Hiroshima Maybe, But Why Nagasaki?

“The atomic bomb was not, in fact, initially brought to President Truman’s attention because of its relationship to the war against Japan, but because of its likely impact on diplomacy” – Gar Alperovitz, Historian.

On August 6, 1945, The United States dropped a 16 kiloton Uranium atomic bomb called “Little Boy” on Hiroshima, Japan. This had grave consequences as it caused massive destruction and loss of life for Japan, a rising power in the world order. This particular bombing was justified by American intellectuals as a response to the deep wounding of the US Naval Fleet’s backbone at Pearl Harbour in December 1941. Some also claim that this was done to make the Japanese surrender and conclude the second world war. While these events and their justifications are common knowledge to us, there still remains one looming question- “Why did Nagasaki fall prey to destruction when Hiroshima had already been subjected to it?”

Modern research findings demonstrate that Nagasaki wasn’t even the original target. On August 9, 1945, The 21 kiloton Plutonium atomic bomb called “Fat Man” was originally targeted towards Kokura, home to a large Japanese arsenal. However, an unexpected cloud cover over Kokura made the conditions unfavourable and the target was then diverted towards Nagasaki. In fact, according to sources, Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t the only suggested targets. The President had authorised the dropping of additional bombs on the Japanese cities of Kokura (present-day Kitakyushu), Niigata and Nagasaki, if the weather conditions permitted.

For the longest time, experts and analysts have been in constant debate as to whether a second bombing was required. That too, three days after Hiroshima had been bombed. To understand this better, let us analyse a few other facts and instances.

While the US claims that the bombings were done in order to bring the Japanese to their knees, it is imperative to know that a “negotiated surrender” was already on the table. The only difference between an unconditional and negotiated surrender was that the Japanese wanted to do so without losing face.Their only aim to call for negotiations was to preserve their Emperor Hirohito’s power in theory. Hence, another question arises- “If the Japanese had already surrendered, why did they have to be bombed?”

It has been repeated time and again, that the bombing wasn’t a military necessity, let alone twice. Statements like these have led historians such as Gar Alperovitz, author of The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, to suggest that the bomb’s true purpose was to get the upper hand with the Soviet Union. The Soviet had been an ally to the US against Germany and had agreed to enter the war on Japan three months after the end of the war in Europe. Though allies, the US had differences with the Soviet Union. The US held a reputation of invading every economic territory in the world and a contrasting system like the Soviet’s, sprung questions on their compatibility as allies post the war. The rather rushed decision of the US of bombing Japan had two reasons. The first being that the Soviet’s entry into the war would trigger the Japanese surrender, thus leaving no room for the US to justify their bombings. Secondly, the US was insecure that the Soviet might secure its troops in Japan due to its close proximity as compared to the US and may spread their influence.

After Hiroshima was bombed on August 6, the Soviet entered the war in Asia, as promised, on the August 9. However, before Japan could absorb and react to both the afore mentioned events, later that day, Nagasaki was bombed as well. Thus, the Japanese had no choice but to surrender unconditionally.

The US cannot justify such war crimes under any pretext. Especially after it has been established that it wasn’t necessary in multiple findings. Americans may claim that they saved their own people and ended the war much sooner than it would have, but at what cost? This move was entirely executed to establish their supremacy in the world order and remove any potential competition of dominance in the future and, we must admit that they have been successful to a great extent. However horrific or unjustified, it is events like these which have made the US a sole world hegemon today.

We may condemn the bombings, but President Truman always stood by his stance. “It was a terrible decision. But I made it,” the 33rd president later wrote to his sister, Mary. “I made it to save 250,000 boys from the United States, and I’d make it again under similar circumstances.” 

Today, exactly 75 years later, we realise how true his words were when President Obama gave his speech in Peace Memorial Park back in 2016. Obama asserted, “Human wisdom of science had created the nuclear bombs, but humanity had not yet succeeded in creating the ethical wisdom to abandon nuclear weapons.”

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