Expert: Atomic bombings still part of political diplomacy

July 28, 2005

The next few weeks will be filled with differing opinions on how the United States should commemorate the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Japan, and a Purdue University political communication expert can talk about how President Ronald Reagan used the bombings as a part of his diplomacy to end the Cold War.

"This is certainly a polarizing topic," says Buddy Howell, an instructor of communication who specializes in presidential rhetoric and the Cold War. "Some people say the use of the atomic bombs had peaceful intentions to end the war. Others consider it an act of terror. Sixty years later, it still matters to us how we, and our presidents, talk about and remember events like this because it defines us as Americans."

On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, in an attempt to end War World II. A few days later, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, and only then Japan surrendered. The bombings killed hundreds of thousands of people instantly and also contributed to the start of the Cold War and nuclear arms race with the former Soviet Union.

Forty years later, President Reagan spoke of the bombings when trying to reconcile with Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, says Howell, who studies presidents' roles as diplomats-in-chief.

"Reagan referenced the bombings to make a point that if the United States wanted to attack the former Soviet Union, it would have had to when America had a monopoly on atomic power in the 1940s," Howell says. "Now after 9/11 and other recent events, it will be most interesting to see how the current administration talks about the bombings. I expect the current administration will follow Reagan's lead in using this event as a way to promote diplomacy and freedom."

Source: Purdue University

Explore further: What has nuclear physics ever given us?

Related Stories

What has nuclear physics ever given us?

August 10, 2015

This year marks the 103rd anniversary of the birth of nuclear physics, when Ernest Rutherford, Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden's experiments at the University of Manchester led them to conclude that atoms consist of tiny, ...

What we need to do to prepare for a nuclear event

August 10, 2015

As we observe the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it may seem like the threat from nuclear weapons has receded. But it hasn't; the threat is actually increasing steadily. This is difficult to face ...

Could deep-Earth microbes help us frack for oil?

August 3, 2015

On a muddy hill above a World War II ordnance plant that made material for atomic bombs, a fracking crew will drill thousands of feet underground in a search for life itself.

Atomic bomb test marks 70th birthday amid renewed interest

July 16, 2015

When a flash of light beamed from the arid New Mexico desert early on July 16, 1945, residents of the historic Hispanic village of Tularosa felt windows shake and heard dishes fall. Some in the largely Catholic town fell ...

Recommended for you

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.