surrendered before the atomic bombs were finished, the bombs couldn’t be used against Germany. President Harry Truman now had many choices to end the war through Japan. He could invade the Japanese mainland, drop the atomic bombs on different Japanese cities, bomb and blockade Japanese islands, wait for Soviet entry into the war on August 15, or form a peace contract between the countries at war. Truman made up his mind and decided to drop the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the Japanese leaders totally rejected the Potsdam Declaration, which happened in the end of July 1945. The declaration proposed that the Japanese must surrender. Truman considered the following points before taking the decision.

  • The United States dropped the two atomic bombs to save many American lives because if the American forces were to invade Japan, a lot of American soldiers would have died.
  • It was a quick, 'painless' method by which to the end of the war.
  • Japan had been given a lot of chances to surrender along with warnings of the horrible consequences. The Japanese government ignored the warnings and avoided to surrender. This was an opportunity to force Japan to surrender without further fighting.
  • Tensions were starting to build up in Europe between the Soviet Union and its western allies. Moreover, the Russians were preparing for an invasion of Japan. These considerations were at least as valid back then as saving American lives.[8]

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