Question 1: Was the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan justified? icon

Question 1: Was the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan justified?

Debating the Issues in World War II: Dropping the Atomic Bomb

Question 1: Was the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan justified?

Y / N



There was a high civilian death toll that resulted from the use of the atomic bomb.

Almost 150,000 civilians were killed as a result of the bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.1

Many in the Japanese government hoped for a negotiated peace and a conditional surrender, and the Americans only demanded for the unconditional surrender of Japan.

On July 21, 1945, the Japanese government informed its representative in Moscow: “We cannot consent to unconditional surrender under any circumstances. Even if the war drags on and more blood must be shed, so long as the enemy demands unconditional surrender, we will fight as one man against the enemy in accordance with the Emperor’s command.”2

Both sides used mass strategic bombings and conventional bombings to hinder war production. This resulted in a large numbers of civilian casualties, similar to that of the atomic bombs.

During the Battle of Britain, over 146,700 civilians were killed or seriously injured.3 The air-raids in Germany cost approximately 600,000 civilian lives.4 During the bombing of Dresden, 135,000 people were killed.5 The firebombing of Tokyo claimed 83,000 lives, the majority of them being civilians.6

The use of the atomic bomb was unethical and immoral as it created a new meaning of total war by destroying thousands of civilians in a grotesque manner

William D. Leahy, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated: “My own feeling is that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”7

By 1945, Japan was crippled as a result of the Allied blockade and bombings and neared collapse.

A report by the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey following the war concluded that: “Certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”8

The alternative to using the atomic bomb (bombardments / blockade) would have had devastating effects on the Japanese population and would have prolonged the war and their suffering.

Conventional bombardments killed and would have continued to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians in Japan. Large numbers of Japanese civilians would have perished through starvation and disease as a result of the blockade.9

The Allied strategic bombings and blockade had devastating effects of Japan, yet these efforts were not enough to compel the surrender of a Japanese military still bent on victory.

Throughout June 1945, Kyushu was built up as a military stronghold.10 Commanders ordered soldiers and civilian volunteers to attack American tanks, asking “all able-bodied Japanese, regardless of sex” to “be prepared to sacrifice his life in suicide attacks on enemy armored forces.”11

The Japanese military were preparing a desperate defense of their homeland that would inevitably produce high casualties on both sides.

As a result of the Japanese defensive buildup in July, and the losses during previous battles in the Pacific, Truman was informed by General Marshall that an invasion of Japan could result in half a million American casualties.12 This figure was projected by Pentagon planners, who estimated 132,000 American casualties for an invasion of Kyushu, and 90,000 for Honshu.13

^ Debating the Issues in World War II: Internment of Japanese Canadians

Question 2: Was the internment of Japanese Canadians justified?

Y / N



Prime Minister Mackenzie King took necessary precautions to ensure national security of Canada and North America, as the US had also interned Japanese-Americans

-“Japan was aggressively expanding in the Pacific (islands of Attu and Kiska). Moreover, American and Canadian governments were more alarmed as a Japanese submarine had fired on telegraph station and lighthouse in British Columbia”. 14
- Canada’s Undersecretary of State for External Affairs, Norman Robertson, and American ambassador, Pierre Moffat, agreed to “the importance of pursuing parallel policies concerning the Japanese living in Canada and the United States as nearly as possible.”15

Japanese Canadians were judged solely on the basis of their racial ancestry, and not their citizenship.

-Racist and xenophobic public sentiment felt that Japanese-born Canadians showed too much sympathy for Japan and that there was a chance that some of them might form a fifth column (espionage). 16

The Japanese Canadians were harshly mistreated, lost all their property, and the camps had terrible conditions

-“The fishermen suffered not only loss of income but prices received for their property was sold without consent and was a fracture of the appraised value.”17
-“After Pearl Harbour, Japanese Canadian citizens and Japanese Nationals in Canada were subject to government curfews and personal interrogation…all Japanese language newspapers were shut down, fishing boats were impounded, and the federal government liquidated businesses, and sold vehicles, houses, and personal belongings. The proceeds of the sales were used to pay auctioneers and realtors, as well as to cover the costs of the internment.” 18
- the living conditions were so poor that the citizens of wartime Japan even sent supplemental food shipments through the Red Cross. During the period of detention, the Canadian government spent one-third the per capita amount expended by the U.S. on Japanese American evacuees. 19

During the Pacific War it was feared that the Japanese Canadians were spies for Japan, so Canada took away their fishing vessels to ensure national security.

MP Howard Green stated, “At the time there were about twelve hundred fishing vessels on the coast, ad there were nearly three thousand fishing licences held by the Japanese. And they were scattered along the coast. Some of them were powerful enough to cross the Pacific. It was obviously very easy for Japanese naval men to infiltrate through this fleet.”20

The interment, deportation and relocation of the Japanese Canadians was for their own safety and was legal.

Anti-Japanese demonstrations were increasing and the Japanese Canadians were not well integrated or accepted by the local population. The deportation orders in February 1946, the Supreme Court of Canada indeed ruled that the government had the legal right, under the War Measures Act, to intern and deport Japanese Canadians.21.

There was no proof of acts of disloyalty by the Japanese Canadians shown during the war

Prime Minister Mackenzie King, “It is a fact no person of Japanese race born in Canada has been charged with any act of sabotage or disloyalty during the years of war.”22 In Ottawa, top RCMP and military officials said fears of disloyalty and sabotage by Japanese Canadians were unfounded. But the war had offered a convenient excuse for British Columbians to act on entrenched anti-Asian sentiments. 23

Canadian public opinion, especially in British Columbia called for measures to be taken against residents and Canadians of Japanese ancestry

“Xenophobia in Canada (specifically British Columbia) was very high. Japanese Canadians, as a race, were seen as ‘disloyal to the core.’ The reason for the mass evacuation was not because of the Japanese but because of the whites. The problem was one of mass hysteria and prejudice.”24

1 Bragdon, Henry W., McCutchen, Samuel P., Ritchie, Donald A., ^ History of a Free Nation, (Columbus: Glenroe/McGraw-Hill, 1998) 22

2 James Byrnes, Speaking Frankly (New York: Greenwood Press, 1947) 211.

3 John R. Elting, “Costs, Casualties and Other Data”, Grolier Online, <>

4 John Keegan, The Second World War (New York: The Penguin Group, 1990) 426.

5 Roy Jenkins, Truman (New York: William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., 1986) 27.

6 Ronald Takaki, Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Bomb (New York: Little, Brown & Company Limited, 1995) 27.

7 William D. Leahy, I Was There: The Personal Story of the Chief of Staff to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, Based on his Notes and Diaries Made at the Time, (New York, 1950) 441.

8 “The United States Strategic Bombing Survey,” The Truman Administration: A Documentary History (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1966) 45.

9 Richard B. Frank, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire (New York: Random House, 1999) 334.

10 Edward J. Drea, MacArthur’s ULTRA: Codebreaking and the War against Japan 1942-1945 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1992) 209.

11 Ronald Spector, Eagle Against the Sun (New York: Random House, Inc., 1985) 544.

12 Harry S. Truman, Year of Decisions, (Garden City: Doubleday, 1955)

13 Brian McNulty, “The Great Atomic Bomb Debate” Ohio University, 25 November 2003,

14 Canadian Military Heritage. Volume III.

15 Bangarth, Stephanie Mackenzie King and th4 Japanese Canadians. (Toronto: Robin Brass Studio, Inc, 2002.)14

16 Nolan, Brian. King’s War. (Toronto: Random house of Canada Limited, 1988.) 71

17 Adachi, Ken. The Enemy That Never Was. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Inc, 1991.) 46

18 Canadian Military Heritage. Volume III.

19 Canadian Military Heritage. Volume III.

20 Nolan, Brian. King’s War. (Toronto: Random house of Canada Limited, 1988.) 71

21 Miki, R. and Kobayashi, C. Justice in Our Time. (British Columbia: Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data, 1991.)17

22 Miki, R. and Kobayashi, C. Justice in Our Time. (British Columbia: Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data, 1991.)22

23 Canadian Military Heritage. Volume III.

24 Patton, Janice. The Exodus of the Japanese. (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1973.) 52

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