Why America Dropped the Bomb
The 50th anniversary of the use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has produced a wholly predictable debate over the necessity and morality of that decision. Or perhaps debate is the wrong word. All too typical of this year’s commemorative activities was a proposed exhibit on Hiroshima at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington; the script for this exhibit presented a picture, in the words of an irate Wall Street Journal editorial, of a “besieged Japan yearning for peace” and lying “at the feet of an implacably violent enemy—the United States.” Although the exhibit was subsequently canceled, it encapsulated a point of view that has now endured for a full half-century, and shows no sign of waning.
On August 6, 1945 the American war plane Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing between 70,000 and 100,000 Japanese. Three days later another atomic device was exploded over Nagasaki. Within a few days Japan surrendered, and the terrible struggle that we call World War II was over.
About the Author
Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale, is the author of Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy, On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace, and, most recently, The Peloponnesian War (2003), drawn from his earlier four-volume history of that conflict. Mr. Kagan served as dean of Yale College from 1989 to 1992.