Why the Americans used the atomic bomb

Published on in category History
Why the Americans used the atomic bomb

On August 6, 1945, the Americans detonated an atomic bomb over Hiroshima. Three days later, on August 9, 1945, they did the same over the city of Nagasaki. The two events claimed between 129,000 and 226,000 lives during the first four months after the explosion. About half of the people died on the spot and many more over the years. It was the only use of these weapons of mass destruction in practice. Why did the Americans take this step, and was it necessary at all?


When Germany capitulated in May 1945, the Allies were able to focus fully on the war in the Pacific. At that time, Japanese cities were already under heavy bombing, production capacity and supplies were shrinking dramatically, and it was clear that Japan would not stand the war for long. However, the Japanese troops fought with incredible determination and defeat was not an option. For example, in defense of Iwo Jima Island, almost 99% of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers were killed because, despite losing the battle, they refused to surrender and fought to the end. This, of course, caused heavy losses for the Allies. The Americans suffered the greatest losses in the last year of the war. It was clear that landing on the Japanese islands would mean huge losses for the Allies.[1]

Japan was well prepared for the defense and correctly anticipated an Allied offensive. The defense consisted of 2.3 million soldiers and 28 million women and men in reserve. The Japanese counted on up to 20 million casualties on their side alone. The Americans, on the other hand, commissioned a study that included 400 to 800,000 casualties on their side and 5 to 10 million casualties on the Japanese side. Given these numbers, some US generals have actually considered and even prepared chemical and biological weapons for action.[1]

Albert Einstein drew attention to the possible development of the atomic bomb for the first time by US President F. D. Roosevelt in a letter dated August 2, 1939. He also mentioned that Germany has good prospects for developing such a weapon. In 1942, the Americans, with the later contribution of Canada and the United Kingdom, established the so-called Manhattan Project, which aimed to develop an atomic bomb. The first experimental detonation of an atomic bomb in history took place on July 16, 1945 in the desert of New Mexico.[2]

On the same day that the Nagasaki atomic bomb was dropped, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and immediately attacked Manchuria. Japan surrendered just 6 days later on August 15, 1945. The exact reason for Japan's surrender is unknown and is the subject of various discussions and analyzes. Over time, various pieces of information have been revealed which have helped to clarify some of the sub-issues.[3]

Proponents of the use of the bomb claim that it helped end the war and saved many lives on both the American and Japanese sides, but also hundreds of thousands of civilians in Japanese-occupied territory. This claim is also supported by the fact that the Japanese government, made up of two-thirds of military leaders, could not allow defeat at any cost. The officials had an old war code called Bushido imprinted in their blood, which ordered them to fight to the end. Just before the surrender itself, the emperor himself had to get involved in the dispute, which even instigated at least three attempts at a coup.[3]

Opponents, on the other hand, say the move was too cruel and bordering on a war crime because it targeted the civilian population in particular. According to them, the blockade of Japan and the ongoing raids, under which exhausted Japan would eventually capitulate, would suffice. Some also claim that the surrender of Japan was mainly due to the invasion of the Soviet Union into Manchuria.[3] In an exhibition dedicated to dropping atomic bombs, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum states, among other things, that the Allies were also motivated by a demonstration of the power of this newly weapon to the Soviet Union.

The use of the atomic bomb in practice is, in any case, a horrific act, just as all wars themselves are. Everything bad is also good for something. So whether the legacy of this terrible event serves only as a reference for the future direction of humanity and as a lesson for future generations. The pace of war has been steadily declining for decades. However, the hunger of some states for nuclear weapons and the instability of the situation in some regions should not leave us calm. Let us hope, however, that such use never happens again.