Nearly 12 years after the notorious atomic bombings of WWII, American military historian Louis Morton decided to revisit the subject offering new insight into the highly controversial events. His report was entitled “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb” and it focused quite heavily on a much earlier report from Henry L. Stimson, acting Secretary of War during the later years of the war. Morton used newly emerged interviews and confessionals from those closely associated with the Manhattan Project in conjunction with Stimson’s report to create a more nuanced look into the decisions leading up to the bombings.
Early on, Morton makes specific mention that many of the leading scientists working on the project protested its hasty usage against Japan. These accounts, previously unknown to the public, portrayed a very different narrative of the atomic project. Those scientists working directly with the bomb confessed that early on in development they naively gave little thought to the destructive potential of the weapon and instead viewed the process as merely pushing the boundaries of scientific discovery. It was not until these men and women neared the completion of the project that they began to seriously consider the humanitarian as well as political consequences their creation would wreak on the world. More than 2/3 of these scientists would petition the White House to demonstrate its atomic arsenal to the United Nations by publically testing them on dummy sites and then wait for the approval of the UN and US public before bombing Japan. Morton explains that this approach was rejected by the Truman administration and Stimson’s Interim Committee because of the project’s limited resources as well as security issues in the Pacific. The Interim Committee believed there was too great a chance of the bombs failing to detonate in either the demonstration or actual bombing of Japan. The committee also worried that Japanese military officials would react to the demonstration by shuttling all American POWs to potentially targeted areas.
Morton successfully adds new perspective to the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan, an issue that was widely supported by the American public at the time. To breathe unpopular but equally valid opinions into a still very fresh and sensitive subject was certainly a bold move on Morton’s part.
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Morton, Louis. “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb.” Foreign Affairs 35, no. 2 (January 1957): 334-39. Accessed September 6, 2017. JSTOR.