The Instigator
Con (against)
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The Contender
Pro (for)
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Was the United States justified in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/26/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,490 times Debate No: 39496
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (11)
Votes (1)




I believe the U.S. was not justified in its bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To win this debate, Pro will have to justify the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by refuting my points as to why it was not justified.

Here is my argument as to why the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not justified:

The taking of human lives is wrong, unless the killing can be justified by some greater good, such as saving another life, or protecting oneself or one's nation. Surely, any lesser cause is ought-right murder. In the case of the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the killings of the people at the hands of the atomic bomb were not justified in any of the ways described above.

While it is commonly believed that the victim's killings were justified by a greater good (The end of the war.), I disagree. By the time the bombings took place, Japan was crippled militarily and was unable to pursue any further aggression with the U.S. While the Japanese may not have formally surrendered, there was no immediate need to require such a thing, and certainly not one that would justify the killings of over 100,000 innocent people, including children whose lives were abruptly ended.

I look forward to debating any who believe these killings are justifiable, and seek to prove so.


If the US hadn't bombed Japan, how many more lives would the Japanese have taken? Yes, militarily, Japan was at a disadvantage, but they had no intention of surrendering. They would have fought til the end. Eventually, they would maybe have been defeated over time... but at what cost? The Allies were at a point to where Japan had sworn to fight until the end, taking down as many lives as possible with them. Bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was an act of saving more lives as well as taking a stand against Japan. The cost of those innocent lives at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a price both sides had to pay. Japan had been presented with a choice prior to the bombing: surrender, or be prepared to face mass destruction. Bombing the cities was an attempt at ending the war. Japan had committed heinous crimes against the innocent and they wouldn't stop just because they were weak. Killing is never a good thing. But many times it is necessary in order to end further terrorizing and death. The deaths at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, though not insignificant, were a tiny fraction of all the deaths that had occurred during the war (around 60 million total casualties,including civilians)

As for proving which side is right. There's no way to prove this issue. We can never completely know for sure if less people would have died if the atomic bombs hadn't been used. As for the moral issue, I think it was necessary.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for responding!

While, as you say, continuing to fighting Japan would have been just as costly, if not more costly in terms of lives as the two bombings, continuing to fight was by no means our only option. For one, we could have properly demonstrated our nuclear force before proceeding to use it. The Potsdam declaration reads "prompt and utter destruction", and does not specifically warn about the atomic force we had.

The Japanese had no idea of the horrors the atomic bomb was capable of, and the U.S. gave them a mere six days before they decided to bomb Nagasaki, and do it all over again. With all communications and infrastructure destroyed in the Hiroshima area, the Japanese government was in utter shock, with details flowing extremely slowly. This delayed any kind of a decision making process, and so before the Japanese had any chance to surrender, we claimed yet hundreds of thousands of more countless, priceless, innocent lives, all in the name of ending a war. This second attack was even more rashly made than the first, and countless people died on behalf of it.

However, not even a demonstration, or a warning was even necessary in the first place. At the Potsdam declaration, the allies decided upon surrender terms for Japan that did not allow them to keep their emperor. Knowing Japan and how crazed the people were over their emperor, it was very likely that if they had been allowed to keep Hirohito, they would have surrendered. The big three knew this when they made the declaration; they were well aware of how fiercely the Japanese would oppose the dismantling of their emperor. The Japanese already knew they had lost, it was simply a matter of winning better surrender terms, and the U.S. saw it more fit to destroy two cities inhabited by innocent people than to allow the Japanese to keep their emperor in power.

Rather than trying one of these options which may or may not have led to lost lives, the U.S. decided to ensure that people would die, and innocent ones at that.


Japan got their warning in the Potsdam declaration. They brushed it away as a bluff or an exaggeration. If America had merely given Japan a demonstration, or a strong warning, how do you know for certain they would have been scared into submission? Japan wasn't a country to be easily intimidated and some time or another. Pretend that Japan is a child who is misbehaving. His parent can either strongly tell him that there will be consequences if he continues to misbehave, or she can spank him. Which one do you think the child will remember better? Remember, this is an analogy; please don't take it as an insensitivity towards the deaths, but try to understand this point. There are so many possibilities as to how the U.S. could have handled everything. Yes, maybe they didn't need to drop two bombs. Maybe one bomb would have convinced them. However, I believe that the second bomb was not just a useless waste of more lives. They served for two purposes. The first bomb acted as leverage in Japan's surrender while the second bomb served as a statement. It was a warning, proving that we were not subject to the atrocities Japan had committed and that we as a nation are not to be messed with. If we're thinking hypothetically, those two bombs might have eliminated the possibility of a World War III.

In our brains, women and children civilians dying seems so much more harsh and evil than a soldier dying. We see it as the destruction of the innocent vs. the death of a war-hardened man. It's awful to think of, but if you only had a choice to save either a man or a child, your first instinct would probably b to save the child. It's almost putting a value on life. All death is wrong. You're original question was not "did the U.S. make the best and perfect choice in bombing the two cities?" It was "was the U.S. justified...?" It wasn't some easy choice that they made. It was thought through, challenged, and thought through even more; it was one of the most difficult known decisions our leaders have made. They did what they truly believed to be necessary in ending the war and protecting our nation and succeeded. There is their justification.
Debate Round No. 2


Lack of Warning

As I have stated before, the warning received by Japan in the Potsdam declaration was not an honest demonstration of American nuclear power. It stated that Japan would face "prompt and utter destruction", which is vague, and considering that nothing similar to the atomic bomb had ever been used in human history, was not a clear warning. A clear demonstration of our power may very well have caused the Japanese to surrender.

The first bomb was leverage enough in Japan's surrender. 90,000-140,000 were killed, and the entire city was destroyed. But because Japanese infrastrucutre was destroyed, and details pourded in slowly, the Japanese did not have the capability for a decision-making process.

It is very likely that the Japanese would have surrendered after the first atomic bomb dropping, and even if they would not have surrendered, we still should have held off until we could be sure the Japanese had a fair amount of time to make a decision.

In the last round, you sated that:

"It was a warning, proving that we were not subject to the atrocities Japan had committed and that we as a nation are not to be messed with."

Vindiction does not justify the destruction caused by the two bombs. What Japan had done to us early does not justify the killings of innocent people who had nothing to do with the war. Using the atomic bomb as a demonstration of American power does is not justification either. In fact, this brings me to my next point.

Other Motives for the Dropping of the Bomb

As you have said before in the statement above, the use of the atomic bomb was also used to show American power, and that the bombs use brought strength to diplomacy with the Soviet Union. In addition, the Soviet Union was likely about to declare war on Japan, and help finish the Japanese off. The U.S. did not want this because it would lead to the Soviet Union having some control in the surrender of Japan.

But this does not justify the hundreds of thousands of life lost. No, these are meager political games, and does not warrant the brutality of the bombs.

As it turns out, the dropping of the atomic bomb led to the cold war, which very nearly did cause the "World War III", you mentioned, at many later points in time.

Unreasonable Surrender Terms

At the Potsdam declaration, it was demanded that the Japanese must give up their beloved emperor Hirohito. Knowing how passionately the Japanese people loved their emperor, it was to be expected that these terms would be refused.

If we had let the Japanese keep Hirohito, the atomic bombings, and any further agression. The Japanese already knew that the war was lost; it was simply a matter of winning better surrender terms, and the U.S. saw it more fit to end countless innocent lives than to allow the Japanese to keep Hirohito.


Because the Japanese were not amply warned about the bomb in the first place and sufficient time was not given for a decision to surrender after the first bomb, all other possibilities were not exhausted, other motives than the ending of the war were existant, and the whole need to continue fighting was due to U.S. refusal of less strict surrender terms, I mantain that the atomic bombings of Hiroshim and Nagasaki were not justified.



kitkatz forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Ethankershner 3 years ago

Yes, I agree that ideally, Hirohito should not have been allowed in power, but our allowing those killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to die on his behalf puts the blame on us.

We should have seen that, considering how passionately the Japanese followed Hirohito, they would obviously refuse surrender. And then we justify our bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a desperate attempt to force surrender.... it was not so.

"prompt and utter destruction" is extremely vague, considering that nothing like the atomic bomb had ever been used before in human history.

Yes, I also disagree with the fire bombings of Tokyo. You are right in saying they killed more innocents than both bombs combined.

However, since the atomic bombs were both decisions made precisely at one point, and the obvious big atomic explosion, there seems to be more controversy surrounding it, which is why I chose to debate it.
Posted by ararmer1919 3 years ago
Saying that the Japanese should have been allowed to keep the emperor is the equivalent of saying that Germany should have even able to keep Hitler. Or that Iraq should have been able to keep Saddam. Does either of these other instances make sense to you? If not then why would Japan be any different. And how unclear is "prompt and utter destruction"? Sounds pretty straight forward to me. Do you also disagree with the fire bombings of Tokyo? These were "conventional" bombings yet they claimed twice the lives of both atomic bombs combined. Why are these acceptable but the nukes are not? Would you have preferred more fire bombings and a ground invasion of Japan instead of the A-bombs?
Posted by ararmer1919 3 years ago
Also little history bit for you guys. Even after the two bombings and the hundreds of thousands of dead and the emperor decided to surrender, several of his military leaders refused to accept his decision and attempted to carry out the war themselves. An attempted coup took place to overthrow the emperor but was fortunately shutdown. But what if this me had succeeded? If that had been the case then even after the terrible H&N bombings the Japanese still wouldn't have surrendered and the fight would have continued.
Posted by ararmer1919 3 years ago
Lets ask you a question? Why should we allow them terms? You guys say it was wrong of us to demand unconditional surrender and that we should have let them keep their emperor but you havnt said why? So... Why? I get that you folks are anti war and what not but this IS war we are talking about.
Posted by Parksterthejenkins 3 years ago
I don't know much about the issue precisely but from what I've read that is what it seemed like. I've read a couple articles on it. Either way I'm against the bombings. But I suppose we can see what happens in the debate...
Posted by Ethankershner 3 years ago

Hm... I knew that allowing the Japanese to keep Hirohito meant surrender, but I didn't know that the Japanese actually attempted surrender.
Posted by Parksterthejenkins 3 years ago
Japan actually did try to surrender, & their ambassador that was put into office during WW2 was known to be a peace advocate. The only thing that was "bad" about Japan's attempted surrender was that they would only surrender under their own terms. I personally would've just let them surrender & go separate ways but some would disagree.
Posted by macaztec 3 years ago
Conventional bombing killed far more people than A-Bombs.
Posted by kitkatz 3 years ago
Glad you did your research. You'll need it ;-)
Posted by Ethankershner 3 years ago
I believe i'll be able to win... I have researched this topic quite in depth.

I am interested in your debate though, I will read it.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Jakeross6 2 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: Con and I have been in communication. I told him to read my debate on the subject versus patriotperson on the subject. His arguments seemed pulled right out of my debate in the third round of this debate. For that he loses arguments. Neither provided sources but pro did forfeit. So con gets conduct