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Calvin McGlade

Interdisciplinary Research Paper - Other Means of Ending the War
On August 6th, an atomic bomb that was over two thousand times more powerful than the
previously most powerful weapon used in the history of warfare (NARA Press Release 1), was
dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Just days later, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.
The decision to use atomic bombs was justified by the statement that it was the fastest way to
end the war that avoided a mainland invasion of Japan and, by extension, thousands of Allied
soldiers’ lives.
While the United States and its allies recognized the alternative methods to end the war,
Truman’s administration claimed that the use of the atomic bomb was the only way to end the
war quickly and without the loss of thousands of American and Allied soldiers. According to Dr.
Gar Alperovitz and most historians, this claim is false. In The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb,
and the Architecture of an American Myth, Dr. Alperovitz examines the policy of unconditional
surrender and its impact on the use of the bomb, or more specifically how it and other factors
such as American-Soviet relations caused the United States to use the atomic bomb. He states
that the notion that the use of the atomic bomb saved tens of thousands of Allied soldiers lives is
widely believed by experts to be unsupported (Alperovitz 10).
In the months leading up to August, there were many factors all pushing closer to an end
to the war with Japan without using atomic bombs. After VE day in May of 1945, the Soviet
Union refocused its troops and joined the war against Japan as Stalin had agreed to do in the
Tehran Conference in 1943 (Office of the Historian 1). This new pressure from the Soviet Union
meant sure defeat for Japan, along with lack of naval power from Japan, lack of air superiority,
failing industrial system, and poor conditions in mainland Japan. After the war, Admiral William
D. Leahy announced, “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and
Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already

defeated and ready to surrender…” The Japanese Empire was going to lose the war, but the idea
of unconditional surrender, including complete disarmament, an end to the imperial system
(removing the Japanese Emperor), and other actions that they would not accept kept the war
going.
When the conditions in 1945 under which the decision to use the atomic bomb was made
are examined, the use of such a powerful weapon begins to seem unnecessary and reckless.
Especially the use of the atomic bombs on cities instead of military targets. Even after the bomb
was developed, the use of atomic diplomacy, or diplomacy under the threat of nuclear war, was
considered by the Interim Committee which advised President Truman on all matters regarding
the atomic bombs (Office of the Historian 8). All of these factors beg the question, why did
Truman and his administration insist on upholding the idea of unconditional surrender, seemingly
the only detail keeping Japan from surrendering, and instead using the bombs to end the war?
Historians still debate this question today, and whether Soviet-American relations had a tangible
impact on the decision, how fully the President was aware of the shortcomings of the
unconditional surrender policy, and other contributors.
Works cited which were not on the original bibliography Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State. "Atomic
Diplomacy - 1945–1952 - Milestones - Office of the Historian." Atomic Diplomacy 1945–1952 - Milestones - Office of the Historian. Office of the Historian, Bureau of
Public Affairs, United States Department of State, n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2016.
National Archives and Records Administration. "Press Release by the White House." Press
Release by the White House. National Archives and Records Administration., n.d. Web.
09 Mar. 2016.