Three days later, on
August 9, 1945 the U.S dropped a second bomb on Japan. This time it was a
plutonium bomb known as the “Fat Man” and it was launched?? in the city of
Nagasaki, killing aproximately (numbers uncertain) 20.000 instantly.
Although it was more powerful than the first one, it made less damage than it
was supposed to thanks to the hills of its irregular landscape, but even so, both
cities were in complete ruin and unrecognisable.
Nagasaki, 1 day after the bombing. A Torii
arch that survived the blast. Photo: Yosuke Yamahata, in “The Memory Exhibition
If all this wasn’t bad enough,
the case worsened in the following months and years. The radiation that had
spread through the air had its effects revealed on thousands more japanese,
even those that had survived the blast and had no injuries. At the time, there
was poor knowledge on radiation, so survivors didn’t really know what was
happening to them when symptons like nausea, hairloss and internal bleeding
started appearing. And what they didn’t know either, is that the exposure to
radiation significantly increases a person’s
risk of developing leucemia, tumors, cancer or other diseases in the course of
life due to the lowered immune resistance.
As there was no treatment for those infected, by
the end of December 1945, the total death toll of Hiroshima rose/rised up to 90.000
– 160.000, and, although numbers are very uncertain, Nagasaki had its total
death toll reach 39.000 – 80.000.
The day after Nagasaki’s destruction, Japan finally surrendered.
The U.S was clearly an undeniable crucial help for the Allies’ victory, as they
may not have won without their help, but given Japan’s unfavorable position
after Germany’s surrender, this act has come to raise a considerable amount of
debates wether the bombings were ethically justified.
So having this said, the most common question that comes to mind is: Were these
bombings really necessary to end the war?
Although publicly stating their will to continue fighting, Japan’s leaders were
privately trying to negotiate peace terms through their ambassador in Moscow,
and according to Howard Zinn (2005), “The Emperor himself had begun to
suggest, in June 1945, that alternatives to fighting to the end be considered”
(p. 423). They were the only ones left against the Allies, and had suffered a
lot of damage after the many air raids (which
according to the WW2 Database, killed
about 500.000 japanese), therefore, I don’t think it would have taken
much longer until Japan decided to surrender.
Defending the same opinion is military analyst Hanson Baldwin, who wrote in the
New York Times:
in a military
sense, was in
a hopeless strategic
position by the
time the Postdam
demand for unconditional
surrender was made
on July 26.
Such then was
the situation when
we wiped out
Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
have done it?
No one can, of course,
be positive, but
the answer is
almost certainly negative.” (Zinn, 2005, p. 422)
The United States
Strategic Bombing Survey interviewed various Japanese survivors and also concluded
that “Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been
dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had
been planned or contemplated.” (Zinn, 2005, p. 422)
The only thing Japanese really wanted was to remain with their imperial system.
So “Why did the United States not take that small step to save both American
and Japanese lives?” (Zinn, 2005, p.423). Were the Americans trying to prove something
through this attack? Did they want revenge? To show their power?
The U.S justified these bombings as being a quick/easy end to war, and as a way
to prevent an unnecessary massive loss of american troops with the invasion
(“Operation Downfall”). But, as Howard Zinn and many other historians believe,
“These estimates of invasion losses were not realistic, and seem to have been
pulled out of the air to justify the bombings (…)” (p. 422). Other reasons
that might have led to the decision of the a-bombs have been very much debated
among writers, historians and journalists. It has been argued that maybe the
U.S had spent so much on the atomic bomb project that it would be “a waste” to
not use it. And the fact that they had an oportunity to show their a-bombs and
be in control of Japan, before the USSR did, was surely very appealing to them.
The short timing between the 2 bombs has come to be justified as way to
convince the Japanese that the U.S had a large stock of nuclear weapons, and
therefore to speed up the surrender. But as it was mentioned, Japan was already
considering surrender before the bombings, so it was certainly being considered
after Hiroshima. Had the U.S given a bit more
than just 3 days before the dropping of the second bomb, it may have at least avoided
a second catastrophe. So why didn’t they try to give a few more days?
Harry S. Truman’s letter to General Secretary of U.S Churches, Samuel McCrea,
August 11, 1945, shows a rather vengeful side: