What was the short term significance of the successful testing of the atomic bomb?
The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a decisive manoeuvre on part of the United States that brought a much-needed end to a long, bloody and costly war. Although, the bombing remains a controversial move and despite the censure it attracted, the successful atomic bomb testing was indeed a significant development for the Allied Powers. Ever since the World War I, the world had been on the brink of a similar conflict and these fears manifested themselves in the form of the second Great War. The United States were involved in both conflicts indirectly, but the Pearl Harbour incident instantly brought them to forefront of the war.
The successful testing of nuclear bomb in the desert of New Mexico later culminated with the US finally dropping the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Before the bombing, Truman described his predicament as he could not decide whether to ‘invade Japan proper or shall we Bomb and blockade’ (Truman, 1945). The stance on Japan had been very precarious from the start as they continued with their ruthless land grabbing behaviour; Truman was already in the process of considering all the options at hand to tackling with them. In his memoirs, Truman recalls that he had discussed the possibility of a full-scale invasion with his associates, but the United States wished to make a heavy blow to Japanese, which would completely rule out the possibility of a fierce counterattack from them. Hence, it was decided that atomic bomb would be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were considered to be the main military equipment manufacturing centre for the Japanese forces.
The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ‘incinerated’ nearly 20,000 Japanese people. The casualties largely consisted of unarmed civilians, but the bombing was more strategic because most the arms factories were located in this district. Within a couple of hours, the cities were turned into ‘smelting hot furnace’ as described by a survivor of the atomic bomb, Hiroshi Morishita; a high school student at the time the bomb was dropped. The repercussions of the bomb were unspeakable as the people walked with their skin hanging and burnt; people died after vomiting blood or a black foam (Morishita, 2006). Therefore, the United States had achieved its goal of making a heavy blow on the Japanese as both cities were literally razed to the ground.
The scale of disaster inflicted upon by the atomic was truly unprecedented that left thousands dead and millions injured. Survivors and Red Cross officials saw the break out of an epidemic as a result of the radiation; many of the illnesses and symptoms exhibited by the people seemed like the effects of X-ray overdose. The repercussions affected the following generations along with the reproductive cycle as men suffered from impotency and women began to have miscarriages (Hersey, 1994). However, on the United States’ part it was just a blatant ‘display of power’. Sherwin (1973) believed that the United States simply wanted to have a more intimidating facade on an international level and the destruction caused by the nuclear weapon was sufficient to underscore their point. The general masses feared the use of such weapons on a larger scale and other countries began a fierce nuclear arms race in order to match up to the United States.
It was the biggest gamble taken by the United States, for the experiment posed a major threat to the lives of the scientists. The country had invested nearly $2 Billion on this project and required manpower of 130,000 people; the success in the project Manhattan proved to be a milestone for the country (CBTO, 2010). The bombings marked the first time in history that a weapon of mass destruction was used that shook everyone and caused them to fear future conflicts that would involve the use of such weapons. It made everyone realize the need to regulate modern warfare; opening up new method of war that was not only restricted to the battlefield. Before the advancement in nuclear technology, the use of such weapons was only a myth, but the bombings soon cemented the threat these weapons posed to global welfare.
Following the Hiroshima incident many countries began developing their own stock of nuclear weapons that eventually led to a major furore on an international front by people, who were calling for a complete eradication of nuclear weapons. The Stockholm Appeal made by the World Peace Council petitioned for an absolute ban in 1950 (CND UK, 2013). The United States supported this call from the people and was the first to agree to the terms of the Nuclear disarmament pact. It seemed US was actually trying to ameliorate their international reputation which had been tarnished immensely because of the inhuman attacks. However, it can be further speculated that the United States was eager for a global Nuclear Disarmament as they wanted to impede the research of their opponents, who were now even more under pressure to develop nuclear weapons. As a result huge furore was raised in subsequent years, every time a country was suspicious of developing nuclear power.
The A-bomb further helped the Americans to keep the Russians at bay for the time being; which subsequently deepened the resentment the Russians had held against the Americans. This event seems to have exacerbated the accusations on the American by historians as an attempt on part of America to replace Russian and Japanese imperialism with that of their own. The American government had realized that the expansion of Japanese control would only encourage the Russian to tighten their grip over Eastern Europe and even lead to a greater expansion of their dominion and influence to other areas of the continent as well. Hence, the fear of communism was greatly diminished after the bombings.
Considering the political intrigue and unprecedented scale of disaster caused by the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer; the man who served as the brains behind the Manhattan Project suffered from severe bouts of depression and guilt, which he later confided to the then-president, Truman. As a matter of fact, Japanese decision-making was not determined by the bombings but as surmised by Hasegawa (2005), it was the Soviet entry in to the war that coerced Japan to submit an unconditional surrender to the allied forces. Following the Soviet involvement, it became important for the Japanese to preserve their empire and as this new knowledge surfaced, many people began to question the overall use of atomic weapon in the first place that only targeted unarmed civilians. (Kuznick, 2009)
Hasegawa (2005) elaborates that the bomb caused the Japanese much concern, but did not throw them into a fit of frenzy as it was recorded by historians. The plan of attack for the Japanese remained the same, but finally it was the soviet attack on Japanese forces in Manchuria that was a major blow to their army and economy. The bomb turned out to be just another mode of inflicting heavy damage on to the human race and served no glorious purpose of ending a war. Oppenheimer realized the true motive of the government and the excessive use of the weapon also perturbed Truman’s who was also warned of surpassing ‘Hitler in atrocities’. Oppenheimer was nervous and became quite apocalyptic, as he feared that he had created a weapon which had the potential wipe out the entire humanity. (Kuznick, 2009)
From then till now, the dropping of the atomic bomb continues to be a major controversy, but the United States has often tried to explain this as a necessity (National Archives, 2012). These short-term consequences of the atomic bomb finally concluded with proper long-term measures that would actively avoid global conflicts that would require the use of atomic weapons in future; the League of Nations were replaced by the United Nations. Soon after, the Nuclear disarmament agreement was signed and atomic weaponry has been completely abolished from modern warfare. However, the agreement does not mean that nations will abide by it and because of this the world has been constantly in fear of the outbreak of a Nuclear War. The atomic bomb testing is also known to be a contributing factor that led to the lengthiest ‘Cold War’, which is also dubbed as the ‘Third World War’. The world continues to fear the possibility that any future conflicts might end up with the use of Nuclear weapons, the disastrous effects of which the world has already seen.
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