Ethical Dilemmas of History: Revisiting the Controversial Atomic Bombings

The film narrates the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, an American theoretical physicist renowned as the “father of the atomic bomb,” who played a pivotal role in its development during the Second World War.

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However, the creation of these devastating weapons resulted in the deaths of approximately 226,000 people in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their aftermath.

Japan’s surrender on August 15, 1945, marked the end of the war, but the events leading to the attacks and the ethical debates surrounding them continue to shape history.

Tensions between the US and Japan

The growing tensions between the United States and Japan began decades before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Japan’s occupation of parts of eastern China in 1937 led to a war between the two nations.

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In response, the US and other Western countries implemented trade embargoes, including vital fuel oil, to dissuade Japan from further expansion.

However, Japan interpreted this as an aggressive act, escalating the hostilities between the two countries.

Negotiations aimed at resolving the conflict and reinstating fuel exports failed to reach an agreement, setting the stage for further confrontations.

Pearl Harbor Attack

On December 7, 1941, Japan launched a surprise air attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, resulting in the death of 2,403 American service personnel and leaving 1,178 wounded.

This attack, carried out while peace talks were still ongoing, was later deemed a war crime.

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US President Franklin Roosevelt referred to it as “a day which will live in infamy.”

In the aftermath of the attack, both countries declared war on each other, intensifying the global conflict.

The Buildup to the Bombings

By the time the bombings occurred, the US and Japan had been engaged in warfare for nearly four years.

The Pacific War had exacted a heavy toll, with millions of Japanese and Americans losing their lives.

In Europe, the war had ended with Germany’s surrender in May 1945.

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The US, however, was preparing for a potentially grueling land invasion of Japan, estimated to result in the deaths of at least 500,000 American soldiers according to government projections.

Simultaneously, the US had been developing nuclear bombs since the late 1930s, and by the summer of 1945, they were ready for use.

In late July 1945, the Allies demanded Japan’s surrender, threatening “complete and utter destruction” if they refused.

The Devastating Bombings

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were selected as targets for their significant military and industrial importance, as they supplied the Japanese armed forces with crucial weapons and military technologies.

On August 6, a uranium bomb called “Little Boy” was dropped on Hiroshima, resulting in immediate and immense devastation.

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Tens of thousands died on the spot, and as many as 146,000 succumbed to injuries and radiation-related illnesses over the next three months.

The city’s infrastructure suffered extensive damage, with numerous buildings either completely destroyed or severely damaged.

Despite knowing the potential for another attack, Japanese authorities chose not to surrender after the bombing of Hiroshima.

On August 9, a plutonium bomb dubbed “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki, causing the deaths of up to 80,000 people.

In both cities, the vast majority of the casualties were civilians.

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Six days after the Nagasaki attack, Japan surrendered, bringing an end to the war.

The Aftermath and Ethical Debates

In the aftermath of the bombings, Japan underwent reconstruction efforts, but the scars of the attacks remained.

Survivors of the bombings, known as hibakusha, continued to face the physical and emotional aftermath of the nuclear attacks.

Memorials were erected in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki to commemorate the victims of the bombings.

The ethical implications of the atomic bombings have been a topic of intense debate ever since.

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Some argue that the use of nuclear bombs hastened the end of the war, potentially saving countless lives that would have been lost in a full-scale invasion of Japan.

Others maintain that the use of nuclear weapons in warfare is inherently unethical, categorizing the attacks as war crimes.

Critics argue that alternative strategies, such as a military blockade on Japan, could have been pursued to achieve a peaceful resolution.

The legacy of the bombings cast a long shadow over the latter half of the twentieth century, particularly during the Cold War era, when fears of nuclear attacks between the United States and the Soviet Union dominated international relations.

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