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The Atomic Bomb Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Yvonne Shao, Australia Mar 25, 2003
Human Rights   Opinions
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At the beginning of World War II, the bombing of civilians was regarded as a barbaric act. As the war continued, however, all sides abandoned previous restraints. But international law has always distinguished between civilians and combatants. Legal context to the decision, from a variety of international treaties. When considered in a historical perspective, the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were undoubtedly unnecessary and barbarous acts on innocent civilians. Those who support this view include Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery and General Dwight Eisenhower.

Pressure to drop the bomb stemmed from three major categories: military, domestic and diplomatic. Military pressures stemmed from choosing between using the bomb and invading Japan at the cost of many US lives. The second major source of pressure on President Truman and his advisors to drop the atomic bombs came from domestic tensions and issues of re-election, combined with a collective American feeling of hatred toward the Japanese race. As in most major military conflicts, there was an effort to establish the Americans as morally superior to the Japanese. Truman was no exception to this generalization, and on 25 July 1945 he wrote that the Japanese people were, "savages, ruthless, merciless, and fanatic..." (1) Furthermore, if the bomb was not dropped, Truman feared that it would prove extremely difficult in post war America to justify the two billion dollars spent on the Manhattan Project. American Chief of Staff, Admiral Leahy claimed that the atomic bombs were dropped to justify the $2,000,000,000 spent on building them.(2) The third major source of pressures on Truman to drop the bomb was diplomatic tensions with Russia.

Most historians now claimed that the dropping of the atomic bomb was a diplomatic maneuver aimed at intimating and gaining the upper hand in relations with Russia. Historian Gar Alperovitz had argued the USA did not use atomic weapons in order to win the war against Japan. He says that the bombs were dropped primarily to impress Stalin with American power and to ‘force agreement on the main question in dispute’ between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies, which was the future of Poland and Eastern Europe.(3) Many potentially viable alternatives to dropping the bombs were not explored by Truman and other men in power, as they probably should have been.

By the opening months of 1945, it was clear that American military might, backed by the county’s industrial power, would defeat the Japanese. The Japanese were short of soldiers, equipment, and supplies. Japan was also suffering the impact of a massive strategic bombing campaign that was flattening most of its major cities and killing hundreds of thousands. The reality is that in the months just prior to the August bombings, most of Japanese shipping, rail transport, and industrial production had been wiped out by an extraordinary series of air attacks. More people died in one night in the fire bombing of Tokyo than died in the bombing of Hiroshima. (4) Millions were homeless. By July of 1945 both the Japanese and American military knew the war was lost.

So heres what happened on 5 August 1945, the B-29 Superfortortess bomber ‘Enola Gay” dropped the ‘Little Boy’ atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing 80,000 people. Three days later another B-29 dropped the ‘Fat Man’ atomic bomb on Nagasaki, where 35,000 died. (5) The bombs exploded with a force 2,000 times the blast power of the largest bomb ever before used in war. It created an area of total destruction extending 3km in all directions. Close at the centre, heat was so extreme that metal and stone melted and human being were incinerated. (6) There were children with their clothes burned off, their eyelids and lips swollen; some of them unable even to open their eyes. Most people were naked, their clothes ripped off by the force of the blast. (7) People standing by concrete walls near the centre of the explosion left no trace but their silhouettes scorched into the concrete by the heat blast, which was blocked for an instant by their bodies before they were vapourized. (8) The cities were reduced to wastelands. There was no grass, no trees and no building left in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The after effects were even worse, by 15 August radiation sickness was setting in among thousands who had survived the atomic bomb explosions. Most were dead within weeks. Eye-witness accounts describe traumatised people wandering with their skin trailing from their bodies 'like walking ghosts'. In the years that followed thousands more died of leukaemia and other radiation linked cancers. It had been estimated up to 270,000 citizens of Hiroshima were either killed outright on 6 August 1945 or died of radiation sickness in the next five years. (9) The survivors were given no special help to rebuild their lives, either by the Allies of by Japanese officials. Within Japan, silence was swiftly drawn over the fate of the cities. Censorship imposed by the allies prevented the Japanese press from making any mention of what had happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Survivors were not allowed to tell their stories. The Allied authorities confiscated Japanese film of Hiroshima taken after the bombing. (10)

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