On April 12, 1945, Harry S. Truman was sworn in as President, shortly after the death of Franklin D.
Roosevelt. His Presidency began during the final months of WWII. By August, all that needed to happen for the war to end was for Japan to surrender. However, Japan chose to continue fighting in the war, despite the US bombing the country several times. The US had limited methods for forcing Japan to surrender, but President Harry S. Truman had recently become aware of a secret project for what would be the most powerful weapon in the world at that time.
The Manhattan Project was the codename for this secret project. created to study the potential of nuclear technology and to design and build an atomic bomb. The project was initiated by Roosevelt, who was urged to do so by scientists Albert Einstein and Enrico Fermi. Because few government officials felt that the Manhattan Project was necessary, progress on the atomic bomb was slow. This had changed in December of 1942 when Fermi created the first nuclear chain reaction with a group of physicists.
This achievement stimulated the growth of the project with an increase in funding and the appearance of testing facilities and nuclear plants all across the country. On July 16, 1945, the scientists finally tested their creation in the desert of New Mexico, which was a success. Soon after, this powerful weapon would be used in WWII. President Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan was very difficult. The bombing would cause mass devastation in Japan, but it would end the war that had caused so many American casualties. Finally, the President calls for the bomb to be dropped, and on August 6, 1945, the “Little Boy” atomic bomb dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, killing 80,000 people instantly, and injuring 35,000 others. Days later, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan.
The next day, the “Fat Man” bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing another 80,000 people.On August 6, 1945, the “Little Boy” atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. 80,000 people died immediately, and many others were severely injured. Residents in Hiroshima suffered severe burns and developed large scars known as keloids, and their skin had melted off their bodies. One witness described the bombing “It was as if we were thrown into a smelting furnace — lots of people wandering with their skin hanging, piles of dead. Swollen and burnt bodies, and my relatives and friends dying while vomiting blood or something like black foam…
” Most of the hospitals were destroyed, and most doctors were killed by the blast. Another 60,000 people had died by the end of the year due to atomic fallout. Two days after the events of Hiroshima, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and invaded Manchuria. The following day, the U.S. dropped the “Fat Man” atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
80,000 people had died that day, and another 50,000 people were injured. About a month later, on September 2, Japan finally surrendered. The country’s economy had suffered drastically from the war, and the bombings had made the situation much worse. Japan would have to invest billions of dollars to fix the damage done to buildings, roads, and railroads.
Also, it was extremely hard for survivors to find a job after the war.Over 50 million people died in WWII, including over 400,000 Americans. The main goal of President Truman was to end the war as quickly as possible.
Otherwise, he would have to face the death of many more people. He had several other options for forcing Japan to surrender besides bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, none of them seemed to be able to do the job, and would most likely make the situation worse. One of these options were to continue with conventional bombing of Japan. From April 1944 to August 1945, about 333,000 people were killed by bombings, and 473,000 others were injured, Despite this, Japan would not surrender. They would still fight in the war, even after a firebombing attack in Tokyo killed more than 80,000 people in March of 1945. The President’s next option would be a ground invasion of Japan. Because Japan would not easily surrender, this option would most likely fail as well.
It would also significantly weaken the U.S. military. During a battle in Okinawa in 1945, 13,000 U.S. soldiers were killed, a third of everyone fighting in that battle.
Truman feared that a ground invasion would cost the country millions of soldiers. The President’s other option was to drop their atomic bomb, but in an unpopulated area, as a demonstration of its destructive power. This option would put the U.S. in danger because of a slew of unknowns.
There were only two atomic bombs in existence, and it was possible that, even after the test in the New Mexico desert, they would not even work. The President also feared that a demonstration would give time for Japan to prepare for the bombing. Truman’s goal with the atomic bombs was to frighten the country into surrendering, and a demonstration would most likely encourage them to keep fighting. The only choice he had left was to drop the atomic bomb directly onto a populated area.After a series of attacks on several countries during the war, the Soviet Union had conquered several countries, including Romania, Hungary, and Nazi Germany. The US was fearful of the country’s growing power, and decided that dropping the atomic bombs would scare the Soviet Union, and would discourage them from gaining more power than what the US deemed as safe for itself.
However, critics of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings argued that the deaths of over 100,000 were not worth giving the US an advantage over the Soviets. Leo Szilard, a scientist who worked in the Manhattan Project, believed that dropping the atomic bombs would incite the Soviets to make their own atomic bombs, which could start a nuclear war. He attempted to write a petition to the President, but Truman had failed to see it before the bombs had already been dropped. The petition had 69 signatures from Manhattan Project scientists.
Critics also cited some conversations between certain world leaders to back their opinions. The U.S had intercepted a message from the Japanese Foreign Minister to the Japanese ambassador to the Soviet Union on June 4, in which the Foreign Minister wrote: “It is a matter of utmost urgency that we should not only prevent Russia from entering the war but should also induce her to adopt a favorable attitude toward Japan.” This message had confirmed the beliefs of military analysts that if the Soviets were to declare war on Japan, then the country would surely surrender. On July 17, in a meeting with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and President Truman, Stalin confirmed that the Soviet Union would in fact declare war on Japan in early August.People against the bombings stated that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were unnecessary, since the Soviets were about to force Japan to back out of the war anyway.