12 April 2016

By 56% to 25%, Americans say Hiroshima bombing was justified


An estimated 140,000 Japanese died immediately or in the years after an American B-29 bomber dropped the “Little Boy”  atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima. The bomb was dropped by President Harry Truman in a bid to force Japan to end a war that it was fighting with tenacity, suicidal sacrifice and all despite the inevitably of ultimate defeat. Dropping the world’s first atomic bomb on populated cities was opposed by, among others, General George C. Marshall (who argued for a rural target in the first instance) but the action was executed because the Japanese military was showing no signs of surrender and US military chiefs feared that it faced one million casualties if it had to launch a land invasion. More recently, revisionist historians have speculated that Truman also wanted to send a message to Stalin, the Soviet leader. The bomb, Truman is said to have decided, “would keep the Russians straight” at the post-war Potsdam Conference on the future of the occupied and defeated powers. Hiroshima is said to have been chosen because it had not been subject to conventional bombing and, for the purposes of study, it would prove easier to assess the impact of an atomic bomb.

On Monday the US Secretary of State John Kerry, travelling with other G7 foreign ministers, became the most senior US diplomat to ever visit Hiroshima.

We asked the YouGov First Verdict panel if they thought the dropping of that bomb was justified and by 56% to 25% the answer was “yes”.

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Japan only did surrender after the US dropped a second atomic bomb on the port city of Nagasaki, three days later. 50,000 people are estimated to have died as an eventual result of this second bomb.

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Tim Montgomerie is Editor of Portrait of America