Truman’s Decision: Why We Had to Drop the Bomb
Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan was right under the prevailing conditions. Japan was engaged in an expansionist strategy using the means of violence. It was also being ruled by the army which was prepared to fight to the bitter end rather than surrender unconditionally. As a result, Japan used all means possible, including the suicidal planes to keep away the United States’ invasion. The Japanese army had about two million troops strategically placed in the major cities and islands to prevent an invasion. Thousands of additional troops were also being trained to assist when the situation worsened. Therefore, given these circumstances and Japan’s refusal to surrender, Truman and his advisers were convinced that the war would take longer and turn bloodier if no drastic measure was taken. The US had two other alternatives to end the war with Japan: invasion of the home islands and peace talks. However, the conditions Japan gave made it impossible for any effective peace talks to be carried out.
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Truman and his advisers gave an unconditional demand because they wanted to end the undemocratic political system that characterized Japanese society. Japan however refused the unconditional terms because they wanted to protect their homeland and retain their emperor, Hirohito, whose cultural and religious status they highly reverenced. The Americans on the other hand had a negative view of Emperor Hirohito and likened him to dictators Adolf Hitler of Germany and Benito Mussolini of Italy (Maddox, p.248).
The discrepancies in the casualties figures given by Truman’s advisers and the Joint War Plans Committee result from two sources. First, the figures were based on guess work rather than an accurate estimate. Therefore, different sources were likely to give different figures based on what they thought would have transpired if an invasion would have taken place or not. Second, the high figure given by Truman and his men could be so as to justify their decision to bomb Japan. The Japanese forces based on Kyushu and Honshu were strong enough to inflict heavy losses. The troops on the islands numbered more than two million and thousands of more troops were being trained and recruited (Maddox, p.243). In addition, Japan had prepared a number of aircrafts to be used if the US decided to invade the homeland islands. Maddox, in defense of Truman, argues that the estimates of casualties prepared by the committee were not revealed to Truman and therefore he could not change his stand due to lack of facts.
Japan sought the intervention of the Soviet Union because at the time the Soviet Union was a neutral party to the war. In addition, Japan hoped that the Soviet Union’s intervention would bring peace and end the war without necessarily Japan being seen as a loser. The Soviet Union refused to intervene on behalf of Japan because it also wanted the Japanese political system to come to an end. It feared that if Japanese terms were met, a worse emperor would take over the country and would be a danger to the world (Maddox, p.248).
If the US had not used atomic bombs, the war would have continued for years on end and it would have been bloodier than it was following the bombing. In addition, people would have criticized President Truman for not using the most effective available weapon to bring the war to an end.