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Summary of Maddox’ Argument
Professor of American history Robert James Maddox made the assertion that it was necessary for the United States government, to give the go signal to drop an atomic bomb on Japan to end World War II. Maddox argued that by releasing the deadly power of the A-bomb on Japanese soil, the Japanese people, and their leaders could visualize the utter senselessness of the war. Maddox asserted that the destructive capability of the atomic bombs forced Hirohito, and other high government officials to seriously consider its impact on the nation’s capital. Maddox also argued that the deadly impact of the atomic bombs provided Emperor Hirohito a solid explanation, as to why it is imperative to end the war as soon as possible. Without the potential impact of an atomic bomb, the Emperor would have a hard time convincing hardliner to lay down their arms.
Aside from forcing the hand of the emperor, and the hardliners in the Japanese army, there is another major reason for dropping the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. President Truman was unwilling to authorize a land invasion of Japan. The Battle of Okinawa was a grim reminder of what would happen if American forces decided to send foot soldiers into the heart of the Japanese empire. If Japanese soldiers were willing to give their lives in the defense of a tiny island several kilometers from the Japanese mainland, one can just imagine how far they would go to protect the nation’s capital.
Truman saw a way out. He realized that there is no need to sacrifice the lives of American soldiers, in the same way that Roosevelt made the decision to sacrifice the lives of young men when he ordered the invasion of France and Germany. Truman also realized that the American people were battle weary because after almost four years of incessant fighting, American soldiers paid a dear price in fighting the enemy in Europe and the Pacific Islands. But there was no end in sight. One of the most problematic issues in August of 1945 was the realization that even after Nazi Germany was already defeated; the Japanese Imperial army was still willing to go through a protracted war. In addition, the Japanese army was using unconventional tactics that drastically increased war casualties on both sides. Truman was left with no other option, except to drop the A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Summary of Hasegawa’s Argument
Professor of American history Tsuyoshi Hasegawa argued that there was no need to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. Hasegawa asserted that the entrance of the Soviet Union into the war was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. He said that the A-bomb was not the major reason why the Japanese government surrendered to the United States.
Hasegawa bolstered his claim by pointing out several alternatives. He said that there were several roads not taken. Hasegawa contended that if President Truman had no hidden agenda, and if he was willing to work with the Japanese government, he could have ended the war without resorting to nuclear tactics. Hasegawa argued that a compromise in the Potsdam ultimatum could have given the Japanese government a way to save face so to speak, and could have paved the way for an early termination of military conflict in Asia.
Hasegawa’s main argument was based on the idea that the Japanese Imperial army cannot fight a battle with two fronts, one with America, and the other one with Russia. In fact, Japan’s decision to continue the fight in 1945 was based on the assumption that Russia will remain neutral. Hasegawa also pointed out that the Japanese government could not afford to see Russian troops occupy one of the major islands. Before the Japanese Imperial army surrendered to the Americans, Stalin’s army was poised to take over Hokkaido. Due to the heavy losses sustained by American troops in Europe and the Pacific Islands, the U.S. army will not risk a confrontation with Russia if Stalin decided to send troops to Hokkaido, after Russia’s successful entry into Manchuria, no one can stop them. Thus, concerns over Russia’s military intervention were the real reason why the Japanese Imperial army capitulated to the demands of the U.S. government. Hasegawa said it is not because of the dropping of atomic bombs on Japanese soil.
It was Indeed Necessary to Drop Atomic Bombs on Japan
It was necessary to drop A-bombs on Japanese soil to compel the Japanese Imperial army to surrender and end World War II. There were three justifiable reasons that warranted the use of atomic bombs. First, there was a need to end the war as soon as possible, in order to begin the rebuilding process (Goldberg & Hinderaker, 2006). Second, the atomic bombs created a “shock-effect” that forced the Emperor Hirohito to reconsider his political and military position with regards to the war (Maddox, ). Third, by shortening the war, Truman was hoping to save American and Japanese lives.
Aside from the need to end the war as soon as possible in order to save lives and initiate the rebuilding process, Truman’s decision was based on available information. One of the most critical information that weighed in favor of dropping the atomic bombs was the fanatical devotion of the Japanese soldiers and the Japanese people towards their homeland and their emperor. The emperor was viewed as a sacred individual.
The Japanese people considered him a demi-god and the Japanese soldiers revered him like a deity. Therefore, it was unthinkable to consider the argument of Hasegawa that the Japanese Imperial army can be swayed on the basis of logical argument. It is almost impossible to find the logic behind the kamikaze. No one from the West can accurately describe the reason why a Japanese soldier is willing to strap himself to an airplane filled with explosives and crash the said aircraft on enemy battleships.
In the Battle of Okinawa for instance, both armies suffered heavy casualties because Japanese soldiers embarked on suicide missions to inflict major damage on the invading enemy forces. It is easy to understand why Truman feared to contemplate the impact of 500,000 American bodies scattered all over Japan. If there was a way to avoid this grim scenario, Truman has to take it.
Aside from the fanatical devotion of the Japanese soldiers, Truman also considered the commitment of the Japanese people to defend their homeland. If there were two million soldiers stationed in Japan, in anticipation of an invasion, the casualty can triple. Soldiers and civilians are willing to give up their lives, thus the casualty rate can easily exceed the estimate that 500,000 American soldiers will perish in the event of an invasion (Maddox ) But if one will consider the presence of civilians who were slowly being integrated into a comprehensive defense strategy to protect their homeland from foreign invasion, the casualty rate is unthinkable.
Hasegawa made the claim that the atomic bomb was not the main reason for Japanese capitulation. He added that it was the entry of the Soviet Union into the war. But in explaining the Japanese government’s decision to surrender, Emperor Hirohito cited the A-bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Hasegawa, 2007). It is hard to accept the argument that the atomic bombs did not play a decisive role in ending the war. Japanese leaders saw the destructive power of the nuclear bombs, and they were affected by it, in the same way that people all over the world were affected after they saw images of the unspeakable horror created by a tremendous blast of energy.
Truman made the decision based on what he knew. Hasegawa made an argument based on what he knew after the event took place. Hasegawa benefited from hindsight but Truman made a decision based on the evidence presented before him. Truman saw a nation that was not going to surrender without a fight. He saw a people who had a different understanding of suicide missions, and the need to maintain their honor no matter what the cost. Truman knew that if young Japanese men were willing to pilot an aircraft laden with explosives, and force it to explode on enemy battleships, this army will use suicide tactics to inflict heavy losses on the invading army. Truman realized that it was foolish to send young American soldiers into a country that trained civilians, to willingly offer their lives as an ultimate sacrifice to defend their homeland.
Truman realized that the Japanese Imperial army did not anticipate the destructive power of the A-bombs. Thus, Truman decided to utilize the “shock-effect” of nuclear weapons. He made the right decision because a month later, the Japanese army decided to end hostilities between the two countries.
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Goldberg, R. & Hinderaker, E. (2006). American views: Documents in American history. MA: Pearson Custom Publishing.
Hasegawa, T. (2007). Racing the enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the surrender of Japan.
In L. Madaras & J. Sorelle (eds.), United States history: reconstruction to present (245-254). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Maddox, J. (2007). The biggest decision: why we had to drop the atomic bomb.
In L. Madaras & L. Sorelle (eds.), United States history: reconstruction to present (236-244). New York: McGraw-Hill.