Was Dropping the Bomb Necessary? (03:11)
The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. President Harry S. Truman justified the bombing, saying it would shorten the war in the Pacific and save lives. Many have since questioned his reasoning.
Atomic Bomb Decision Makers (04:14)
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, published in 1946, concluded that Japan would have surrendered without the use of atomic bombs. The decision to drop the bomb rested with three men?—President Harry S. Truman, Secretary of State James Byrnes, and Secretary of War Henry Stimson.
Contemplating Other Alternatives (04:01)
The U.S. military’s least desirable alternative would have been to invade the Japanese islands, leading to heavy casualties. U.S. officials were also apprehensive about a potential Russian declaration of war on Japan, though it would have likely brought war more quickly to an end.
Paving Way to Unconditional Surrender (02:59)
Acting Secretary of State Joseph Grew had been ambassador to Tokyo. He felt the greatest obstacle to ending the war was the Japanese belief that surrender would end their monarchy. He proposed a way to allow Japan to surrender while saving face.
Feasible Solution Found (03:24)
On June 18, 1945, President Truman met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to consider plans for an invasion of Japan and other options. A change in surrender terms and Russian entry into the war seemed highly likely to end fighting.
Russian Friction (06:28)
Top American officials were concerned about Russia’s behavior in Eastern Europe. There were signs that the Soviets were backing away from promises to allow democracy to flourish in countries they controlled. As tensions escalated, Truman learned of the Manhattan Project.
Truman Stalls, Byrnes Weighs In (07:33)
Truman seemed to delay a meeting with Stalin until he knew the bomb worked. His correspondence with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill suggested this. Byrnes, Truman’s “conniving” secretary of state, encouraged using the bomb as an implied threat to the Russians.
Byrnes Uses Influence (02:59)
Truman asked Byrnes to be his personal representative on the most secret committee in the government. The Interim Committee was set up to consider every aspect of the control and use of the atomic bomb. Byrnes advocated using the bomb on Japan as soon as possible.
Attempts to Surrender Ignored (04:20)
Top secret intelligence reports and decoded Japanese diplomatic cables have revealed how much Truman and advisors knew about Japan’s desire to make peace. Even as evidence mounted that Japan would surrender, Truman concentrated on his forthcoming meeting with Stalin.
Potsdam Conference, Bomb Test (04:28)
The heads of the governments of the U.S., Britain and the Soviet Union met at Germany’s Cecilienhof Palace in July 1945 to discuss the shape of postwar Europe. As Truman and his advisors gathered, their thoughts were concentrated on the atomic bomb test back home.
Truman Hijacks Peace Plan (05:08)
Truman’s journals were made public in the 1970s, revealing that the president fully understood the Japanese planned to surrender. He recalled Stalin revealing a telegram from Emperor Hirohito asking for peace. The plan was to end conflicted with Japan quickly before Russia declared war.
"Thousand Years of Regret" (03:56)
Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower disagreed with the order to drop the bomb. Truman and Churchill debated alerting the Soviets to the successful atomic test. The Japanese were confused by the Potsdam Proclamation, which the Russians did not sign.
Bombs Dropped, Japan Surrenders (03:51)
The Russians attacked Japan in Manchuria on Aug. 8, two days after the bombing of Hiroshima. Nagasaki was bombed the following day. The U.S. accepted Japan’s surrender. Leahy, Eisenhower, and others were critical of the decision to use atomic weapons.
Credits: Summer of the Bomb (01:53)
Credits: Summer of the Bomb
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