The Truman administration took a lot of criticism over dropping the atomic bomb, and Harry Truman responded with the following words:



“I was the president who made the decision to unleash that terrible power, of course, and it was a difficult and dreadful decision to have to make. Some people have the mistaken impression that I made it on my own and in haste, but it was nothing like that at all. I’ll never forget the day I was first told about the Atom Bomb. It was about 7:30 p.m. on the evening of April 12, 1945; just hours after Franklin Roosevelt had died, and no more than a half hour after I had been sworn in as president.

The Truman administration took a lot of criticism over dropping the atomic bomb, and Harry Truman responded with the following words:

“I was the president who made the decision to unleash that terrible power, of course, and it was a difficult and dreadful decision to have to make. Some people have the mistaken impression that I made it on my own and in haste, but it was nothing like that at all. I’ll never forget the day I was first told about the Atom Bomb. It was about 7:30 p.m. on the evening of April 12, 1945; just hours after Franklin Roosevelt had died, and no more than a half hour after I had been sworn in as president.

“Henry L. Stimson, who was Roosevelt’s Secretary of War, took me aside and reminded me that Roosevelt had authorized the development of a super bomb and that that bomb was almost ready. I was still stunned by Roosevelt’s death and by the fact that I was now president, and I didn’t think much more about it at the time. But then, on April 26, Stimson asked for a meeting in my office, at which he was joined by Major General Leslie Groves, who was in charge of the operation that was developing the bomb, the Manhattan Project. The meeting was so secret that Groves came into the White House by the back door. And at the meeting, Stimson handed me a memorandum that said, ‘Within four months we shall in all probability have completed the most terrible weapon ever know in human history, one bomb which could destroy a whole city.’ Stimson’s memo suggested the formation of a committee to assist in deciding whether or not to use the bomb on Japan, and I agreed completely.”

“...Then on May 8, my sixty-first birthday, the Germans surrendered and I had to remind our country that the war was only half over, that we still had to face the war with Japan. The winning of that war, as we all knew, might even be more difficult to accomplish, because the Japanese were self-proclaimed fanatic warriors who made it all too clear that they preferred death to defeat in battle. Just a month before, our soldiers and Marines had landed on Okinawa, the Japanese lost 100,000 men out of 120,000 in their garrison, and yet, though they were defeated without any question, thousands more Japanese soldiers fell on their own grenades and died rather than surrender.

“Nevertheless, I pleaded with the Japanese to surrender, but was not too surprised when they refused. On June 18, I met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss what I hoped would be our final push against the Japanese. We still hadn’t decided  whether or not to use the atomic bomb and the staff suggested that we plan an attack on Kyushu, the Japanese island on their extreme west, around the beginning of November, and follow up with an attack on the more important island of Honshu. But the statistics that the generals gave me were frightening. They estimated that the Japanese still had five thousand attack planes, seventeen garrisons on the island of Kyushu alone, and a total of two-million men on all of the islands of Japan. General George C. Marshall then estimated that, since the Japanese would unquestionably fight even more fiercely on their own home land, we would probably lose a quarter of a million men and possibly as many as a half a million in taking the two islands. I could not bear this thought, and it led to the decision to use the atomic bomb… I had no qualms if “millions of lives could be saved.”

The first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 5, and the second on Nagasaki on Aug. 9.



Reference: Where the Buck Stops Here: The Personal and Private Writings of Harry S. Truman, edited by Margaret Truman; Warner Books; 1989.



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COMING UP

Jeremy Neely, history professor at Missouri State University, will present a program on Guerrilla Warfare: Bushwhackers and Jayhawkers, at 7 p.m. Friday at Watkins Community Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St., Lawrence – this speaker’s theater is created from historical letters, diaries, and newspaper articles from the Civil War era.



To reach Ted W. Stillwell, send e-mail to teddystillwell@yahoo.com or call him at 816-252-9909.