Was President Harry Truman justified when he authorised the use of nuclear weapons against Japanese civilians? Did the bombings end the war with fewer deaths than an American invasion of Japan would have resulted in? Or was the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki unimportant to Japanese military leaders when they decided to surrender?
No, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not justifiedShow moreShow less
The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused extraordinary damage, without even causing the end of WWII.
By August 1945 the United States had destroyed many Japanese cities through a planned air campaign meant to undermine civilian support for the war. Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were simply an extension of this plan.
The American air campaign against Japan was, throughout the war, incredibly cruel. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was, both in its cost of lives and scope of destruction, not morally different. During the war, the United States engaged a directed fire-bombing policy against Japanese urban centres, a particularly destructive method given that many of nation’s cities were built of wood.
By 6 August 1945 almost a million Japanese civilians had died in bombings and twenty million had been made homeless. By the summer of 1945 so many Japanese cities were bombed out that American military planners directed attacks against towns of no more than 30,000 people. Taken in this context the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were indistinct. While the nuclear bombing killed more people than previous raids they spared a wider area of the city than incendiary bombing.
If the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not distinct then was this policy of bombing ethical in general? American military planners hoped that bombing Japan would inspire civilians to turn on their government and sue for peace. However, even given the massive costs Japanese civilians bore, there was little public dissent in the closing days of the war. Taken in this context the whole bombing campaign is morally dubious.
[P1] For the Japanese population, nuclear bombing was not distinct from other American bombings of Japan.
[P2] American plans to use bombing to force civilian opposition to war did not succeed.