Each year, come August, there are ceremonies across the globe to remember and reflect upon the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
While this event marks the end of the War in the Pacific, in Asia the significance of these two dates is buried under other momentous events that occurred in the region around the same time. For Japan and the Japanese these two days and those that followed were truly horrific. They had to cope with the devastation caused by the bombing, the loss of lives and invasions from the Asian mainland and for most, the acceptance that Japan had lost the war .
In the rest of Asia, 1945 on the other hand, marked the re-emergence of freedom movements in a number of countries. The defeat of the colonial powers at the hands of Japan and the defeat of Japan led to a resurgence of the nascent freedom movements. This is the period that saw strident calls for independence in a number of countries. In India, the calls for freedom led to Independence and the Partition of India in August 1947, with all the horrors that followed. In Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh declared independence on the 2nd of September 1945, from French control. It triggered the the start of a bloody civil war that lasted until 1954 when the country was divided along the 17th parallel. In Korea, the country was split at the 38th parallel, when Japanese troops surrendered to the Russians and the Americans. Korea celebrates its independence on the 15th of August, although the actual end of the war happened on the 13th, two days earlier. In China, the end of the War re-ignited the Civil war which ended only in 1949. In Indonesia, too a similar scenario was played out with Sukarno declaring independence from the Dutch on the 17th of August and that war of independence ended in 1949. In essence, all that changed were the names of the leaders, political parties and dates on which the fighting started and ended in each of the countries. What all of them had in in common, was a desire to break free from colonial rule and awareness that their colonial masters were no longer the powers that they had feared.
When teaching about 1945, the dropping of the bomb makes for a fascinating discussion. Was it right for the USA to do so? This issue sort of lurches into a TOK discussion Was it ethical to bomb a country that was on the verge of defeat? However, for HL Paper 3 and for Paper 2 Option 2, the end of World War 2 in the Pacific, while the dropping of the bombs does mark the defeat of Japan and the end of Japanese occupation of South East Asia, it also marks a new beginning for most of the countries. For me, I use August 1945 as a lead in-to freedom movements for Paper 3 HL. Living as I do in Asia, many countries celebrate their Independence day this month: 9th, 14th, 15th, 17th, 31st, it seems to be a way to start the discussion and take it from there.