In 1945 the US was at war with Japan and Germany at the same time. Harry Truman was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vice president and when FDR died in April of 1945, Harry Truman became the President of the United States. In any normal time period, that alone for a vice President would be life altering. When you are at war on two separate fronts, the pressure is almost unimaginable.
The US had been developing the atomic bomb for some time and the first successful test was on July 16, 1945. Harry Truman (in office for three months) had the most difficult decision any president has ever had to make. Do we use it?
The US military had been fighting on two fronts for four years straight (after Pearl Harbor) and had already lost 400,000+ young men and women. The US had taken Midway and Iwo Jima, but Japan would not surrender because they still had two million soldiers on the mainland. Truman knew that to use a Normandy style attack on the mainland of Japan, the US would lose possibly 10’s of thousands of additional service men and service women.
People in the US were sick of war and death and Truman knew that the US had something no one else in the world had. It had the way to end the war. It took a decision no other president before or after has ever been faced with. Do we drop a bomb that will kill everything breathing for several miles surrounding the landing site?
Japan was rigid in their unwillingness to end the war and had already said they would fight to the death until every Japanese solder was dead. They would not surrender even if it meant saving their own people.
Many historians look back and give their opinions about what a monster Truman was. What they don’t realize was that if the war continued, America could have lost another million service men and women and continued fighting Japan for another five years. The loss of life over those next five years would have changed the next three generation of America.
Truman made the decision to use the atomic bomb on Hiroshima hoping it would end the war. The following are the facts and the results for those that find fault with the decision Truman made.
A Boeing B-29 Superfortress took off the morning of August 6th and dropped the “Little Boy” atomic bomb on Hiroshima Japan and it killed 140,000 people and eviscerated an entire city and region. Japan still wouldn’t surrender. Three days later another B-29 Superfortress dropped the “Fat Man” atomic bomb on Nagasaki. The Imperial Japanese Army surrendered five days later, and the world took a needed deep breath. The truth is that the decision to use the bombs saved countless hundreds of thousands of American AND Japanese lives. It saved those lives because it ended the war.
So, when you hear pundits spout off about Truman and the use of overwhelming force to end the war, remember there is a strong probability that you would not be here today if Truman had not made that decision. Why? because very likely your fathers or grandfathers might have died if the war had lasted another five years. The decision Truman made stopped the war in eight days and saved countless lives. KT
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