It would take an extremely insensitive person not to empathize with the victimized civilian population of Hiroshima, but history demands perspective (“The A-bomb: Does necessity equal morality?” May 2). Having taught American history for half a century, I have been able to develop some insight on the bombing of Japan.
The dropping of the second A-bomb on Nagasaki can easily be deemed immoral. How much time would it have taken to assess the enormity of the damage done to Hiroshima, and then given the emperor and his advisers time to decide on an unconditional surrender? Certainly not just three days. The U.S. was unsure of the efficacy of a uranium versus a plutonium bomb so a second, but different, A-bomb was dropped. Was Nagasaki a laboratory test? And we had to rush because the Russians, as agreed upon, had entered the war a day after Hiroshima. Some historians credit the ending of the war to the entrance of the Russians, not the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
As to Prof. Yuki Tanaka’s assertion that the bomb was unnecessary because the emperor was considering surrender evades some obvious perceptions. Why didn’t the emperor attempt to enter into negotiations? He knew long before that Japan was being destroyed. Every major city in Japan had been more than 60 percent destroyed, there was virtually no Japanese air defense and America’s superfortresses were bringing heavier bomb loads.
As to A-bombing Nazi Germany, I believe that it would have been essential if the U.S. had one at the time. Germany started researching atomic warfare much earlier than the U.S. and they had some of the top physicists in the world working for them. We didn’t know how close they were to developing a bomb of their own, thus the necessity of dropping one first. It was only after the war that the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) determined that the Germans weren’t close to success in the building of an atomic weapon.
Prof. Jack Needle, retired
Brookdale Community College