The Hiroshima bombing was a terrible tragedy and will always be remembered as an example of the horrors of war. While it was justifiable, it was nonetheless a tragic loss of human life.
Last month, I tweeted an article putting the nuclear annihilation in historical and mathematical context, and that context is critical to understanding and analyzing the decision to use nuclear power. That context is simple: The Hiroshima bombing resulted in fewer deaths than continuing the conventional war against Japan. Bombing Hiroshima saved lives, on both the American side and the Japanese side.
Sometimes in war, you are faced with no good options. President Truman knew that an invasion of Japan itself would be incredibly bloody and destructive for both nations. He chose the option that would end the war more quickly and result in less death and destruction – for both military and civilians – than an invasion.
In fact, one could argue that nuclear weapons have been the greatest force for peace the world has seen since the end of World War II. The horror of atomic warfare restrained both these United States and even the Soviet Union, a truly Evil Empire guilty of genocide against its own people. Both nations fought proxy wars, but a third world war between the USA and the USSR would have been horrific on a scale that would have easily eclipsed World War II.
While I understand that the destruction brought by only one bomb is very different psychologically than thousands upon thousands of conventional bombs, it is interesting that Hiroshima gets so much more attention than the much larger number of civilians killed by the Allies’ conventional bombs in both Germany and Japan. Of course, the Axis targeted cities and civilians as well, with Germany’s bombing of London and Japan’s war crimes against China and Korea. We should remember those people at the same time we remember the lives lost in Hiroshima.