Truman on Trial: The Prosecution, Opening Argument





Mr. Nobile is the author of Intellectual Skywriting: Literary Politics and the New York Review of Books and editor of Judgement at the Smithsonian, which reprinted the banned script of the Smithsonian's 50th anniversary exhibit of the Enola Gay.

"The laws of war do not apply only to the suspected criminals of vanquished nations. There is no moral or legal basis for immunizing victorious nations from scrutiny. The laws of war are not a one-way street."
Telford Taylor, The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials

PREAMBLE

I accuse President Harry S Truman of war crimes under Article 6 of the Nuremberg Charter outlawing"the wanton destruction of cities, towns, and villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity."

Specifically, I accuse President Truman of ordering the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki via an experimental terror weapon resulting in the massacre and maiming of some 200,000 Japanese women, children and old people.

In addition, I accuse Truman's atomic cabinet (e.g., presidential assistant James Byrnes, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, Manhattan Project organizer General Leslie Groves, Manhattan Project director Robert Oppenheimer, and Interim Committee chairman Louis B. Conant) and the President's chain of command (e.g., Army Chief of Staff General George. C. Marshall, Acting Army Chief of Staff General Thomas Handy, Army Strategic Air Forces commander General Carl Spatz, Hiroshima pilot Lieutenant Colonel Paul Tibbets and Nagasaki pilot Captain Charles Sweeney) of conspiring to commit two of the most fiendish slaughters in the annals of war.

In the sweep of history, these men have not acted alone. A parade of American politicians have praised the atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as patriotic duties and their perpetrators as heroes of war. Closer to our own day, I accuse former President Bill Clinton of callously denying"the Japanese holocaust" (Shimon Peres's term) when he declared in 1995 that Truman did not make"the wrong decision" and that the United States cannot"now apologize for a decision we did not believe, and I don't believe now, was the wrong one."

I also accuse Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, former Senate Majority leader Bob Dole, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist of ganging up to suppress, Japanese-style, the first and only government-sponsored history of the Bombs of August--the Smithsonian Institution's 50th anniversary exhibition script titled"The Crossroads: The End of Work War II, the Atomic Bomb and the Origins of the Cold War."

Finally, I accuse American historians in general and, in particular, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., William Manchester, Stephen Ambrose, Paul Fussell, David McCullough, Tom Brokaw, and the editorial board of the New York Times of intellectual dishonesty in contributing to the"Nuremberg Consensus"--A.J.P. Taylor's pejorative for the idea that Axis atrocities were satanic while Allied ones were okay and even Providential.

THE CASE AGAINST HARRY TRUMAN

"It will make no difference whether the reasons will sound convincing or not. After all, the victor will not be asked whether he spoke the truth or not. We have to proceed brutally. The stronger is always right." So said Adolph Hitler to military aides on the eve of invading Poland in 1939.

The Führer's insight was vindicated in the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as Truman and his willing executioners got away with mass murder.

The Allied cover-up commenced on August 6 when Truman claimed in a radio broadcast that target-Hiroshima was"an important Japanese Army base"---so important that it was left untouched during a five-month fire-bombing campaign torching sixty-six other Japanese cities, so important that ground zero was Hiroshima's population center, not the military headquarters a few miles away. Speaking more candidly at the Gridiron Dinner on December 15, 1945, the triumphant commander-in-chief embraced the twin infernos as a welcome trade-off:"It occurred to me that a quarter million of the flower of our American youth were worth a couple of Japanese cities, and I still think they were and are."

Truman's worst Orwellian whopper involved the victims. Oblivious to the flower of Japanese youth--e.g., the 544 students from the First Hiroshima Municipal Girl's School whose eyeballs had popped out from the blast--Truman mislabeled the casualties as war criminals in his August 9 annoucement:"We have used [the bomb] against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved, beaten and executed American prisoner of war, and against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare."

The reference to international laws was, of course, laughable. Early in the war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt blasted Japan's air assaults on Chinese cities and Germany's air raids on Warsaw, Rotterdam and London."It is our intention that just and sure punishment shall be meted to the ringleaders responsible for the organized murder of thousands of innocent persons in the commission of atrocities which have violated every tenet of the Christian faith," FDR pledged in 1942. But soon after the United States and Great Britain mimicked the despicable Axis strategy."The hideous process of bombarding open cities from the air, once started by the Germans, was repaid twenty-fold by the ever-mounting power of the Allies and found its culmination in the use of the atom bombs which obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki," Winston Churchill wrote in The Second World War in 1954.

The Allied cover-up continued at the first Nuremberg Tribunal when German lawyers were blocked from introducing Allied misdeeds."It is not the purpose of this court to try the activities of the Allies," ruled Lord Justice Geoffrey Lawrence. Evidence against the Allies was likewise deemed inadmissible at the trial of Japanese war criminals in Tokyo.

Almost five decades later, the editorialists at New York Times echoed Lord Justice Lawrence's injunction (and Hitler's homage to brutality) when they wrote on August 6, 1995:"It turns history and reality on its head to imply that Hiroshima is America's Auschwitz, that Harry Truman was somehow a war criminal because he grasped eagerly at a wonder weapon to end the war that the Axis powers had begun." And there you have it, at the heart of the American establishment, reckless disregard for a two-way street to Nuremberg.

Truman was a reverse Otto Schindler.

Thanks to the Times and other organs of popular opinion, Truman has entered the pantheon of top Presidents. According to Arthur Schlesinger's 1996 poll of historians, Truman ranks with Jefferson, Jackson, Polk, T. Roosevelt and Wilson as"near-great" just below the"great" Washington Lincoln and FDR. Six historians voted Truman"great," twenty-one"near-great," three"average," and one abstained. Clearly, the Bombs of August did not harm his standing. In some expert minds, they were a plus."I gladly admit to having been one of those who considered Truman 'near-great,' not the least because by allowing the bomb to be dropped, he ended the Second World War, thus saving hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of both Allied and Japanese lives," explained Brooklyn College Emeritus professor Hans L. Trefousse in a September 4, 1998 letter to this author.

But stripped of patriotic illusion and viewed through the lens of Nuremberg, Truman was less the rock-ribbed, plain-speaking, God-fearing, buck-stops-here hero of legend, and more a moral scoundrel, a reverse Otto Schindler who hurried the final solution to the Pacific war by mercilessly sending 200,000 innocents to grotesque skin-melting, chromosome-cracking deaths in two Japanese cities in a mere three days in August of 1945.

Although the Nuremberg Charter improvised on crimes against peace and crimes against humanity, the war crimes provisions were hardly novel. International law was clear about the limits of warfare. According to the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, and the Paris Peace Pact of 1928, civilian slaughters were considered criminal. Consequently, Article 6 Paragraph b of the Charter did not break new ground in its definition of war crimes:

(b) WAR CRIMES: namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoner of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

Note well two points: (1)"Military necessity" refers to emergency battle conditions during which armies and navies are permitted wider latitude under international law. The term does not apply to massacres planned in advance thousands of miles from the front. Accordingly, Truman never argued that destroying Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a"military necessity." (2) While international law did not positively outlaw the aerial bombardment of cities during World War II, thus opening a small technical loophole at Nuremberg for Reich air minister Hermann Goring, the universal prohibition against civilian massacres surely extended to rational atrocities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, especially by the flexible judicial standards in play at Nuremberg. Would the notorious slaughter of 660 French villagers in Oradour in June 1944 have been less criminal if it had been carried out by the Luftwaffe rather than the 2nd SS Panzer Division?

"Given that the laws of war not only have a letter, but they have a sense, and this sense means that war is something between armed forces, and there are targets and there are no[t] targets," declared German historian Jorg Friedrich when this loophole was raised at Bard College's 1998 conference on prosecuting war crimes."And the unarmed civilian and the soldier who surrenders are no targets at all. This is the sense of all laws of war, the difference between targets."

Nonetheless, Goering was not indicted for the indiscriminate works of the Luftwaffe. Citing the far more damaging firebombing of the Allies, former Nuremberg prosecutor Telford Taylor commented in The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials in 1992 that it was"not surprising that Goering's responsibility for the German attacks played no part in the Tribunal's judgement. Indeed, it might fairly be said if Goering's role in the Third Reich had been restricted to his command of the Luftwaffe, he would have had much less to fear at Nuremberg."

Now is the hour, on the eve of Slobodan Milosevic's trial in The Hague, for American historians to ponder the previously imponderable.

Goering's bombing exemption was one of many flaws in the court. Perhaps the nadir of the proceedings was the Soviet push to blame the Germans for the 1940 execution of 11,000 Polish POW's when the bullets were really Stalin's. The vast imperfections of victor's justice have cheated the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials of ultimate legal grandeur and spawned the twisted narratives of the Nuremberg Consensus. But now is the hour, on the eve of Slobodan Milosevic's trial in The Hague, for American historians to ponder the previously imponderable. Although"trying" Truman for war crimes may seem like counter-factual history run amuck, it is a long overdue exercise in intellectual honesty. If we expect the nations of the world to pursue foreign war criminals, we must be willing to face the truth about our own.

Since Truman admitted pulling the atomic trigger, his main defense, expressed in numerous postwar statements, interviews, letters, and memoirs, was, in effect, not guilty by reason of (a) just deserts for Japanese war criminals; (b) ending the war quickly; (c) saving hundreds of thousands of American boys from a bloody invasion; (d) lack of viable alternatives; and (e) following God's will. But do any of these justifications stand up under cross-examination?

Question: Mr. President, let me take you back to the evening of August 9, 1945. You said in a radio address that you dropped the bomb on the perpetrators of Pearl Harbor and the torturers of our prisoners of war. But that statement was false, was it not?

Answer: It may not have been literally true, no.

Q: And even if it were, Mr. President, would that end justify incinerating a whole city?

A: We were desperate to stop a war that had already cost almost a million American dead and wounded. We wanted to stop the killing, and we did.

Q: By killing 200,000 more! Mostly women and children. When Japan was on the ropes. When Hirohito was equally desperate to surrender. When Stalin was on the verge of unleashing the Red Army. When your advisers were imploring you to give Japan a face-saving way out? That's when you decided to kill a couple of hundred thousand more of the enemy?

A: More Japs would have died in the invasion. Don't forget that. The bomb saved lives.

Q: Yes, let's come to that. On August 9, 1945, your figure for American soldiers spared by the bomb was"thousands and thousands," which climbed to 250,000 at the Gridiron Dinner that December, which topped off at 1,000,000 in a draft of Years of Decision, only to fall back to 500,000 in the published version in 1953. Can you produce any War Department document with any of those numbers on it?

A: No.

Q: Isn't it true, Mr. President, that the only casualty numbers you received for the invasion came from General Marshall in a June 18 White House meeting in which 31,000 casualties, meaning 7000-8000 dead, were estimated for the first thirty days of the Kyushu landing scheduled for November?

A: As I said in Years of Decision, General Marshall mentioned a half-million figure at Potsdam in July.

Q: Did he? But you have no record to back you up, no notes, no diary entry, and there's nothing in Marshall's archives, either. You simply made these figures up as you went along, hoping to deflect public opinion from the rain of nuclear ruin showered on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

A: More American soldiers were killed or wounded in the Pacific in the first six months of 1945 than in the three previous years. On Iwo Jima we suffered 27,000 casualties in five weeks! On Okinawa, 48,000 in three months! The Japs were fanatics, fought to the death in caves and tunnels. The kamikazes were slicing up our fleet. If we went though with the invasion, we were looking at an Okinawa from one end of Japan to the other. I couldn't let that happen, not with the bomb in hand. No American or British or Jap boy died on the beaches of Japan. The bomb may have had something to do with that.

Q: All true, Mr. President, but you are charged here with the killings you ordered, not the ones you claim, in theory, to have prevented. Which brings us to the key question of alternatives. Even if we stipulate that the bomb stopped the war and thereby salvaged hundreds of thousands, even millions of lives, as war stoppages tend to do, we are still far from legal ground. The laws of war are not suspended during final battles. Besides, you didn't know the bombs would stop the war. You had diplomatic means to gain Japan's surrender.

A: But they didn't even surrender after Hiroshima, for Christ's sake.

Q: Mr. President, you were swamped with alternatives to a sneak atomic attack. Stimson, your chief of staff Admiral William Leahy, Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy, former Ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew, Navy Under Secretary Ralph Bard, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, they all urged you to demonstrate the bomb and/or give a specific warning and/or change the terms of surrender to allow Japan to keep the Emperor. Even Churchill pressed you at Potsdam to relent on Hirohito, which was the main sticking point for the Japanese, as the MAGIC intercepts revealed. But you refused every entreaty, every appeal. You and Byrnes were hell-bent on dropping the bomb on two defenseless cities as soon as possible. What was the hurry? The invasion was three months off.

A. Hurry? The decision was discussed for months--from April to early August.

Q. The fateful order was sent to General Spatz on July 25, the day before the Potsdam Declaration, your unconditional, surrender-or-else ultimatum to Japan that contained no concession on the Emperor or specific warning about"the most terrible thing ever discovered," as you wrote in your journal on July 25. This was merely ten days after the bomb was tested. What was the hurry?

A. Apart from stopping the war against the beasts who cut off our soldiers' genitals and sewed them to their lips?

Q. Ah yes."When you have to deal with a beast, you have to treat him as a beast," you wrote the Federal Council of Churches of Christ on August 10. I think you know where I'm going with this question, Mr. President, so let's not get sidetracked. Your hurry was made-in-Russia. You sped up the drops to checkmate Stalin, who had promised at Potsdam to declare war in Japan by August 15. You wanted a Japanese surrender by any means necessary before the Red Army reached the Japanese mainland.

A. Stalin was our ally. I invited him to open a second front from the west. Japan had one million troops in Manchuria.

Q. Agreed. Initially, you were thrilled with the prospect of Russian help. Commenting on Stalin's Potsdam pledge, you wrote in your Potsdam journal on July 17:"He'll be in the Jap war on August 15. Fini Japs when that comes about." But the very next day, perhaps after the glowing reports from the New Mexico test sank in, your journal recorded a significant shift in strategy:"Believe Japs will fold up before Russia comes in. I am sure they will when Manhattan appears over their homeland."

In other words, Mr. President, virtually overnight you decided to nuke two cities without waiting to measure the effect of Stalin's declaration. You killed 200,000 people in order to end the war on U.S. terms--with the bonus of keeping Stalin out of our show in the Far East.

A. That's pure speculation. You can't prove any of it. Q. The proof lies in your Potsdam diary, Mr. President, which you carefully hid from historians. (The incriminating quotes were not disclosed until 1979.) Furthermore, Mr. Byrnes admitted in U.S. News & World Report in 1960 that the timing of Stalin's intervention influenced you and him. Byrnes was asked,"Was there a feeling of urgency to end the war in the Pacific before the Russians became too deeply involved?" He replied,"There certainly was on my part. And I'm sure that, whatever views President Truman may have had of it earlier in the year, that in the days immediately preceding the dropping of the bomb, his views were the same as mine--we wanted to get through the Japanese phase of the war before the Russians came in."

A. Next question.

Q. Emperor Hirohito. Let's get back to him. In Years of Decision, you said that Ambassador Grew's proposal to permit Hirohito to remain head of state was"a sound idea." This was in May. But the Potsdam Declaration did not move an inch from unconditional surrender. To no one's surprise, Japan rejected your ultimatum. Even after both bombs, the enemy held out for one condition--"that the said Declaration does not comprise any demand that prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as Sovereign Ruler." Now the ball was in your court. Either you surrendered on unconditional surrender, that is, let Hirohito stay on the throne, or the war would continue. We know what happened next. So the question is, Mr. President, what took you so long? Was Grew's"idea" any sounder after August 9 than before? Did two cities have to be destroyed because ...

A. War is war. I've had enough of your egghead contemplations.

Q. Well, let's move on to the divine. In the immediate aftermath of Hiroshima you thanked Providence for delivering the bomb into Allied hands and you said,"We pray that He may guide us to use it His ways and for His purpose." I can list a hundred theologians and church officials who anathematized the bomb. Can you name one who blessed it?

A. I made the only decision I knew how to make. I did what I thought was right.

Q. You thought it was right to sign a single, fire-when-ready order for two atomic bombs without allowing a decent interval for the Japanese to react to the first one?

A. They had two days.

Q. Two days? You killed one-fourth of Japan's Catholics in Nagasaki. Was that part of God's plan?

A. I could not worry what history would say about my personal morality.

Q. Which is why you are on trial, Mr. President, which is why you are a war criminal. No more questions.

Contemporary witnesses close to the scene were extremely hostile to Truman's defense. For example, Admiral William Leahy, chief of staff for both FDR and Truman, wrote in his 1950 memoir, I Was There:"It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was of no material assistance in our war against Japan... In being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children."

Herbert Hoover, an informal adviser to Truman, expressed his revulsion for the bomb before a gathering of newspaper editors in September 1945:"Despite any sophistries, its use is not to kill fighting men, but to kill women, children, and civilian men of whole cities as a pressure on governments."

Dwight D. Eisenhower told Newsweek in 1963 that he opposed the bomb for two reasons in a July 1945 conversation with Stimson:"First the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that damned thing. Second, I hated to see our country to be the first to use such a weapon."

Stimson wrote in his third-person 1948 memoir, On Active Service in Peace and War:"It was not the American responsibility to throw in the sponge for the Japanese; that was one thing they must do for themselves. Only on the question of the Emperor did Stimson take, in 1945, a conciliatory view; only on this question did he later believe that history might find that the United States, by its delay in stating its position, had prolonged the war." And dropped the bombs!

As the Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel warned years ago, to forget a holocaust is to kill twice.

Former Manhattan Project physicist Philip Morrison, who assembled the plutonium core of the Nagasaki bomb, acknowledged his complicity in a war crime in 1992 when he was confronted with Telford Taylor's trenchant opinion--"I have never heard a plausible justification for Nagasaki. It is difficult to contest the judgment that Dresden and Nagasaki were war crimes, tolerable in retrospect only because their malignancy pales in comparison to Dachau, Auschwitz, and Treblinka." Morrison told the Village Voice,"That's a very beautiful statement. That's more like what I feel. I imagine if we had lost the war, I'd be tried for it."

Despite the mountain of evidence linking Truman to Article 6 of the Nuremberg Charter, no American historian has published on the subject. Revisionists like Barton Bernstein, Martin Sherwin, Michael Sherry, and Gar Alperovitz have turned out substantial scholarship shredding the official Hiroshima story as lies and propaganda. Yet none has made the logical leap to Nuremberg. It is as if Truman were protected by an invisible cultural shield-- Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have been needless atrocities, but why push the argument?

On the other hand, there are a number of prominent historians who salute Truman for his pro-active role in slaughtering 200,000 Japanese civilians. But they do so at the risk of their reputations. Arthur Schlesinger, for instance, repeated the no-other-choice canard in his 2000 memoir, A Life in the Twentieth Century:"The decision to drop the bomb was the most tragic decision in American History. Yet in retrospect I have come to believe that he had no alternative but to bring the war to the speediest possible end."

Schlesinger knows better. His former Harvard and White House colleague McGeorge Bundy blew the whistle on this approach in his 1988 book, Danger and Survival: Choices About the Bomb in the First Fifty Years. As Stimson's ghost, Bundy penned Stimson's lofty explanation in On Active Service that the incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was"the least abhorrent choice" arrived at only after"a searching consideration of alternatives." But forty years later, in a burst of candor, Bundy contradicted his mentor and confirmed the major claim of the revisionists:"After the war Colonel Stimson wrote an article intended to demonstrate that the bomb was not used without a searching consideration of alternatives. That some effort was made, and that Stimson was its linchpin, is clear. That it was as long or wide or deep as the subject deserved now seems to me most doubtful."

David McCullough's mammoth-selling, prize-winning 1992 biography, Truman, was the apotheosis of the Nuremberg Consensus. With a blindness that afflicts some Japanese historians of Nanking, McCullough whitewashed the bomb by disappearing five decades of revisionist literature and lowballing the dissent among the President's men. In addition, he seems to have conjured up a War Department document that allegedly supported Truman's bloated casualty estimates for the invasion of Japan."Where I differ with the so-called revisionists is their argument that the figures given by Truman, Marshall, and Churchill of saving upwards of 100,000, to 250,000 to even a half-million lives came after the fact and were used as a justification," he told me in 1992."But I made an effort to try and discover if any such figures were in currency in the high command in Washington or on paper prior to the decision to use the bomb. And in fact they were. Absolutely no question about that." Thus McCullough wrote:

But a memorandum of June 4, 1945, written by General Thomas Handy of Marshall's staff, in listing the advantages of making peace with Japan, said America would save no less than 500,000 to 1 million lives by avoiding the invasion altogether--which shows that figures of such magnitude were then in use at the highest levels.

Not quite. There was no such General Handy memo and the citation was suspiciously missing. What McCullough had purportedly scooped was old news amateurishly mangled. He had misconstrued an undated and unsigned memo from Herbert Hoover that Stimson had passed on to the War Department for evaluation--a document originally uncovered by Bart Bernstein in 1985--as an actual War Department study. Compounding the error, McCullough neglected to quote General Handy's"TOP SECRET" reply-memo repudiating Hoover's numbers as"entirely too high."

"I was told that this was from Handy," he said unpersuasively."If that's mistaken and I'm mistaken, then obviously it should be corrected." Yet almost ten years later, after twenty-two reprintings of the Truman paperback, McCullough's million-man mistake remains in print.

The Nuremberg Consensus is so seductive that even an atrocity specialist like Iris Chang was able to distinguish between the rapists of Nanking and the butchers of Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki."It is shocking to contemplate that the deaths at Nanking far exceeded the deaths from the American raids on Tokyo (an estimated 80,000-120,000 deaths) and even the combined death toll of the two atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the end of 1945 (estimated at 140,00 and 70,000, respectively)," she wrote in her acclaimed 1997 book, The Rape of Nanking. Chang rightly excoriated Japan's war criminals, official censorship, collective amnesia, and failure to apologize forthrightly. It is impossible to disagree with her scorching condemnation:"In continuing to avoid judgment, the Japanese have become ringleaders of another criminal act. As the Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel warned years ago, to forget a holocaust is to kill twice.

Yet nowhere in her book, which was partially funded by the Truman library, was there the slightest nod to American criminality or censorship or shortage of remorse vis-à-vis the"Japanese holocaust." When I asked her at a 1998 book signing in New York City whether she regarded Hiroshima and Nagasaki as crimes akin to Nanking, she dodged the question with the bromide of urging ongoing debate on the bomb.

Via The Greatest Generation series, Tom Brokaw has become the troubadour of U.S. soldiers in World War II. Brokaw has deservedly celebrated the abundant sacrifice and bravery of those warriors who defeated Hitler and Tojo. But Brokaw is also a journalist and should be committed to telling both sides of the story."I have a painful question to ask about the greatest generation, so painful that you didn't ask it in your book," I said to him at a New York City book signing in 2000."The question comes from Nuremberg. The Nuremberg [Charter] forbade the 'wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages.' We investigated, prosecuted, and hung Axis war criminals. But no American has ever been investigated under those statutes. Do you think it is our obligation to history and to the greatest generation to consider the war criminals of the greatest generation?"

"No," Brokaw replied to instant applause from the mostly middle age and senior audience. Noting that Truman's decision had been"examined a hundred fold," he sought refuge in the bomb-saved-lives claim.

"We still tried our enemies under [Nuremberg] rules and did not apply them to ourselves," I said.

"There were fair warnings to both Germany and Japan about what they were doing," he said."They were waging war from their shores at that time. There were military installations within range of that. The Japanese feel very strongly now that it was the wrong thing to do, but obviously it was the event that brought the war to an end. And not every war can be solved and resolved legalistically."

Brokaw probably has never heard of the Nuremberg Consensus, but he articulated it well. Something there is in all national psyches that sees clearly the beam in the other fellow's eye while overlooking the one at home. So we cringe reading the amoral Nuremberg testimony of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hess:"We SS men were not supposed to think about these things.We were all so trained to obey orders without even thinking that the thought of disobeying an order would never have occurred to anybody." Yet there was no gnashing over a hauntingly similar postwar admission by Hiroshima pilot Paul Tibbets:"I am an airman, a pilot. In 1945, I was wearing the uniform of the U.S. following the orders of our commander-in-chief."

Back to the editorial page of the New York Times for a final lesson in the hypocrisy protecting Truman et al. from equal justice under the Nuremberg Charter. On August 8, 1996, a year after the editorial writers laundered Truman in the massacre of 200,000 non-combatants, they denounced ex-SS Captain Erich Priebke, who had just been tried and acquitted in an Italian court for a far lesser massacre outside Rome in 1944:"Acting under orders does not absolve a soldier of criminal responsibility. It is hard to imagine an act more manifestly illegal than murdering 335 innocent civilians."

"God was good to us when he gave us Harry Truman," said David McCullough, speaking for too many Americans.

Speaking for the Japanese is Dr. Sasaki, a Japanese physician and bomb survivor, who said in the closing paragraphs of John Hersey's Hiroshima:"I see that they are holding a trial for war criminals in Tokyo just now. I think they ought to try the men who decided to use the bomb and they should hang them all."

Until the Nuremberg Consensus is broken, Dr. Sasaki will not get his wish and Truman will remain"near-great."



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More Comments:


Andrew Berenbrok - 3/28/2007

I agree completely with everything you just said. Not only did I practically state the same things but also you were a little more in depth with it.


Andrew Berenbrok - 3/28/2007

I agree completely with everything you just said. Not only did I practically state the same things but also you were a little more in depth with it.


ethan Michel gwynn - 3/28/2007

1-My first reaction was a not surprised beacause I he killed 200,000 Japanse women and children. And just beacuse he is a former President it does not mean he can pass through our law. In our country what he did is considered murder so he deservs to be on trial it is the law of our nation.


2- for me I wold say I will stay with the prosicution just beacause all the evidence they hav is really strong such as that they lied about the the bombing saying that Hiroshima had a millitary base and f not delt with we would be in trouble when really they had nothing in a matter of fact the nearest military base was five miles away.


Seth Cable Tubman - 12/28/2005

In my opinion, the careless mudslinging which Mr. Nobile engages in, all too vividly exposes the insecurites of professional historians. Mr. Nobile has never won a Pulitzer Prize in History, as Goodwin did in 1995, nor TWO Pulitzers for Biography in 1993 and 2002, two National Book Awards, one in History in 1978, one in 1982, and the Francis Parkman Prize twice in 1978 and 1993, as McCullough did. The divide between "popular" and "academic" historians can be summed up very succiently: Jealousy by the "professionals".


Edward Siegler - 11/2/2004

Continued from above,

Nobile: Ah yes, "When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast", you wrote to the Federal Council of Churches of Christ on August 10. I think you know where I'm going with this question, Mr. President, so let's not get sidetracked. your hurry was made in Russia. You sped up the drops to checkmate Stalin, who had promised at Potsdam to declare war on Japan by August 15. You wanted a Japanese surrender by any means necessary before the Red Army reached the Japanese mainland.

Truman: What have you been smoking? First you accuse me of being in a hurry to end the war as though that's a war crime in itself, now you make up some fantasy that the real reason I wanted the war to end was to prevent Stalin, who I had specifically invited in to the war, to gain anything. Japan had one million troops in Manchuria. Next you'll say that Japan's Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere was the best thing to happen to the Far East.

N: Agreed. Initially, you were thrilled with the prospect of Russian help. Commenting on Stalin's Potsdam pledge, you wrote in your Potsdam journal on July 17: "He'll be in the Jap war on August 15. Fini Japs when that comes about." But the very next day, perhaps after the glowing reports from the New Mexico test sank in, your journal recorded a significant shift in strategy: "believe Japs will fold up before Russia comes in. I am sure they will when Manhattan appears over their homeland." In other words, Mr. President, virtually overnight you decided to nuke two cities without waiting to measure the effect of Stalin's declaration. You killed 200,000 people in order to end the war on U.S. terms - with the bonus of keeping Stalin our of our show in the Far East.

T: You haven't been smoking anything, you've been shooting it into your arm. Your idea that I should have "measured the effect of Stalin's declaration" is idiotic because it implies that my main concern should have been the avoidance of Japanese casualties and not the fastest termination of the war possible. You're also ignoring my diary entries of a few days later when my mood became pessimistic about the war in spite of the existence of the bomb. I was throwing everything available at the Japanese all at once in order to shock them into accepting surrender. I ended the war on U.S. terms because those terms were the war aims of all Allied nations since 1942. Stalin was hardly kept out of "our show in the Far East". What a howler! Stalin took North Korea and his influence (in terms of the North's Stalinist regime) is still being felt there today. I had to send 37,000 Americans to their death in the Korean War and almost lost. And China was lost to Communism. "Our show in the Far East". Although you're painfully ignorant of history, I'm not going to turn this into a review of the basic events of the 20th century. It would all go over your head.

N: The proof lies in your Potsdam diary, Mr. President, which you carefully hid from historians. (The incriminating quotes were not disclosed until 1979). Furthermore, Mr. Byrnes admitted in U.S. News and World Report in 1960 that the timing of Stalin's intervention influenced you and him. Byrnes was asked, "Was there a feeling of urgency to end the war in the Pacific before the Russians became too deeply involved?" He replied, "There certainly was on my part. And I'm sure that, whatever views President Truman may have had of it earlier in the year, that in the days immediately preceding the dropping of the bomb, his views were the same as mine - we wanted to get through the Japanese phase of the war before the Russians came in".

T: How many times do I have to say it: Of course we wanted to end the war as soon as possible! Yes, the threat of the Russians taking all of Korea and half of Japan was not appealing. But it was even less attractive to have to fight the Japanese for another year, which is why I asked the Russians to join us. You're chopping out one minor part of the story and blowing it up into something much more important than it ever was at the time. If anything you should be accusing me of a lack of foresight. I shouldn't have invited the Russians in at all. The Japanese probably would have surrendered after Nagasaki anyway and there never would have been a North Korea or a Korean War. The problem is I didn't know at the time what it was going to take to defeat Japan, and I still held the naive view that Stalin was someone I could come to an understanding with. Hindsight is 20/20. Next question.

N: Emperor Hirohito. Let's get back to him. In Years of Decision, you said that Ambassador Grew's proposal to permit Hirohito to remain head of state was "a sound idea". This was in May. But the Potsdam Declaration did not move an inch from unconditional surrender. To no one's surprise, Japan rejected your ultimatum. Even after both bombs, the enemy held out for one condition - "that the said Declaration does not comprise any demand that prejudeces the prerogatives of His Majesty as Sovereign Ruler." Now the ball was in your court. Either you surrendered on unconditional surrender, that is let Hirohito stay on the throne, or the war would continue. We know what happened next. So the question is, Mr. President, what took you so long? Was Grew's "idea" any sounder after August 9 than before? Did two cities have to be destroyed because...

T: Your twisted view of history is utterly amazing in its total lack of resemblance to the truth. Yes, we needed Hirohito to remain as a SYMOBLIC, not real, head of state because he would be indispensable in preventing further resistance. Rembember that there were Japanese soldiers who held out in the jungles for decades after the war ended. There was a real concern that there could be an ongoing guerilla war or worse for quite some time after hostilites officially ended. Once more, you have zero understanding of the Potsdam Proclamation, which did, in fact, set forth reasonable conditions that included an explicit promise of national self-determination, meaning that the people could choose to keep their Emperor if they wished. You are also ignorant of the policy of unconditional surrender. Unconditional surrender does not mean that there are no surrender terms, only that the victor sets those terms and the vanquished cannot alter them. Before the bombs, the enemy wanted four conditions, although they never bothered to communicate them to us and were only known through the MAGIC intercepts. Any reasonable person would have laughed at them anyway. These were 1) No change in the government. 2) No occupation of the home islands 3) The Japanese military would disarm itself, and 4) The Japanese would conduct their own war crimes trials. As I wrote at the time, we allowed the Japs to keep their Emperor, which we had planned to do all along, only we told them how it would happen. He would be subject the the full authority of the U.S. This was not at all what they wanted. They wanted Hirohito to retain actual authority over Japan. Two cities had to be destroyed in order to break Japan of this illusion. Hirohito was later forced to admit that he wasn't God, which I thought was a pretty good punishment.

N: Well, let's move on to the divine. In the immediate aftermath of Hiroshima you thanked Providence for delivering the bomb into Allied hands and you said, "We pray that He may guide us to use it His ways and for His purpose". I can list a hundred theologians and church officials who anathematized the bomb. Can you name one who blessed it?

T: More meaningless rhetoric. Imagine if the Axis had obtained the bomb instead of the Allies and anyone in their right mind should have no problem understanding why I thanked God. I choose after Nagasaki to squash plans for a third atomic strike on Tokyo, over the advice of my cabinet. I could see that the bomb was a terrible weapon. I also hoped that atomic energy could be used for peaceful, constructive purposes. I can name hundreds of theologians and church officials who blessed the Allied victory and I don't believe there is one who anathematized it. Before Hiroshima we didn't really know what we had on our hands, but now we all agree that the bomb is like poison gas - something that sould never be used again.

N: You thought it was right to sign a single, fire-when-ready order for two atomic bombs without allowing a decent interval for the Japanese to react to the first one?

T: The strategy was to use two in rapid succession in order to shock the Japs and convince them that we had many of them and wouldn't hesitate to use them all and destroy the entire country. We really only had two, with a third on the way. The second one had two additional and important effects: It prevented Japanese leaders from telling the people or believing themselves that the first bomb wasn't really atomic or was a fluke, and it destroyed the notion among Japanese leaders that negative world opinion would prevent any further atomic attacks. I decided to cancel the third drop on humanitarian grounds, but ordered conventional bombing to resume because several days after Hiroshima we still hadn't heard a word from them.

N: You killed one-fourth of Japan's Catholics in Nagasaki. Was that part of God's plan?

T: If you think that the Japanese people's religious orientation had anything to do with the decision to use the bomb then you're a moron.

N: Which is why you're on trial, Mr. President, which is why you are a war criminal. No more questions.

T: You are a fraud, which is why you will be on trial yourself for libel and defamation of character. You lost your job at the Smithsonian for peddling this nonsense on the public and insulting our intelligence. Now you're so desperate to avenge your humiliation that you've dug up my grave and attempted to lynch my corpse. Get ready to answer some really embarrassing questions from my lawyer.


Edward Siegler - 11/1/2004

The Case Against Harry Truman is filled to an amazing extent with distortions, inaccuracies, and deluded rhetoric. This attempt at portraying Truman as a mass murderer gets off to a shakey start by drawing a false parallel between Truman and Adolph Hitler. The unprovoked German invasion of Poland in 1939, which was done for the sake of territorial expansion, is compared to Truman's attempt to end a defensive war that America never wanted by shocking the Japanese leadership into accepting peace. Truman never claimed that "the stronger is always right" or offered it as a justification for the use of the bomb. The fact that the Allies proved the stronger side in World War II, and were right, should be a source of relief for us today, not evidence of a "coverup".

Contrary to what Nobile implies, Hiroshima was in fact an important Japanese Army base, and was left untouched because even more important targets were hit previously. Ground zero was a bridge that provided an excellent aiming point. Truman's statement that the attack was aimed at the Japanese leadership was accurate, not a deliberate mislabeling as Nobile says. The main purpose of the bombing was not to inflict civilian casualties for their won sake, but to convince Japan that their refusal to surrender would bring national destruction.

It is Nobile's reference to international law that is laughable, not Truman's. The Nuremberg trials were the reaction of a stunned world to an incomprehensibly brutal campaign of genocide and the launching of a completely unjustified war of sterritorial expansion that accompanied and magnified this genocide. To compare these events to two raids carred out in the course of a strategic bombing campaign is ludicrous. Nobile undermines his own weak argument by pointing out that the Nazis were not tried for conducting their own bombing campaigns. The destruction of Rotterdam, Warsaw, London and various Chinese cities is said to equate to the Allied bombing campaign when Nazis and Japanese specifically targeted civilians even after cities had been declared open, purely for the sake of terrorizing their inhabitants. The Allies targeted the war making capability of cities, and in the case of the U.S. Army Air Force even choose to operate in daylight for greater accuracy and thereby minimize civilian casualties. This policy resulted in a higher loss rate for U.S. aircrew as compared to the R.A.F, which choose to bomb by night. Most bombing raids are"planned in advance thousands of miles from the front", which would require the entire strategic bombing campaign (and many tactical raids) to be on trial here. Still, strategic bombing was "hideous as Winston Churchill wrote, but not a war crime even according to the Geneva conventions as Nobile admits. Churchill also wrote that the atomic bomb was a providential savior in that it prevented a blooday invasion of Japan. There was in fact "military necessity" for the bombings, and there is no real evidence in the diatribe above (or anywhere) to contradict this.

Nobile should have indicted the U.S. Army for allawing soldiers to shoot concentration camp guards who were trying to surrender. This is a clear violation of international law, yet even decades later there is no doubt that the anger driving these soldiers to do what they did was justified. Still, the law was violated and as Nobile says, the law should be applied equally. The problem is that he would be laughed out of the room, and he knows it.

Nobile absurdly claims that the highly positive view of Truman that is widespread among historians has come about "thanks to the Times and other organs of popular opinion". This completely ignores the many reasons why Truman is viewed so highly. Truman was willing to go against public opinion and make difficult decisions based on his view of what was right, not what was popular. His view has often been vindicated by history, as demonstrated by the Truman Doctrine, which led to the Marshall Plan and the Berlin airlift, his historic order to integrate the military, his defense of South Korea, the sacking of General McArthur and his decision to leave Hirohito in place after the Japanese surrender. Seventy percent of Americans wanted the emperor to be removed, but Truman had his eye on what was best for everyone, no what was popular.

In this phony dialogue Truman is provided with watered down answers to questions that can easily be hit out of the ball park. Here is how the mock trial would read if based in fact, rather than Nobile's ridiculous fantasy:

Nobile: Mr. President, let me take you back to the evening of August 9, 1945. You said in a radio address that you dropped the bomb on the perpetrators of Pearl Harbor and the torturers of our prisoners of war. But that statement was false, was it not?

Truman: No, it was true. The Japanese nation as a whole was responsible for the war. It's certainly regrettable that civilians had to die but it's an unfortunate part of modern warfare. Hiroshima was the headquarters of the Japanese Second Army and contained various war industries. Nagasaki was a naval prt and contained factories devoted to war production. Our planes routinely dropped leaflets warning civilians to evacuate before raids. The purpose of the bombing was to convince the Japnese leadership to face the inevitable and surrender before even more casualties, both Japanese and American, were incurred.

N: Does that end justify incinerating a whole city?

T: Actually there were many whole cities that were incinerated by conventional weapons, including napalm, and two destroyed with atomic bombs. War is a dirty business. This is why I asked America to sign the U.N. Charter, which in effect outlaws war. As a combat veteran I hate war. We wanted to stop the killing and we did.

N: By killing 200,000 more! Mostly wonen and children. When Japan was on the ropes. When Hirohito was equally desperate to surrender. When Stalin was on the verge of unleasing the Red Army. When your advisers were imploring you to give Japan a face-saving way out? That's when you decided to kill a couple of hundred thousand more of the enemy?

T: What world are you living in? "Japan was on the ropes" - do you think war is like a boxing match, with referees to step in and stop the fight? The Japanese leadership did not want to recognize that the war was lost. Yes, wars usually end with people dying. My job as President was not to win a humanitarian of the year award but to end the war with the minimum of AMERICAN casualties, and on our own terms. I'm sorry to say that Japanese leves simply did not have the same value as American ones, and civilian casualties are a fact of modern war. The Japanese were arming their women and children and training them to hurl themselves at our forces in suicidal attacks once the invasion came, and they were inviled in war industries, sy they can't entirely be considered non-combatants. Still I was sorry about the loss of Japanese life, which is why I cancelled plans for a third atomic strike on Tokyo. "Hirohito was desperate to surrender" - what kind of garbage is that? Hirohito wanted a negotiated end to the war that would save Japan from an Allied occupation and in which Japanese troops would disarm themselves and withdraw to the home ilsands. Surrender was never a part of Japanese plans before the bombs were used and they never even attempted to approach us to open talks. As far as Stalin goes, we had no idea whether the Red Army of the atomic bomb would end the war. All we knew was that the war showed no signs of ending. Some of my advisors believed that by offering assurances for the emperor the Japanese would be more likely to surrender. Many others believed that conciliatory gestures such as this would only stiffen Japanese resolve by indicating war weariness on our part. Not one ever asked me not to use the bomb. As you point out the people killed were "the enemy". More Japs would have died in the invasion. Don't forget that. The bomb saved lives.

N: Yes, let's come to that. On August 9, 1945 your figure for American soldiers spared by the bomb was "thousands and thousands", which climed to 250,000 at the Gridiron Dinner that December, which topped off at 1,000,000 in a draft of Year of Decision, only to fall back to 500,000 in the published version in 1953. Can you produce any War Department document with any of those numbers on it?

T: Yes. An annex of August 30th 1944 to a Joint Chiefs of Staff directive (JCS924) says to expect a half million American dealths, and many times that number wounded. In addition, an intelligence reprt reviewed by the JCS (JCS924/15) on April 25, 1945 indicated 101,750 casualties in the first month alone. We had no idea how many months the invasion of Japan would go on but we were expecting several months to a year.

N: Isn't it true, Mr. President, that the only casualty numbers you recieved for the invasion came from General Marshall in a June 18 White House meeting in which 31,000 casualties, meaning 7-8,000 dead, were estimated for the first thirty days of the Kyushu landing scheduled for November?

T: Absolutely not. I had many conversations with advisors who expected very large casualties. Oftentimes the carnage of Okinawa was used as a basis for these figures. Okinawa was one of the bloodiest battles in American history and didn't end until late June. A report came through Secretary of War Stimpson's office on July 21, 1945 that estimated 1.7 to 4 million casualties with 400,000 to 800,000 dead in an invasion of Japan. It can be found in box 34 LC of the Edward L. Bowles papers. Bowles was one of Stimpson's chief scientific advisors. A much larger than expected build up of Japanese forces on the OLYMPIC landing beaches had made the estimates of June 18 meaningless by this time. As I said in Years of Decision, General Marshall entioned a half-million figure at Potsdam in July.

N: Did he? But you have no record to back you up, no notes, no diary entry, and there's nothing in Marshall's archives either. You simply made these figures up as you went along, hopin to deflect public opinion from the rain of nuclear ruin showered on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

T: There were so many estimates of horrific casualties, all of which are completely believable in the light of the real casualty figures that came in every day, that I didn't thinkt to document that prticular conversation. But I've pointed out other documents that do back me up. More American soldiers were killed or wounded in the Pacific in the first six months of 1945 than in the three previous years. On Iwo Jima we suffered 27,000 casualties in five weeks! On Okinawa, 48,000 in three months! The Japs were fanatics, fought to the death in caves and tunnels. The kamikazes were slicing up our fleet. If we wen through with the invasion, we were looking at an Okinawa from one end of Japan to the other. There were 400,000 purple hearts made in anticipation of the invasion. These same purple hearts are being awarded to American soldiers to this day. The manufacture of purple hearts aren't a written document, but they still provide irrefutable testomony as to what expectations were about the invasion. I coun't let that happen, not with the bomb in hand. No Amercian or British or Jap boy died on the beaches of Japan. The bomb certainly had something to do with that. Public opinion was almost unanimously in favor of the use of the bomb until a bunch of charlatans decided to rewrite the historical record in order to discredit it.

N: All true, Mr. President, but you are charged here with the killings you ordered, not with the ones you claim, in theory, to have prevented. Which brings us to the key question of alternatives. Even if we stipulate that the bomb stopped the war and thereby salvaged hundreds of thousands, even millions of lives, as war stoppages tend to do, we are still far from legal ground. The laws of war are not suspended during final battles. Besides, you didn't know the bombs would stop the war. You had diplomatic means to gian Japan's surrender.

T: What law school did you go to? How could I be charged with killings that I "claim, in theory, to have prevented"? If "the question of alternatives" is your key question you have a mighty weak case. I used every option open to me and still Japan wouldn't surrender. What "diplomatic meant to gain Japan's surrender" are you talking about? It sounds like someone has invented a bit of history that never existed.

N: Mr. President, you were swamped with alternatives to a sneak atomic attack. Stimpson, your chief of staff Admiral William Leahy, Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy, former Ambassador to Japan Joseph Gre, Navy under Secretary Ralph Bard, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, they all urged you to demonstrate the bomb and/or give a specific warning and/or relent on Hirohito, which was the main sticking point for the Gapanese, as the MAGIC intercepts revealed. But you refused every entreaty, every appeal. You and Byrnes were hell-bent on dropping the bomb on two defenseless cities as soon as possible. What was the hurry? The invasion was three months off.

T: Apparently you've been reading some sort of Communist propagands and believe every word of it. As I've stated before, our targets were announced in advance to the Japanese, so the attack was hardly "sneaky", and the cities were not defenseless - in fact the Bockscar, the aircraft that hit Nagasaki, was attacked by Japanese fighter planes over Kokura, the primary target. Along with the wealther this helped to drive the plane away. Just imagine if the Bockscar were shot down and the Japanese recovered the bomb. Your understanding of history is more convoluted than anyone I've ever met. The alternatives you're referring to were continuing the naval blockade and starving the Japanese people, which was advocated by Leahy and other naval officers, continuing with conventional bombing, planning an invasion, asking the Soviets for help and communicating a reasonable attitude toward surrender to the Japanese. We used all of these methods in addition to the bomb. There was never any question about whether it would be used or not - unless Japan accepted the Potsdam Proclamation. They didn't. Leahy didnt' believe the bomb would work, and Iordered a resumption of the conventional bombing campaign after Nagasaki was hit and Japan contined to fight on. The idea of a demonstration was carefully considered by the Interim Committee but rejected because 1) We had a very limited supply of bombs and didn't know when more would be available. 2) A demonstration could easily be dismissed by the Japanese as a hoax without having the effect of shocking them into accepting the inevitable and surrendering. Shock was the whole point of using the bomb 3) If the bomb was a dud, as could well have been the case, our credibility would be shot. 4) It would have been insane to give the Japanese a chance to thwart the plane carrying the bomb and thereby run the risk of the bomb falling into Japanese hands. This last point is also the reason I didn't specifically use the term "atomic bomb" in the Potdam Proclamation, although I did include a warning of "prompt and utter destruction". Most of the Senate and most of the American people wanted Hirohito removed. As I said before, many thought that yb overtly promising to retain Hirohito we would signal war weariness to the Japanese and encourage them to continue to fight. Yes there were some who ured me to allow Japan to keep the Emperor, which I did in the end. The Potsdam Proclamation was a compromise between these two opinions. I made sure to include specific assurances that Japan would not be enslaved and that a gevernment "choosen by the freely expressed will of the people" would be established, after which the occupation would end. By guaranteeing the right to national self-determination I signaled that the Emperor would not have to be removed. Post war interviews with Japanese leaders confirm that this signal was correctly read by them. Your talk about "the main sticking point for the Japanese" implies that there was some sort of diplomatic contact going on with Japan, which is insane. We were at war with the country, not in the middle of a delicate process of negotiation. You obviously haven't read the MAGIC intercepts. They reveal that one faction within the Japanese government was hoping that the Soviets would step in and help them obtain favorable peace terms. The people who advocated this were in fear of being murdered by the Japanese military, which was firmly in control of the country and completely opposed to peace. You make it sound like these advisors were begging me not to use the bomb, and the Japanese were begging to surrender, which is not only false, it's downright libelous. But you are right that I was in a hurry to end the war and the horror that wars always create.

N: The fateful order was sent to General Spaatz on July 25, the day before the Potsdam Declaration, your unconditional, surrender-or-else ultimatum to Japan that contained no cencession on the Emperor or specific warning about the "most terrible thing ever discovered", as you wrote in your journal. This was merely ten days after the bomb was tested. What was the hurry?

T: I didn't really expect the Potsdam Proclamation (not Declaration) to be accepted by Japan but I felt obliged to try to give them a way out anyway. The Proclamation did contain several concessions. Here is another key document that you've either neglected to read or are incapable of understanding. Again, it would have been the height of stupidity to specifically warn Japan of an impending atomic attack and give them a chance to capture the thing and then use it against us. Are you saying that I should have broadcast my diary entries to the Japanese? Again, Iwarned them in specific terms that their country would be destroyed. How difficult is it for you to understand that the best thing to have happen to wars is for them to end as fast as possible? Of couse I was in a hurry. You don't dilly dally while countless people of all nationalities are dying every day. Are you going to accuse me of racism next?

N: Ah yes. "When you have to deal with a beast, you have to treat him as a beast, you wrote to the Federal Council of Churches on August 10. I think you know where I'm going with this question, Mr. President, so let's not get sidetracked...

ALL RIGHT, THIS THING GOES ON FOREVER HERE. I'VE GOT ANSWERS FOR ALL THESE QUESTIONS BUT MY FINGERS ARE GETTING TIRED FROM TYPING. I'LL SKIP TO THE LAST ONE.

N: You killed one-fourth of Japan's Catholics in Nagasaki. Was that part of God's plan?

T: If you think that the Japanese people's religious orientation had anything to do with the decision to use the bomb then you're a moron.

N: Which is why you're on trial Mr. President, which is why you are a war criminal. No more questions.

T: You are a fraud, which is why you will be on trial yourself for libel and defamation of character. You lost your job at the Smithsonian for peddling this nonsense on the public and insulting our intelligence. Now you're so desperate to avenge your humiliation that you've dug up my grave and attempted to lynch my corpse. Get ready to answer some really embarrassing questions from my lawyer.


David Veal - 12/11/2002

Ladies and gentlemen with opposing view points,

I have gone over this literature carefully and it is to my fullest belief that President Truman made the right decision.
A full invasion would have cost our country thousands of American soldiers. Truman is in part responsible for making our country the most powerful nation on the planet. Yes, he did order the bomb to be dropped but simple history wil tell you that if we had not dropped the bomb someone else would have and we might be the ones in Japans place. Sooner or later the bomb would have been used. We should be grateful that the great minds were on our side and not the Germans or the Japanese. Truman ended the war as quickly as he new how and did it without loosing one American life on those two day. That is a great accomplishment. War criminal, No. The bottom line----he saved thousands of American lives with those two bombs and that is the goal of war. To win with as few casualties on your side as possible. If you think for a second that had Japan had the bomb they would not have used it on us your crazy. If they had in 1941, Pearl Harbor might have been much much worse. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japan went after military men and women as well as civillians. Hence, Truman made one of the most difficult decisions in the history of America and we as Americans should stand by him. He is in part responsible for the way and the degree of which we live today.


J.P. - 12/10/2002

This is not true, a simple demonstration of the new power we conceieved was all we needed to do for them to save their civilian lives... Two days is bullshit, that is not nearly enough time for the word to spread of this bombs destruction and make a solution. Truman is a war criminal, he did NOT consult the Joint Chief of Staff, hw wanted to use the bomb and knew they would disagree, therefore he did not consult with them. Read their diaries, they all think it is barbaric to unleash such a bomb on innocent people. A simple demonstration is all that was needed, but Truman decided to take innocent lives with him, that is crimes against humanity.


Richard Dyke - 8/7/2002

I agree with Jack that the study of history must be objective, but there also has to be some correction for hindsight. Consider these two propositions:

(1) We will never know whether the Japanese would have surrendered without an invasion of the home islands, despite the fact that it may have looked that way diplomatically. The kamikaze pilots and other last-ditch efforts against military surrender certainly don't fit the picture. Could the Japanese have been buying time by negotiating, as they did at the beginning of the war (Pearl Harbor)? So the "THE TRUTH IS NOW KNOWN THAT THE WAR COULD HAVE ENDED WITHOUT THE NEED TO INVADE JAPAN"? No, it is NOT--hardly. Can never be proven. So what have we here? An attempt to build a new consensus as a counterpoint to the old.

(2) "WORLD WAR TWO VETERANS INVARIABLY INSIST THAT THE ATOM BOMBS SAVED OVER ONE MILLION AMERICAN LIVES." They may have the number wrong (who knows?!), but if an invasion came, experience on Iwo Jima and Okinawa clearly showed that the numbers were going to be BIG! It appears on the evidence available--huge casualties outside the home islands--that any invasion of Japan was going to be painful.

All things considered, the "new view" historians who say the bomb was unnecessary are arguing from hindsight, not historical sight.


k.Ryan Biondo - 8/6/2002

How true.My neighbor, from japan is getting news from there via You said it!
.As GBShaw said"All history is lies".Each country gives a version to make others the evildoers.Self interest prevents interest in objectivity.
If wiahes were horses beggars could ride.We are they,wishing for justice and a compassionate govt. so we could be proud to be Americans.


k.Ryan Biondo - 8/6/2002

How true.My neighbor, from japan is getting news from there via You said it!
.As GBShaw said"All history is lies".Each country gives a version to make others the evildoers.Self interest prevents interest in objectivity.
If wiahes were horses beggars could ride.We are they,wishing for justice and a compassionate govt. so we could be proud to be Americans.


k ryan biondo - 8/6/2002

To pissed WW11 guy,the reason th sound off now is for perpective on the present to try9probsbly hopelessly) to stem the tide of killing planned by our govt for which our taxes are going and we are supposed top be flag waving "patriots"i suppose you are one of them?america right or wrong?
The old love it or leave it?
Protest only if our own get killed/empathy limited for others that are inmnocent?


k ryan biondo - 8/6/2002

The first comments i sent said i was 90.Not that it matters but i am 80(couldnt correct)
Finally finis


k ryan biondo - 8/6/2002

Who mreads these comments?know you get umpteen comments, but can nobody give a one line answer in response?


k ryan biondo - 8/6/2002

People who agree that the uSA is the evil empire shrug and say"what can you do"?
Seems folkd wont rally unless more than 30,000 USa soldiers are kn own to be killed or our immediate pocketbooks are seriously threatened.If all the fine scholars and activist organizations of NGO's cant stem the tide of Prez Shrub ,junior's corporate led agenda,and the Congress isnt strong enough (or knowledgeable enough in the majority) whats the use.??


k ryan biondo - 8/6/2002

My neighbor is japanese,sometimes gets depressed about WW11 bombing in Japan.I will give her the article.She works too hard to read,says I worry too much with my houseful of e mails,trying to write to papers or public servants.Noam Chomski sais no use being in formed if one doesnt act but I cant stop getting things daily,neglecting my life and having the house in paper shambles.I am 90 and a friend much yiounger says he leaves the bsttles to the young.The relentless tide of the Usa powers that be do make one feel like one is a dung beetle rolling a massive ball up an endless hill.if I was able to make an impact anywhere the patriot act would blow me down !help!(Had to quit wine (stress) got too fat)SOS


Richard Dyke - 8/5/2002

Sorry, Mr. Nobile. War IS hell and when it begins, all hell breaks loose. It would be difficult to ever prove to the American people who lived through the war, or even many of their descendants, that what Truman did amounts to a war crime. Truman was forced to consider and reconsider as many initiatives and viewpoints were being heard. He did what he thought was best and even Bill Clinton, an anti-war activist in the 1960s, was unwilling to pillory Truman in 1995.

The logical result of your argument would be that a government would be paralyzed in wartime. The objective of war is to win and end it. If government officials worried about the niceties, they would eventually be incapacitated. Can you imagine what the Israelis, for example, would be up against if they had to meet a rigid set of criteria every time they had to respond to the series of multiple murders going on all the time in their confrontation with the Palestinians, and have to make sure that no one died unjustly? They would eventually be overrun and annihilated. No matter who wins, there is always some self justification.

There are always two kinds of history--of the winners and the losers. Both sides have their value of perspective, and can never be entirely reconciled. This Dr. Sasaki you mentioned surely must realize that the Japanese are hardly blameless. The comfort women issue of today, the Baatton March and MANY, MANY other unspeakable atrocities were committed by the Japanese in World War II.

Armchair philosophizing, as many historians do, is comfortable and may be beneficial in many ways, but it omits the constant demand for decisions that war presidents must make. It is probably true that Truman would have been tried for war crimes if we had lost the war. The victorious side would then take their retribution against us and then build their own justifications as we built ours. And so it goes.


Scott Paris - 8/30/2001

Harry Truman did exactly what he had to do. You Johnny Come lately egomaniacs need to be hung for treason.

Why did you not make these charges in 1945? Too cowardly, or was not here then? I was here in the armed services, fighting for this country against cowardly attackers against our sovreign nation.
I had buddies in the military who were killed by these gangster
Nipponise. And to call Harry Truman and his administration, war criminals is anti-American to say the least.

You are nothing but disgusting traitors of America.

I was in Japan after the war with MacArthur, and being there at the time gave us insights into these peoples mind that can not be plumbed by society today.

We were glad that Truman had used the bomb, but would not wish it to happen again under any circumstances. Anyway you was not there (seemingly), and have no right to stand in judgment with blinded hindsight. So get lost!


JACK SCHLEIDER - 8/21/2001

UNFORTUNATELY, MOST AMERICANS WHO FOUGHT IN WORLD WAR 2 CANNOT ACCEPT THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DROPPING OF THE ATOM BOMBS ON JAPAN. THEY BELIEVE BLINDLY IN THE FALSE REASONS GIVEN FOR THE NECESSITY TO USE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION ON CIVILIAN POPULATIONS DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR. ALTHOUGH THE TRUTH IS NOW KNOWN THAT THE WAR COULD HAVE ENDED WITHOUT THE NEED TO INVADE JAPAN, WORLD WAR TWO VETERANS INVARIABLY INSIST THAT THE ATOM BOMBS SAVED OVER ONE MILLION AMERICAN LIVES. WE MUST BE SELF CRITICAL IF WE WANT TO BLAME OTHERS FOR THEIR WAR CRIMES.

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