BY BILL DIETRICH
Seattle Times staff reporter
Historians are still divided over whether it was necessary to
drop the atomic bomb on Japan to end World War II. Here is a summary of arguments
on both sides:
Why the bomb was needed or justified:
- The Japanese had demonstrated near-fanatical resistance, fighting to almost
the last man on Pacific islands, committing mass suicide on Saipan and unleashing
kamikaze attacks at Okinawa. Fire bombing had killed 100,000 in Tokyo with no
discernible political effect. Only the atomic bomb could jolt Japan's leadership
- With only two bombs ready (and a third on the way by late August 1945) it was
too risky to "waste" one in a demonstration over an unpopulated area.
- An invasion of Japan would have caused casualties on both sides that could
easily have exceeded the toll at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- The two targeted cities would have been firebombed anyway.
- Immediate use of the bomb convinced the world of its horror and prevented
future use when nuclear stockpiles were far larger.
- The bomb's use impressed the Soviet Union and halted the war quickly enough
that the USSR did not demand joint occupation of Japan.
Why the bomb was not needed, or unjustified:
- Japan was ready to call it quits anyway. More than 60 of its cities had been
destroyed by conventional bombing, the home islands were being blockaded by the
American Navy, and the Soviet Union entered the war by attacking Japanese troops
- American refusal to modify its "unconditional surrender" demand to
allow the Japanese to keep their emperor needlessly prolonged Japan's
- A demonstration explosion over Tokyo harbor would have convinced Japan's
leaders to quit without killing many people.
- Even if Hiroshima was necessary, the U.S. did not give enough time for word to
filter out of its devastation before bombing Nagasaki.
- The bomb was used partly to justify the $2 billion spent on its
- The two cities were of limited military value. Civilians outnumbered troops in
Hiroshima five or six to one.
- Japanese lives were sacrificed simply for power politics between the U.S. and
the Soviet Union.
- Conventional firebombing would have caused as much significant damage without
making the U.S. the first nation to use nuclear weapons.
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