The Wolverine movie and history books: Nagasaki atomic bomb

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ...

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed tens of thousands of Japanese civilians.

We recently passed the 68th anniversary of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki atomic bombs dropped in Japan during World War II. You might not be looking for historical context in a summer blockbuster like The Wolverine movie, but the story begins when the U.S. military dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Indestructible war prisoner Logan saving a Japanese officer by shielding his body against the atomic blast is the basis for the movie’s plot. For a history book account of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing and their aftermath, visit Questia for some of the best history books for research.

Reason for the atomic bombing

At the end of World War II, Nazi Germany had surrendered in May of 1945, yet the Pacific campaign still raged. When Japan refused to surrender in the Potsdam Declaration of July 26, 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, which housed a military garrison, on August 6, 1945. On August 9, the shipbuilding city of Nagasaki was bombed. An estimated 90,000 – 166,000 people died in Hiroshima and 60,000 – 80,000 people in Nagasaki. Six days later on August 15, 1945, to prevent the “complete annihilation of the Japanese people,” Emperor Hirohito of Japan gave permission for Japan’s unconditional surrender.

In “Understanding the Decision to Drop the Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” August 10, 2012 at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, Nathan Donohue, a researcher at the Project on Nuclear Issues, outlined the debate at the time:

Reasons to drop the bombs:

  • End the war the quickest way possible
  • Justify the cost of the Manhattan Project (nearly $2 billion in 1945 dollars)
  • Weapons are created to be used; lack of incentive not to use the bombs
  • Response to Pearl Harbor attacks

Alternatives to dropping the bombs:

  • Intensifying conventional bombing and the naval blockade
  • Allowing the Japanese to retain the Emperor
  • Waiting for the Soviet Union to enter the war

If Hiroshima, why Nagasaki?

I remember a Japanese language teacher I had, an elderly woman who had lived in Japan during the bombings. She acknowledged that the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was an act of war and a display of devastating military power by the Americans. The horrific effects of the bomb on Hiroshima had adequately made the American’s point. She could never understand, however, why a second bomb on Nagasaki was necessary. Military historians still debate that today.

During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt commissioned the United States Strategic Bombing Survey to assess the effects of the Allies’ conventional bombings in Europe and atomic bombings in Japan. In 1946, director of the Survey, Paul H. Nitze, briefed members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Atomic Energy about the Survey’s findings. Japan, argued Nitze, “would have surrendered prior to November 1 [1945] in any case; the atomic bomb merely accelerated the date at which Japan surrendered.” This remark was striking in admitting that the combat use of the atomic bomb was unnecessary in forcing Japan to surrender, wrote Gian P. Gentile in the 2001 book, “How Effective Is Strategic Bombing? Lessons Learned from World War II and Kosovo.”

Effects of radiation poisoning

In The Wolverine movie, the indestructible Logan shields the body of a young Japanese soldier against the blast of the atomic bomb. Logan is badly burned but heals instantly. The soldier is beaten up by debris but otherwise unharmed. He is forever grateful to Logan for saving his life. Nearly 70 years later, as he is dying from cancer, he summons Logan to Japan to thank him and to learn his secret for eternal youth.

In reality, such close proximity to the atomic blast would have, if not incinerated the soldier, given him a lethal dose of radiation. He likely would have died of cancer far sooner than 70 years. After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, cancer rates in the region skyrocketed. According to Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Japan, “excess risk [of cancer] associated with radiation started to appear about ten years after exposure… For the average radiation exposure of survivors within 2,500 meters (about 0.2 Gy), the increase is about 10% above normal age-specific rates… higher risks are associated with younger age at exposure.”

For information on the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, visit Questia’s World War II history page or the Hiroshima and Nagasaki page.

If you have studied the historical context of the atomic bombings, do you believe they were justified?

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