While Americans and Japanese alike expected the war to end after a bloody invasion of Japan, the U.S. government was readying a secret weapon that would dramatically affect the wars outcome: the atomic bomb. In the spring and summer of 1945, American leaders would have to decide whether to use the new weapon without warning against Japanese cities. Years after the bombing of Japan, people all over the world are still questioning Trumans decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Its been said that the bomb was an immoral act of injustice, yet others see it as the only solution for ending World War II. At the time, the bomb was a promise of peace.
When Truman became president on April 12, 1945, upon the death of President Roosevelt, he had no knowledge of the actual bomb project itself and his first information about what was really being done came from Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson on April 25th. Stimson himself was virtual head of the project and had been during the years of its development as a military weapon. Stimson had conferred frequently with President Roosevelt during this period but his last meeting with FDR had been on March 15th.
Trumans first connection with the bomb project – though he knew nothing of what the project was – occurred long before he became President. It was during his senate service as a member of the appropriations committee and as chairman of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program – known as the “Truman Committee,” when the first appropriation for the project came before the appropriations committee. In talks with the President on at least two occasions he told me of this. He said the appropriation request did not disclose the nature of the project and, as a result, he ordered an investigator for his special committee to look into it. In his memoirs, Truman says that he sent investigators into Tennessee and to the state of Washington to find out what the enormous construction was and their purpose. Immediately afterward Secretary Stimson called him and they got together. Stimson did not tell him what the project was but did tell him it concerned the topmost secret in the government and that they wanted to go ahead without disclosing any information. On Stimsons assurances, the President called off his investigation and did not go further into the matter.
The Americans had pushed Japan out of all the land they had occupied in the pacific region. In Europe Hitler was defeated. So why did the Americans drop the bomb? Possible reasons could be that the Americans believed Japan would never surrender. Some people believe that if the bomb had not been dropped thousands of American lives could have been lost in an invasion of Japan. Also, the Bomb had cost a lot of money to develop and the Americans wanted to use it. The bomb cost $200 million. It would have been difficult to justify not using after such as vast financial investment. Some believe it was used to teach the Japanese a lesson, seeing that they were very cruel to the prisoners of war.
When Truman came into office, the European was coming to an end, and he was left to concentrate his power on the war in the Pacific. The only obstacle that the United States needed to overcome was Japanese expansion. However, this was not easy. Although allied raids had destroyed much of the Japanese naval fleet and air force, their ancient Bushido tradition prevented surrender. Therefore, an allied victory would create extremely high casualties. This fact put Truman in a very difficult position. He had to choose between the massive destruction that the bomb would cause Japan and saving the lives of his American soldiers. After being consulted by his military advisors that an invasion of Japan would cost over 1 million American lives, he decided to drop the bomb on Japan. However, after being present at the first successful test of the atomic bomb, Truman should have been more cautious about it. Although Truman had discussed the idea of dropping the atomic bomb with Churchill and Stalin, the decision to drop the bomb was made entirely by Truman. He believed that the bomb would be dropped on a “purely military target” so that “military objectives, soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children.” After surveying the damage in Hiroshima, he should have more seriously considered his decision to drop the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.