Perry J. Greenbaum

Posted By on July 17, 2015

Humanity's Folly

Trinity Test: July 16, 1945, at5:29:45 a.m. (Mountain War Time)

Trinity Site: Alamogordo Test Range, Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death)desert.

Yield: 1921 Kilotons

Image Credit:Berlyn Brixner, LANL.

Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

Bhagavad Gita

Only one nation has used atomic weapons; the United States of America; and only one nation has been the recipient of an atomic attack: Japan. The U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima, on August 6, 1945 (15-kiloton), and on Nagasaki (21-kiloton), on August 9, 1945. The result was 200,000 dead and injured, although precise figures are hard to obtain, given the ensuing chaos. Five days later, Japan surrenders, and the Second World War is over.

Looking at events from the past, it is easy to second-guess or criticize the decisions made. notably if they led to destructive consequencesthis can be a type of chronological snobbery, a kind of moral superiority, or a kind of rare wisdom. Yet, sometimes it is necessary to do so, if only to see how humanity thinks today, to see, given similar circumstances, if political leaders would arrive at similar or different decisions. These thought experiments remain such; and in the heat of real and genuine battle, the actions might differ from abstract thoughts. Such are the arguments, often valid, of realists.

We do know that there were little public expression of moral concerns then; President Truman and his generals deemed it necessary to end a war that was causing so many deaths to American soldiers. The atomic bomb was only another step in a horrible war, as somebody once put it. It is only later, after the act, that moral concerns come into light, and understandably so. Truman, the devout Christian, saw the only use of atomic weapons as morally justified, saying as much in a radio report on the Potsdam Conference to the American people on August 9, 1945:

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Perry J. Greenbaum

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