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The Atomic Bomb

War in the East
by

Paul Hendrix

on 13 June 2015

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Transcript of The Atomic Bomb

December 7th, 1941: Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
Surpise attack on US naval base on Hawaii
No declaration of war
Set in motion chain reaction: US and GB declared war on Japan, and Germany and Italy declared war on US.
US entered the war, now a world war.
Attack on Pearl Harbor was originally meant to deter US from intervening in Japanese expansionism. Opposite effect.
Simultaneous Japanese attacks in the Pacific. Guam, the Philippines, and Hong Kong were carried out.
On December 25th and 26th, Hong Kong fell to Japan.
Japan invaded the Dutch East Indies on January 6th 1942.
Singapore was invaded and forced to surrender later that month.
British, Australian, Dutch and Indian soldiers had completely retreated by mid-1942.
This new Japanese empire was labelled the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
In June 1942 Japan failed to capture midway island.
US had broken Japanese codes and knew when and where the attack would be launched.
Crucial turning point for war in the Pacific, the US gained naval advantage.
The battle of Midway (June 1942)
Japanese retreat
Starting January 1942, US general Douglas MacArthur began military campaign to recover Pacific Islands.
Island hopping.
Stepping stone strategy.
Enabled by superior naval and air forces.
Admiral Chester Nimitz advanced through Central Pacific, while MacArthur entered from New Guinea.
October 1944, battle of the Leyte Gulf. Largest naval battle of all time.
Iwo Jima and Okinawa
US efforts to drive the Japanese out of the Philippines came to a head on the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Fierce resistance.
Huge losses: over 10.000 US soldiers, over 100.000 Japanese soldiers and 160.000 civilian deaths.
From 1944 onwards "kamikaze", suicide pilots. Honor cult, young men.
US admiral Louis Mountbatten defeated Japan in Burma in May 1945.
Japanese refusal to surrender
With Germany defeated in May 1945, the US could focus completely on forcing Japan's surrender.
Soviet Union had promised support.
Japan on the verge of defeat.
Japan had been continually bombed by US since November 1944.
Emperor Hirohito did not want to accept defeat and rejected internal suggestions to negotiate a surrender.
Japan's prime minister Suzuki tried to negotiate peace with preservation of the position of emperor Hirohito.
US insisted on only 'unconditional surrender'.
US did not want to risk a land invasion.
The Manhattan Project
'The Manhattan Project' was a top-secret research program organized by the Americans and the British to develop a new weapon, the atomic bomb or 'the A-bomb', to be used against Nazi Germany.
The project was lead by major general Leslie Groves and physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer.
The atomic bomb works through nuclear fission. This is the process of a neutron striking the nucleus of an atom and splitting it into smaller atoms. This process releases large amounts of energy, leading to a massive explosion of shock waves, heat, and radiation.
The residents living in the area where this research was conducted were pressured into secrecy through means of propaganda.
The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Faced with Japan's continued refusal to surrender, US President Harry S. Truman decided to drop the first atomic bomb, named "Little Boy", on Hiroshima on August 6th 1945.
The city was chosen because it was an industrial center and major military headquarters.
The blast killed 80.000 people and injured 80.000 more.
With Japan still refusing to surrender, Truman ordered the drop of a second a-bomb, "The Fat Man", on Nagasaki on the 9th of August. The original target had been the city of Kokura, but a defect fuel pump and bad weather conditions shifted the target to Nagasaki.
Another 40.000 people were killed in the blast.
On August 14th 1945, Japan finally surrendered. The position of the emperor was preserved.
Assignment
Individually, write down some arguments in favor and against the use of the atomic bomb (5 min).
Share your arguments in groups of four (5 min).
Put yourself in Truman's shoes: what would you have done and why? Think of the (potential) consequences of both choices!
Write a joint declaration on your decision.
Internment of Japanese Americans
In response to the attack, people with Japanese ancestry living in the US were forcibly sent to 'relocation' camps in the deserts on the Pacific coast.
Fear that they would not be "loyal" to the US.
Around 120.000 people were kept in these camps until 1946.
62% of these inmates were American citizens.
American president Ronald Raegan issued official state apology in 1988.
Full transcript