The war between the United States and Japan forms one of the most discussed historical
events. The war led to devastating effects, still felt to date, especially in Japan. The end of the
war marked one of the greatest historical moments in both nations and the world at large. The
two events that mark the war include the Pearl Harbor attack by the Emperor of Japan and the
Atomic Bombing of Japan by the United States, events which the former ignited the war and the
latter ended it (Feis, Herber, 83). Both attacks led to the loss of lives, destruction of military
equipment, economic and political crisis. The review of the two attacks contributes to the nuclear
weapon debate and war tactics used in the era. However, the two attacks differ regarding
justification and the objectives of the two nations when carrying out the attacks.
The two events occurred during a critical time in history, The World War II. The Pearl
Harbor attack ignited the United States’ entry into the war, while the atomic Bombing in Japan
ended the war. The Pearl Harbor attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy occurred on December 7,
1941, at the Hawaii Islands located at the center of the Pacific (Korr, Mary, 82). The Pearl
Harbor acted as the deep water naval base for the American Military and therefore contained
military personnel and equipment, including ships and aircrafts. On the other hand, the Atomic
Bombing of Japan by the United States occurred twice: at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and at
Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. The atomic bombing happened as a result of the war Japan initiated
against the United States during the attack on the Pearl Harbor (Ellsworth, Kellar). The two
countries held different justifications of the attacks.
The Pearl Harbor attack by Japan targeted at destroying the American military to enable
Japan to pursue expansion goals into Southern Asia. According to Feis, during the period leading
to the Pearl Harbor attack, Europe engaged in a war, with every country seeking to pursue
expansion of its political and demographic boundaries into Asia. The Great Britain, a United
States ally, battled with Germany and Italy, Japanese Allies, a situation that pushed the United
States to chip in to help the Great Britain (Feis, Herbert, 11). The U.S. strategic move angered
Japan, and the Japanese emperor sought options to stop the United States, that now acted as an
enemy and barrier, and to continue pursuing the natural resources in Southern Asia. The power
of the United States Military and strategic location of the Pearl Harbor naval base proved a threat
to Japan’s intentions, forcing Japan to develop an effective strategy to handle the military.
The Japanese Military developed a strategy of conducting a surprise attack on the United States
and destroy the United States Military to enable the Japanese to conquer Asia before the United
States recovered from the attack. Gregg States that the attack aimed at completely destructing
United States Military work by utterly destroying the vessels and the people. Admiral Isoroku
Yamamoto planned and effected the 1941 attack, knowing that the Pearl Harbor acted as the
Headquarter of the Pacific Fleet and therefore most military equipment kept there. Japan also
expected the attack to make the United States lift the ban on exports of oil and Steel from Japan
when seeking materials to reconstruct the naval base and equipment (Herken, Gregg, 30). The
attack impacted the United States military, and the United States proved stronger and more
encouraged to go to war against Japan leading to the Atomic bombing of Japan.
Immediately after the December 1941 attack on the Pearl Harbor, the United States government
felt determined to gauge war against Japan, as a response to the attack. America focused on
ending the raging World War II, spearheaded by Germany and Japan. During the two-year period
after the Pearl Harbor attack, the United States and its allies engaged in nuclear activity aiming at
strengthening military power. According to Gregg the United States believed in ending a war
with an enemy by making them “Unconditionally Surrender”. Therefore, the U.S. launched
attacks on Japan’s Iwo Jima and Okinawa in an attempt to stop Japan’s military moves. The
moves bore fruit when in May 1945, Germany surrendered, but Japan seemed determined to
engage in war (Herken, Gregg, 25). The resilient Japanese spirit made America run out of
options and decided to launch atomic attacks on Japan.
The United States considered the atomic bombing of Japan the most effective military
solution that also saved lives. The earlier attempts of the United States in ending the war with
Japan included attacks of Japanese Islands, which resulted in severe militia exchanges with the
Japanese military causing the death of many civilians, military people, and destruction of
military equipment. Japan military showed no signs of surrendering to the last moment, a factor
that triggered continuity of the war for a longer time (Feis, Herbert, 14). In Summer 1941, the
United States fast-paced nuclear activity, leading to testing of the first atomic bomb in Mexico in
July. Truman remained with few options, removing Hirohito, the Japan Emperor to weaken the
military, continue with the attacks, or change strategy of the attacks (Ellsworth, Kellar). The use
of the atomic bomb led to devastating effects on Hiroshima and Nagasaki forcing Japan to
surrender and end the war.
The United States and Japan planned and executed the attacks with various goals in mind.
Japan intended to weaken the United States Military to limit its influence on the Pacific War and
enable Japan’s efforts to fight for Natural Resources. In pursuing the Southern Asia region and
expanding Pacific territory, Japan targeted minerals, steel, and oil. The war for the resources
lasted for a century, but the United States intervention posed a threat to Japan and allies’ mission
(Feis, Herbert, 43). The interest of the United States and the strategic move of the naval base
from California to Hawaii also pushed Japan to effect the attack. Japan needed the United States
to engage directly in the Pacific war for the natural resources, a factor the United States seemed
to avoid. Japan carried out the Pearl Harbor attack for economic benefit.
Japan wanted the United States to rethink the embargo on Japan. The United States’
interest in the natural resources at Southern Asia also to led to the imposition of trade restrictions
on Japan. The Congress ruled out exports from Japan and freezing of Japanese assets in the
United. Japan needed to rescue itself from the situation and resolved to launch an attack on
America to make the government waiver the restrictions (Korr, Mary, 83). The United States
formed the largest market for Japanese oil and steel, and weak trade relations meant negative
impact on Japan. The limits further complicated the conflict between the United States and Japan
creating tension for war. Japan, therefore, deemed necessary to launch the first attack and create
a war. Just like Japan, the United States carried out the atomic bombing of Japan with political
and military intentions.
America launched an atomic bombing on Japan to end the impending World War II. The war
lasted for around six years and already caused many deaths, displacement of persons and
instability. Therefore, America devised a plan to bring the war to a halt. According to Gregg the
United States saw the direction of the war and the devastating effects and thought of developing
a lasting solution. Launching military attacks on specific places in Japan seemed to lead to more
losses than gain and more determination of Japan to remain in the war (Herken, Gregg, 58). The
atomic bomb, though expected to cause many deaths, proved the best solution to efforts of
making Japan surrender. As opposed to Japan’s efforts to push the United States to war, the
United States wanted to prove more powerful in a war.
The United States wanted to declare military superiority. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki happened barely two months after the testing of an atomic bomb by America. The
attack on Japan made the United States the first to use nuclear weapons in a war. The attack
came during a time when Japan sought the input of the Soviet Union the War, and on realizing
the intention, the United States attacked (Chun, Cody, and Grace, 15). The atomic bombing
declared the nuclear ability and military strength of the United States. The use of the Atomic
bomb acted as a warning to United States enemies regarding the power to always win a war. To
conclude, both nations wanted to show superiority over the other by one initiating a war and the
other devising a method to completely end the war.
The Pearl Harbor attack and the United States Bombing of the United States came into being
with the nations holding different justifications and objectives. Both wars led to a negative
impact on the lives of people, political and economic conditions. Japan hoped the Pearl Harbor
attack weakened the United States military action to enable Japan to pursue natural resources in
Southern Asia and make the United States engage in the Pacific War. On the other hand, the
United States used the attack to end the World War II by making Japan surrender and
communicating political power and military superiority to the world. Therefore, though some
differences in the nations’ intentions for the attack, the two attacks caused long-lasting impacts
regarding political, social and economic stability.
Chun, Cody, and Grace Livingston. "Scholars agree that the bombings of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki were unnecessary and did not, as it is often asserted, save lives. In “Hiroshima:
Historians Reassess,” Gar Alperovitz writes: All of these assessments also bear on the
question of the number of lives that might possibly have been lost if the atomic bomb had
not been used. Over the last." (2015). Retrieved from http://www.pugetsound.edu
Ellsworth, Kellar. "Atomic Bombings Of Hiroshima And Nagasaki – Visit Pearl Harbor." Visit
Pearl Harbor, 2017, https://visitpearlharbor.org/atomic-bombings-hiroshima-nagasaki.
Feis, Herbert. Road to Pearl Harbor: The Coming of the War between the United States and
Japan. Princeton University Press, 2015.
Herken, Gregg. The winning weapon: The atomic bomb in the cold war, 1945-1950. Princeton
University Press, 2014.
Korr, Mary. "Dec. 7, 1941: 75 Years Ago, Japan Attacks Pearl Harbor." Rhode Island Medical
Journal, vol. 99, no. 12, Dec. 2016, pp. 82-83.