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Ben Knollman

A Global History of World War II


Final Reflective Paper
12/11/13
If I put myself in the shoes of an adult alive during the time of the Second World War,
perhaps I can begin to imagine what ideas would be going through my head if I were asked
about the use of the atomic weapons as a means of ending the war. Thinking about this
scenario now, I know it would be a tough decision for me, even if I did live through the horrors
of the war as they occurred. While the easy, and possibly most popular, answer would be that
the use of the atomic bombs was a brilliant strategic move to end the war before an invasion of
the Japanese home islands became inevitable, I find it hard to believe that I would go along
with the crowd on this response. Knowing what these weapons were capable of doing and
thinking about the repercussions of their use would be enough for me to question their
necessity at this time.
Being a devout Christian, it is horrifying to know that the use of these atomic weapons
caused such death and destruction, ruining Japanese civilian families for generations to come.
That is not to say that the rest of the war was any different in relation to civilian loss, however.
The entire war was rampant with meaningless looting, raping, and killing of millions of
noncombatants. It frightens me to think that so many of these people, however religious, were
probably begging for mercy from any range of deities, and yet were given none. Im sure that
the war was a very dark time for religious devotion, and for potentially good reason. When
things happen in my life, I convince myself that God put me through them for a reason, but I
cant even begin to imagine putting myself in the shoes of a Jewish man in the clutches of the
Holocaust, or a Japanese man preparing to have his home obliterated.
When it comes to Christianitys view on wartime violence, the Church knows that it
happens and is inevitable. However, a war of the magnitude of the Second World War brought
the scale of violence to a level unimaginable by anyone. It brought into light exactly what
human beings are capable of doing to each other. Being an engineering student and a
Christian, I think there should be limits to what humans are capable of doing. If technological
advances come along that give humans the power to control on a scale of what the atomic
bombs provided, a line has been crossed. These weapons were just too destructive for what
human beings should be able to do to each other, and paved the way for even more weapons
to come along. As an engineer, I plan on making it a priority to make sure we never achieve
what human beings simply should not be able to do in this respect.
Thinking more about the theme of Christianity and how humans should have limitations,
I come to the conclusion that humans simply should not make some of the decisions we make.
One of the major points of the proponents of the use of the atomic weapons is that we are
sparing the lives of so many of our own soldiers. In reality, I think we are simply trading the
lives of our soldiers for the seemingly less important lives of Japanese civilians. They were
simply the enemy because it was known that they would fight back if a home island invasion
took place. Who are we as humans to rank the lives of the people of the world? In my mind,
God alone can do that. The Japanese civilians have as much of a right to life as do the American
soldiers. I find it pitiful that such decisions even had to be made. I recently made a trip to the
Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Seeing photographs and videos taken from
the far reaches of space opened my eyes to the very world we live in. Looking down on our
planet shows us that national and international borders only exist on paper. You dont look at
our planet and see the different colored countries of a political map. All you see is the land in
which the human race lives. Thinking about this really makes me feel regret for what we do to
each other because of where we are born.
While I personally know that sometimes war is a necessary evil that we have to go
through in order for humans to accept certain truths, I think there is a right way and many very
wrong ways to proceed with war. The immense death and destruction of the Second World
War illustrates a very wrong way to conduct wartime actions. While many of the men dying on
the battlefield are draftees and really dont want to be there, many of them are volunteers.
Being a soldier was their job, and they accepted the consequences. The civilians that perished
in attempts by armies to drive fear into their enemies hearts were not ready for these
consequences, and should not have gone through them. In my opinion, life is a constant
struggle to make good choices every single living second we have. I think war should reflect
this belief, in that the best choices should be made. There is absolutely no reason for
noncombatant death in war, and this has no excuses. While men like Adolf Hitler and Japanese
generals ordering civilian suicide charges certainly didnt embody these principles, I think the
Allies should have strived to be the better people and not cause useless civilian death.
If I was in this situation, with the decision of dropping the bombs before me, I would
have to step back and think about exactly what would happen in either case. If they were
dropped, our chances of forcing a Japanese home island invasion are radically diminished, and
possibly gone. If these bombs arent dropped, a home island invasion will probably be
necessary, causing more death to the militaries of the Allies. The war would go on longer, not
stopping until we control the home islands. This is a tough decision indeed. However, looking
further at what exactly dropping the bombs would do, we see many other factors playing in.
The race for more nuclear weapons will be opened immediately, with all countries who want a
place in the new world playing along. The nuclear weapons themselves will eradicate two cities
entirely, destroying countless Japanese civilians and corrupting their offspring for generations
to come through radiation poisoning. As a human, I wouldnt possibly want the idea of
corrupting a nationality of people with crippling genetic defects for generations to come
haunting my conscience.
I accept the fact that the Allies knew that if the bombs were not dropped and a home
island invasion occurred, civilians would still die in huge numbers. Women and children would
be forced into service, armed with nothing, and charge straight into their inevitable death. I
still believe that dropping the bombs was the cowardly way out of the situation. It was a way
for the Allies to solve the problem without getting their hands dirty. I think there could be a
way for a home island invasion to occur without excessive civilian casualties. Measures could
be taken to disarm and restrain civilians who tried to resist and keep them until the island was
taken. War changes people. The soldiers who would be in charge of this would leave as very
different people, but it would have to be done.
Like I said before, one of the direct results of the nuclear weapons being used was that it
caused an international race to create more and more of these weapons in order to prove
dominance and worth in the world. Obviously, with a race of this magnitude, hostilities were
quick to come around, specifically between the U.S. and the Soviets. It is common knowledge
that the Cold War came about as a result of what happened in World War II and the rise of the
nuclear weapons. Even though we dropped the bombs as a way to end the war, the war never
really ended. The Cold War brought about crises like the Vietnam War and Korean War, and it
can be traced to be going on even today. With the thought of becoming the worlds strongest
power, both of these countries were quick to create and produce nuclear weapons, and have
been poised to strike in the past. In order to protect the safety of both countries and the rest
of the world, strict international policy and good relations are a must. All of these issues can be
traced back to the United States decision to use the atomic bombs against Japan at the end of
the Second World War.
I personally believe that the United States dropped the atomic bombs for all the wrong
reasons. We refused to sacrifice any more of our own men, who were already signed up for the
military where risking your life is a necessity, and chose to end the lives of Japanese civilians
instead, sending a message to the Japanese. I think this message proved that we werent above
the evil tactics of civilian casualties, making us no better than our enemies. All we could do was
hope that these strikes would hit close enough to home for the Japanese to finally give in and
surrender. I cant imagine what it would be like if something like this happened to my home
country. It really puts it into perspective for me to imagine the Japanese bombing two major
cities in America to dust. I think, yes, it would make me respect and fear the Japanese, but I
dont know what I could have possibly done to deserve that as a civilian. After the loss and
agony of defeat, all it would really accomplish is make me angry towards the people that did it
to me. I think this is what happened.
While Im quite sure that this was one of the most difficult decisions of the war to make
and probably the most difficult decision in the lives of everyone involved, I still think the wrong
decision was made. After thinking about both possibilities and the consequences of both, I am
certain that my choice would have been to not drop the bombs. I think my main reason would
be invoking my background and beliefs in Christianity and what humans should and shouldnt
do to each other. I think politics at its base is flawed in our world. It seems that the people
with the most power, money, and land get to make the important decisions, leaving out the
smaller people. The origins of the war were based in power, money, and land and people with
more simply didnt want to share. That is what our world is, sadly, and what it will remain. It
takes immense sacrifice, belief, and dedication to make any change in the way our world runs,
and it is always my wish that positive changes occur in the world during my lifetime. This is why
I believe that dropping the atomic bombs was the wrong decision to make.