On September 30, 1938, the League of Nations passed a unanimous resolution for the “Protection of Civilian Populations Against Bombing from the Air in Case of War.” In that resolution, the League noted that “the Intentional bombing of civilian populations is illegal,” and that “any attack on legitimate military objectives must be carried out in such a way that civilian populations in the neighborhood are not bombed through negligence.”
The Manhattan Project began modestly in 1939 with a budget of $167,000 to explore the feasibility of a nuclear chain reaction. By October 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt officially approved the atomic program, and established a committee to oversee it. On July 16, 1945, the US tested its first nuclear explosion. Less than a month later, on August 6, 1945 the US dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, and three days later, a second bomb on Nagasaki.
On June 27, 1945, the Undersecretary of the Navy, Ralph A. Bard sent a memo to Secretary of War Henry Stimson. “Ever since I have been in touch with this program I have had a feeling that before the bomb is actually used against Japan that Japan should have some preliminary warning for say two or three days in advance of use. The position of the United States as a great humanitarian nation and the fair play attitude of our people generally is responsible in the main for this feeling.
During recent weeks I have also had the feeling very definitely that the Japanese government may be searching for some opportunity which they could use as a medium of surrender.”
In his combat memoir With the Old Breed, Eugene Sledge would write that “We received the news with quiet disbelief coupled with an indescribable sense of relief. We thought the Japanese would never surrender. Many refused to believe it. Sitting around in stunned silence, we remembered our dead. So many dead. So many maimed. So many bright futures consigned to the ashes of the past. So many dreams lost in the madness that had engulfed us.”
Clearly, some sought a different solution from the bomb, while others, and especially those who had fought in the Pacific, found great relief that they would not have to endure another minute of combat. Justification for dropping the bomb, and opposition to it came from many quarters. For this debate, you are not limited to the months prior to August 6, 1945. The argument concerning theh use of nuclear power raged on for years to come.
You have been divided into two groups. For this forum, Group A will assume the role of an individual who supported the use of the bomb, while Group B will argue against. Each of you should post a statement in support, or in opposition to the idea of using nuclear power in World War II. Your submission should be a minimum of 200 words in length. Try not to make assumptions. Instead, assume the historical role of someone who lived in the United States at this point in history. Be creative.
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