Watch Oppenheimer: The Decision to Drop the Bomb, a 1965 Documentary Featuring J. Robert Oppenheimer

If you’ve seen Christo­pher Nolan’s new Oppen­heimer film, you may want to turn your atten­tion to anoth­er film, the 1965 doc­u­men­tary called Oppen­heimer: The Deci­sion to Drop the Bomb. With it, you can hear direct­ly from J. Robert Oppen­heimer and oth­er archi­tects of the first atom­ic bomb. Released on NBC News’ offi­cial YouTube chan­nel, the film cap­tures their reflec­tions two decades after the bomb­ing of Hiroshi­ma and Nagasa­ki. It also fea­tures a coda by pres­i­den­tial his­to­ri­an Michael Beschloss. As one YouTube com­menter put it, “This is some­thing every­one should see. I was total­ly engrossed and cap­ti­vat­ed. His­to­ry brought to life by the very peo­ple that were involved. Thank you NBC archives.” You can watch it above…

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Comments (13)
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  • Jody Hopkins says:

    There was no need to drop the atom­ic bomb on a Euro­pean city. The War in Europe was over. Ger­man sol­diers were sur­ren­der­ing in droves.

    Con­trast this with the last two major bat­tles in the Pacif­ic. At Iwo Jima, 6,900 Marines were KIA. At Oki­nawa, over 12,000 Amer­i­can ser­vice­men were KIA. After both bat­tles just a hand­ful of Japan­ese sur­ren­dered.

    The Japan­ese were not going to give up the fight. They were ready to die and they would have tak­en many Amer­i­cans with them.

    I think this “racism” argu­ment is pop­py­cock.

  • larry currie says:

    japan would have nev­er sur­ren­dered –maybe all these woke idiots con­sid­er it racism but ask the moth­ers of the boys lost in war –what about what the japs did to pearl har­bor –they were lucky we did­n’t drop a third bomb as they were not ready to sur­ren­der after the first drop —dec 7th 1941 –remem­ber that date

  • Dave says:

    The Japan­ese were being bombed to obliv­ion. They knew there was no win­ning this war. They sig­naled that they were will­ing to sur­ren­der as long as Hiro­hi­to, who they con­sid­ered to be God like, would not be harmed. Tru­man stuck by his uncon­di­tion­al sur­ren­der stance, so no deal was made. The bomb was then used.

  • Michael Burd says:

    Should have dropped the bomb much much ear­li­er if they had it would have saved many more lives !

  • Donalddunnion says:


  • Paul Hoylen says:

    Had we not dropped the bombs on Hiroshi­ma and Nagasa­ki, there would have been unbe­liev­able casu­al­ties on both sides. There would have been street-to-street, and house-to-house fight­ing as Japan­ese sol­diers and civil­ians were pre­pared to fight to the death once U. S. troops invad­ed Japan.

  • Paul Hoylen says:

    We were for­tu­nate that Japan sur­ren­dered after Hiroshi­ma and Nagasa­ki, for we only had 2 atom bombs in our arse­nal!

  • Zinc Pederson says:

    A con­ser­v­a­tive esti­mate of the inva­sion of Japan by Amer­i­can forces is that 8 — 10 mil­lion Japan­ese per­sons would have been killed and at least 800,000 Amer­i­cans. And Japan as a coun­try and nation would have been com­plete­ly destroyed with no exist­ing econ­o­my to grow from. Mil­i­tarists still con­trolled the coun­try and were urg­ing sol­dier and Japan­ese cit­i­zen to die fight­ing. For those who still argue that the drop­ping of the atom­ic bombs were not nec­es­sary, I ask them would they have been will­ing to per­son­al­ly choose the 800,000 Amer­i­can Moth­ers who would loose their sons in invad­ing Japan.

  • Sean Kelly says:

    Apart from the fact that the Japan­ese had been suing for peace and that the chiefs of staff said drop­ping the bomb would not give any mil­i­tary advan­tage, and apart from the fact that the so-called “strate­gic bomb­ing” was the great­est act of state ter­ror­ism in his­to­ry (inten­tion­al tar­get­ing of civil­ian pop­u­la­tions), the oth­er ques­tion that is not posed is this doc­u­men­tary is this: Why, espe­cial­ly at the point where Japan was crip­pled, was it thought nec­es­sary to have a land inva­sion at all? There was noth­ing more the Japan­ese army could do at that point. A con­tin­ued siege would have accom­plished an even more com­plete vic­to­ry. Clear­ly, the bomb as dropped as a demon­stra­tion to Stal­in.

  • Sean Kelly says:

    Dear Zinc, I don’t under­stand why a land inva­sion was even nec­es­sary at that point. Also, the chiefs of staff all agreed that there was no mil­i­tary advan­tage to drop­ping the bomb. This myth per­sists to hide the sad truth that the deci­sion was made pure­ly in order to secure Amer­i­can dom­i­nance on the world stage (esp. vis a vis the USSR).

  • Sean Kelly says:

    To counter the still dom­i­nant myth jus­ti­fy­ing the use of the bomb, please read the fol­low­ing:
    A must read on the fal­si­ty of the dom­i­nant nar­ra­tive around the atom­ic bomb­ing of Japan:–08-05/hiroshima-anniversary-japan-atomic-bombs–08-05/hiroshima-anniversary-japan-atomic-bombs

    Opin­ion: U.S. lead­ers knew we did­n’t have to drop atom­ic bombs on Japan to win the war. We did it any­way
    We’ve been taught that the U.S. had to drop atom­ic bombs on Japan to end World War II. His­tor­i­cal evi­dence shows Japan would have sur­ren­dered any­way.

    Amer­i­ca, in short, was wag­ing war against Japan’s civil­ians. “The pre­pon­der­ant pur­pose appears to have been to secure the heav­i­est pos­si­ble morale and shock effect by wide­spread attack upon the Japan­ese civil­ian pop­u­la­tion,” the Strate­gic Bomb­ing Sur­vey con­clud­ed. “Cer­tain of the cities attacked had vir­tu­al­ly no indus­tri­al impor­tance.”

    When we crit­i­cize Rus­si­a’s war crimes in Ukraine, we should remem­ber the bomb­ing of Tokyo
    Of course Rus­sia should be con­demned for tar­get­ing civil­ians. But the bru­tal U.S. air war on Japan was much worse

    Don’t let the vic­tors define moral­i­ty – Hiroshi­ma was always inde­fen­si­ble | Kenan Malik
    The deci­sion 75 years ago to use atom­ic bombs was fuelled not by strat­e­gy but by sheer inhu­man­i­ty

    This series of inter­views with Ells­berg is, to my mind, essen­tial edu­ca­tion, not only in terms of inte­grat­ing the past, but of know­ing what we still face. All of the episodes are worth watch­ing, but I rec­om­mend that you at least watch this one.

    The Largest Act of Ter­ror­ism in Human His­to­ry — Daniel Ells­berg on RAI (4/13)
    The British bomb­ing of Ham­burg in 1942, and the Amer­i­can fire­bomb­ing of Japan in March 1945 that killed as many as 120,000 peo­ple in one night, cre­at­ed the con­di­tions for the atom­ic bomb­ing of Hiroshi­ma and Nagasa­ki which were con­sid­ered mere exten­sions of the fire­bomb­ing tac­tics, says Daniel Ells­berg on Real­i­ty Asserts Itself with Paul Jay …

  • dp says:

    That James Byrnes was a seg­re­ga­tion­ist with respect to black peo­ple does not demon­strate, with­out fur­ther evi­dence, any racial ani­mus to Asians.

  • D.R. says:

    To me, it is more clear (then before watch­ing this doc­u­men­tary) that the main rea­son for drop­ping the bomb was to show it to Sovi­ets.
    Killing hun­dreds thou­sands Japan­ese was col­lat­er­al dam­age. The His­to­ry of a cold war and beyond — proves it.
    And: The ques­tion that was not men­tioned on the end: Why Nagasa­ki?

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