Japan Atomic Bombing

Was using the atomic bomb against Japan justified, or could it be considered a war crime?


The events of the August 6 and August 9 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively left a permanent mark that for sure will live in the history books forever (Holmes, n.d.). Towards the end of World War II, Americans who were neutral at the early stages of this war found themselves with a critical decision to make. Here, the Pearl Harbor had been intentionally attacked by Japan, after the Japanese declared their relationship with the Americans “broken”. It was one of the surprising moves by Japan, and after all these events, the Americans were torn between invading Japan in retaliation all leaving it altogether. However, staying quiet was not America’s portion because they had enough resources and capability to counter-attack.

In April 1945, Harry Truman, then vice-president, was sworn in as the new American president after the death of Franklin Roosevelt. Soon after getting sworn in, he was immediately faced with a tough decision to make regarding the situation between his country and Japan. When the secretary of war, Henry Stimson later wrote a brief letter to Truman, a joint committee was formed to address the issues with Japan. Unsurprisingly, the committee advised the president on the use of the atomic bomb as a way to make Japan surrender.

In fairness, Harry Truman had no enough knowledge about atomic bombs, because their design was first established under his predecessor, Roosevelt, and it was a closely kept secret that even Truman in his three-month tenure as the vice-president had no idea about it (Dolfi, n.d.). It was Truman who approved the use of atomic bombs on the Japan. Several reasons were outlined for the use of the bomb; however, there arises glaring questions over the credibility of that decision. The Americans acted in a flash, and the decision was made in a hurry, perhaps for some political reasons, or sometimes in the goodwill of American defense and that of their citizens. However, let us review if the America’s decision was justified.

Why the Use of Atomic Bombs was not justified

Before the eventual use of the bombs on Japan, Americans had given them a chance to surrender unconditionally. With the Nazi Germany having already surrendered by May 1945, the Imperial Japan was yet to be defeated. It was the opportunity they were given by the US to surrender, however, the emperor insisted surrender if only the Japanese could remain with their government. They feared that the terms of unconditional surrender would lead to their national extinction. For that matter, the US saw no another alternative but to drop the first bomb, dubbed as “Little Boy” on Hiroshima in August 6, 1945. However, three days later, the Japanese had not yet relented, and on August 9, 1945, another bomb known as “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki, and Japan eventually gave in (Holmes, n.d.).

Nevertheless, there were other ways Americans could have used to counter Japan. Looking at the events; it is very conspicuous that the war was headed to an end. The Nazi Germany had already surrendered, and the war was in its final stages. Similarly, Japan’s continued stubbornness was an act of “last kicks of a dying horse”. The general feeling from the Americans was that they needed to prevent the cost of invading Japan, which would involve deaths thousands of their nationals, according to the veterans. However, this was just a prediction which did not justify something catastrophic.

America’s act of using the atomic bombs was unacceptable in every regard because the bomb was used on the innocent civilians, who had no power and nothing to do about the feuds of the two countries. Just as the Americans tried to protect their innocent citizens, the consideration for the innocent Japanese civilians would have called for a better approach with less impact. Consideration of life could have been a good reason for the US to use another tactic of neutralizing the fading Japan.

According to Tolleson(2012), the preceding event in America before the use of the bombs was an interesting one as there was apparent divisions on whether to use them or not. Some stakeholders in the committee recommended preliminary tests. However, this issue split them, and arriving on a conclusive decision became a hard task. What does this signify? It reveals many realities behind the decision to use the bomb. With calls for preliminary tests, the committee was unsure of what could unfold after the use of the bomb. They also knew that it was indeed a wrong move. The magnitude of the atomic bomb on humanity was surely going to be devastating, and before the all the events, many were aware of the effects.

Did America use the atomic bomb as a tool of blackmail to force Japan into surrender? The results of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a true testimony and answer to the above question. One would easily argue that, if indeed the committee had a clear conscience about the matter; if indeed they knew what they wanted to do was the right move; then the split opinions should not have arisen. Additionally, the calls for the preliminary tests of the bombs should have been an issue under discussion. War is war, but there are limits of war. Beyond these limits, it is no longer war, but it is war crime.

The Japanese society is still reaping the effects of the atomic bombs, and going back to the rush decision by the war committee of America, then its outlines how humanity can wipe out itself within a second. Probably, they acted out of panic, or made a rush action to gain the confidence of the public, who wanted an answer to the Japanese provocation. For many years, safeguarding the sovereignty and safety of the American citizens has always been a top priority for the most presidents, but fulfilling it by wiping out the innocent civilians of another country was the ugliest way it should have been done.

Why the Bomb Effects Highlights a Wrong Decision

The American government led by President Harry Truman, could be forgiven for their move, because they probably acted in the best interest of the nation, and also, it occurred during the days when the world had not evolved into civilization and the formation of the watch dog institutions such as the United Nations. In addition, the world was in turmoil and nations rose against each other in the battle for the global supremacy. Nonetheless, America as a country had a strong global influence and appeal, which are two characteristics that calls for moderated reactions in war situations.

Nonetheless, the Americans entry into the war in the last minutes and for a shorter duration was the most significant period and the turning point that has left inerasable rubber stamp to the Japanese society. According to Malloy (2012), the Manhattan’s  Project’s radiations studies reveals that the long term effects on the health of the Japanese people was known by the scientists, even before the decision to use the bomb was made. It is something that Americans could have avoided with one right advice, but the quick unfolding did not allow for systematic analysis of the eventual effects. Conversely, the effects of atomic radiations were a known factor within the high ranks of the American biologists and scientists.

The health hazards that were associated the bombs were the physical damage caused by the bomb explosion and the radiation emissions from the explosion (Shigenobu, 2016). Frequent reports of the radiation effects are still felt to date, and there have been several cases of chronic diseases that are caused by these radiation emissions. The effects of the bomb had a strong ionizing effect on the survivors, which underline its deadliness, and this has been a topic of discussion for many years since 1945 after the damaging explosions. The outcomes of the bombing underlined what a wrong decision it was to use atomic bombs.

Possible Way America Could Have Countered Japan

In war, there is no a specific formula that outlines how you should eliminate your enemy. Also, war is the ultimate tool of peace. Japan confirmed that too much freedom is a form of slavery, because it is a form of intoxication that twists beliefs and thinking patterns. Therefore, Americans should have exploited different avenues, rather than closing their mind on one of the available options. The invasion of Japan would have been a more moderate option. The damages on both sides would have been inevitable, but with the earlier fall of the Nazi Germany, Japan had no any prolonged survival chances. The Americans could have also called for support from the Allies—a move many would have called ignorant—however, ignorance is strength and this should have made the process of stifling Japan easier.


With many reasons highlighted over the Japan’s atomic bombs attack, the truth remains that it was a wrong decision from every perspective. Some people believe that the reasons behind America’s quick reaction with the atomic explosions were driven by their desire to capture Japan first and spread their ideology of capitalism before possible the arrival of the Russians. However, these are all unfounded claims and opinions, although they were to a certain degree confirmed by the eventual Cold War that ensued from ideological differences between the US and Russia. However, in many regards, the use of atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 was not justified, and the implications can confirm that.


Dolfi, M. (n.d.). Bringing World War II to an End: Debating the Decision to drop the Atomic Bomb. Stark County Teaching American History Grant , 1-29.

Holmes, T. (n.d.). The Dropping of Atomic Bombs on Japan. Social Education .

Malloy, S. (2012). “A Very Pleasant Way to Die”: Radiation Effects and the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb against Japan. Diplomatic History , 515-545.

Shigenobu, N. (2016). Thoughts on relief for atomic bomb survivors since Obama’s visit to Hiroshima. The Lancet Summit , 1878–1879.

Tolleson, N. (2012). The Decision and the Debate: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Education and Human Development Master’s Theses. , 3-67.