To fully examine the factors that led to the United States to drop an atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki, one can look at the event as a result of two major decisions. The first decision concerned the use of newly developed nuclear weapons in lieu of other military techniques to secure a timely Japanese surrender. The second decision was to use several of these weapons instead of only one. Although the Truman administration displayed little hesitation or ambivalence over the decision to use atomic weapons (Walker, 51), it is important to examine what factors contributed to these swift actions.
It was believed that dropping an atomic bomb on Nagasaki would resolve a number of problems in a simpler fashion than prolonging the conventional warfare until Japan finally ceded defeat. The primary goal of this extreme force was to bring a swift end to the war in the Pacific,(Walker) but a secondary goal was to display the military and technological might of the United States to allies and rivals around the world (Walker,). The use of multiple nuclear weapons made it clear to Japan and the world that Truman's threat of “utter destruction” was intended to be carried out unless Japan delivered what the United States wanted―unconditional surrender (Cite).
The potential use of atomic weapons against the Japanese was appealing to the United States because it was seen as a dramatic and decisive way to end the war (Walker, ). Prior to the decision to use nuclear weapons, Japan and the United States were at odds over the terms by which the Japanese would surrender to the Americans, which did nothing but prolong the military conflict (Walker, ). Japanese leadership had expressed its desire to end the war to third parties, but could not come to an agreement over what terms would be acceptable for their surrender (Walker, 47). Japanese leaders did not want the war to end with the Japanese people feeling despair and hopeless toward their government, and wanted to preserve their national identity as well as cultural pride (Walker, ). For these reasons, the Japanese believed that a “last stand” on the Japanese homefront would provide them with the means to surrender gracefully to the Americans (Walker, ).
American leadership was equally conflicted when faced with defining “unconditional surrender.” Many felt that it was important to present terms to the Japanese that they would accept, so that it would expedite the war's end (Walker, 43). However, many Americans felt strongly that the Japanese had not suffered enough for their atrocities against the United States and that stricter terms were more appropriate (Walker, 46). There was very little room for middle ground among all the heated emotions surrounding the war, and it seemed very unlikely that American officials would find unity among themselves to offer terms that the American people would find strict enough, but the Japanese would also find suitable (Walker, 47). The best solution to this...