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The Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombings

The use of the A-bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has raised the question of whether we were justified, or could we have achieved the same end using conventional weapons. This is my attempt to present statistical justification for unleashing the awesome destructive power of the A-bomb on Japan. 

August 14, 1945 was a day of celebration and thanksgiving, for it marked the end of the most destructive conflict in human history. It was the day Japan unconditionally surrendered. The instrument that dealt the final blows to the Japanese Empire was the A-bomb. But for some, time had slowly replaced the joy and elation of that victory with a creeping, gnawing feeling of guilt and recrimination. 

The theater of war has always been full of human sufferings, but never had its two main characters, death and destruction, been so horribly portrayed as in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Though regret fills our hearts that so many had to die to achieve our victory, we cannot let our compassion cloud our judgment of those two nuclear detonations. To be impartial critics, we must base our reviews on each and every act that led to the final curtain. We must examine the chain of events that caused the decision to use such an awesome weapon. 

Japan was a nation bound in unity by culture and tradition. Her people obeyed their emperor without question. To them he is not a man....he is god. To die for him was an honor and to shirk death was to suffer humiliation. They believed in the righteousness of their cause and that ultimate victory would be theirs. These beliefs made the Japanese a formidable foe, unafraid to die for the glory of their country and their emperor; it made our campaign for final victory a war of attrition. 

FromGuadalcanal to the Marianas, from the Philippines to the Ryukus, suicidal Japanese forces made step-by-step extermination necessary. Japanese survivors were practically non-existent. Civilian casualties were also high and the toll on our troops was staggering. Two of the bloodiest battles were for Iwo Jima and Okinawa. 

Iwo Jima, an island about five miles long, was invaded by 75,144 American assault troops. Of over 20,000 Japanese troops there, only 212 survived. An actual death count of 13,234 was made and another 8,070 were estimated to be buried or sealed in caves. Our troops suffered 4,590 dead, 15,954 wounded, and 301 missing. The carnage to say the least, was excessive for the size of real estate involved.

Okinawa, an island 60 miles long and varying from 2 - 18 miles wide, with a population of 435,000, was invaded shortly after Iwo Jima. The Japanese military strength was 77,199 and 83 days of fighting left a wake of 110,071 known Japanese dead, 7,400 military prisoners, 12,520 American dead or missing, 36,631 wounded. From the figures cited, it could be concluded that local civilians also suffered a tremendous number of casualties.

After Okinawa, the invasion of Japan would have been the next logical step, had it not been for the A-bomb. Plans were already made for the invasion, but were shelved in favor of a nuclear attack. There are many possible reason, but for the purpose of speculation, let us examine one possibility.

Japan had an estimated population of 82,636,000 and consisted of four main islands. She had an indented coastline, measuring 17,150 miles and heavily defended. Militarily, Japan was a nightmare to invade. Invasion could be done only at a great loss of lives, both American and Japanese. The nature of her coastline could prove devastating to any invasion force. That, plus the pattern set by the Japanese in previous battles, made invasion too costly to undertake. As the lesser of two evils, the decision to use the A-bomb, if Japan refuse to surrender, was made. A warning was given to that effect, but was not heeded. 

On August 6, 1945, the first A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a city with a population of 343,969. The resulting casualties were 78,150 dead, 37,425 injured, and 13,983 missing. Nagasaki, with a population of 252,630, was bombed three days later. A commission on the bombing released a report showing 73,884 died as a result of that holocaust. 

Without letting the cloud of nuclear fears impair our reasons, let us sort the aforementioned statistics and render our judgment.

I find that the bombings eliminated the necessity of sacrificing more lives and therefore justified.

                                        Jim Waltz 

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