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Analysis of the decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan Ross, Patricia Dorothy


This paper analyzes the United States 1 decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan during World War II. Five central questions are raised which identify key issues related to the decision: Why was the atomic bomb dropped on an urban area with a large civilian population without prior warning or demonstration? Why was a second bomb dropped on a second urban area within three days? What was the significance of the demand for unconditional surrender? Why did the American government not follow up on Japanese efforts to negotiate a surrender? Why did the Americans not test whether a Russian declaration of war would force capitulation of Japan and to what extent did the atomic bomb affect the structure of American - Soviet relationships? While this last question involves two separate issues, they are raised as one question as they both deal with aspects of the relationship of the United States with Russia. The decision is analyzed from the perspective of several different models. Information generated under each model is applied to the central questions to determine the extent to which the model provides satisfactory answers. The first model assumes a unitary actor involved in the decision; initially, in Model 1 (A), this actor is considered to be comprehensively rational; in Model 1 (B) the actor is considered to be boundedly rational. Model 2 postulates a decision agent with separate information units and implementation units, and focuses upon the impact of these information and implementation units on the decision which is made. A Model 3 approach then proposes multiple decision units each with its own specific objectives, stands, alternatives and bargaining positions. Our analysis indicates that through the different perspectives of the three models, diverse and often conflicting explanations emerge in response to the central questions raised. The major weaknesses of Model 1 (A) are that many of its conclusions are based upon inferred objectives with little evidence presented as to the legitimacy of these as plausible objectives; in addition, the model as presented does not deal with the impact of the atomic bomb on the structure of American - Soviet relationships. The major weakness of Model 1 (B), as presented, is that it is not possible to answer the question regarding Russian - American relationships since no bounded behaviors were identified in our search which would provide significant insight into this aspect of the problem. In Model 2 the major weakness identified is that the model does not explain how the atomic bomb influenced American - Soviet relationships. It was our conclusion that examination of information and implementation units alone could not adequately explain the relationship between United States and Russia. As well, the model does not resolve why the decision was initially made to drop a second bomb. Model 3 emphasizes the relationship between United States and the Soviet Union and the balance of power between these two countries; however, the information given under this model does not explain the actual use of the bomb against an urban center in Japan.

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