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On 15 August, six days after the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan announced its surrender to the United States, signing the instrument of surrender on 2 September, officially ending the war.

The question is: Why didn't the United States drop another atomic bomb between 9 August and 15 August, at the risk of not having the war ended in a short time? How certain are we that the United States didn't have a third atomic bomb to drop over Japan?

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After reading the complexity of the answers, this is a better question than I thought. –  T.E.D. May 17 '13 at 12:35

2 Answers 2

Ray Monk in Inside the Center: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer tells the story thus:

Truman returned to Washington from Potsdam on the evening of 7 August and was immediately caught up in a whirlwind of activity generated by Groves, who was determined to proceed as quickly as possible with a second bombing of Japan. He and Admiral William Purnell, Groves writes in his autobiography, 'had often discussed the importance of having the second bomb follow the first one quickly', so that the Japanese would not have time to recover their balance'. This second bomb would have to be of the Fat Man type, there being no chance of assembling another uranium bomb at this stage (in fact, the Little Boy remained one of its kind; the Fat Man design, despite its complicated assembly, being easier to manufacture, safer to transport and more powerful). After the success of the Trinity test, the only thing standing in the way of using a Fat Man bomb in Japan was the availability of plutonium. Groves had originally been advised that a plutonium bomb could be ready to use on August 20. At the end of July, this was revised to 11 August. Groves, however, was too impatient to wait that long and, somewhat against the advice he was given by the scientists, saw to it that the bomb was assembled, loaded and ready to use by the evening of 8 August [...]

Immediately after the Nagasaki bombing the Allies did not possess any more atomic bombs. It is true, as Groves puts it, 'our entire organization both at Los Alamos and at Tinian was maintained in a state of complete readiness to prepare additional bombs', but, as he himself reported to General Marshall, the earliest data at which the next bomb could be assembled for use was 17 August, and almost everybody expected the war to be over by then.

BTW, there are also interesting original documents available from the Truman Library. And if you want my personal opinion: two such bombs were more than enough.

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There may have been enough material for more bombs, but Truman allegedly wanted SIX more to 'bomb our way to Tokyo'. Doubtful if they had enough material for more than another one or two. The point was several bombs in rapid succession to shock the japs and make it seem like we had more than we did and push the japs into surrender. It worked. As far as 'two being enough'? Nope, use whatever it takes to end the war. Luckily for all, only two were needed at the time. The deaths in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, while tragic, probably saved millions of lives on both sides that would have resulted. Just too bad the jap leaders of the time who were responsible for many atrocities, the Bataan Death March, and the grisly testing of chemical and bio weapons on the Chinese and Allied prisoners weren't at some sort of 'conference' on the day Nagasaki was bombed.

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A better answer would include sources for these assertions. –  Mark C. Wallace Aug 10 '14 at 12:18
A better answer would also avoid using the term offensive term "jap". –  David Richerby Dec 16 '14 at 0:13

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