At the order of President Harry S. Truman during the final stage of World War II, the United States dropped nuclear weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively
Within the first two to four months following the bombings, the acute effects of the atomic bombings had killed 90,000–146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000–80,000 in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day.
The surrender of Imperial Japan was announced on August 15 and formally signed on September 2, 1945, bringing the hostilities of World War II to a close.
After a war starts, even the dominating national will suffer immensely but won’t show it to the world. It is said that the Japanese government was divided. Civilian leaders wanted an end to the fight. Military leaders did not. The emperor wanted an end, but was unsure how to break the stalemate. After the bombing at Hiroshima, he told the cabinet that they would have to “bear the unbearable” and surrender. Even then, a couple of military officers attempted a coup to prevent surrender.
The peace feelers had been sent out by back channels over the months before the atomic bombing. However, the US government felt great political pressure to drop the bomb, to justify its costs to American taxpayers and demonstrate US power to the Russians.
The plan for dropping the first atomic bomb on Japan was sketched by scientists and beaurcrats within a closed room.
Plan to drop the first atomic bomb
Three days had passed after the Germany had surrended to the Allied powers in the world war II and accepted it’s defeat. But after that top scientists and beaurcrats decided to target Japan and the group was known as “Target Committee” and the main intension was to identify which city of Japan to be targeted.
Manhattan Project was the code name for the effort to develop atomic bombs for the United States during World War II. General Leslie Groves, the Army engineer in charge of the Manhattan Project was thinking deeply on targets since late 1944
He said tat the target should possess sentimental value to the Japanese so its destruction would adversely affect the will of the people to continue the war; have some military significance.
May 10, 1945
A fortnight later, at the formal May 10 target meeting, Robert Oppenheimer, the chief scientist on the project spoke on the agenda of calling the meeting.
Joyce C. Stearns, a scientist representing the Air Force, named the four shortlisted targets in order of preference: Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama, and Kokura.
Someone raised the possibility of bombing the emperor’s palace in Tokyo. It was a spectacular idea but militarily impractical.
Hiroshima came under the Radar
Hiroshima city had a population of around 318,000 and it was an important army depot and port. As the city was surrounded by hills, after the bomb drop, it would create focusing effect and the damage will increase.
All who were present said that bomb should be dropped on a particular place that it should grab international attention and the whole world should focus all their attention on this. In simple, they wanted to say the world that, look we got this weapon so better not to mess with USA
The Target committee assembled again on May 28. The committee decided that they will not strike at a particular point like military base or industrial area by it should attack the heart of a major city. The reason was clear, to inflict massive damage. It was also instructed the aircraft had to release the bomb from a great hieght (30,000 feet) to escape the shock wave and avoid the radioactive cloud.
Captain William “Deak” Parsons, associate director of Los Alamos’s Ordnance Division, gave another reason to drop the bomb on a city center as the human and material destruction would be obvious.
None from the committed recommended any specific target but all had one thing that is massive destruction. McGeorge Bundy , a Washington insider who later became John F. Kennedy’s national security advisor, later wrote, “and while every city proposed had quite traditional military objectives inside it, the true object of attack was the city itself”.
All wanted massive destruction
The committee didn’t want to give any warning to Japan before the drop of atomic bomb. When the meeting ended, all were sure that the bomb will be dropped in Japan and thousands of civilians head would roll off.
Reserve list was prepared
In June, while discussing about other cities for the dropping of bomb, Kyoto’s name emerged. It was a typical Japanese city with a very high proportion of wood in the heavily built-up residential districts. There were few ﬁre-resistant structures. It contained universities, colleges, and “areas of culture,” as well as factories and war plants, which were in fact small and scattered.
Later Kokura too made on the reserve list, This city possessed one of Japan’s biggest arsenals, replete with military vehicles, ordnance, heavy naval guns, and, reportedly, poison gas.
When these discussions was going on in the committee, there was another committe which was formed to advise the President on the future of nuclear power for military and civilian use. It was called the interim committee which was headed by Secretary of War Henry Stimson. The Interim committee seemed to be very powerful.
At 10 AM on May 31, the committee members ﬁled into the dark-paneled conference room of the War Department.
The room was filled with three Nobel laureates and Oppenheimer.
J. Robert Oppenheimer is often called the “father of the atomic bomb” for leading the Manhattan Project, the program that developed the first nuclear weapon during World War II.
Stimson started the meeting that the atomic bomb may either mark the end of civilization or might secure world peace. He also stressed on the point that the bomb’s implications went far beyond the needs of the present war.
Oppenheimer was asked to assess the potential of the bombs. There were 2 bombs of which one was the plutonium and other was fissile uranium bomb. Both bombs used deferent detonation methods. These bombs were expected to deliver payloads ranging from 2,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT but the exact power was unknown to them.
Oppenheimer said that more advanced weapons might measure up to 100,000 tons; and superbombs—thermonuclear weapons—10 million to 100 million tons. All the scientists present were impressed by the figures.
But the incoming Secretary of State Byrnes ws terrified by the destruction that may be caused by the bomb. He too has humane values, so how can he be so cruel? He was confused whether to share this with Russia or not. But decided to accomplish the mission without the help of Russians so that America would emerge the next super power in the world.
The general even suggested that Rusian scientists be invited to witness the bomb test at Alamogordo, scheduled for July as Russians were friendly to science.
Burned who knew Russians closely, opposed to share this with them. He said that, not even the British possessed blueprints of America’s atomic factories so if Russians are informed then Stalin would ask for equal role in this.
Byrnes then wrapped up the argument saying America should push ahead as fast as possible in nuclear production and research to make certain that we stay ahead and at the same time make every effort to better our political relations with Russia.
Will the Japanese end the war after the bomb is dropped?
The meeting resumed after lunch. They discussed on the effect of the bombing of the Japanese and their will to fight.
Oppenheimer said that the visual effect of the atomic bomb would be tremendous. It would be accompanied by a brilliant luminescence which would rise to a height of 10,000 to 20,000 feet. The neutron eﬀect of the explosion would be dangerous to life for a radius of at least two-thirds of a mile.” The same could not be said of LeMay’s jellied petroleum raids. He estimated that around 20,000 would lose their lives.
But Stimson didn’t want to target Kyoto as it has several temples and shrines. He had visited those along with his wife in 1926. So demanded to strike it off from the target list. He also said that the objective is to create military damage and not to kill civilians. He also stressed that the bomb be used as a weapon of war in the manner prescribed by the laws of war” and “dropped on a military target.”
Now the question was not about will any civilians die but was whether any civilians will survive?
When soldiers fought against opponents in open combat, they spared civilians. But now they faced a newer challenge that stressed virtually total war, this came in the mind of Marshall and Stimson.
Stimson thought of the moral implications of the nuclear war. He was so much disturbed that he thought of recruiting a religious evangelist to “appeal to the souls of mankind and bring about a spiritual revival of Christian principles.
He believed that America was going to lose its moral values just to claim supremacy in war.
Finally Stimson decided on 3 points
1) We could not give the Japanese any warning
2) We could not concentrate on a civilian area
3) We should seek to make a profound psychological impression on as many of the inhabitants as possible
Stimson wanted to shock the enemy by the use of the atomic bomb. However he urged that it should be a military target. But how could a bomb shock his enemies without killing its civilians?
James Conant, a prominent scientist on the committee said that the most desirable target would be a vital war plant employing a large number of workers and closely surrounded by workers’ houses
Finally the committee unanimously agreed to these below mentioned points on dropping the bomb
1) As soon as possible it should be dropped
2) Without warning
3) On war plants surrounded by workers’ homes or other buildings susceptible to damage, in order to make a spectacular impression on as many inhabitants as possible
June 1, 1945,
On June 1, 1945, President Harry Truman woke up early as he had to prepare a statement for Congress. Truman received a summary of the opinion of various scientists and beaurcrats in previous day’s meeting. Byrnes was successful in convincing the President on dropping the bomb.
Atlast President Truman said that there can be no peace in the world until the military power of Japan is destroyed. If the Japanese insist on continuing resistance beyond the point of reason, their country will suﬀer the same destruction as Germany.