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The Contender
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Was nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/20/2018 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,145 times Debate No: 111179
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
Votes (2)




1st round is for acceptance
2nd round is for arguments
3rd round is for rebuttals (no new arguments may be presented)


I accept. I'd wager I've learned more on this topic after debating it with a former teacher of mine.
Debate Round No. 1


The US pushed the Japanese back to the Japanese mainland. To finish this war the US had to take control of the Japanese islands or convince them to surrender.

Japanese Surrender:
The Japanese have a long history of honor. It is considered more honorable to kill oneself than accept defeat in Japanese culture. Thus, the Japanese government proclaimed to its citizens that they should fight the Americans to the death and not surrender if they invaded.

Ethical dilemma:
This brings up an ethical dilemma. You can either invade the Japanese mainland and lose a lot of lives on both sides or you can terrify them into surrendering.

Evaluation of choices:
A evaluation done by William Shockley estimated that 1.7 to 4 million americans would die in operation downfall. He also estimated that their would be 5 to 10 million Japanese fatalities. Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined killed roughly 226000 people.

The choice that would kill the least amount of people is the latter, therefore it is the most moral choice.

I await my opponent's argument.


Military Necessity

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Ralph Austin Bard was "convinced that a standard bombardment and naval blockade would be enough to force Japan into surrendering. Even more, he had seen signs for weeks that the Japanese were actually already looking for a way out of the war."

The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, lead General Hap Arnold and Carl A. Spaatz concluded that "Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."

Japanese Prince (and former Prime Minister) responded to a question asking whether Japan would have surrendered if the atomic bombs had not been dropped by saying resistance would have continued through November or December 1945.

Fleet Admirals Chester Nimitz and William Halsey Jr. vehemently disagreed with the decision. Nimitz said "The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan." Halsey said "The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment ... It was a mistake to ever drop it ... [the scientists] had this toy and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped it."  Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy also was opposed, saying "The use of [the atomic bombs] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons ..."

The navy was not alone in its opposition. Major General Curtis LeMay, (XXI Bomber Command, responsible for all strategic air operations against the Japanese Home Islands) said "The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all."

Elements of the army also opposed the decision. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Brigadier General Carter Clarke, and General Dwight D. Eisenhower were all opposed. Eisenhower (later the President of the United States) wrote ..."During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives."

Historians Stephen Rosen (Harvard) and Tsuyoshi Hasegawa were also opposed. Both believed that the Soviet invasion of Manchuria (Operation August Storm) was responsible for the Japanese surrender, not the atomic bombings.

Prestigious civilians were also included in opposition. A 1946 New York Times article states that Einstein "said that he was sure that President Roosevelt would have forbidden the atomic bombing of Hiroshima had he been alive and that it was probably carried out to end the Pacific war before Russia could participate." Leo Silizard, one of the chief scientists on the Manhattan Project was also opposed. The former President Herbert Hoover was also not in favor.

In conclusion, it is the opinion of many senior military leaders that the atomic bombings were unnecessary to the surrender of Japan, including the Under Secretary of the Navy, Under Secretary of State, Chief of Staff to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, Assistant Secretary of War, Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy, Deputy Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence and others. Clearly, a multitude of powerful people were opposed to the usage of atomic weapons on Japan.

Attempted Japanese Surrender

In April and May 1945, Japan made three attempts through neutral Sweden and Portugal to bring the war to a peaceful end. On April 7, acting Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu met with Swedish ambassador Widon Bagge in Tokyo, asking him "to ascertain what peace terms the United States and Britain had in mind." But he emphasized that unconditional surrender was unacceptable, and that "the Emperor must not be touched." Bagge relayed the message to the United States, but Secretary of State Stettinius told the US Ambassador in Sweden to "show no interest or take any initiative in pursuit of the matter." Similar Japanese peace signals through Portugal, on May 7, and again through Sweden, on the 10th, proved similarly fruitless.

  • Yes, the IHR is a repugnant website and Mark Weber is equally so, but this is a fact and the history of the website has no bearing on this.
Violation of International Law/War Crime

In Ryuichi Shimoda v. The State 5 survivors of the atomic bombings demanded reparations for the damage and suffering causes, arguing the bombings were illegal. The case was ultimately dismissed, but it ruled that "the attacks upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused such severe and indiscriminate suffering that they did violate the most basic legal principles governing the conduct of war". In the opinion of the court, the act of dropping an atomic bomb on cities was at the time governed by international law found in Hague Convention of 1907 IV - The Laws and Customs of War on Land, and IX - Bombardment by Naval Forces in Time of War, and the Hague Draft Rules of Air Warfare of 1922–1923, and was therefore illegal.

The International Court of Justice, in its 1996 Advisory Opinion on the Legality of Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, implicitly condemned the U.S. atomic bombings.

Curtis LeMay, already aforementioned, said "If we'd lost the war, we'd all have been prosecuted as war criminals."

In 2007, a group of intellectuals residing in Hiroshima established an unofficial tribunal called the "International Peoples' Tribunal on the Dropping of Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki." They later ruled that "The Tribunal finds that the nature of damage caused by the atomic bombs can be described as indiscriminate extermination of all life forms or inflicting unnecessary pain to the survivors."

The Vatican and the Federal Council of Churches both were opposed to the bombings, viewing them immoral and an affront to humanity. The Federal Council of Churches exclaimed "As American Christians, we are deeply penitent for the irresponsible use already made of the atomic bomb. We are agreed that, whatever be one's judgment of the war in principle, the surprise bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are morally indefensible."


The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were almost universally opposed within the US military, and to a lesser extent the US government. Scientists working on the bombs were opposed, as well as the head of the Catholic Church. An argument can be made the the bombings would constitute a war crime or violation of international law, but this can not be definitively proven. Overall, the bombings were not a military necessity as top leaders within the armed forces believed that Japan would surrender under a sustained naval blockade and conventional bombing campaign. However, political forces led by the anti-communist Truman overruled the military objections.

In short, the atomic bombings were not a military necessity, thus they were not needed. They were only used as a show of force to intimidate the Soviets, as historians have suggested.

Sources (Strategic Bombing Survey, Pacific)

Debate Round No. 2


MilItary Necessity:
Simply bombarding the coast would not do anything. We would eventually have to land and invade. We can infer this because the Japanese hid in caves and would not surrender at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

The Japanese would most likely not surrender with little force. The Japanese mentality is to not surrender.

Japanese Surrender:
The Japanese wold not unconditionally surrender. If they did not surrender unconditionally then the authoritarian leader Hirohito would be in power and continue to oppress his people. The right thing to do is not allow that.

Violation of internatonal law/war crime
Yes, the bombings were bad. But it was necessary to secure a unconditional surrender.

The bombing did break the Hague Draft Rules of Air Warfare, but it was necessary for the greater good. Operation Downfall would kill many more people. In certain instances International law can be broken.


Military Necessity:

I've already referenced military leaders that reckoned that Japan would surrender with a sustained aerial bombardment and naval blockade. Your overeliance on Japanese warrior culture is in opposition to the best minds in the US military.

Japanese Surrender:

Again, I've referenced US officials that estimated Japan would surrender around the time of November - December 1945. Had military pressure been sustained, this theory seems plausible considering the grave nature of the Japanese economy and military.

Violation of internatonal law/war crime

It was not necessary. Had the US waited a few more months Japan would have surrendered without the use of atomic weapons. My theory is supported by numerous US military and political leaders who knew the situation better than you or I.

Operation Downfall would not have been needed for the aforementioned reason. Even it had, the Japanese would have heavily relied on a conscripted militia to defend Japan. The Imperial Army had largely been destroyed. However, the fact remains Operation Downfall would not have been needed if continuous bombing and blockade of Japan had remained.

Apologies for a short response, I was heavily limited on time.

Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by TPPDJT 3 years ago
Expect my reply late in the evening or sometime during the morning. Thanks!
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Wizofoz 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: This has not necessarily changed my mind, but Con clearly put up better, more reaserched information and citations.
Vote Placed by campbellp10 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro provided very shallow and underdeveloped first arguments. Con responded with well developed and well sourced arguments that show that there was no necessity to drop nuclear bombs on civilians of a country that has already offered to surrender. Great Topic. The vote is con.

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