18. 8. 2010
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, August 1945
Pacific War and Potsdam Conference
In the Pacific very fierce fights were still raging between Allies and Japan. During bloody fights, American soldiers succeeded in gaining strategically important islands Okinawa and Iwo Jima, and built airports there. These airports were used as a base for aerial offensive, the target of which was the invasion of the main Japanese islands. Military strategists and generals realized that it would not be an easy operation. Japanese soldiers were ready to defend islands with unconceivable fierceness as it had been proved during previous fights, during which no prisoners of war had been gained by Americans because Japanese soldiers fought until the last gasp. For the American and European soldiers fighting in the Pacific was strange the Japanese willingness of self-sacrifice, which was famous in particular in case of Kamikaze aircrafts.
The representatives of the Allies who met after the end of the war in Potsdam near Berlin negotiated on the situation in the Pacific and adopted so-called Potsdam Declaration addressed to the Japanese representatives. The American president Harry Truman, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek called on representatives of the "Land of the Rising Sun" to immediate surrender; otherwise Japanese military forces as well as the entire country would be totally destroyed, they threatened. The Declaration was not adopted by the Soviet Union, as there was no state of belligerency between the two countries. Just because of results of the conference, the Soviets became engaged in the war conflict against Japan on 8 August 1945.
Japanese representatives refused the above-mentioned Declaration and decided to continue the war. The president of the United States of America was facing a dilemma concerning the way of continuation of the war. On the one hand there was a possibility of landing on Japanese islands but war strategists warned the president as they expected high material and especially human losses. On the other hand, there was a possibility to use nuclear weapons. President Harry Truman finally chose the latter variant and hoped that use of nuclear weapons would have strong impact on the Japanese resolution to continue the war. He hoped that Japanese would understand what technological advantage the Allies had in comparison with Japan and that Japan would finally surrender and thus lots of soldiers would be saved because in case of conquering Japan lots of lives would be lost.
Atomic Bomb Development
The United States of America launched the atomic bomb development, also known under the name Manhattan Project, as early as in 1939. The stimulus for launching the project was probably well-known letter of Albert Einstein to President Franklin Roosevelt, in which famous physicist supported by his colleagues expressed an presumption that Nazis had started the atomic bomb production and that it was absolutely necessary for the United States to start research and development concerning such weapons as it was in the interest of their national security. In the course of the following years it became more and more clearer that the United States of America were likely to be engaged in the war, which was proved at the end of 1941.
The entire project, in which also the Great Britain together with Canada participated, was given high priority. Great number of the famous physicist of the participating states headed by Robert Oppenheimer had to solve number of various problems during the ensuing years. After more than three-year intensive research, the atomic bomb was finally experimentally detonated at the firing range in New Mexico. Knowledge gained through this attempt was used for construction of bombs known as "Fat Man" and "Little Boy". The fissile material of the first one was composed of uranium, the second bomb contained plutonium. They were just these two bombs which became the first, and let us hope that also the last example of nuclear weapon use in the history of mankind.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki
After the rejection of the Potsdam Declaration, as it was mentioned above, President Harry Truman decided to use nuclear weapons. The army paid great attention to the selection of targets. A target was to be a Japanese town with developed industry which had not been much affected by conventional bombing. Hiroshima was selected as the first one because it was expected that its location (the town was situated in a valley in the mountains) would raise strength of the explosion. Bombing was carried out on 6 August 1945 by the bomber B-29 named Enola gay, piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets. The mission was successful from the military point of view. Consequences of the nuclear explosion were horrible. Seventy thousand people died immediately and other seventy thousand people died in the following days as a consequence of injuries and radiation.
Because the bombing was not followed by the expected Japanese capitulation, it was decided to carry out another attack. On 9 August another bomber B-29 took off. Its name was Bockscar and was piloted by Major Charles Sweeney. Its target was a Japanese town Kokura. During the approach the aircrew found out that the town was covered with clouds which made an exact guide of the bomber impossible. It was decided to choose an alternative target Nagasaki. There were lots of big industrial plants manufacturing various military products. Number of victims in this town was slightly lower in comparison with Hiroshima. It was caused by the fact that the bomb fell down in a different place than it had been planned; nevertheless, in spite of this fact, the number of victims was very high in total 80 thousand people.
The American army took further use of atomic bombs into account but it was not necessary any more. The Emperor Hirohito decided to announce the surrender of Japan and he did so in spite of certain opposition of military circles which preferred continuing the war. In his speech Hirohito stated as a reason for his step the Soviet declaration of war and also the fact that the enemy owned a weapon against which it was impossible to defend. The Emperor appealed to Japanese that he had taken this step in the interest of the nation which would otherwise be wiped off the map of the world. The official signing of the instrument of surrender took place on the board of the American battleship on 2 September in Tokyo. As late as by this act, perhaps the bloodiest war conflict in the history of mankind was finished.
Up to these days a great debate has been whether it was really necessary to use nuclear weapons. Supporters of their use claim that use of nuclear weapons speeded up the end of the war and prevented states from higher number of victims, not only on the side of the Allies but also on the Japanese side. Objectors on the contrary claim that nuclear weapon use was an act which was not in accord with the international law and thus it was a war crime. They condemn the arguments of bombing supporters because they are immoral in their view.
Number of victims and damage caused by nuclear weapons, lead in Japan to the conviction that such weapons should be liquidated. This opinion was supported by testimonies of surviving victims who are in Japan called Hibakusha.