| The disastrous dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in June 1945 by the U.S. air fighter Enola-gay, brought, generated and amplified endless crucial interrogations on the future of the relation between scientists and policy-makers. Does the responsibility of the atomic catastrophe belong to Jess Oppenheimer, the American nuclear scientist who was in charge of the Manhattan Project, or does it belong to Szilard, the Hungarian scientist who knew exactly the over-destructive effect of the bomb, or does it belong to the U.S. president Harry Truman? None of these questions could be answered if the circumstances surrounding the relation between the Manhattan Project Team, and the U.S. government weren't properly analyzed and understood.
In the years of 1944-1945, U.S. troops were fighting on two fronts in the Second World War; American troops were fighting with the allies against Germany and Italy in Europe, and American troops again, were fighting alone in the Pacific Islands against Japan. The allied invasion of Europe in 1944, which begun by the invasion of Sicily, then the invasion of the Siegfried Defensive Line in Normandy, in June 6, 1944 (known as D-day), was very successful, but with extremely heavy prices in men and equipment. The war in the pacific was different; the Americans were controlling more and more strategic Islands and waterways that used to be under Japanese rule, but the advance was slower, and more painful than in Europe. Japanese Kamikaze air fighters were periodically hitting and sinking supply ships and U.S. naval targets. The scenario of the battles in Europe was extremely fast, and it didn't take more than 3 months for the German capital Berlin to fall in the hands of the Soviet Red Army by October 1944. Moreover, the allies met the soviets on the shore of the Elbe River in Germany. The Nazis declared their defeat in November 1944, and by this time, the tragedy of the war in Europe had ended.
The war in the Pacific was proceeding very slowly, and with unexpected casualties, but the American forces were able to control some islands such as Guam and Okinawa, from which air raids on Japan's mainland could be launched. The air raids on Tokyo alone in the late 1944 killed more than 200,000 people, and destroyed nearly two thirds of the city in only one month. Despite of the massive number of Japanese casualties, Japan didn't surrender, and this situation made the American government anxious. They knew that Japan won't be defeated with air raids alone, and that any possible full-scale military operation to invade Japan would put their troops face-to-face with a highly trained army, and a massive Japanese population, in a land that wasn't invaded by any foreign power since the beginning of known history. The U.S. officers estimated the casualties on the first two days of the full-scale assault on Japan to be 200,000 American troops, as a least estimation.
The Manhattan Project's Team informed President Harry Truman about the new device they had produced; Oppenheimer told him that a Uranium Bomb could destroy a whole city within few minutes; however, Szilard's calculations predicted a more destructive potential of the bomb. Szilard told Truman that a weapon with such ability to derail people and buildings represents a future threat to the whole human existence, and that using the bomb against Japan, would be equivalent to letting all the enemies of the U.S. know the secret of the bomb, which would put the future Americans under atomic and nuclear threats. Despite of Szilard's long-term speculations, Truman was put under the pressure of increasing war casualties in the Pacific Ocean, as well as the public anxiety about the Billions of dollars that are spent on the Manhattan Project, and without a clear outcome. The fault of Truman, who later had took the decision of throwing the Uranium bomb on Hiroshima, is that he didn't look ahead; although the bomb had done its role in ending the war, and with the least amount of casualties with respect to the U.S. side, the bomb's technique became since then, available to any searching team all over the world, which makes the possibility that such a bomb can hit a big American city in the near, or even in the far future. Yes, Truman saved the lives of thousands of American soldiers, but he didn't realize that he is the responsible for any nuclear crisis that will happen in the future. In fact, Truman started a new era of black science. The fact that emotions played the greatest role in taking that hard decision is not negotiable. Truman knew that Japan at that time was extremely away from making an atom bomb. He knew also that the new weapon had to be tested practically, on a real target. When the first Uranium bomb was tested in the Desert of New Mexico, Truman was impressed by the results. An internal feeling in him was pushing him towards showing America's power to the whole world.
After long thinking, Truman decided to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. He refused the option of bombing the city of Kyoto because of its religious monuments whose bombing could raise the anger of the Japanese till the top, and can make them refuse to surrender, so that they would fight till death. Truman sent the Japanese a message asking them to surrender unconditionally, after disarming the Japanese army. He printed this message on papers and threw them on civilians in large amounts. The Japanese replied that they refuse to negotiate and they sunk an American battleship and 883 men were killed. Truman gave the order to bomb Hiroshima with the Uranium bomb. He didn’t listen to the advice of Szilard and accepted the other destructive option that the people around him advised him with it.
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My name is Ayman el-Hakea, I am a Construction Engineering graduate from the American University in Cairo. My origins date to an interesting mixture of Yemeni, Moroccan, Albanian, and Egyptian ancestors. I always try to be a moderate Muslim, I like animation, geopolitics, comparative religion, and football. I like to be with "people"...and I hope my writing isn't boring for anyone.
Dates and Context Robert Margolis
| Aug 20th, 2004
Interesting article on the Hiroshima bombing. Certainly the bombing of Japan changed the world forever. I was a little confused when you said that the Germans surrendered in Nov 1944 when the "battle of the Buldge occurred in Dec 1944 (Germany surrendered in May 1945). Also, the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug 6, 1945 not June.
You may be interested in the book by Gen Tibbets (pilot of the Enola Gay) called "Return of the Enola Gay." It places the bombing within the context of WWII and gives a sense of desperation on the part of the allies to end the war as quickly as possible. Certainly you are correct that the belief that Germany was working on an atomic bomb convinced scientists in the US of its need without completely thinking through the consequences until it was too late.
Interesting article. Keep up the writing.
Author's response Ayman el Hakea
| Sep 12th, 2004
Thank you for your kind remarks Mr.Roberts, I have to make more effort, thanks..
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