For four years after the U.S. dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and ...
For four years after the U.S. dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II, America held a monopoly on the production of atomic weapons. During this period, debate centering on the use of nuclear bombs in future wars proliferated among government officials, scientists, religious leaders, and in the popular press. In the following article from Collier's, former Navy lieutenant commander William H. Hessler, using data from the Strategic Bombing Survey, argued that saturation bombing of urban areas during World War II, while devastating for civilians, did not achieve war aims. A future atomic war, therefore, might well destroy cities but fail to stop enemy aggression. Furthermore, with a much higher urban concentration than the Soviet Union, the U.S. had more to lose from atomic warfare. The article, while providing detailed explanations of the bomb's destructive capability, demonstrated the lack of information available regarding the long-term medical and ecological effects of radioactivity. Hessler's prose also evoked both the fascination that gadgetry of atomic warfare held for Americans of the time and the fear many felt about the risks involved in putting this technology to use. On September 24, 1949, one week after publication of this article, news that the Russians had conducted atom bomb tests shocked the nation. The following April, a National Security Council report to President Harry S. Truman advised development of a hydrogen bomb--some 1,000 times more destructive than an atom bomb--and a massive buildup of non-nuclear defenses. The subsequent outbreak of war in Korea in June 1950 justified to many a substantial increase in defense spending.