Perhaps the most controversial and heavily scrutinized issue of the twentieth century was President Harry Truman’s decision to unleash atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer of 1945. While the sequence of events preceding that fateful summer morning of August 6,1945 are fully understood, the motives behind Truman’s actions are shrouded in controversy. Top military officials publicly denounced the use of such a horrendous weapon, while the obvious advantages to the bomb, traditionalists argue, was a shortened Pacific War. Parallactic views between traditional beliefs and revisionist theories suggest that the issue is still very much unresolved. Why is the issue so hotly debated? Partially because of the overwhelming evidence supporting both sides, and partially from the unorthodox sources producing such evidence. But the question remains: Why did Truman drop the atomic bomb? Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bomb was not a military necessity because land invasion casualties were much lower than perceived, the Japanese were on the verge of collapsing, and America had avoided diplomacy despite knowing Japanese intentions.
Dropping the atomic bomb was necessary in preventing a land invasion where troops would encounter severe Japanese resistance. According to ancient Samurai tradition, the most honorable way of death was to sacrifice oneself for the emperor. Certainly, this philosophy became extensively practiced throughout the war, as evident with the notorious kamikaze missions. Soldiers would either die in combat, or commit suicide in order to prevent capture. During the battle of Okinawa, of the 117,000 Japanese soldiers stationed on the island, only 7,000 were left alive. On April 6-7 alone, 355 planes participated in kamikaze missions. In more extreme forms, dying honorably would consist of, “the training of young children to be ‘Sherman carpets.’ Japanese children were to be strapped with TNT and throw themselves under American tanks thereby dying in the most honorable way possible- by killing the enemy.” By using such radical forms of resistance, it is therefore highly conceivable that the number of Japanese killed would greatly outnumber the American total if fighting had been prolonged. In addition: “The Japanese army was already training its civilians to fight with sharpened bamboo poles…[By] using sharpened pikes the Japanese could easily prevent a military government from being effective in those towns which the U.S. captured.” The real predicament involving the invasion of Japan was the fierce resistance expected during and after the assault.
Because of such drastic Japanese resistance, it would not only be impractical, it would be senseless to launch an attempt to invade and occupy Japan. Thus, dropping the atomic bomb was a military necessity in order to prevent a disastrous and precarious land invasion.
By avoiding a highly questionable land invasion, the bomb saved “half a million” American lives. In...