Find a Security Clearance Job!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Racism And The Atomic Bomb AUTHOR Major Myron L. Hampton, USMC CSC 1990 SUBJECT AREA Intelligence EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TITLE: RACISM AND THE ATOMIC BOMB THESIS: The decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan was not racially motivated; if the atomic bomb had been available prior to the defeat of Germany, the bomb would have been used in Europe. ISSUE: Nearly forty-five years after the end of World War II, arguments are still being held on whether the United States would have used the atomic bomb in the European theater. History has recorded that the treatment of the Japanese and any person of Japanese heritage by the American government, public, and media was ten times as bad as the treatment received by the German and Italian enemy. The U. S. Legislative Branch, recognizing the woeful chapter in U. S. history, has recently voted to give apologies and cash awards to surviving Japanese American citizens who were interned in camps during the war. Should an apology also be given to the Japanese government for subjecting their country and people to the horrendous weapon controlled by the United States, especially when the United States was winning the war and in complete control of the war effort? The causing of death to thousands of women, children, elderly, etc., is not something a country is proud of accomplishing, but in the case of all wars, civilians will become casualties. Atomic power had been discovered and the decision on whether to use this great source of energy or not use it had to be made. President Harry S. Truman made the decision. CONCLUSION: There is no doubt that the Japanese and everything that reminded the American public of Japan was greatly despised. Japanese were considered to be less than human. Although racial discrimination was blatant, the fact still remains that the United States was equally committed to defeating both enemies and with Winston Churchill's urging, had established a defeat Europe first policy. If the atomic bomb had been available prior to the surrender of Germany, it would have been used in Europe, with the blessing of both England and Russia. RACISM AND THE ATOMIC BOMB OUTLINE THESIS STATEMENT: The decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan was not racially motivated; if the atomic bomb had been available prior to the defeat of Germany, the bomb would have been used in Europe. I. Background on World War II A. Feeling of Populace Towards Germany and Italy B. Feeling of Populace Towards Japan 1. Treatment of Japanese-American Citizens 2. Internment Camps II. Development of the Atomic Bomb A. Individuals Involved With the Project B. Military and Civilian Concerns C. Strategic and Tactical Concerns III. Deployment of the Atomic Bomb A. Theater Considerations B. Target Considerations C. Government Objectives IV. Aftermath A. Political Ramifications B. World Opinion C. Comparison of European Bombing Raids and Japanese Bombing Raids D. Effect of the Bomb on the United States and Japan 1. Government 2. Population RACISM AND THE ATOMIC BOMB The atomic bomb was successfully tested on 16 July 1945, and since its design, it has only been used twice. Both times were in World War II and against the dreaded enemy, Japan. The damage and the destruction caused by one bomb was the most shocking sight the world had ever seen. The surrender of Germany had taken place prior to the development of the atomic bomb, but the question still exists as to whether the bomb would have been used against Europeans. Many individuals believe that the decision to use the bomb against Japan was racially motivated and that the American public would not have stood for the use of such a horrific weapon against white Europeans. This paper will attempt to prove that the decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan was not racially motivated. It is also my belief that if the bomb had been available to the United States, it would have been used against Germany. The culpability for starting WWII rests solely and squarely on the shoulders of the Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan). These three nations had visions of conquering the world (Germany-Europe, Japan-Asia, Italy-Africa and whatever Germany gave them) and dividing it between them. These visions eventually led to the signing of the "Pact of Steel" in September 1940.1 On 7 December 1941, Japan launched a successful surprise attack on the U. S. Pacific Fleet located at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The following day, war was declared on Japan by the United States. In fulfilling their obligations under the "Pact of Steel," Germany and Italy declared war on the United States on 10 December 1941. The United States now found it- self fighting wars in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. From the onset of the war, the National Command Authority had established a "Europe first" policy. The defeat of Hitler and Mussolini was paramount. The country stood behind its leaders and citizens volunteered for service in droves. Unlike the Japanese, the Germans and Italians were divided into two groups by the American public. Germans or Nazis were people from Germany and Italians or Fascists were people from Italy. The European connection between the United States and the Axis powers was very strong, and America was not ready to categorize all Germans or Italians as monsters. This unwillingness to group the entire German and Italian population as Nazis or Fascists led to the good German/Italian and bad German/Italian theory. The human atrocities that were being committed by the Nazis were not widely known or publicized, thus there was no deep down hatred of the German/Italian people. Besides, many Americans still had relatives and friends in Germany and Italy, and it was inconceivable that these people could be wicked. Japan, on the other hand, was a different story. In the entire history of the United States, no enemy has been as detested as were the Japanese. This can be attributed to the infamy of the attack on Pearl Harbor, coupled with reports of Japanese atrocities, and the extraordinary fierceness of the fighting in the Pacific. The American news media, Hollywood, military leaders, and national leaders also played a large role in fanning the flames of racism into the war effort. One of the most famous WWII war correspondents of all time, Ernie Pyle, told his millions of readers, in no uncertain terms, that the enemy in Asia was different from the enemy in Europe. Pyle wrote, "In Europe, we felt that our enemies, horrible and deadly as they were, were still people, but out here, I soon gathered that the Japanese were looked upon as something subhuman and repulsive; the way some people feel about cockroaches and mice."2 The practice of perceiving the enemy as "Nazis" on one hand and "Japs" on the other was common. This also left room for the good German theory, but no room for a good Japanese theory.3 Magazines, newspapers, radio broadcasts, etc. hammered this idea home even further by constantly referring to the "Jap" rather than "Japs." The denial of the pluralism enforced the idea that all Japanese were alike and were the enemy. Admiral William F. Halsey stated at a news conference in 1944 that "the only good Jap is a Jap who's been dead for six months," and he was not referring to combatants only.4 Halsey's comment was just a rephrasing of the popular wartime slogan of "the only good Jap is a dead Jap." Rarely was the phrase "the only good German is a dead German" referred to in the media. The hysteria that engulfed the West Coast after the attack on Pearl Harbor was unbelievable. No rumor about Japanese-Americans was deemed too wild to be believed. Farmers were said to be growing tomatoes in arrow-shaped patches that pointed the way for enemy pilots to California defense plants. Japanese students were said to be pouring into German language classes at U.C.L.A., supposedly to help the Nazis. Japanese saboteurs were said to be quietly buying up the land around the West Coast military installations. Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, said, "secret agents in Hawaii had effectively helped Japan with their attack on Pearl Harbor," though he knew the statement was untrue. Earl Warren, then California Attorney General, and columnist Walter Lippman fueled the paranoia by planting the idea that the lack of sabotage indicated that the tightly disciplined Japanese- American must be quietly planning some sort of massive, coordinated strike. The stories are endless.5 The distinction between the two enemies and the deep-seated racial bias of the American people will always be documented with the events that occurred during the opening months of 1942. During this period, the U. S. government relocated approximately 120,000 Japanese-American citizens, while taking no comparable action against German-Americans or Italian-Americans. The relocation of only Japanese-Americans is even more startling when it was a well known fact that the German-American Bund (membership of 20,000) had demonstrated and recruited on behalf of Hitler and the Nazi Party in the United States prior to the outbreak of the war. There was no evidence of any organized subversion by the Japanese community prior to or after Pearl Harbor.6 Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was the largest slap in the face received by Japanese-American citizens during the war. This order endorsed racism by the leading government official in the nation. Persons of Japanese ancestry were uprooted from their homes in California, Oregon, and Washington and interned in camps located in the interior of the United States. Their situation was similar to a POW's, but in their case, they had done nothing wrong besides look differently. The policy of the President was rarely questioned by legislators and, in fact, was supported and upheld by the Secretary of War, the U. S. Military establishment, the Department of Justice, the U. S. Congress, and the Supreme Court. The American people and government displayed racist attitudes in their dealings with Japanese-Americans. Nevertheless, the desire of the government to defeat the Axis powers was equal in all respects. Remember, the "Europe first" policy was being adhered to. During WWII, a total of 16,112,566 Americans served in all branches of the armed forces. Of this total, more than 400,000 would die and more than half a million would be wounded.7 The country was ready to end the war on all fronts as quickly as possible and would have used any weapon at its disposal. The idea of nuclear fission and controlling the enormous power of the atom was a major project for many of the top physicists in the world during the 1930's, especially when it was discovered that the atom could be split. Without getting too technical, scientists now believed that uranium-235 would split when hit with a neutron, and the fission of one such atom would release several free neutrons which would set off a chain reaction.8 The task facing the scientists was how to control this chain reaction. Based on these scientific discoveries, Albert Einstein informed President Roosevelt that research would soon make it possible to harness this energy. In turn, technology would be available to allow the United States to produce bombs of tremendous power and capable of great destruction.9 Einstein was so convincing that Roosevelt authorized the research at government expense and in 1942, turned the task of creating an atomic bomb over to a secret department within the Army Corps of Engineers. The project was headed by Major General Leslie R. Groves and was code named "The Manhattan Project." For obvious reasons, the Manhattan Project was kept very secret and many senior government officials had no idea the project existed. The scientists working on the project were well respected and renowned in their professions, men such as Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, Dr. Lise Meitner (a German who had escaped Nazi Germany), Dr. Arthur H. Compton, Dr. Nils Bohr, Dr. Ernest O. Lawrence, and Dr. Enrico Fermi served on the committee. The government constructed two large plants to produce the bomb and spent in excess of 2.5 billion dollars on the project. On July 16, 1945, the atomic bomb was successfully tested in the desert of New Mexico. The new bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT and 2,000 times the blast power of the largest bomb used up until that time.10 The United States now had in its arsenal of weapons the one weapon capable of putting a quick end to WWII. Frequent bombing raids and the use of fire bombs on large populated cities was introduced by the Germans when they executed air raids against London in December 1940 and May 1941. The concept was improved upon by the Allied forces by increasing the number of aircraft, increasing the size, tonnage, and number of incendiary bombs to be dropped, and increasing the frequency of the raids. These changes in tactics produced intense fire storms in the German cities designated as targets and brought the war "up close and personal" to the German population. The city of Hamburg experienced three saturation incendiary air raids during July 1943. On the 24th and 25th, a raid was conducted and struck the west section of the city, engulfing approximately 1 1/2 square miles and nearly 54 miles of building frontage. On the 27th and 28th, a second raid was conducted and struck the southeast section of the city. This particular raid engulfed 5 square miles, approximately 133 miles of building frontage, and left an estimated 7,000 buildings on fire. The final raid was conducted on the 29th and 30th in the southern section of the city and covered an area of 2 square miles and destroyed an estimated building frontage of 104 miles.11 The casualty picture for Hamburg will never truly be known because in a fire storm, many of the victims simply vanish into dust and ashes. Records indicate that approxi- mately 55,000 people lost their lives in Hamburg. Of the 450,800 family apartments in the city, 253,400 were destroyed or made unfit to live in and a total of 5.9 square miles of buildings were totally destroyed.12 Another major fire bombing raid was conducted on the cultural city of Dresden in the winter of 1945. The need for the raid was questioned by a few people in the military chain of command because the tide of the war had definitely turned in favor of the Allies and the destruction of this city seemed unnecessary. Unfortunately for Dresden, many military leaders felt that Dresden was the vital communications center to the German army and that if the Allies could knock out a single key point, rail traffic would come to a halt for months. Dresden also contained a large marshalling yard with large numbers of rolling stock and an important bridge that gave it access to the autobahn (important road network). The fact that Dresden had a very large civilian population, enhanced by approximately 200,000 refugees, had very little impact on the decision to proceed with Operation Thunderclap.13 On the 13th and 14th of February 1945, Dresden was attacked by 800 bombers belonging to the Allied forces. The first wave of the attack was from 10-10:25 p.m., the second wave from 1:22-1:54 a.m., and the third wave from 12:15-12:25 p.m.14 The effect of Operation Thunderclap on the morale and will of the German army and population was devastating. As it was with Hamburg, the true casualty figures will never be known, but some sources have estimated the death count to be as high as 250,000-400,000.15 Of the 220,000 dwellings, 90,000 were totally destroyed and only 45,000 remained undamaged. The bombing of Dresden proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the Allies were committed to winning the war and would use any means at their disposal. The bombing policy that worked so effectively in Europe was also conducted against the Japanese. Japan was constantly being raided by American long-distance bombers and fighters in early 1945, but the damage being done by the conventional weapons did not destroy the will of the Japanese people. Nagoya, with its aircraft manufacturing center, and Tokyo, the military and political fulcrum, were the two most frequently bombed cities. July 1945 found hundreds of Japanese cities and towns burned, charred, and totally destroyed. Still, the Japanese continued to fight. Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, was one of many who felt the U.S. would be justified in using the atomic bomb. He believed that the damage being caused by conventional weapons was tremendous but that Japan would have to be shocked into surrender. Stimson realized that thousands of civilians would be killed in the explosion of the bomb, but he rationalized that in the long run, many more American and Japanese lives would be saved by using the bomb.16 The committee of scientists who worked on and eventually developed the bomb also recommended that the weapon be used on Japan. The committee felt that the devastating power of the atomic bomb would best serve the purpose of the U. S. if it was used on a target of military importance to the Japanese. The scientists were adamantly against warning the Japanese of the lethality of the atomic bomb and did not want to demonstrate the effectiveness of the bomb on an uninhabited island. Direct military use was the only way to end the war as far as they were concerned.17 The final decision on whether to use the bomb or not belonged to the President alone. President Truman had considered the recommendations of his top advisors and determined that the saving of American lives was his primary concern, thus the war must come to an end. When writing about his decision to use the bomb, Truman stated, "Let there be no mistake about it, I regard the bomb as a military weapon and never had any doubt that it should be used. The top military advisors to the President recommended its use, and when I talked to Churchill, he unhesitatingly told me that he favored the use of the atomic bomb if it might aid to end the war."18 On the 26th of July 1945, the United States, while attending the Potsdam Conference, issued an ultimatum to Japan to surrender unconditionally or suffer the effects of this new weapon. The Japanese refused to surrender and vowed to continue to fight. Upon hearing the Japanese reply, President Truman decided to drop the bomb on or about 3 August 1945. Four cities were selected as possible targets for the bomb: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki. The criteria for target selection was that each target should have a high military strategic value, contain a large percentage of closely built frame buildings that would be susceptible to damage by blast and fire, and that the site be relatively untouched by previous bombings.19 Hiroshima was an extremely important military center. The 2nd Army Headquarters was located in the city and it commanded the defense of all of Southern Japan. Hiroshima was also a communications center, a storage point, and an assembly area for troops. The population of the city at the time of the attack was approximately 255,000 people. Nagasaki was of great military value to Japan because of the industries located in the city. Ordnance, ships, military equipment, and various other war materials were produced in Nagasaki and any interruption in the flow of these materials would prove to be very detrimental to the Japanese war effort. Nagasaki had a population of approximately 195,000 people. On 6 August 1945, the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The effects of the bomb almost blew the city off the face of the earth. Buildings, houses, trees, telephone poles, etc. collapsed as is they were made of paper. Fire engulfed the city. Thousands of panic stricken people ran through the streets in total shock. The lines of communi- cation to the rest of Japan was totally severed. In the end, 66,000 people were killed and 69,000 injured.20 Three days later on 9 August 1945, the United States dropped an even larger bomb on Nagasaki. The results were similar to Hiroshima and the death and injury toll, although lesser than Hiroshima, was still devastating. A total of 39,000 people were killed and 25,000 injured.21 Even the most ardent of Japanese war supporters could see the writing on the wall and on 2 September 1945, the Japanese officially surrendered. This event marked the end to the greatest war in history. The Japanese described the bombing as an inhuman act, but for the most part, world opinion was favorable. When informed of the powerful new weapon invented by the United States, Joseph Stalin stated that he was glad to hear the news and hoped the Americans "would make good use of it against Japan." Winston Churchill was only glad that the United States and not the Germans had been the first to discover the secret of atomic power. The American public was ecstatic over the fact that the war had come to an end and felt vindicated for Pearl Harbor. With the atomic bomb, the United States now found itself in a position of power in the world political arena. The relationship with Western Europe was solid, but the relationship with Eastern Europe would be strained for years to come. This was the beginning of the Cold War. From the very start of research to the completion of the Manhattan Project, the atomic bomb was to be used as a military weapon. The United States was obsessed with beating the Germans to the discovery of atomic power and its properties because that knowledge in the hands of a madman like Adolph Hitler would be catastrophic. The atomic bomb was not produced or ready for use until July 1945, three months after the surrender of Germany. Had it been available to the U.S. prior to Germany's surrender, there is no doubt that it would have been used in Europe. The atomic bomb was always viewed as a weapon to be used and not to show. The effects of the bombing raids on Hamburg and Dresden were just as devastating as the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The destruction of the cities and the numbers of people killed were comparable. The shocking factor was that one bomb caused the destruction in Japan, whereas in Europe, continuous bombing raids and multiple assets were used. The fact that American lives could be saved by using the atomic bomb was President Truman's primary concern in deciding the drop the bomb. If he could have used it in Europe, Japan might have seen the light and given up when the Germans were defeated. The threat of having that awesome weapon dropped on mainland Japan would have carried a lot of weight in helping the Japanese decide on what course of action to follow. President Truman had no love for Nazi Germany and would not have hesitated to destroy the would-be master race. Top military and civilian advisors were in favor of using the atomic bomb as a military weapon. General Carl A. Spaatz, Commander of U. S. Strategic Air Forces, summed up the military perspective when he stated, "If we had had the atomic bomb in Europe, it would have shortened the war six to eight months.22 The racial issue was real and there was no doubt that the Japanese were more despised than their German and Italian allies. Pearl Harbor may have had something to do with the American sentiment. Another popular slogan heard during the war was "Remember Pearl Harbor." Feelings may have been different if the human atrocities that were being committed by the Germans were publicized. The racial discrimination that was incurred by Japanese- American citizens was disgraceful, especially when the government had no indications or proof of espionage. Fortunately, this racial bias had no bearing on President Truman's decision and, as previously stated, Germany would have felt the impact of the atomic bomb if the war would have lasted a few months longer. FOOTNOTES 1Louis L. Snyder, The First Book of World War II (New York, 1958), p. 12. 2John W. Dower, War Without Mercy (New York, 1986), p. 78. 3Ibid., pp. 78-79. 4Ibid., p. 79. 5John, Leo. "An Apology to Japanese Americans," Time, p. 70. 6John W. Dower, War Without Mercy (New York, 1986), p. 79. 7James L. Stokesbury, A Short History of World War II (New York, 1980), p. 380. 8Louis L. Snyder, The War, A Concise History (New York, 1960), p. 486. 9Ibid., p. 486. 10Leslie R. Groves, Lieut. General, U. S. Army, Ret., Now It Can Be Told, The Story of the Manhattan Project (New York, 1962), p. 315. 11Anthony J. Mullaney, Fire and the Air War (Boston, 1946), pp. 99-100. 12Ibid., p. 100. 13Brigadier Peter Young, World War 1939-45, A Short History (New York, 1966), p. 265. 14Alexander McKee, Dresden 1945: The Devil's Tinderbox (New York, 1982), p. 137. 15Brigadier Peter Young, World War 1939-45, A Short History (New York, 1966, p. 265. 16Louis L. Snyder, The War, A Concise History (New York, 1960), pp. 488-489. 17Ibid., p. 487. 18Ibid., p. 489. 19The Manhattan Engineer District, The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (N. Manchester, 1967), pp. 5-8. 20Ibid., p. 18. 21Ibid., p. 18. 22Louis L. Snyder, The War, A Concise History (New York, 1960), p. 488. BIBLIOGRAPHY A. BOOKS Amrine, Michael. The Great Decision. New York: G. P. Putnam's Son, 1959. Bond, Horatio. Fire and the Air War. Boston: National Fire Protection Assn., 1946. Brown, Anthony and MacDonald, Charles. The Secret History of the Atomic Bomb. New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1977. Cochran, Bert. Harry Truman and the Crisis Presidency. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1973. Donovan, Robert J. Conflict and Crisis. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1977. Dower, John W. War Without Mercy. New York: Pantheon Books, 1986. Evans, Medford. The Secret War for the A-Bomb. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1953. Groves, Leslie R. Now It Can Be Told-The Story of the Manhattan Project. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1962. Groueff, Stephane. Manhattan Project, The Untold Story of the Making of the Atomic Bomb. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1967. Hillman, William. Mr. President. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Young, 1952. Johnson, Julia E. The Atomic Bomb. New York: H. W. Wilson Company, 1946. Jones, Vincent C. Manhattan: The Army and the Atomic Bomb. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, 1985. McKee, Alexander. Dresden 1945: The Devils Tinderbox. New York: E.P. Dutton, Inc., 1982. Miller, M. and Spitzer, Abe. We Dropped the A-Bomb. New York: T. Y. Crowell, 1946. O'Neill, Herbert Charles. A Short History of the Second World War. London: Faber and Faber, 1950. Poen, Monte M. Strictly Personal and Confidential. Boston: Little and Brown, 1982. Sherwin, Martin J. A World Destroyed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1975. Snyder, Louis L. The War. A Concise History 1939-1945. New York: Julian Messner, Inc., 1960. Snyder, Louis L. The First Book of World War II. New York: Franklin Watts, 1958. Stokesbury, James L. A Short History of World War II. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1980. Truman, Harry S. Memoirs by Harry S. Truman. New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1956. B. TRANSCRIPTS/STUDIES Manhattan Engineer District. The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 1951.

Join the mailing list