Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Subject: Warfare
Pages: 4
Words: 880
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: Bachelor

In December 1941, Japan attacked and destroyed the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in the Pacific, prompting the United States to enter World War II. USA became part of the anti-Hitler coalition, joining the USSR and England. However, the Americans could take revenge for Pearl Harbor only at the very end of the war. Fascist Germany had already surrendered by then, but Japan continued to resist. At that time, the United States was the first to invent and use nuclear weapons. In this situation, Japan became their target for obvious reasons. This American operation also thwarted Stalin’s plans to take control of the Japanese islands.

He claimed the northern part of the island of Hokkaido and was going to send Soviet troops there. The bombing was based on an idea that the attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki would stop the samurai and help the allies avoid a bloody protracted war. As a result, the bombs were dropped, and Japan, realizing the enemy’s strength, surrendered in September 1945.

The decisiveness of Japanese resistance would inevitably result in heavy losses of the American armed forces, which could well weaken the position of the United States in the upcoming negotiations with Japan. Probably, the Japanese military command counted on a more favorable outcome of the war than unconditional surrender (Irving, 2015). It seems that at the final stage, the war was exclusively between the United States and Japan.

However, the USSR’s decision in this war was fundamentally discussed with the Soviet leadership during the Yalta conferences on February 4-11, 1945 (Shibata, 2018, p. 35). The senselessness of such a bombing from a military point of view and the unjustifiably high number of civilian casualties are explained when the analytical approach to the problem is changed from military to political. In this case, it is possible to see the allies’ desire to demonstrate to the USSR the destructive power of their strategic aviation and the exceptional effectiveness of carpet bombing of cities.

The American military carried out the bombing of Japanese cities to save the lives of American soldiers. The US deprivation in the two landings was estimated at 1.6 million people, including 370 thousand irrecoverable casualties (Shibata, 2018). The casualties among the Japanese armed forces and civilian population were expected to be several million; the loss of American troops was avoided. For this reason, it was customary to drop atomic bombs, which were codenamed “Kid” and “Fat Man” (Pandaya, 2021). According to rough estimates, the atomic explosion in Hiroshima claimed the lives of 70 to 80 thousand people within the first seconds, and by the end of 1945, about 165 thousand people died from burns and radiation sickness (Shibata, 2018). Over the next ten years, the number of deaths from radiation sickness and cancer exceeded 200 thousand people (Shibata, 2018).

The bombing of Nagasaki resulted in 40-60 thousand people at the time of the explosion and about 140 thousand deaths from burns and radiation sickness over the next five years (Shibata, 2018). Thus, during the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the infrastructure of both cities was destroyed. Thousands of civilians died immediately when the bombs were dropped, a vast number of people were contaminated with radiation.

On July 16, 1945, a nuclear weapon test was successfully held in the United States. The tests were supposedly specially timed to coincide with the beginning of the Potsdam Conference (July 17 – August 2, 1945). They were designed to reduce tensions after the hostilities that had just ended in Europe and lay the foundations of the post-war world order (Fisher, 2020). In August 1945, the primary motive for the bombing was that in the event of landing on the Japanese islands of Kyushu and Honshu, considerable losses were expected from the American side. As stated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) estimate in April 1945, casualties could have amounted to 7.45 dead / 1000 person-days and 1.78 dead / 1000 person-days (Shibata, 2018). The bombing had a vast influence on the whole Japanese region due to the amount of death and destruction made.

The moral side of the issue is the bombing of civilians, which was not necessary for any outcome of hostilities. The bombing of two Japanese cities was carried out to intimidate the enemy and quickly conclude a diplomatic treaty. However, the methods of putting the plan into action are not ethical. Wartime laws presuppose a prohibition against deliberate harm to the civilian population. Nevertheless, the Americans took this step to end the war.

The atomic bombings of Japanese cities undertaken by the United States on August 6 and, in particular, on August 9, 1945, were not due to military necessity and, therefore, can be considered as an optional act of cruelty, even taking into account the prevailing international political situation at that time. The political condition of bombing within reasonable limits took place. Still, in this case the bombing could have been carried out for other targets to avoid a colossal number of civilian casualties. It was directed primarily against the USSR to demonstrate that there was no chance in the event of a military clash with the United States. Using nuclear weapons, the United States limited the Soviet Union’s possibilities for political maneuver in a peaceful settlement with defeated Japan.


Fisher, R. (2020). Can nuclear war be morally justified? BBC Future. Web.

Irving, C. (2015). The rush to nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Web.

Pandaya, A. (2021). The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: WWII. The Unprecedented Cult. Web.

Shibata, Y. (2018). Producing Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Literature, film, and transnational politics. University of Hawaii Press.