A Second Great War: The Atomic Bomb

The Second World War (1939-1945 in Europe, although some historians date the beginning of the global war with the Japanese annexation of Manchuria in 1931) saw even more destruction than the first.

One of the key differences between the two wars was the much larger number of civilian casualties in the latter war. One reason for the greater number of casualties was the use of strategic bombing of cities.

While, in some ways, it was less destructive than other bombing campaigns, the decision of the United States to use the atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki cast the longest shadow. The decision remains controversial–was the bombing necessary? Could the same results have been achieved without unleashing the horrors of atomic war?

This site presents documents central to the decision-making process that the American government used to make nuclear strategy in 1945. Choose one of the documents, read it, and do the following:

Describe the document, and explain how its contents supported or opposed the decision to drop these atomic bombs.