Part of Dispatches: America at War

America at War: Victory in the Pacific

AUGUST 6, 1945, will remain forever a milestone in human annals. On that date the world's first atomic fission bomb was dropped upon Japan. The action may have been necessary for the purpose of saving American lives. But it was not merely another episode in the long history of man's inhumanity to man; and it was even more portentous than the final victory over Japan which quickly followed. For it marked the first harnessing of the sun's power on a large scale, with all the untold consequences for good and evil implicit in the achievement. The new chapter may end in man's reversion to a troglodyte, or it may lead to the establishment of a world brotherhood in which the forces of nature, including man's own passions, are harnessed to the common good.

II

The war against Japan reached its end as suddenly as it had begun, months before most of our military leaders had dared to hope for it. The surprise ending was a consequence of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of Russia's eleventh-hour entry into the conflict, but it was also a result of our previous sweeping victories in the Pacific. Even before August 6, Japan was hopelessly beaten. The only unresolved question was whether she would continue a futile struggle and make us pay still further in lives and time, or whether her leaders would accept the inevitable and bow in defeat. The atomic bomb speeded their decision; but the strategic situation in the Pacific, especially our capture of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, which unlocked the gateways to Japan, was a decisive factor. Significantly, the first Japanese peace overtures were made to Russia about the time the campaign on Okinawa ended.

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