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Ronald Takaki's Hiroshima

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Although WW II ended over 50 years ago there is still much discussion as to the events which ended the War in the Pacific. The primary event which historians attribute to this end are the use of atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Although the bombing of these cities did force the Japanese to surrender, many people today ask "Was the use of the atomic bomb necessary to end the war?" and more importantly "Why was the decision to use the bomb made?" Ronald Takaki examines these questions in his book Hiroshima.

The official reason given for dropping the bomb was to bring a quick end to tht war and save American lives. However, Takaki presents many different explanations as to why the decision to use the bomb was made. He disagrees with the popular belief that the decision to use the bomb was made solely to quickly end the war in the Pacific and to save American lives. Takaki presents theories such as international concerns, American sentiment, and racism in an attempt to more fully explain why this decision was made.

The United States entered WW II immediately following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The U.S. entry was a major turning point in the war because it brought the strongest industrial strength to the Allied side. The Americans helped the Allies to win the war in Europe with the surrender of Germany on May 7, 1945. However, the war in the Pacific continued. The war with Japan at this point consisted primarily of strategic bombings. America had recently completed an atomic bomb and was considering using this weapon of mass destruction for the first time. The goal was to force the "unconditional surrender" of the Japanese. Roosevelt had used the term "unconditional surrender" in a press conference in 1943 and it had since become a central war aim. Truman and his staff (still feeling bound by FDR's words) demanded unconditional surrender from the Japanese. Consequently on July 26, 1945 Truman issued an ultimatum to Japan. This ultimatum stated that Japan must accept "unconditional surrender" or suffer "utter devastation of the Japanese Homeland". This surrender included abdication of the throne by their emperor. Japan was not willing to surrender their dynasty and ignored the ultimatum. On August 6th and August 9th, atomic bombs were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. These citied suffered the "utter devastation" that Truman had promised and the Japanese surrendered on August 10th.

Many of the key military and political figures who advised President Truman supported the use of the atomic bomb to end the war in the Pacific. One of the most instrumental forces in Truman's decision to use the bomb was the Interim Committee. The Interim Committee was assembled by Secretary of War Stimson. This Committee's purpose was to advise Truman regarding the possible use of the atomic bomb. The Committee consisted of prominent atomic scientists, General Marshall, General Groves, and James Byrnes, the personal representative of the president. Stimson appointed himself chairman. The Committee considered using a test demonstration of the bomb in the hopes of inducing Japan to surrender. However, the Committee feared that if the test did not lead to the surrender of Japan the element of "surprise" would be lost in a later attack. General Marshall also believed that Japan was ready to surrender and that it would be more wise to keep the atomic bomb as the secret weapon of the U.S. He believed this would increase the security of the nation following the war; "We would be in a stronger position with regard to future military action if we did not show the power we had". (123) Many of the scientists including James Conant, Arthur Compton, and Edward teller believed in the use of the atomic bomb in combat. They felt that combat usage was the only way to show the true destruction and horrible results of the bomb that would show the world the need to find another method to handle international disputes. In addition, these scientists believed that the next war would be "unbearably destructive." The ultimate decision of the Committee was to use the bomb against Japan. The committee advised that the bomb be deployed "without prior warning on a military installation or war industry plant "surrounded by worker's houses." (40) Hiroshima was chosen as the first target because it had not been previously bombed and therefore the destruction caused by the deployment of the atomic bomb could be more accurately assessed.

Although many of the people who advised Truman supported the use of the bomb their was also another school of thought. One of the most prominent figures to disagree with the use of the atomic bomb in the Pacific was General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Western Europe. Eisenhower believed that in July, 1945 Japan was on the verge of surrender and that the use of the atomic bomb would not be necessary to force them to surrender. He saw no need for a military invasion to force this surrender and therefore did not view the deployment of the atomic bomb as a necessary measure to save American lives. Eisenhower also seemed to understand the great destruction that this bomb would cause and hoped that the United States would not be the first nation to use this technology to wage war. General MacArthur, Pacific Commander in Chief agreed with Eisenhower that Japan was on the verge of collapse. Despite his key military role he was not consulted as to whether to use the bomb or not. Another individual who sided with Eisenhower and MacArthur was Chief of staff Admiral Leahy. Leahy believed that it was not necessary to force Japan to utter collapse but that a conditional surrender which would allow them to retain their emperor would be more in order. Japan was ready to make this type of surrender in July of 1945.

Many scientists also were concerned about the use of the atomic bomb. They worried that this new type of weapon would compromise the United State's "whole moral position". One of the most prominent scientists who felt this way was Hungarian scientist Leo Szilard. Szilard believed that the decision to use the bomb should be left to the 'highest political leadership" and not to the military. Szilard and several other atomic scientists sent a petition to President Truman protesting the bomb on moral grounds. This prompted a poll of the Manhattan Project scientists concerning the use of the bomb. The poll concluded most of the scientists were opposed to using the bomb in the manner it was deployed. One day after the test of the bomb sixty-seven scientists signed Szilard's "A Petition to the President of the United

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