Ending One War – Beginning Another

Seventy years ago, the United States unleashed a new weapon with the aim of ending the Pacific theater of World War II. President Truman addressed the nation, “With this bomb we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction to supplement the growing power of our armed forces… It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.”[1] This new weapon was horrifying in its destructive capability and the United States hoped that destruction on such a momentous scale would finally bring Japan to its knees. Many historians and scholars of military strategy argue that bombing campaigns, even ones as devastating as the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are less effective than their architects anticipate.[2] In the case of the surrender of Japan, it is argued that the Soviet entrance into the Pacific War had a greater impact on the Japanese decision then the U.S. bombs.[3] It has also been argued that the United States chose to use its new weapon with the clear intention of ending the war before the Soviet Union made its decision to enter the Pacific War public. The Japanese did not surrender until after the Soviet declaration of war on August 9, a date that they had chosen to coincide with their military movements on the continent, but also a date that coincided with the second U.S. bombing of a Japanese city.

Whether Japan surrendered due to the bombs or due to the threat of Soviet involvement, “Stalin managed to join the war in the nick of time,” and thwarted the efforts of the United States to reduce Soviet influence in the region.[4] Ending World War II was the primary objective of both the United States and Soviet Union, but it was not the sole objective of the two nations. It has been argued that this maneuvering, both by Truman and Stalin, was the first action of the Cold War. As one war ended, another was emerging from the shadows. While the United States believed itself to have a clear and comfortable head start in the nuclear race, Soviet espionage had already undermined the U.S. lead. It would take only a few short years before the realities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki became the nightmares of the worldwide community.

 

Endnotes

[1] Harry S. Truman, “Statement by the President Announcing the Use of the A-Bomb at Hiroshima,” August 6, 1945. The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=12169.

[2] Robert A. Pape, Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996.

[3] Yuki Tanaka, and Marilyn B. Young, eds. Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-Century History (New York: The New Press, 2009), 111.

[4] Ibid.

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