History of the United States
Soviet Union (USSR)
What did the Soviet Union's development of the atomic bomb in 1949 start?
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What year did the cold war start between the US and the USSR?
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Almost immediately following the end of World War II, Americans began to question the use of the atomic bomb and the circumstances surrounding the end of the Pacific War. More than half a century later, books and articles on the atomic bomb still provoke storms of debate among readers and the use of atomic weapons remains a sharply contested subject. As the 1995 controversy over the Enola Gay exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum revealed, the issues connected with the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki continue to touch a sensitive nerve in Americans. Among scholars, disagreement remains no less heated. But, on the whole, this debate has been strangely parochial, centering almost exclusively on how the U.S. leadership made the decision to drop the bombs. There are two distinct gaps in this historiography. First, with regard to the atomic bombs, as Asada Sadao in Japan correctly observes, American historians have concentrated on the "motives" behind the use of atomic bombs, but "they have slighted the effects of the bomb." Second, although historians have been aware of the decisive influence of both the atomic bombs and the Soviet entry into the war, they have largely sidestepped the Soviet factor, relegating it to sideshow status. A series of counterfactual hypotheses can help clarify the question of which factor, the atomic bombs or Soviet entry into the war, had the more decisive effect on Japan's decision to surrender. We might ask, in particular, whether Japan would have surrendered before November 1, the scheduled date for the start of Operation Olympic, the U.S. invasion of Kyushu, given neither the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nor Soviet entry into the war; Soviet entry alone, without the atomic bombings; or the atomic bombings alone, without Soviet entry.