How did Truman justify the use of the atomic bomb?

1 Answer
Jan 10, 2016

He believed the loss of American lives of the force having to invade Japan was just too great.


The battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa showed the American military and the politicians in Washington the extent the Japanese were willing to go. The Japanese considered surrender on the battlefield as completely unacceptable and all Japanese soldiers were drills regularly that death was preferable. In each of the two battles mentioned, American took a relatively small number of prisoners, very few soldiers actually surrendered.

Franklin Roosevelt died April 12, 1945 without ever informing Truman of the atomic bomb's existence.

The Battle of Okinawa started on April 1, 1945, while FDR was still alive and ended June 22, 1945, over two months after his death. At that point all that was left was the invasion of Japan. Even though America won both the battle of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, their loses were great. At Iwo Jima America lost 26,000 troops. At Okinawa over 50,000 troops were lost, the greatest number of any battle of WW2. American Generals and Admirals expected America to lose over 1 million troops in an invasion of the Japanese mainland. This was considered unacceptable.

Still, Truman struggled greatly with this decision. He and his general staff explored every alternative they could imagine and in the end they realized the dropping of the two bombs was the only reasonable solution.

American had actually planned to drop 12 such bombs on various cities, not just Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Kyoto, Nagiita and Tokyo were among the other targets. In truth, no one knew what would happen when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. They did not know how large the blast would be, how extensive the destruction would be and what the death toll would be. Even though the crew of the B-29 knew the nature of the bomb they were about to drop, something they learned just prior to take-off, they were stunned by what they saw. The crew of the B-29 Bockscar that dropped the bomb on Nagasaki had a similar reaction. Both crews fully reported what they had observed.

At that point Washington offered unconditional surrender to the Japanese or face more of the same. Japan agreed to surrender on August 14 1945.