During the final months of the second world war, the only two nation still at war were the United States and the empire of Japan. Both countries were suffering heavy casualties, and the United States decided to bring a swift and effective end to the war. On August 6th, 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat, nicknamed the Little Boy, on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, after no Japanese surrender, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb, nicknamed the Fat Man on the city of Nagasaki.
The bombs killed approximately 140,000 people and destroyed several square miles each upon their detonations, which brought the Japanese to finally surrender. Without the use of the bombs, it is highly possible that the war would have continued on for an unknown amount of time, resulting in an even higher death toll. Therefore, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were entirely necessary in order to bring World War Two to an end.
The United States began the development of atomic weaponry after discovering German scientists were attempting to split the atom and release the energy that held it together. This process is known as nuclear fission, and is the reason an atomic bomb can do the amount of destruction that it does. President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Manhattan Project on December 28th, 1942, which brought together important scientists to research and develop a nuclear weapon before Germany could. The first atomic bomb, nicknamed Gadget, was tested on July 16th, 1945 in the deserts of Alamogordo, New Mexico. This became known as the Trinity test. The bomb exploded with the force of approximately 18 kilotons of TNT.
Originally, the United States planned to threaten Germany with the atomic bombs. However, once Germany surrendered to the Allies on May 7th, 1945, the only country still at war was Japan. In July of 1945, President Harry S Truman issued the Potsdam Declaration, which warned the Japanese empire to surrender or face prompt and utter destruction. After ignoring the declaration, the United States decided to use the atom bombs they had developed. After dropping the bombs, Emperor Hirohito and his advisors finally decided to surrender to the United States on August 15th, 1945, marking the end of the second world war.
Without the usage of the atomic bombs in Japan, it is very likely that the casualties may have been drastically higher than those of the bombings. Karl T. Compton was a physicist during World War Two that was involved with many scientific projects, including heading the D Division of the National Defense Research Committee, which researched detection technologies, which included radar, fire control and heat radiation. Compton went on to become the scientific advisor to General Douglas MacArthur. After studying the atomic bombing, Compton came to the conclusion that it was entirely necessary for the United States to drop the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Japan. In his letter to President Truman, titled If the Atomic Bomb Had Not Been Used, Compton begins by interviewing a Japanese Army officer. The officer told Compton that if the bombs had not been dropped and a land invasion (which was the planned alternative to the atomic bombs) had happened, the Japanese army would have continued to fight until all Japanese were killed,but we would not have been defeated.
The officer explains that the Japanese people consider surrendering to the enemy extremely disgraceful, and that they would much rather die than need to surrender. This was the reason that the Japanese continued to fight, despite losing Germany and Italy as allies in the months leading up to the atomic bombings. This gave Compton reason to believe that the atomic bombs actually saved the lives of thousands of Americans and Japanese, and that they were the only reason World War Two ended as quickly as it did. Compton then provides Truman with information that proves that the bombs were not the deadliest attack on Japan. During the B-29 incendiary raids over Tokyo, an estimated 225,000 people were killed in total, a much higher rate of casualties than that of the atom bombs. The Tokyo air raids also destroyed approximately 85 square miles of city, whereas the atomic bombing of Hiroshima only destroyed about 5 square miles, a drastically smaller amount of damage.
After comparing the Tokyo incendiary raids with the atomic bombs, Compton returns to the idea of a beach invasion in Japan. According to General MacArthur’s staff, an invasion of Japan would result in approximately 50,000 American casualties and several times that number of Japanese casualties. It was highly likely that the Japanese would defend their homeland much more forcefully than when the United States invaded Iwo Jima and Okinawa. General MacArthur goes on to talk about how if the Japanese government was overthrown and lost all control over its people, soldiers may result to guerilla warfare in the Japanese Alps, which gave way to the possibility of the war lasting for up to a decade longer. Another argument that Compton makes is that many of the Japanese citizens did not want to surrender.