We’re All Condemned to Forever Fight About the Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb on Japan


In Japan, and across the globe, the date of Aug. 6, 1945, is a solemn memory. It marks the first use of an atomic weapon. For 77 years, scholars debated and barroom arguments raged over whether that American act was necessary.

It is not in dispute that Col. Paul Tibbets was commander of the 509th composite group and pilot of the Enola Gay, a plane he named after himself, and flew over Hiroshima’s Aioi Bridge to begin banking his aircraft.

Tibbets began his turn and the B-29 crashed violently. 10,000 pounds of American technological, industrial, and scientific ingenuity fell from the bomb bay just as planned (navigator Capt. Theodore Van Kirk was 15 seconds behind in his calculations of time over target. They called it Little Boy in ironic contrast to its huge bulk. It was a gun-type nuke bomb, a primitive and inefficient device according to our standards. Little Boy is simplicity at its best, despite all the money, effort, time, and brainpower it took to design.

One end of the tube had a hollow bullet made of highly enriched Uranium 235. The other end had a greater mass of enriched Uranium. The larger cylinder of nuclear material was barely “subcritical”, meaning it needed just a little more to cause a chain reaction or explosion.

Little Boy reached 1,900 feet above Hiroshima after having drifted around 800 feet from the target when the uranium bullet fired down its barrel and hit the cylinder exactly. The mass that was Little Boy became hotter than the sun for two millionths of a second. The blast so effectively killed humans below it, there were only shadowy outlines of concrete people.

There have been the usual calls for nuclear disarmament — as if the nuclear genie can ever be put back in the bottle. The fact is, Hiroshima was a horrible tragedy made necessary by Japanese militarism, Japanese aggression, and Japan’s appetite for empire.

This is my opinion. Only the bomb’s use on two Japanese cities, just days apart, assured that the terrorists in Tokyo surrendered. Some of them were so zealous that they chose to die than surrender.

You must prove that the Japanese were not about to surrender.

Japan tried to convince Josef Stalin to act as an intermediary, but that guarantee was not discussed. Some territories that they had conquered during wartime were not willingly given over by the Japanese.

These points are irrelevant to those who object morally to the dropping of the bomb. Even an invasion of the U.S. by 1946 would have been better than incinerating 150,000 Japanese in Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

What would have happened if that were true?

Because the decision to drop the bomb was controversial, it will continue to be so. However, the truth is that there were other options to end the war with Japan. They would have almost certainly cost more lives than those who died at Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Curtis LeMay, Army Air Force Commander for Strategic Forces in the Pacific, believed that if he had six months and the freedom to do whatever he wanted, he could have brought Japan down by totally destroying its ability of feeding itself. The victory was assured, but at the expense of many million Japanese who were starving.

The navy believed a blockade would work. The Japanese government would be begging for peace within six months to one year if they starved the Japanese war machine of raw materials and their people of food imports from China. The plan was met with visions of millions dying from starvation.

Today’s primary argument for not using the bomb is based on newly discovered cables, which seem to have shown Japan willing to surrender as early as July 1945. The Soviet Union was soon to invade Japan in just a few weeks. This was obvious to the Japanese. Even though it was provocative, the United States couldn’t afford to give Japan a chance without ensuring that Japan wouldn’t be able to rebuild its military. It was the Japanese Constitution that General McArthur wrote, which kept their military small and completely dependent on the U.S. to defend them.

The majority of rational people would prefer that the atomic bomb hadn’t been used. Regardless of your position on the issue, it is clear that the dropping of the bomb ended the war. Even if war isn’t moral, other than its quick and decisive victory, that could be the best argument to continue using it.