Article written by: Rick Ramos
The Atomic Age dawned Aug. 6, 1945, when the United States exploded an atomic bomb over the Japanese city Hiroshima. Three days later, on Aug. 9, the U.S. exploded a second atomic bomb over the city of Nagasaki. These are the only two atomic bombs ever exploded.
It’s estimated the immediate blast and heat effects from the U.S. bombs killed 70,000 to 130,000 at Hiroshima and 60,000 to 70,000 at Nagasaki. An estimated 70,000 were wounded at Hiroshima, with thousands more dying years later from delayed radiation effects.
In light of those effects, Joseph Lanza, who taught 20th century history and economics for 38 years, explores the question “Was Dropping the A-Bomb Necessary?” The short course is slated for 10 a.m. to noon May 14 and 21 at Florida Gulf University’s Renaissance Academy in downtown Punta Gorda.
Using film, primary sources and current research documents, Lanza will guide participants in a critical examination of the evidence and an evaluation of the options available to U.S. President Harry S. Truman at the time.
“We’ll view a film from the World at War Series, “The Atomic Bomb,” which examines the dropping of the atomic bomb from both the Japanese and American points of view,” Lanza said. “Using primary source material, the class will explore three possible options: whether to push ahead to victory by dropping the bomb; understand this is a new era with atomic weapons and drop one on a deserted island as a demonstration of its power; or not use the bomb at all.”
The bombings have sparked ongoing ethical, legal and military controversies as well as debates between supporters and opponents of the bombings. J. Samuel Walker, an American historian and author most notable for his research and writing on the nuclear age, wrote “…the controversy over the use of the bomb seems certain to continue.”
Supporters argue the bombings were preferable to invading Japan, would end the war quickly and save Japanese civilian lives, were a part of total war and were necessary because Japan’s political and military leaders had refused to surrender.
Opponents counter by pointing out the bombings were fundamentally immoral, militarily unnecessary, were war crimes, constituted state terrorism, were the result of an ongoing racist and war-long effort to dehumanize the Japanese people and were a continuation of an earlier American decision to fire bomb Japan.
“What were the decision-making processes, the factors involved in the decision, what factors did Truman consider and what factors influenced his decision making at the time?” Lanza said. “We’ll consider whether this was a crusade versus evil, to end the war with unconditional surrender and eliminate the militarism and fanaticism in Germany and Japan. Or was the real target of the bombs the Soviet Union in an act of atomic diplomacy? Finally, what was the moral responsibility for using the bomb?”
The question “Was Dropping the A-Bomb Necessary?” will lead to a discussion of nuclear proliferation in the modern world, according to Lanza.
“We’ll consider Iran and efforts to restrict its nuclear development, whether we want it [nuclear proliferation] to continue and what the world community is going to do about it, and nuclear disarmament and limitations. Are there enough countries that have nuclear weapons?” Lanza said. “The development of the atomic bomb has prevented world wars over the last 70 years, although more limited wars have proliferated.”
For more information about this course offered in Punta Gorda “Was Dropping the A-Bomb Necessary?” or to register, call (941) 505-0130. You can also register online at https://registerra.fgcu.edu; enter the search term “A-Bomb.”