Part A – Plan of Investigation
This investigation focuses on the use and necessity of the atomic bomb in World War II. To what extent did the atomic bomb dropped by the United States during World War II save lives? This will be investigated using websites, books, military accounts, and newspaper articles. Military calculations of what potentially could have happened had the United States invaded Japan instead of dropping the bomb will be researched. Also, information from the Manhattan Project, reinterpretations of the event, and military strategies of several countries will be used. The physical effects of the bomb on the victims will also be considered. Alternate opinions of why the bomb was dropped will be discussed.
Part B – Summary of Evidence
Upon entering World War II as a result of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States faced the burden of fighting two dangerous military powers: Germany and Japan. Germany was developing new, secret weapons that could very likely be a potential threat to the United States. It had been reported that German scientists were experimenting with splitting the atom, which would release an enormous amount of energy.1 Whoever was successful with this tactic had the power to control the world. After receiving this information, President Harry Truman went into shock. The United States began atomic research shortly after with the help of physicists Leo Szilard and Albert Einstein.2 This effort was code-named the Manhattan Project, which took place in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The project involved more than half a million people working to design and predict the results of an atomic bomb. After spending two billion dollars, a test called Trinity was conducted to approve the bomb.3 The trials were successful and a new weapon of mass destruction was created.
The United States thoroughly deliberated the decision whether to release the atomic bomb on foreign land. One of the major factors of this decision was the plan of Operation Downfall, a massive two-phase invasion of Japan’s homelands that would involve more than a million American military personnel under the command of General Douglass MacArthur.4 Predictions of casualties and effects of this operation were made by General George Marshall and discussed with President Truman. It was estimated that the invasion would cost 100,000 American servicemen in the initial landings, followed by 31,000 casualties in the next thirty days of the campaign. Marshall further predicted that 20 million Japanese civilians would be killed in the course of the campaign.5
The United States also considered the previous battles and attacks that had taken place in World War II. In the last two major battles with the Japanese on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the combined casualties were estimated to be about 270,000. The death rates were outrageously high for both sides, but especially for the Japanese.6 The Japanese had previously unleashed several...