history.docx - Truman\u2019s new world Back when I was in graduate school at Harvard in the early 1960s I hoped to do my doctoral thesis on Reinhold

history.docx - Trumanu2019s new world Back when I was in...

This preview shows page 1 out of 26 pages.

Unformatted text preview: Truman’s new world Back when I was in graduate school at Harvard in the early 1960s, I hoped to do my doctoral thesis on Reinhold Niebuhr, so questions of morality and politics were uppermost among my interests. This led me, naturally, to wonder about the atomic bombs dropped on Japan—and the fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo. At the Catholic University of America a few years earlier, a prominent moral theologian, Fr. John Ford, S.J., had condemned these bombings as immoral: They were the direct killing of civilians in crowded urban areas. My curiosity led me to a joint study by U.S. and Japanese experts in military history, some of them in high enough positions to know the internal political struggles on their own side. Although I have not been able to locate this study since, I think its authors called themselves “The Pacific War Group.” Two of their considerations were new to me, a novice in the field: first, the pressures on Emperor Hirohito from his military command never to surrender; and second, the race by the Germans and the Russians to build the atomic bomb first. The horror of Hiroshima gave the emperor a powerful argument in favor of a negotiated peace to spare the homeland. The bomb on Nagasaki proved that there might be a steady stream of such bombs, on city after city. I remember, too, vivid descriptions of the obscurities and uncertainties under which decision makers in Japan and the U.S. then worked: Neither could know the fierce internal arguments going on in the other’s inner circles, nor the most persuasive personalities, nor all the military intentions, nor the mysteries of the new atomic science. I was powerfully reminded of this early study by this new book by Prof. Wilson Miscamble, making use of a scholarship far more advanced in nearly all areas than it had been in the 1960s. Miscamble produced an earlier study, From Roosevelt to Truman: Potsdam, Hiroshima, and the Cold War, focusing especially on the complexities of Truman’s personal strengths, weaknesses, hesitations, and uncertainties in the field of foreign policy. In this new book, he follows an analogous course—using all available scholarship to shed light on the human factors of decision making, but especially the internal controversies. Adm. William Leahy, for example, maintained that the atomic bomb project was “the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives.” Miscamble describes an army of participants slowly assembling to make, over time, this “most controversial decision”— passionately controversial even in their own midst. The first chapter discusses Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Manhattan Project, on which Vice President Truman was never briefed. The second takes up the steep learning curve Truman had to mount when Secretary of War Henry Stimson finally gave him his first-ever briefing on the super-secret project, on the evening of the day FDR died and Truman (within two hours) was sworn in. Less than four months later, Truman would have to make a decision no man in history had ever made. The fourth chapter focuses on the Allied summit at Potsdam, at which Truman, now president, and Secretary of State James F. Byrnes tried to preserve decent relations with the Soviets, even as they both saw clearly enough that the USSR was veering away from its past dependence on its Western allies into a competitive, adversarial, unbelievably cynical wrestling for dominance whenever and wherever an opportunity presented itself. (A later chapter on Japan and the USSR shows how pleased Truman was when, quite hurriedly, Russia did declare war on Japan and launch a powerful attack on Japanese forces in Manchuria—two days after Hiroshima, just before Nagasaki.) Especially impressive is Miscamble’s account of the bitter Japanese arguments after Hiroshima. The emperor used the horrors of this new weapon as an honorable reason for surrender, but he did not fail to have a direct accusation delivered to the United States through the Swiss, to the effect that the huge immorality of the atomic bomb put it outside all international rules of war. As for Truman, he never allowed himself to forget, in making his decision, the immensity of the Japanese atrocities in China, and Japan’s ferocious brutality in its losing battles of 1944–45. (Nor did he forget the Soviet brutalization of whole societies, although he also knew that success in World War II depended heavily upon the Soviets.) In other words, he put into the moral equation the character of the regimes the world then faced. Miscamble’s discussion of the decision to drop the second bomb, to make credible the threat of further bombings, is gripping. Truman told his cabinet that the thought of wiping out another city of 100,000 civilians was “horrible,” and that the bomb must never afterwards be used again. After Hiroshima, Truman did not think of atomic weapons as just another instrument of war: They were far too indiscriminate. He summed up his view in his farewell address: “Starting an atomic war is totally unthinkable for rational men.” For Truman had come to see graphically after Aug. 6, 1945, the moral burden he had taken on his shoulders. But he thought it unworthy to moan publicly (or privately) about the hard necessities he inherited. He continued to be confident that the bomb’s use at Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been necessary, the least evil of choices available to him. And Truman did not scrap the growing American line of nuclear weapons: He knew how the Soviets would use their own growing arsenal to intimidate and to extort, if not far worse. He came to think that mutual deterrence, however morally compromising, was more moral than surrender, and as a command decision had the best chance of maintaining a fragile peace, even for a long time. Immediately after Hiroshima, Washington took no steps to wind down the war economy or the war effort. The American leaders could not be sure, given strong evidence to the contrary, that the Japanese would just surrender without committing national suicide. They could hope the Japanese would avoid the carnage, but they could not be sure. Miscamble manfully holds back from making his book polemical. His aim is to present these historical decisions, which stand under moral judgment, in the full human complexity within which the decision makers had to feel their way. His aim is to offer a more concrete and realistic framework for the moral decisions of statesmen (and their advisers and critics) in the future. Yet Miscamble does not hesitate to state succinctly where the views of Truman’s critics—Gar Alperovitz, Elizabeth Anscombe, and others— are inadequate in the face of today’s richer body of evidence. Miscamble’s arguments are both unsettling and, overall, convincing. Unsettling, because the moral ambivalence inherent in the use of atomic weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki stands out so starkly in his arraying of the evidence—and Truman himself understood it both quickly and clearly. Convincing, because I know enough about my own moral decisions and others I have studied to be impressed with how Miscamble makes concrete and believable the troubled reasoning’s of the human participants who made this most controversial of moral decisions. Cite Novak, M. (2011). Truman's New World. National Review, 63(20), 59-60. A tale of two bombs On the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of the nuclear age, Stewart Udall, former Secretary of the Interior in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, has published the fruits of a decade-long, courageous and noble exploration of the cause and consequences of one of the most fateful acts in human history. He asks: Why did the United States, without warning, drop atomic bombs on the unarmed civilian populations of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and Nagasaki three days later, completely contravening the principals later established by the Nuremberg Code, which forbade “the wanton destruction of cities or devastation not Justified by military necessity”? Lacking access to classified information, but making a careful study of every memoir and published recollection of all the principals, Udall proves that the decision to drop the atomic bomb on civilians flowed inexorably from the policy of secrecy surrounding every aspect of the development of the bomb. This policy has resulted in millions of premature deaths and continues to corrupt the American democratic tradition to this day. With the end of the cold war and the access to hitherto secret Soviet records, David Holloway has provided an equally riveting account of the origins of the Soviet atomic bomb that demonstrates that it was Hiroshima that impelled Stalin to make the enormous social investment to create a nuclear industry of the magnitude of the Manhattan Project. Distrustful of a scientific establishment he considered too closely tied to an international community, he had previously ignored the warnings of the Soviet physicists troubled by the sudden disappearance in 1941 of all Journal references to nuclear fission and even ignored the revelations from Klaus Fuchs obtained through espionage as far back as 1942. Holloway doubts that espionage accelerated the Soviet nuclear pro- gram to any significant degree; it took the Soviets about the same amount of time to build a bomb (four years) once they began in 1945 as it took the United States but Holloway demonstrates that the postwar success of the Soviet nuclear scientists was rooted in their participation as equals in contributing to the exciting international explorations of nuclear physics in the 1920s and 1930s. Their work was viewed by Niels Bohr, Rudolf Peierls and Victor Weisskopf, who knew the Soviet physics community well in the 1930s, and who considered it “no different” from the best of other countries. They even anticipated the postwar Soviet nu- clear success, but as Udall demonstrates, their efforts to warn that Hiroshima would lead to a nuclear arms race were ignored by their American overseers, convinced as they were that their secret weapon held the promise of unlimited power. Thus both Udall and Holloway raise profound issues concerning the still- unresolved tensions that arise among scientists engaged in the “free” pursuit of knowledge and civil society in wartime. Because of the nuclear arms race that began with Hiroshima, millions of tons of uranium ore, at a cost of trillions of dollars, have been extracted from the earth, milled, refined and enriched so that today humankind faces the incredible task of monitoring this lethal legacy for thousands of years to come. Udall’s message is that we must now free our- selves from the many myths engendered by the cold war. In coming to this conclusion, Udall first confronts the painful truth that, with victory in Europe in sight, President Franklin Roosevelt and Secretary of War Henry Stimson made the essentially racist decision to subject Japanese cities to a ruthless series of fire bombings that American air commanders (unlike the British) had largely avoided in Europe. By May 1945, one month after Roosevelt’s death, intercepted communications made it clear that loss of access to oil had brought the Japanese war machine to a grinding halt and the Japanese would surrender if the Emperor could retain his symbolic role. Why did we not then seize this opportunity to end the war? Udall has uncovered a memo by Navy Under Secretary Ralph Bard written on June 27, 1945, that makes a most persuasive argument for such a diplomatic effort. Udall provides an illuminating chronology showing that Stimson had already selected Hiroshima as a nuclear target on April 27, pending the result of the first atomic explosion at the Trinity test site scheduled for mid-July. Udall accuses him of staging a “masquerade” of an Interim Committee meeting on June 1, in which he Included the nuclear scientists merely to make them share the moral responsibility for the terrifying decision already made. The scientists, including Enrlco Fermi, Robert Oppenhelmer, Arthur H. Compton and Ernest Lawrence, were given no opportunity to suggest an alternative demonstration of the power of the bomb or even to offer the Japanese a few days of warning. Thus the making of the American atom bomb conferred on a small group of individuals the power to make truly awesome decisions, cloaked in complete secrecy. This power extended to the control of any information having to do with the health effects of low-level radiation, defined as the internal radiation of ingested man-made fission products like radioactive iodine and strontium, not found in nature prior to 1945. The nuclear scientists knew from animal experiments classified until 1969 that bone-seeking strontium would cause great harm to the immune response. Udall’s explorations began as a result of his discovery that Atomic Energy Commission officials had lied about the health effects of the atmospheric bomb tests from the Nevada test site in the 1950s, in the course of his unsuccessful legal representation of some of its victims. Here as always he names names in his indictment of those officials who invoked national security reasons for their inexcusable behavior. Norris Brad- bury, for example, who succeeded Oppenheimer as head of the atomic research laboratory at Los Alamos, is shown to have made special efforts to remove his own family from the Nevada fallout, while denying that it was dangerous. Udall regards the Nevada tests as occupying “a special niche m the annals of Nuremberg Code violations” and concludes that A.E.C. officials lied because they knew it would take several years “for the bomb-caused cancers to appear . . . [and] decided to adopt a pose that made the down winders unsuspecting participants in a medical experiment.’’ Both Udall and Holloway agree that the nuclear establishments of both super- powers ignored the warnings of the greatest scientists of the century: Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Linus Pauling and Andrel Sakharov. Sakharov is seen by Udall as the true hero of the nuclear age; he sacrificed his career after the successful 1955 test of his thermonuclear bomb design by revealing the greatest of all nuclear secrets. As Sakharov relates in his Memoirs, he worried so much about bomb-test fallout that in 1958 he made two remarkable pre- dictions-that ingested fission products would cause many deaths (extrapolating from his figures, perhaps as many as 1 million premature deaths worldwide for every 50 megatons of bomb-test yield) and that the radiation would accelerate the mutation of all microorganisms. (If Sakharov was right, this would produce more lethal strains of infectious diseases.) Partly as a result of the Chernobyl accident of 1986, the Russian mortality rate has risen by 37 percent, from 10.2 deaths per thousand persons in 1984 to 14.6 in 1993, giving us a grim glimpse of our own future if we continue to ignore the warnings of the health effects of low-level radiation from the ingestion of nuclear fission products. Udall is the highest-ranking public official with the courage and wisdom to tell us why we must end our cold war affair with the atom. Cite Gould, J. M. (1995). A Tale of Two Bombs. Nation, 260(7), 252-253. Okinawa, Harry Truman, and the Atomic Bomb On June 9, 1945, I was 19 years of age and a radio operator aboard a Navy ship that someone in Washington had given the improbable name of USS Romulus. On that day, sitting in the ship's radio shack, I composed a letter to my mother and father. "I have no fear of the Romulus," I wrote in an attempt to ease parental worry at a time when the American Navy was suffering the greatest loss of men and ships in its history off the coast of Okinawa. "It was named after one of the builders of Rome, and Rome has lasted for centuries, and I have no doubt that my ship will last out the war." I added, in a burst of youthful pride and bravado, "It is really quite thrilling to think that I shall have a part to play, although small, in the invasion of Japan and victory," a remark that surely did not thrill my parents. But luck was on the side of the Romulus crew and to countless other people--a million, perhaps two million, perhaps three million, perhaps 20 million, God knows exactly how many, who faced the specter of death and mutilation. On June 18, nine days after I sent my letter, President Harry S. Truman met at the White House with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretaries of War and the Navy. He was told that they had agreed unanimously that the invasion of Japan should proceed on November 1. But Truman, an expert in the game of poker, had an ace to play. He decided to drop two atomic bombs--one fell on Hiroshima, the other on Nagasaki--in order to prevent "an Okinawa from one end of Japan to the other." Like the Marine Corps and Army grunts on land and the Navy sailors at sea, Okinawa had scared the hell out of Truman, an old Army hand from the trenches of World War I. In the three-month period since becoming president following the death of Franklin Roosevelt on April 12, 1945, the Commander in Chief's land and sea forces in the Pacific had suffered almost half of all casualties inflicted on them by the Japanese in three years of warfare. Most of the casualties had occurred on atrocious, uncivilized islands during those jubilant months when war-weary Americans back home in the States were still enjoying the liberation of lovely, civilized Paris, thoughts of peace with Nazi Germany's collapse, and a return to the good life. A substantial percentage of the Pacific casualties took place on the island of Iwo Jima, an odious volcanic nothing in the middle of nowhere. The battle there had cost the slaughter of three Marine Corps divisions, an engagement that some historians later dubbed an unnecessary waste of gallant young men and a U.S. military blunder. When the Japanese were eliminated, the shooting brought to a halt, and the American dead and wounded carried away, it was questionable whether the island Served any useful purpose, even as a refueling station for B-29's returning to their bases in the Marianas after massive and decimating firebombings of Japan's cities. Okinawa, in total casualties, was even worse. When the battle was over, more than 260,000 people would be dead. II Four months before I wrote my letter to my parents, a young Okinawan student nurse named Miyagi Kikuko also related to her parents her pride and her bravado as she anticipated facing the enemy. Just before her mobilization in February 1945, she went home to say farewell. "I assured father and mother that I would win the Imperial Order of the Rising Sun, eighth class," she related to Haruko Taya and Theodore F. Cook for their book Japan at War: An Oral History (The New Press, 1992). "Father was a country schoolmaster. He said, 'I didn't bring you up to the age of 16 to die.' I thought he was a traitor to say such a thing. I went to the battlefield feeling proud of myself." The invasion of Okinawa, a 60-mile long island 350 miles south of Japan, began on an Easter Sunday or on an April Fool's Day, take your pick. In either case, it started with a rare placidity for most of the invaders on April 1, 1945, as the U.S. Navy deposited the first wave of 180,000 Army soldiers and Marines on a "sweet and quiet beach," recalled Marine Corps Lieutenant David Brown, who would soon be dead, in a letter to a friend. "All around were furrowed fields of patches of ripe winter barley, and tiny field flowers were scattered over the light earth." Also going ashore from one of 1,200 Navy ships assembled for the invasion was 23-year-old Marine Corps Sergeant William Manchester, now writer-in-residence at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He was as surprised and as delighted as Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and other military bigwigs that the landings throughout the day were proceeding with only minimal opposition. There were "no roars of Ja...
View Full Document

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture