Truman’s Decision to Use Nuclear Weapons to End World War II

After fighting for an extended period, it was clear that Japan had lost World War II by
August 1945. However, Japan decided to fight to the end rather than surrender to the
demands of the United States. Before then, in July, then-President Harry S. Truman had been
informed that an atomic bomb had been successfully tested and was ready for use after hours
of research, and billions were dedicated to its development. The president referred to the
weapon as “the most terrible bomb in the history of the world” equipped with knowledge that
it was designed for vast-scale destruction and killing (National Park Service, 2019). Before
deciding to use the atomic bomb on Japan, Truman considered his other choices, which
included proceeding with the conventional bombing of Japanese cities, invading Japanese towns,
dropping the bomb on uninhabited islands, or demonstrating the bomb on an occupied
Japanese town. In the end, however, the president made the decision to use the atomic bombs
on Japanese cities, which were carefully chosen; Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Although the
weapons had adverse effects, including the death of thousands of people, the United States
finally got the response they desired; Japan surrendered.
President Truman rejected the earlier option for various reasons. First, the
conventional bombing of Japanese towns, which mainly included firebombing, did not seem
to deter the Japanese as they continued fighting. In a single event in Tokyo, for example, 80,
000 people died classifying it as one of the most terrible events (Nichols, 2015). Japan still
refused to surrender. Secondly, the ground invasion would not work for the same reasons as
conventional bombing; the Japanese did not surrender easily. They were willing to make
great sacrifices to shield even the smallest of islands. The third option was disregarded as it
would take a lot of time for Japan to assess the effects of the bomb on another land; thus,
more time was spent in the fighting. Moreover, there was a chance that the bomb may not work as
expected, considering it was a new invention, thus motivating the Japanese to fight even
more. Lastly, bombing an inhabited region in Japan was chosen as the best option. The city to be bombed was most likely one involved in military production, with little cultural
significance and that had not been affected by conventional bombing. Hiroshima was picked.
The first bomb was dropped over Hiroshima on 6th August 1945. The temperature in
the city increased up to 5 400 degrees Fahrenheit. People were extremely wounded, with
some walking with raw skin hanging and others without jaws. The dead appeared as boiled
octopuses all over the streets. Eighty thousand people died as a direct result of the bomb, 35
000 were injured, and another 60 000 died by the end of the year (National Park Service,
2019) . President Truman released a statement on the day warning the Japanese of a worse
attack if they chose not to surrender. A week later, the U.S. dropped its second atomic bomb
on Nagasaki, Japan pushing the Japanese to finally surrender.
After the bombing of the two cities, President Truman took full responsibility for the
Decision and did not apologize for it. He explained that it was a necessary evil to ensure no
more Americans died while at war with the Japanese and declared that while he would never
use atomic bombs to settle any other conflicts, he would still make the same Decision given
similar circumstances and choices. At first, President Truman has been conflicted over the
Decision citing that America should never become as cruel and uncivilized as Japan is in war
irrespective of the situation. After the second bomb, however, Truman, in a telegram, stated
that “The only language they (Japan) seem to understand is the one we have been using to
bombard them. When you have to deal with a beast, you have to treat him as a beast.”
(National Park Service, 2019)


National Park Service. (2019). Harry S Truman’s Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb.
Nichols, T. (2015). No Other Choice: Why Truman Dropped the Atomic Bomb on Japan.
National Interest.

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