Cece Burger: Why the United States Dropped Atomic Bombs in 1945, By David Kaiser

In my search for a new resource that addressed the question of why the United States decided to use the atomic bomb in 1945, I found an intriguing article by historian David Kaiser from Time magazine. Kaiser is a frequent contributor to Time, is the author of seven books, and has taught at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon and the Naval War College.

Kaiser, in May of 2016, is prompted to write this article and explore the alternative theories about the use of the bomb because President Obama was amid his visit to Hiroshima. This visit inevitably raised old questions about the implementation of the first atomic bomb. Kaiser begins the article by addressing a school of thought from the 1960s that challenged the United States’ decision to use the atomic bomb. The argument avows that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not necessary nor intended merely to defeat the Japanese. It was instead disputed to have been dropped to alarm the Soviet Union. Kaiser points out this argument has been too intertwined with emotions and not reason. He feels credible scholarly works that discredit many of the new theories about why the bomb was used have been overlooked and ignored by the public. He shares, “Those who have continued to argue that Moscow…was the real target of the A-bombs, have had to rely upon inferences…” However, the lack of credibility of alternative reasoning was not all encompassing Kaiser points out, “Other studies have made critical contributions about other aspects of the controversy. Thanks to them, we can see clearly that the Japanese were not at all ready to surrender on American terms…” Kaiser is able to make a distinction between the studies that worked off inferences and created more meaning than in actuality and those that found credible accounts and evidence to support reality.

Kaiser ends his article with a new tone compared to the article’s beginnings. He addresses the moral implications of the nuclear weapons. He explains that the use of the atomic bombs is not specifically the issue at hand. Instead, it is the attitude towards human life. There are many examples of horrific loss of life equal to or greater than the bombing of Japan in the name of war. Kaiser questions why other moments are not more the target of extensive questioning and analysis. This questioning seems more unreliable than the rest of the article because many historians focus on wartime loss of life and surely Kaiser is not the only one to question this. Kaiser ends with this, “The dropping of the bombs horrifies us today, but at the time, it was viewed as a necessary step to end a terrible war as quickly and with the least loss of life as possible. Careful historical research has validated that view.” This final line echoes the feeling throughout the article that Kaiser values reliable research and strongly supported arguments.

Kaiser makes a forceful argument supporting the traditional narrative of the United States using the atomic bombs to end the war with Japan. As an accredited academic and historian Kaiser seems to be a reliable source and I read his article with more confidence than I would other online sources. Kaiser echoes a lot of what was found in the resources provided for today’s class discussion. He truly believes in the traditional narrative behind the decision to use the atomic bomb and backs it up with solid facts and reasoning. Kaiser seems to value reliable academic research and arguments that have solid fact-based foundations. Throughout the article, he rejects any alternative arguments that he finds lack factual base. He does not dive super deep into the counter arguments/alternative schools of thought surrounding the use of the atomic bomb. This could be viewed as falling short however, I felt this allowed the article to be condensed into a readable length more appealing to the average reader. Kaiser skillfully gives the reader a more holistic view of the debates around dropping the bomb and his argument against them. His ending paragraph was especially interesting and made me think about the event in a new way.


David Kaiser, “Why the United States Dropped Atomic Bombs in 1945” TIME.com. http://time.com/4346336/atomic-bombs-1945-history/ , Accessed 7 September 2017

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