By mid-1945, Allied forces had moved across the Pacific defeating the Japanese. Both sides -- and civilians as well -- had sustained huge casualties at places like Saipan, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima. World War II had ended in Europe in April, but even though they were losing the Pacific war, the Japanese seemed unwilling to surrender.
Many of President Harry Truman's advisors believed that the Japanese would relent before a planned U.S. invasion of Japan in November. But despite massive military losses and the threat of widespread starvation, Japanese leaders showed no interest in peace. Their Ketsu-Go plan called for the military and civilians to mount a fierce defense against invasion -- if not to defeat the U.S., then to obtain better terms for surrender.
July was the decisive month. New intelligence indicated that American casualties would reach over 600,000 during an invasion. On July 16, the U.S. Army had its first successful test of the atomic bomb. And at the end of the month, Japan rejected the U.S. call for unconditional surrender under the threat of "prompt and utter destruction" that had been part of the Potsdam agreements between the U.S.S.R., the U.S. and Great Britain.
Scholars hotly debate what would have happened if the atomic bomb had not been used in August 1945. "The basic question is: If the war continued, what was the cost?" says historian Ed Drea. "And, of course, the cost would have continued to rise for the Japanese, particularly for the Japanese civilian population."
Question: If you have been advising President Harry Truman in July 1945, would you have advocated that the U.S. use the atomic bomb?
Total number of poll participants: 3173
Of the participants polled, 2158 watched at least half of the film; of those, 1,036 said the film influenced their vote.
In 1960, Francis Gary Powers' U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union.
The Battle of the Bulge was the biggest and bloodiest single battle American soldiers ever fought.
Harry Truman was responsible for finding America's place at the start of the Cold War. Part of the award-winning Presidents collection.
The stories of ordinary people in the tumultuous years after the Civil War, when America struggled to rebuild the Union.
During World War II, more than a thousand women signed up to fly with the U.S. military as WASPS.
The international race to develop biological weapons during the 20th century.
A brilliant scientist, Oppenheimer was tasked with the development of the atomic bomb during World War II.
In the summer of 1940, 10,000 children were sent from wartime Britain to the United States.