August 17 – Japan Surrenders

When the Japanese surrendered in 1945, they brought an end one of the bloodiest decades in human history. The celebrations were unprecedented, and certainly deserved. The end of the war had many consequences, not least of which was the rise of the United States as a superpower. For those living in the West, the end of the war meant a tremendous advance in freedom and prosperity and peace. For those in the colonial world, the start of their own liberation. And for those in the areas under Soviet influence, a new period of disappointment.

The surrender came after an unexpected use of atomic weapons. This is still, to date, the only use of nuclear weapons in combat. After WWII, a war for nuclear supremacy was entered between the United States and the Soviet Union. During the 1970s, “lesser powers” began developing programs aimed at nuclear weapons capabilities. Since 2003, concerns over Iran’s nuclear program has increased. Despite claims, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has denied the country being engaged in building weapons of mass destruction. As of March 2020, Iran’s stockpiles of low enriched uranium exceed the limit set by the 2015 Nuclear Deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Although countries and leaders have threatened the use of nuclear weapons, as stated, it has not happened since WWII. However, in 2020 the world faced a new unseen enemy and war was waged by governments all over the world against COVID-19. There is no bomb that can be dropped on an enemy located in a specific area, this enemy is all over, and the weapon to kill it will have to come in the form of a vaccine. In fact, President Trump compared the research and development of a vaccine to the Manhattan Project. After a substantial time social distancing, even once a vaccine is available, will there be similar celebrations like those of WWII?

Questions:

  1. Did future US conflicts, such as Vietnam and Iraq, bring about similar celebrations after they ended? Why or why not?
  2. Has our attitude towards involvement in foreign conflicts changed since the World Wars? Why or why not?
  3. How is the research and development of vaccines similar to the Manhattan Project as referenced by President Trump? What type of government involvement goes into each?