By Nathan Donohue
This week marks the 67th anniversary of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On August 6, 1945, U.S. President Harry Truman informed the world Japanese city of Hiroshima. Nicknamed Little Boy, the bomb with a power of over 20,000 tons of TNT destroyed most of Hiroshima, killing an estimated 130,000 people. Three days later on August 9, a second bomb nicknamed Fat Man was dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki destroying most of Nagasaki and killing roughly between 60,000 – 70,000 people. Six days after the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan surrendered, marking the end of World War II.
The destructive power of these nuclear weapons and the subsequent casualties of the Japanese have continued to prompt questions over whether the U.S. should have decided to use these weapons against Japan during World War II. Even 67 years after the event, the decision to drop the first atomic bomb continues to be widely debated.
Certainly, the power of this new weapon was understood before its use against Japan. President Truman stated that “it was the most terrible thing ever discovered.” To that end, the decision to use this new weapon was not taken lightly, nor was it made in a vacuum devoid of dissent, despite what historical accounts may depict. Specifically, historian J. Samuel Walker purports that history has painted a false dichotomy which posited that Truman had to choose between using the atomic bomb and risking hundreds of thousands of American lives. Instead, as Walker highlights in his book “Prompt and Utter Destruction,” the historical records show a much more complex situation.