Should America have dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

America's use of atomic bombs to attack the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 has long remained one of the most controversial decisions of the Second World War. Here, a group of historians offer their views on whether US president Truman was right to authorise these nuclear attacks...

The Japanese city of Hiroshima shortly after the US dropped the atomic bomb

This article was first published in the August 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine

“Yes. Truman had little choice” says Antony Beevor

Few actions in war are morally justifiable. All a commander or political leader can hope to assess is whether a particular course of action is likely to reduce the loss of life. Faced with the Japanese refusal to surrender, President Truman had little choice.

His decision was mainly based on the estimate of half a million Allied casualties likely to be caused by invading the home islands of Japan. There was also the likely death rate from starvation for Allied PoWs and civilians as the war dragged on well into 1946.

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