The question of the necessity of the use of the atom bombs may only be determined by being fully armed with all of the facts. Truman’s decision, based on Henry Stimson’s advice, to use the bomb, he claims, was justified on the basis that many more lives, from both sides, would have been lost if the war with the Japanese had to be brought to a conclusion by conventional weaponry and, ultimately, invasion by Allied forces and all that such fighting would have entailed. This scenario may well have been enhanced if, as James Van de Velde argues in his article, ‘The Enola Gay saved lives’, the USSR had been involved in the planned invasion or, worse, had attacked Japan independently of the US and the other Allies prior to the use of the bombs, a situation that would have been intolerable for the US.
While Truman may well have sincerely believed that the use of the bomb would save lives, it has become clear that such argument was for public consumption and his sincerity if, indeed, it had existed, was purely incidental. It has since come to light that far more complex issues were at the core of the atomic bomb’s use on Japan.
By 12 July, 1945, at least, the Allies were aware of the Japanese move toward ending the war when the Japanese Ambassador, Sato, in Moscow, approached the USSR with a view to having the USSR act as mediator in negotiations with the US to end the war. This follows the decision on 22 June, 1945, by the Japanese Supreme War Strategy Committee to seek a negotiated peace. As Justin Libby shows in his article, there were at least four other high-level diplomatic attempts to reach for a negotiated settlement. The already publicly announced Allied policy, through the Potsdam Declaration of 26 July, 1945, of accepting nothing less than unconditional surrender, meant that the US was unable to shift from this position and would, therefore, not negotiate, particularly after Prime Minister Suzuki had rejected the ultimatum. No attempt to negotiate secretly with the Japanese was ever made. Plans for the use of the bomb went ahead and on 23 July, five days, it is important to note, before Suzuki’s rejection, when Truman gave the order, transmitted the following day to Gen. Carl Spaatz of the US Strategic Air Force, for the bombs’ use as soon as possible after about 3 August, 1945. One could easily construe that, since the awesome power of the bomb was known and that the Japanese were on the verge of defeat and actively seeking a way to end the conflict, that the continued determination for the bombs’ use, despite these factors, were for ulterior reasons.
The European war was over, but for some time before its conclusion the US and Great Britain began to regard the USSR as the threat to the future of world peace and stability. While the bomb, as Martin Sherwin, the noted historian, asserts, was “…viewed at first as a response to a perceived German threat…” it was “…quickly evolved into an instrument for defeating the Japanese and controlling the Soviets.” By the time the bomb was ready for use, though, the Japanese were already defeated and it was the militarist factions within the Japanese hierarchy that were insisting on the continued and futile prosecution of the war. As Sadao Asadra in his article, ‘The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japans Decision to Surrender – A Reconsideration’, points out, defeat and surrender are two different things and that, while the Japanese militarists were aware that they were defeated, they were not willing to “…translate defeat into surrender.” This despite Hirohito himself, being in favour of surrender.
Based solely on this, I would argue that Truman’s determination, and resultant decision, to use the bomb was influenced more by the developing US foreign policy for the post-war containment of the USSR in Europe and communism generally, than to bring about a quick end to the conflict with Japan that may or may not have been protracted if continued conventionally. The argument that the bomb on Hiroshima was necessary to bring about a quick conclusion to the war is, at best, weak though may not be entirely indefensible, but to then use another on Nagasaki without waiting to see the full impact, politically and physically, on Hiroshima, is totally indefensible.
There are, of course, numerous other considerations and factors not touched upon in this paper, but the essentials of the argument against the use, and, certainly, subsequent continued use with a second bomb and, even, the possibility of using a third that was being made available, as being totally indefensible is plain and the real ulterior motives as to why the bombs were used are now just as obvious.
Asada, Sadao, ‘The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Decision to surrender - A Reconstruction’, Pacific Historical Review, vol.67, i.4, 1998.
Baker, P.R., (ed.), The Atomic Bomb: The Great Decision, The Dryden Press, Illinois, 1976.
Dear, I.C.B., (ed.), The Oxford Companion to the Second World War, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1995.
Libby, Justin H., ‘The search for a negotiated peace: Japanese diplomats attempt to surrender Japan prior to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki’, World Affairs, vol.156, no.1, 1993.
Maddox, Robert J., Weapons for Victory: The Hiroshima Decision Fifty Years Later, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1995.
Van de Velde, James R., 'The Enola Gay saved lives', Political Science Quarterly, Fall, 1995.
 Stimson, H.L., ‘The Decision to use the Bomb’, The Atomic Bomb: The Great Decision, ed. Paul R. Baker, The Dryden Press, Illinois, 1976. pp.20-27.
 Van de Velde, James R., ‘The Enola Gay saved lives’, Political Science Quarterly, Fall, 1995. p.453.
 Baker, Paul R., (ed), The Atomic Bomb,. p.viii.
 Libby, Justin H., ‘The search for a negotiated peace: Japanese diplomats attempt to surrender Japan prior to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki’, World Affairs, vol.156, no.1, 1993. p.35.
 Baker (ed), The Atomic Bomb. p.viii.
 Sherwin, M.J., ‘Atomic Bomb’, The Oxford Companion to the Second World War, ed. I.C.B. Dear, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1995. p.74.
 Baldwin, H.W., ‘The Strategic Need for the Bomb Questioned’, The Atomic Bomb, Baker, ed. p.42.
 Morison, S.E., ‘The Bomb and Concurrent Negotiations with Japan’, The Atomic Bomb, Baker, ed. p.32.
 Asada, Sadao, ‘The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Decision to surrender - A Reconstruction’, Pacific Historical Review, vol.67, i.4, Nov. 1998. p.477.
 Maddox, Robert J., Weapons for Victory: The Hiroshima Decision Fifty Years Later, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1995. pp.142-143.