Delanie Tarvin: An Analysis of “The Debate About Hiroshima”

In “The Debate About Hiroshima,” Rudolph A. Winnacker compares different views on the use of the atomic bomb on Japan. He offers a brief outline on his interpretation of the argument between those in support of the bombs use and those against it. In regards to the opposition, Winnacker explains that they thought use of the atomic bomb brought the morality of the United States to a new low; it was an unnecessary choice among other options (i.e. demonstrating the bomb in New Mexico), it set a dangerous precedent for the potential use of atomic energy in the future, and it cost many innocent civilian lives. In regards to the support, Winnacker offers refutations to the claims above. Ultimately, Winnacker claims that the opposing view is based in hypotheticals. Winnacker finds this approach unproductive, claiming that “the only method for a historian or a layman to work his way through the contradictory hypotheses consists of evaluating for himself the reasons for the decisions made.”[1] Following this statement, most of the article consists of Winnacker analyzing the reasoning behind the use of the bomb.


Winnacker’s approach is to compare both sides of the atomic bomb debate, focusing on the reasons to support it. He starts with a brief historical outline and quotes relevant people to represent each side (Einstein and Swing for those against the bomb; Stimson for). He describes the opposing side’s argument, explains its appeal, and then attempts to dispel it. He defends the use of the atomic bomb mostly by relying on direct quotes and paraphrases of Henry L Stimson. In his analysis of this debate, he goes over the other options the US had, the likelihood that Japan would have surrendered without the bombing, and the moral implications of the bombs use.


Winnacker’s writing is easy enough to follow, but his bias hinders his argument. His admiration of Stimson is clear throughout the article. Winnacker praises Simpson, and does not really question anything he says. Additionally, he presents the opposing view as unrealistic, saying its arguments are all hypotheticals; but Winnacker himself makes hypothetical claims that he treats as probable (if not definite). He states that the use of the bomb is a lesson to leaders worldwide not to have another war, and he says that pacifism would lead to “enslavement and destruction in our present world.”[2] These are statements that, in my opinion, are hypotheticals, but Winnacker states them as fact. Also, the reasoning behind using the bomb was based on hypothetical consequences. The effects of the bomb could only be predicted, and that the Japanese wouldn’t totally surrender without it could only be speculated (albeit with ample evidence). His critique of hypotheticals seems to only apply to the opposing viewpoint, and his argument could have been stronger without it.


[1] Rudolph A. Winnacker, “The Debate About Hiroshima,” Military Affairs, 11, no. 1 (Spring, 1947): p. 26.


[2] Winnacker, p. 29.



Rudolph A. Winnacker, “The Debate About Hiroshima,” Military Affairs, 11, no. 1 (Spring, 1947): p. 25-30.


Word Count: 463

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