tv Politics Public Policy Today CSPAN August 27, 2014 11:00am-1:01pm EDT
shells out of -- miles across the battlefield at the enemy. but obviously no one thinks about -- at that time, no one thought about the implications that come from, you know, radiation and what not. >> yeah, when we get into the 1950s, the american military is going to experiment when a whole variety of atomic weapons, atomic artillery shells, the atomic bazooka, the davy crockett, an atom bomb that can be launched from the back of a jeep by two or three people. for a while, atomic weapons seemed like the wave of the future before the full realization sinks in. and part of what's going to cause the realization of the long-term effects to sink in are indeed having used two of them at hiroshima and nagasaki, americans and people around the world can see the long-term effects. but in 1945, those are not well understood at all. not in the least. so this leads us to what we call
the triple punch. hiroshima, the soviet invasion of manchuria and nagasaki. within 3 1/2 days, japan has to absorb these major blows. finally, there is enough of an impact on the japanese senior leadership to make a difference. it's not that there had been no one in japan who was contemplating getting out of the war by surrendering up until this point. certainly nobody did it publicly. but within high government circles, there are peace advocates, folks saying the war is lost, we need out of this. but they were outnumbered and outvoiced, outshouted in some cases, by the militarists who wanted to hold on. battle. one more battle. if we can just inflict american casualties in one more big battle, then we can negotiate and really get something out of this war. but after hiroshima, after the invasion of manchuria and afterç
nagasaki, the japanese high command finally allows the emperor essentially to step in and override, make the final decision to surrender. there's a little bit of last-minute negotiating over the survival of the emperor personally, and his position within society. again, the americans and the japanese kind of talk past each other. they come up with language that's vague enough that both sides can interpret it to mean what they need it to mean. the japanese say the position of the emperor will not be prejudiced and the americans say, well, you know what, the japanese are going to get to choose their own form of government after the occupation, as long as it's respectful of all people and that sort of thing. and if they -- if they want to choose an emperor, that's okay. but in the meantime, the emperor will be subject to the supreme
allied commander. and that's good enough for both sides to interpret it the way they need to, to reach the point of surrender. >> so i have a question. >> yes. >> between the first dropping of the bomb and the second one. how much opposition existed within the british government and the united states government after seeing the destruction of the first bomb in hiroshima, how much opposition was there to dropping a second one? >> very little. none serious. part of it's the information lag. we're used to living in the information age, satellite reception, that sort of thing. information from hiroshima, which, remember, is a foreign country at war, is very slow to come out to the allies. part of the problem is the japanese don't realize what happened. the japanese understood atomic physics. they had their own atomic program. but it had not advanced very far, and the one thing the japanese had figured out about atomics, it's really difficult.
and to the fact of the point, one of their top scientists said we don't think a bomb is practical. so when one goes off hiroshima, first off, you've got to round up your experts, right? you've got to get them there. they've got to figure out what happened. they've got to come back. they've got to issue a report, convince some skeptical people this is really what happened. and none of that information is getting back to the united states. so the united states, hearing no response to its ultimatum, continues with the plan. and it's another nondecision. it's simply following through with the plan as stated, we're just going to keep dropping atomic bombs as part of our preinvasion strategy. the invasion will take place as planned. up until the point where the japanese accept unconditional surrender. yes? >> do we underestimate how brutal the atomic bombs were going to be?
>> uh-huh. yeah. it was really not well understood what they were going to do. in fact, i think our standard way of expressing the explosive power of nuclear weapons is indicative of that. how do we describe atomic or nuclear weapons? how do we measure their blast? >> as related to, like, tnt? >> yeah. we call it -- kilotons or megatons. and that is equivalent -- a kiloton is equivalent to a thousand tnt, a conventional explosive. so to try and get our minds around this new force in the universe, or this new force that humans have figured out not how to control, but at least how to tap, that's a big intellectual leap. and it's going to take time. >> i thought the 20 kilotons was one of them, right?
was that a little -- was that the 20 tons -- kilotons? sorry. >> i don't want to go on record on that. >> somewhere in the book it said that the -- that between the two bombs, it was equal to the -- all the conventional bombs dropped in europe, and obviously, that's pretty significant, you know, considering how much we actually did drop. even more significant is, you know, think about current day. we have 50, 60, 70, megaton, you know, warheads on our nuclear bombs. that's, you know, 1,500 times what nagasaki was. it's pretty significant when you think about it in that sense. what could come from one of those bombs. >> absolutely. we're literally talking in mathematical terms about orders
of magnitude. more destructive. but the chief terror of nuclear weapons is not just their blast, but also their long-term effects in terms of radiation. those things were so ill understood in 1945 that most people just thought of them as really, really big bombs and expressed them as such. kilotons. thousands of tons. it's the same as 70 b-29 loads. trying to come up with some way to express this, to understand that people are falling back on their understanding of conventional explosives. good. very good. so we're good so far. all right. then let's go ahead and wrap it up. what do we come to? the japanese strategy of spiritual exhaustion, of inflicting such horrific casualties and such horrors on the americans that the americans will come to some sort of negotiated settlement that will be acceptable to japan. that failed. and, in fact, the horrors that the japanese deliberately perpetrated actually reinforced the american desire to fight on to unconditional victory or unconditional surrender and
absolute victory. the american strategy of seeking absolute military victory ultimately was successful. the americans got what they wanted or needed out of this war. they did achieve unconditional surrender. and i put a little asterisk on here, because there was that talking past each other negotiation about the status of the emperor. i think it's important to remember the reason the united states was willing to let that japanese sort of term slide was because the americans wanted to retain the emperor as a tool for the occupation. so in short, the japanese were forced to capitulate unconditionally, the americans set the terms which is what they were fighting for. there wasn't a decision to use the atomic bomb. instead, this new weapon, and people didn't realize quite how new it was, simply became part of the overall american strategy. the search to force -- the desire, the need to force the japanese into unconditional
surrender. it just becomes part of the deal. the demonstration plan is rejected. strategic use against cities with military value. but remember, the tactical planning is in place to use them as part of the invasion that many americans still expect will be part of the ultimate downfall of japan. the implications of atomic weapons. how they have changed the world and how we recognize that now. that was a question that people in 1945 on all sides -- for them it was a question that would be answered in the future. okay. a lot of good books. i did manage to limit myself to three this time. a lot of good books to take a look at on this. i especially recommend chappell's "before the bomb: how america approached the end
of the pacific war" prior to knowing about the atomic bomb. the atomic bomb is a tightly held secret. so a lot of people know nothing about the atomic bomb. as you brought up, hasegawa is probably the best argument the atomic bomb is really more about dialing with the soviet union than dealing with japan. i deeply respect his scholarship, even if i'm not convinced. and leon sigal's "fighting to the finish: the politics of war termination" is excellent as to how the united states and japan are approaching the end of the final outcome of the war. that concludes our discussion, our chronological discussion of world war ii. when we see each other again next week, we'll start delving into race and the war in the pacific. i bid you all a pleasant day. you are dismissed. join us each saturday evening at 8:00 pm and midnight
eastern for classrooms across the country on different topics and eras on american history. lectures in history are always available as podcasts. c-span.org/history/podcasts or download them from itunes. tonight on american history tv, a focus on the cold war, beginning with a discussion about the lessons learned 25 years since the fall of the berlin wall. a look at some of the human radiation experiments conducted by the defense department during the cold war. and scholars debate the decisions that led to the end of the cold war. that's all tonight beginning at 8:00 eastern here on c-span 3. this event was co-hosted by
the harry s. truman. the atomic bombing of japan as the top news story of the entire 20th century, beating out landing on the moon, the attack of pearl harbor, wright brothers first flight and other prominent stories and event that is occurred in the last century.=p÷ along with the importance of the story of atomic bombings of japan has come over the past five decades or so, enormous and often high ly acrimonious. atomic bombings is arguably -- i
would say it's a strong argument. issue of the atomic bombings of japan is the most contentious tee bait in all of history. i don't think we're going to settle it today. i hope we can advance the knowledge of the subject, shed light on important issues and perhaps lower the volume of ill will that all too often has been part of this controversy. controversy over truman's decision to use the atomic bomb arises from two fiercely interpretations of why the bomb was used. the fundamental question at the heart of the debate, was the use of the bomb necessary to force a japanese surrender, and end the war as quickly as possible on
terms that were acceptable to the united states and its allies. this is a basic question, and from this basic question, had arisen a whole host of other interesting and important questions. there are two basic interpretations. the first is the traditional interpretation, the one that most of us, at least most of us of a certain age, grew up with. and that is the theory that truman's decision to use the atomic bomb as absolutely necessary. and so the answer to the question is a rousing yes, it was necessary. and it was necessary because truman faced a stark choice between on the one hand authorizing the use of the bomb, and on the other hand, authorizing an invasion of the japanese mainland that was going to cost hundreds of thousands of j=ofk5r lives.h so in this interpretation, truman made the only reasonable choice. he chose the least abhorrent
allowed to remain on his throne, and an unstated part of this interpretation is that the emperor would remain on his throne as a benign, kindly constitutional monarch. so in this interpretation, the bomb was not necessary to defeat japan. and because it was not necessary to defeat japan and force a japanese surrender and end the war, the revisionists have come up with other ideas about why the bomb was used and different scholars have proposed different
solutions for this question. but the one that is most common is, it was used to impress and intimidate the soviet union in the emerging cold war. by the summer of 1945, tensions were growing between the united states and the soviet union. and therefore, truman and his advisers elected to use a bomb, not to defeat japan, because japan was already trying to surrender. but to impress, intimidate the soviet union in the emerging cold war. so it was used not for military reasons, but for diplomatic political reasons. well, you can see that these two positions are diametrically opposed. and these are the two polar views on this entire issue. and it's between the poles that this controversy has been fought out. there are still a few partisans at the poles who continue to fight the same battles and in fact often read the same
quotations but most scholars now have moved beyond or perhaps i should say have moved in between the two poles and found the answer to the question of whether or not the use of the bomb was necessary somewhere in a broad, sprawling, ill-defined middle ground. and there's still lots of room for disagreement, and there's lots of room for debate within the middle ground. and you might hear some of that today. but in terms of where we are with recent scholarship, the two polar positions are pretty much discredited. and let me give you a couple of examples. the revisionist view has been discredited largely because we know now from japanese sources that have opened within the last 15 or 20 years that japan had not decided to surrender. that the japanese government, the japanese emperor, had not
decided to surrender until after hiroshima. so a lot of debate about what happened after the bomb was used. but the fact remains, and i think it's clear, and i think you'll hear more about this today, japan had not decided to surrender before hiroshima and this knocks out a major support for the revisionist's interpretation. the traditional interpretation, and i think it's safe to say that most scholars now agree truman used a bomb primarily to end the war as quickly as possible. but the traditional interpretation is weakened by the fact that we know and we have known for a long time, there were other ways to end the war besides the bomb and besides an invasion. and that -- an invasion, even in the minds of people in the summer of 1945, was certainly not inevitable. i think we have reached a point where we can now conduct our
arguments in a civil manner, and with respect to the views of others. i say that cautiously, because it seems like every time i make that statement at a conference or in print, we have a new eruption. i don't think we're going to have any eruptions today. but i am certain that we will hear some of the latest and the best scholarship that we have today, and i hope that you all will find it as enlightening as i have. our second panel today will also discuss complex issues of great importance. the origins of nuclear arms race, the benefits and hazards of ionizing radiation, especially isotopes and the development of nuclear power. these issues have not received as much attention from scholars or the public as have the atomic bombings of japan, and i don't think that any of them were strong candidates to have been the top news story of the 20th century.
but they are vital components of truman's atomic energy legacy, and this legacy, perhaps even more directly than the use of atomic bombs, extends down to the present day. they have also been topics of much controversy, and misunderstanding. and once again, in our second panel today, you will hear from leading scholars in the field who have, by any standard, done groundbreaking, outstanding work on these topics. i'm going to introduce our first speaker today. our first speaker today is richard b. frank, who is the author of "downfall: the end of the imperial japanese empire" published in 1999 and 15 years later is still perhaps the standard among books, the many, many books on the end of the war in the pacific. he is also the author of other books on world war ii.
he is not trained as a historian. he is trained as a lawyer. he is a graduate of georgetown law school, and he worked for many years as an administrative judge in the federal government. although not trained as a historian, richard frank demonstrates his skills as a historian in everything that he has written. and it's a great pleasure to have him here today with us. thank you for those very kind remarks. and i want to thank this entire institution for the wonderful opportunity to be here in key west. and to speak on behalf of harry s. truman. it's my job to provide i think an overall summary of where we
were in 1945. and to do that, we have to go back first of all to 1943 when president franklin roosevelt articulated the american allied aim for the war as the unconditional surrender of the axis powers. now, when that policy was first articulated, it was with a mind towards germany, and not japan. but in the policymaking process that extended from basically that moment to 1945 that resulted in the plans for the occupation of germany and japan, unconditional surrender became the fundamental foundation as the state department lawyers pointed out, because it gave the u.s. and its allies authority to do things in the occupation reforms in both germany and japan that it would not have been able to do under the normal international law of military occupation. so unconditional surrender, my first message is, was not a dispensable aspect about the events in 1945.
it is fundamental to what eventually transpired as a free, democratic and peaceful japan. now, the then new joint chiefs of staff are responsible for coming up with a military strategy that would implement and secure unconditional surrender. we know now that the joint chiefs achieve no more than an unstable compromise. interestingly, they divided not so much over what you might call a military issue, but a political issue. and that was what was the factor they believed would be most likely to undermine the will of the american people to see the war through to unconditional surrender. the navy, under fleet admiral ernest j. king, had studied war with japan for decades. one of the results of that study absolutely convinced that invading the japanese islands was a folly. that american casualties would be totally unsustainable because japan could muster greater forces in japan than the american americans could
the terrain would negate mobility and fire power. and therefore, the navy had derived the notion the only correct strategy to bring a war with japan to a close was one of blockade and bombardment. here i must interject and point out that when the navy talked about blockade and the context of world war ii, it was to fall along on the policy first employed by the british in world war i. that was a blockade that would include a blockade of food supplies. at its basic level, a campaign of blockade was aimed to threaten or actually kill literally millions of japanese, mostly noncombatants, from starvation. that's what the blockade was really all about. the army under george c. marshal believed the critical issue was time, that you can't fight a seven-year war. the army advocated an invasion of the japanese home islands as the speediest way to bring the war to a conclusion. those two conflicting visions, which were fought over intensely in 1945 resulted in an agreement in april/may of 1945 that resulted in orders that effectively continued the
campaign of blockade and bombardment in november, at which point a two-phase initial invasion of the japanese home islands would take place. the first phase would involve seizing the southern home island second phase operation core net set for march of '46 which was intended to land in the tokyo yokohama area. what we know now, however, is admiral king made it very clear in a written memorandum to his colleagues and joint chiefs of staff that he was not agreeing to actually invade japan. he only agreed they had to issue an order to have that option available come november. and he said he will come back and visit the question of whether we need to invade japan in august or september of this year. now, early 1945 was greeted in tokyo, not with resignation, but with resolution. the japanese had firm grasp of how deteriorated their military situation was.
however, they ultimately believed that modern morale was brittle and could be broken. and their strategy called operation decisive was a military political strategy that looked to do this. they would confront and either defeat or inflict such enormous casualties that the u.s. would negotiate a settlement they would find satisfactory to end the war. they moved vigorously to implement this plan. they correctly identified southern kiyushu as the american target. they moved a mass of forces down there. they moved to organize, reorganize, and conserve their air forces to accumulate over 10,000 aircraft, half of which were intended to be for a kamikaze mission to support this climatic armageddon battle. in addition to doing these various military moves and mobilizing the economy, in the spring of 1945, the japanese government moved decisively to
obli techlt obliterate distinction between combatants and noncombatants in japan. they not only mobilized a large uniformed armed force but also declared that every japanese male age 15 to 60, every japanese female age 17 to 40 was a member of a national militia, a combatant. a prototype of that program was tried out in okinawa with horrendous effects on okinawans. now in june 1945, on both sides in tokyo and washington, there were important meetings. mr. truman was very concerned about the issue of casualties and the invasion of japan, called a white house meeting, reviewed the plans, and interestingly, only authorized olympic -- the november '45 operation. he did not authorize coronet. he held an advance approval of that. in japan, there was an equally important meeting. an imperial conference, which is
to say one held before the emperor. at this conference, which was essentially sort of a kabuki affair, because the emperor does not actually participate in such matters, they affirmed their policy of fighting to the end without thought of surrender. now, in the course of preparing for that, staff officers prepared papers to review what the situation was. one of the aspects about those papers that i want to highlight to you is this. when i wrote "downfall" -- when i was reading those papers, i realized what they were really saying, even if ketsugo worked exactly as planned, as this horrendous battle in kiyushu. meanwhile, there is an air and sea blockade going on. and there's enormous casualties from all of these factors. even if they secure a negotiated end to the war, they realized their food situation, as they got to the latter half of 1946, was going to be catastrophic. and that the leadership knew that in addition to all the horrendous casualties that would result from hostilities, a large number of japanese would be
dying from starvation in 1946. now, edward drea recently published a wonderful book called "japan's imperial army" and pointed out that the soldiers clearly understood what the papers said. and if they understood it, the japanese civilian leadership could not have missed the implications of that. and maybe in the q & a, we can get into what happens during the occupation with respect to the food situation in japan. in the summer of 1945, particularly in july and august, sent a message to the senior officer in the pacific, asked him if he still thought that it was still a viable operation.
admiral king asked him for his views. now at the moment king did this, memoir in april. this is august of '45. king also knew this. he informed him privately that he could no longer support his invasion after the experience of the okinawa campaign. what we know for sure is there was going to be a major, major conflict at the joint chiefs of staff level over an invasion of japan. not because the operation was unnecessary, but it had become unthinkable in terms of how it had been planned and ordered up to that point. general marshal was looking into using atomic bombs as tactical weapons to support the invasion, in order to keep that option open. in japan in june of 1945 and continuing on, there was some strings on the diplomatic front. there were a number of diplomats that became peace entrepreneurs.
they advanced to various american and allied officials and notions about the war. the problem was not a single one of them had any authority from japan. the only legitimate effort made to secure any type of diplomatic effort by the japanese government was conducted through the japanese ambassador through moscow. you have to understand the big six was the legal government of japan. there was literally not a millisecond prior to august 6th, 1945, in which that legal government of japan ever sat down and worked out what they would accept to end the war. the only occasion on which they had a meeting to even discuss
that matter ended abruptly when it said the only basis to discuss the end of the war was japan had not lost. when they attempted this negotiation through moscow back and forth and the foreign minister. he can't get an answer because key moment in this comes in exchange that follows from the fact that sato keeps saying if this is a serious effort to end the war, japan must define some terms. he comes back to that several times. terms, terms, terms. he can't get an answer from togo because they've not discussed. he sends a message in which he
says, look, the best you can possibly hopeful at this point is unconditional surrender modified only to the extent that the imperial institution will remain. if only we had debride that set of terms, japan would have surrendered. what's the response from togo? it's not no. it's hell, no. so, basically, reading those cables, as american leaders did, they knew basically that in july 1945, even an option to secure the imperial institution would not secure the surrender of japan. no japanese government had ever surrendered in the history of japan. which by japanese calculations was 2,600 years. an atomic bomb was an event totally unprecedented in human history. third, you have to understand
the japanese government and decision-making process was high ly and difficult to reach an agreement. when the first news that hiroshima reaches tokyo, japanese army immediately responds that the americans have sent an atomic bomb. we're not going to agree until there's an investigation. even if it is an atomic bomb, they can't have that many of them. they're not that powerful and maybe they'll be dissuaded from actual power from using them. the reason the army and navy take the stance is because of japan's own atomic bomb program, which did not give them a bomb, but did give them insight into how difficult it was to make a bomb. on the morning of august 8th, the soviet union intervenes in manchuria. the early report indicates the soviets have attacked and nebulous as to what it going on. the big six has its first formal meeting to discuss how to end the war and they split when
three, want to advance the condition of returning the imperial institution, but three others want to have three other conditions, including japan will try its own war criminals, japan will disarm itself and, above all, there will be no occupation of japan. which means the occupation reforms are not going to take place. the emperor intervenes that evening and orders that they accept the one term. except when japan sends its message to the u.s. saying it's accepting a declaration, the language used says provided it does not compromise the prerogatives of the emperor. this is called magic language. what the japanese term is asking for is not preservation of a constitutional monarch. it is asking for the allies to agree to a conditioned precedent to a japanese surrender that they agree that the emperor over
the occupation authorities. again, no occupation reforms. this is rejected by the u.s. if you read like a lawyer would read those exchanges, there never is a guarantee that the u.s. will guarantee retention of the imperial institution. there is reaffirmation repeatedly of the declaration, which follows from the atlantic charter, that if it is the will of the japanese people to continue with imperial institution, it will continue. now there are a lot of other things we can talk about concerning the end of the war. soviets, the food situation, japan, the dysfunction of japanese decision making, the areas in which the u.s. and japanese leadership either saw things clearly or did not. but one thing i want to impress upon you is this. i've been doing work now on the whole asian-pacific war. this was a totally horrendous event from 1937 to 1945. by my best estimate, something on the order of 25 million human beings died.
about 6 million of them were combatants. about 3 million, chinese, about 2 million, japanese. that means the other 19 million were noncombatants. casual casualties among japanese noncombatants you can find various figures between in excess of 600,000 to my highest estimate is about 1.2 million. that means basically for every japanese noncombatant who died, about 18 other noncombatants died. about 12 of them were chinese. and we heard very appropriately last night from two survivors of the atomic bombings, and i believe it's extraordinarily important that we always keep in mind the horrendous nature of those weapons that hangs over us to this day. but, to me, you have to understand just how utterly god awful the war was. how utterly awful the daily total was. over 5,000 chinese were dying
every single day the war continued. it's been estimated a quarter million people were dying every month, mostly asian noncombatants. this was the context in which all this takes place. this is the context in which we can now silt bat back and make judgments. thank you. [ applause ] >> our second speaker this morning is wilson d. campbell, "truman: the atomic bombs and the defeat of japan." he is also the author of two other prize-winning books. bill is a native of australia. he received a degree from the history of notre dame. he returned to australia for a
couple years and worked in the office of the prime minister and then he came back and joined the faculty, the history department at notre dame. even while he was doing this, he earned a masters of divinity degree at notre dame and he is an ordained priest. we're very pleased to have bill miscampbell with us this morning. [ applause ] >> i'm very glad to participate in the conference and i thank dr. walker, our conference convener and bob walsh, who has done such a splendid job organizing this event. i'm very glad to join my fellow panelists, such important scholars from whom i have learned so much over the years. of course, let me thank all of you, for coming and making an
effort to understand some of these crucial areas of harry truman's presidency. let me clarify for you that i come to the issue of the use of the atomic bombs from the perspective of a diplomatic and political historian, as sam mentioned. i wrote a book on george cannon and his contribution to the making of u.s. foreign policy. my first sort of exploration of the truman administration looking at the marshal plan and nato. then in 2007 i published a book that explored the impacts on american foreign policy more broadly understood of the transition from frankly roosevelt to harry truman. and that book explored truman's policymaking in his initial years in office and it led me to
consider his diplomacy as world war ii ended into what we now know was its final phase. so i want to first speak from a diplomatic historian's perspective to clarify truman's initial approaches on foreign policy in a broad sense during 1945. then i will try to examine something of truman's motives for authorizing the use of the atomic bombs and finally some conclusions on the morality of the use of these terrible weapons, an issue which i have tried to give some considered thought. friends, please appreciate that when truman came to office in april of 1945, he had neither the interest nor the desire to alter franklin roosevelt's policies. he sincerely wanted to implement
the plans of his revered predecessor and to assure continuity in foreign policy. crucially truman hoped to continue cooperative relations with the wartime allies, especially the other members of the big three, the soviet union and great britain. secure their cooperation in securing final victory over hitler and the nazis and then over the japanese militarists. and secure their cooperation, furthermore in building a peaceful post war world. please keep that in mind. my study from roosevelt to truman, which dr. walker mentioned briefly, clarifies that the broad sweep of american foreign policy from april '45 to the potstown conference in july
of 1945 consisted of an effort to maintain cooperative relations with the soviet union. there were bumps along the road, but i'm suggesting the broad sweep is one of maintaining cooperation. truman aimed to be even handed in his dealings with winston churchill's britain and joseph stalin's soviet union. he worked to avoid any hint of angelo american conclusion against the soviets. even truman's appointment of burns as secretary of state in july of 1945 did not alter this fundamental cause. burns, an important player in the events we're discussing, favored the diplomatic practice of bargaining and negotiation. but he still wanted to maintain decent relations with the
soviets by reaching practical settlements of the issues they faced. at potsdam he accepted a spear of influenced peace, which largely accepted the soviet's domination of eastern europe and harry truman endorsed this approach. they hoped that this would secure a workable and stable post-war settlement. now burns assuredly hoped that america's possession of the atomic bomb might add some weight to his side in future diplomatic bargaining in the post pottsdam period. but let me be very clear. truman authorized the actual use of the bomb to defeat p japanese. it was not a part of some anti-soviet strategy. truman had gone to potsdam and
was intent on gaining soviet participation in the war against japan, and he wanted that participation.bbbbb/g it's very important to appreciate this point because fanciful notions of so-called atomic diplomacy, pushed by those who have followed him on the revisionist side that dr. walker mentioned in his introduction, that notion has to be put aside. what i think is striking about america's sole possession of the atomic bomb is how little u.s. officials sought to use it for diplomatic ends and purposes in those initial stages. let me move then and make some fairly brief statements about
truman's motives. these are the arguments that i concluded from my book, the most controversial decision. this book, i should add, the title has certain irony to it. the decision was not controversial for truman at the time. it's subsequently that the controversy emerged. truman authorized the use of the atomic bombs to force japan to surrender and with the deep hope of saving american lives. he was primarily concerned, of course, with american lives. this is what moved him and the american military effort. it must be said, as richard
frank in his wonderful work has clarified, that the atomic bombs contributed to forcing japan's e eventual surrender and in bringing the brutal war in the pacific to an end prior to what would have been an enormously costly invasion of the japanese home islands. furthermore, while the atomic bomb was never entirely separated from considerations of post war international politics, especially in the mind of secretary of war henry stimson, the decision to use the weapons was not driven by those concerns. the atomic bombs were used primarily for a military purpose. now truman and his associates did not seek alternatives to using the atomic bombs. they accepted it as a weapon of war and proceeded to use it.
they saw it as a legitimate weapon. but we can say this and we can have more discussion, i'm sure, of this matter in our question period. viable options that might have proved successful alternate courses can't be identified with any certainty, even in retrospect and when far removed from the pressures truman was under in 1945. of course, the united states could have eventually defeated japan, a choking blockade, perhaps starving millions into
sub admissi submission, a very damaging invasion. but even that has some questions about it. there was not an easily available and appropriate option that would have met the serious political and moral objections of the many later critics of truman's decision. those who, from our safe distance now almost 70 years, hold all kinds of alternate scenarios to end the war, i think, engage sometimes in wishful thinking that cannot be supported by the historical facts. as you know, there has been enormous criticism, as dr. walker made clear in his introduction, of the american use of the atomic bomb. but i want to ask you to
consider a few points in the remaining time i have that might complicate the rush to judge the action that truman took. those who condemn truman's decision to use the atomic bombs surely should hesitate a little so as to appreciate that had he not authorized the attacks on hiroshima or nagasaki, thousands of american and allied soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, would have been added to the lists of those killed in world war ii. this would have included not only those involved in the planned invasions of the home islands, but also american, british, let me add australian ground forces in southeast asia who expected to engage the japanese in bloody fighting in the months proceeding such. some folks of limited knowledge of world war ii ignore the reality that there was ugly
fighting proceeding throughout much of asia. during those months leading up to the use of the bombs. added to their number would have been the thousands of allied prisoners of war whom the japanese plan to execute. to complicate further the rush to judgment, one must acknowledge that truman was most viekly very correct in march of 1958 when he told the chairman of the city council that the bombs had prevented the loss of japanese deaths in an invasion. hard as it may be to accept when one sees the visual record of the awful destruction of hooe roche ma and nagasaki, losses would have been substantially greater without the atomic
bombs. furthermore, the attacks changed the whole dynamic of the occupation of japan. ironically, they facilitated a quick and easy surrender and a broadly cooperative populous in a way that no other method of military victory would have guaranteed. moreover, the awful weapons abruptly ended the death and suffering of innocent third parties throughout asia. a point that professor frank addressed at the end of his remarks. rather surprisingly, the enormous wartime losses of the chinese, the koreans, the vietnamese, the japanese, at the hands of the japanese received little attention in weighing the
american effort to shock the japanese into surrender. the losses in nagasaki were horrific, but they pale in significance when compared to the estimates of 17 to 24 million deaths attributed to the japanese during their rampage from manchuria to new guinea. gavin doors accurately described asia under the japanese as a channel house of atrocities. during the months of war following the attack on pearl harbor, reliable estimates established that between 200,000 to 300,000 persons died each month either directly or indirectly at japanese hands.
furthermore, robert newman reveals that, quote, the last months were in many ways the worst. starvation and disease aggravated the usual beatings, beheadings, and battle deaths. it is plausible to hold that upwards 250,000 people, mostly asians but some westerners, would have died each month if the japanese empire struggled in its death throws behind july of 1945. so i put to you that the atomic bombs shortened the war, averted the need for a land invasion, saved countless more lives on both sides of the ghastly conflict, and brought an end to the japanese brutalization of the conquered peoples of asia. does that make the use moral? truman himself had doubts in
retrospect. truman's first conviction that he had done the necessary thing, dropping the bombs, ending the war, saving numerous lives in the process did not stave off his own serious moral qualms about the action. just on the day after the bombing of nag ka si, he said that no more atomic bombs be dropped. in words that reveal his personal anguish and his growing recognition that hiroshima and nagasaki were much more than the military targets he had authorized the bombs be used against, he explained that the thought of wiping out another 100,000 people is horrible.
his then-secretary of commerce henry wallace recorded in his diary, he, truman, didn't like the idea of killing, as he said, all those kids. truman's experience in august of 1945 deeply colored his whole attitude toward nuclear weapons. he never again spoke of them as military weapons to which the united states could make easy resort and he indicated some retreat from his pre-hiroshima view that the a-bomb was just another weapon. in looking at moral responsibility, i want to put to you that we must look beyond harry truman. those who accuse truman might refrain from putting him in some singular dock of history until they carefully considered the
responsibility of the japanese leadership for the fate of their own people. post war japanese leaders effectively played up their victim role so as to induce a certain guilt among americans about the wars ending. this helped disguise the important reality explained by the historian herbert bix that it was not so much the allied policy of unconditional surrender that prolonged the pacific war as it was the unrealistic and incompetent actions of japan's highest leaders. blinded by their preoccupation with the fate of the imperial house, those leaders let pass every opportunity to end the war until it was too late. in moral terms, surely the
japanese leadership had a responsibility to surrender at least by june of 1945 when there existed no reasonable prospect of success and when their civilian population suffered so greatly. instead, the neosamurai who led the japanese military geared up with true bonsai spirit to engage their whole population in a kind of national kamakazi campaign. they were in prolonging the war should not be ignored. friends, i want to put to you that harry truman was a good and decent man who tried to live by a moral code, a moral code grounded in his christian views. a moral code grounded in the 20th chapter of the book of
exodus, ten commandments, and the sermon on mound. truman later stated honestly, i appall war, and i'm opposed to any kind of killing, whether by atomic bomb or bow and arrow. truman was, however, also a person who knew that decisions in the sometimes confusing fog of war placed policymakers in circumstances where they sometimes have neither a clear or easy moral option open to them. perhaps truman had himself and the atomic bomb decision retrospectively in mind when he wrote 15 years after their use in a discourse on decision making that, quote, sometimes you have a choice of evils in which case you take the course that is likely to bring the
least harm. from the perspective of today truman's use of the bomb viewed within the context of this long and horrific war should be seen i believe, as his choosing the lesser of the evils available to hum. admittedly, he did not weigh carefully the options in some moral calculous at the time and proceed forward with that understanding. no, he proceeded ahead because he believed that this was a weapon that could end the war. but fair minded observers will see that he did, in fact, choose the least damaging of the awful options open to him. henry had it exactly right when he wrote in 1947 that the
decision to use the atomic bomb was a decision that brought death to over 100,000 japanese. no explanation can change that fact, and i do not want to gloss over it, said stimson. but this deliberate destruction was our least abhorrent choice. abhorrent for sure, but it must be understood the least abhorrent as well so as to bring the bloodshed to an end. so, too, must be appreciated that truman did not turn his back on some feasible moral course of action that would have secured a japanese surrender. even a decision not to act would
have undoubtedly incurred terrible consequences. such inaction would carry some burden of responsibility for the prolongation of the killing of innocence throughout asia in the house of the japanese empire. would it really have been more moral to stand aside so as to maintain a moral purity while a vast slaughter occurred at the rate of over 200,000 deaths a month. isn't there a tragic dilemma here, namely which innocent lives to save. could truman have rested at peace by prolonging the japanese domination of asia? as future anniversaries of the dropping of the bombs occur, i hope for less condemnation of truman's decision at least until
the critics can specify a moral and still feasible course of action to end the war. perhaps there might even be some empathy for the man required to make the decision and who carried the burden of his harry truman of independence, missouri, was some moral monster. those who criticize his decision would do well i think to place themselves in his shoes and ask what they might have done in his circumstance. honest observers who refrain from superficial analysis and ill-founded criticisms will acknowledge that the atomic
bocboc bombs were used primarily for a military purpose so as to force japan's surrender and that they proved effective in inflicting defeat on the japanese. truman and his associates did not seem alternatives to using the atomic bombs, but viable options that might have proved successful cannot be identified with any certainty, as i have said. sadly there was not an easy available and appropriate option that would have met the moral objectives of the many critics of truman's decision. therein lies the tragic dimension of the decision to use the atomic bombs. thank you so much. [ applause ]
>> our third speaker is robert standish norris, the author of "racing for the bomb." this is a book that came out in 1992 and will be republished and came out to rave reviews in journals and popular media. he's also the author on books on nuclear weapons. he earned a ph.d. in political science from new york university and he's applied his expertise on a nuclear weapons and jobs held with the natural resources defense counsel and now with the federation of american scientists. i'm very glad to introduce stan norris. [ applause ] >> thank you very much. good to be here. i'd like to thank all of the
organizers of this event. one correction to sam. the book was in 2002. unfortunately, it went out of print, but it's coming back so i'm happy about that. in my cleanup position here, let me summarize the paper i have submitted. it mainly has to do with the title of this panel here. and what i say is the sub decision to drop the atomic bomb needs fundamental re-examination. so i won't be concerned wlt issues or whether it was the first shot of the cold war. rather, i would like to focus on whether there was any decision at all. whether the word decision is the appropriate word to describe what happened and concerns the timing of the bombing and the
role of general groves, not surprisingly since i wrote a whole book about him and his role in the bomb. and when you follow the actions of general groves, i came to the realization that it was not really any decision by president truman to authorize the use of the bomb. he acquiesced in the decision of others. he went with the momentum of events that culminated in the bombs use. and only in retrospect in interviews and in his memoir did he put himself more decisively directing the use of the bomb in july and august of 1945 more involvement than was actually the case. when you begin to look for the documents that truman
authorized, you can't find one. of the 70 some documents in the library entitled "the decision to drop the atomic bomb", not any contains language from truman authorizing the use of the bomb before august 6th. an odd omission in the that it title. he was not ignorant. of the bomb when he became president on august 12th upon fdr's death, and he was told soon after by secretary of war stimson and general groves the details of the bomb. and according to general groves, the only decision that truman really made about the bomb was not to interfere with ongoing plans. the momentum of the project was
extraordinary at this point. all engineered by general groves, i think, i try u and show. and when there was enough available, the bombs would be used, period. there's no doubt about that. in an amazing coincidence that i still find amazing, at the end of july, there was enough material for the two types of bombs that were to be used. enough uranium and enough plutonium for a test bomb that was already used in the middle of july but another amount was available at the end of july that would be used in the fat man bomb on nagasaki.
it didn't have to turn out this way at all. it was only because of the efforts to speed up the production of these two kinds of material that the availability of the material was ready at that time. and was used. so my argument is that truman really didn't authorize the use of the bomb. e he went with the decisions that had been made long, long, long before. going as far back as the authorization by president roosevelt to initiate the program.
why would you build a weapon of war if it was not intended to be used. it was given over to general groves whose bosses were simpson and marshal. and another scientific adviser named bush and with this complex of people here, it was full speed ahead. i call my book racing for the bomb. speed was of the essence. every day u counted. and the intent, as i agree with my fellow panelists was to end the war as soon as possible and the pacific war as soon as possible. another question is what if the war had not been over in europe, would the bomb have been used in europe? the war was over on may 8th. that was too soon for the bombs being ready. and the question was never focused on whether it would have
been used in europe. so truman was in an odd place when he inherited the presidency. and as bill mentioned here, he went with the continuity of things that had already been put in place. the continuity being that simpson and marshal, two people that truman had the utmost respect for, better to go along with what is already in place than make the contrary decision. so as general gross says, truman's decision was not so much to say yes as to to say no. it would have taken an enormous effort to say no. we're going to go some alternate route. and with the people surrounding him and the plans already in place and the momentum under way, it was just not in the cards that truman would do anything else but go along with what had already been put in place. so as woodward and bernstein
said, follow the money, it was always my research to follow the bomb. when you look at how the material was made, you focus in on the timing of when the bomb was used. as i said before, when there was enough at the end of july for the two types of bombs, they were going to be used. if it had been done a month before or two months before, it would have been used then. so it's just a matter of when there was enough material that the bombs were ready and were used within days afterwards. and if you follow the path from hanford, washington, or tennessee where the uranium was made, as it made its way to being fabricated into the pieces
needed and transported to the forward base from which the bombers left. you see that they are racing for the bomb. there's no doubt about it. there's not a minute lost. and whereas i argue that truman did not authorize officially. there's no piece of paper that say, i, harry truman, authorize the use of the atomic bomb. i don't criticize him for this. what i do criticize him for is taking some liberties with the historical facts afterwards and interjecting himself into this process and taking more credit than is historically accurate. what he did do is introduce himself into stopping the bomb. as was mentioned before, once
some peace feelers began to be heard from japan after the nagasaki bomb, truman iv,u7w'ol interjected himself and said no more and general marshal told general groves, no more bombs are to be taken upon except upon authorization from president truman. later the term predelegation became known as this process. the real order to use the bomb came from general handy, who was the acting chief of staff in washington while marshal was in potsdam. he authorized the group to use bombs as made ready.
as made ready. and general groves being the good. army officer would supply bomb number three, bomb number five, if needed. so there was an assembly line in process in which more bombs would have been used. but truman interjected himself and stopped that assembly line. stopped that predelegation, which had been granted in an order in which i don't think he ever saw. i don't know. so that is something to keep in mind about truman's role in the bomb. he did interject himself into stopping the use of the bomb beyond nagasaki. and with good reason because there were feelers out to have the japanese unconditionally
surrender. just one final thing in my remarks, having to do with the timing, every one of these days is crucial to the way things turned out. counterfactual history is sometimes a dangerous occupation, but sometimes it's useful. and it is, i think in this case, useful to consider what would have happened if the bomb had not been used on august 6th and august 9th. it was mentioned on august 8th that the soviet union entered the war and this has become, according to one scholar's argument, an action that had more impact on the japanese than the dropping of the atomic bomb and ending the war.
the japanese had to consider august 6th, hiroshima and they did something about it and surrendered and stopped the whole thing. had that gone on, the soviets had already begun basically an invasion of japan. had the war gone on another few weeks or another month or two, the whole post war period would have looked entirely different with japan. japan would have had soviet occupation and we would have had a situation much like germany. and that didn't happen. so i recommend to you a very good article by a fellow named david glens, who is a specialist
in soviet war plans and world war ii about the invasion of japan and it's mentioned in my paper. so what president truman was not as involved in the decision to use the bomb as the subsequent literature has alleged. and this neglect was not entirely his fault. he should not be blamed. if president roosevelt had lived a few months longer, may, june, july, august, i don't think anything would have been different. the bombs were ready when they were ready and would have been used. we would be looking at president roosevelt's role in the bomb. so why don't i stop there and have any questions in the period that follows. thank you.
[ applause ] >> we're actually running ahead of schedule. i would like to thank the speakers for both the quality of their papers but the brevity of their remarks. and two things that i ask of the speakers before this conference before we got here. one was not to read their papers because we have all had bad experiences with that and they didn't do that and they stayed right on schedule. so we have lots of time for questions. the format is there are two microphones at the front. if you have questions, please line up at the mics. please identify yourself and as much as possible, direct your question toward one of the panelists. >> my name is linda chapman. thank you so much. very instructive. i would say all history is
revisionist and maybe to make a pa jorty of one side or the other is a pa jorty. but i would like to say that dropping the bomb was an imperty and had to be done. can we talk about strategy? i'm no expert in this. why civilian targets? why not the military targets, as you suggested. there was a huge build up of the japanese military there. why wasn't that the target of the bomb? and maybe the second question is, why did we have to drop two if it were about really ending the war and not just making a test of these two bombs that were developed.
thank you. >> i guess this is aimed at me. again, it was general groves who was in charge of establishing what was called the target committee. this was done in april. the first time they met was april 27th. groves, a master bureaucrat. he says i have nothing against committee as long as i get to choose the members. so he chose the members and they were a collection of military people and scientists. and the army air forces and so on and so forth and they decided that they would spare any city that hpt already been bombed. they wanted really a fresh look at an unbombed city to show the power of the bomb. that was the intent of why some of these targets were chosen. groves was obsessed with trying to get kioto on the target list and stimson, who had visited japan i think twice, knew its historic and cultural import to the japanese and vetoed them again and again and again. groves was obsessed with trying
to get it on, but it didn't happen. and thus the target list became nagasaki, hiroshima, they were at theened of the deliberations. i think they didn't know whether this was going to work or not. they were sure about the little boy bomb. two pieces of uranium, fire one into the other, it's going to blow up. we don't need to test. plus it's going to take too long if we have a test bomb and we won't have another one for many months later. but this plutonium bomb, it was
tested and it worked. full speed ahead towards getting enough plutonium to the case and all the rest and have the composite group ready to deliver it. and of course, the perfect mission that went according to plan, it dropped the bomb on hiroshima exactly when they said it would and returned safely. there was much more difficulty in the second mission against nagasaki. i won't go into all the details about fuel lines and they almosl ran out of gas and there was covered clouds and they wanted a
so that almost aborted, but it didn't. we have to shock the japanese into taking that final step. it makes a distinction between defeat and surrender. they are not the same thing. the revisionists have constantly said that the japanese was defeated. of course they were defeated. they were probably defeated at mid-way although they probably didn't know it. how do you get them to surrender? surrender on your terms. and that took a long process and eventually it was the atomic bomb that convinced them to intervene and say, enough, it's over.
>> the decision to use as professor norris made clear in his paper was the one decision that how we from our vantage point, why department they give them more time to see if that would make a decision. it was essentially driven by general groves, the one decision to authorize the use of the weapons that they used to. both cities were military industrial targets. they were not simply filled with civilians and targeted because of that. the japanese army responsible for the defense of the southern part of japan and it was a
supply and logistics base for the military communications center. nagasaki very important port wide ranging industrial activity. the complicated dynamic of how japan fought the war and who was the civilian and who was a combatant, et cetera, made targeting something that had already devolved into an area qs where dare we say civilian ç targets were on the lists. it's under fdr that the tokyo fire bombing occurs, of course, and the war had devolved into a level of what we can look back and see as almost barbaric targeting of populations who i should add had been warned to evacuate these cities, but this is where the tragic dimension in
my view enters in. >> let me say i think what you have to understand in looking at the design of the use of the atomic bombs, you have to understand the most important thing was the purpose. the purpose was articulated a number of times. the idea that it would take some tremendous shock to get the leadership of japan to actually come pitch late. the targeting was really a separate issue. the question whether you should target a military area versus a city. the question is what would impress leadership in tokyo. also the atomic bomb, which we did k not forget, are much,
much, much smaller than anything that came after or not nearly the same sort of things we looked under the cloud for some 70 years. general groves and others also saw the use of the bombs against cities as essentially a bluff. it was a bluff to prove that we had not merely one bomb, but we had an arsenal of bombs. and what this ultimately would lead japanese decision makers to realize was as premier would say in december of '45, if the americans have such weapons in quantity, then they will not come and invade japan. and if they do not invade japan, japan's military leaders had no strategy short of national suicide. the use of the one bomb followed three days later by the other bomb was fortuitous in a lot of respects, but nonetheless, it achieved the bluff. it created a relentless rhythm
of nuclear attack and implied that we had a very large arsenal of bombs. ñ touched upon, you have to keep in mind because japan had its own nuclear program, and what in my view is very interesting is as soon as they heard the words atomic bomb used, a big swath of japan's leadership knew what an atomic bomb was. this was not something, a bolt from the blue. they also knew how incredibly difficult it was to make it a bomb and primarily from an engineering standpoint to make the material. that's why the first response, the first reports of the bomb, the imperial army said, we're not going to concede it's a bomb until we have an investigation. the imperial navy says, well, even if it is an atomic bomb, they can't have that many of them. they can't be that powerful. that second bomb at nagasaki
knocked out the whole idea that the u.s. did not have an arsenal of atomic weapons. as tragic as all that is, those two bombs in conjunction achieved the bluff. if we understand what the japanese military was talking about after hiroshima, it shows basically no demonstration would ever have worked because the japanese comeback would have been, this is very interesting, let's see you do three in a row. >> just one point on the timing of it. general groves told general marshall about that third bomb. and he says the timetable is that we've speeded things up here. it can be ready as early as august 17th. so august 9th, the next bomb. it was going to take that span of time from the 9th to the 17th to get it all ready to use. so the third bomb was scheduled for august 17th.
they might have gained a day or two. but that was the timetable. and many more after that. groves had them lined up, you know, september, october, november. he would have upwards of 20 by the end of december. so already the assembly line was open. plutonium was coming from the hanford reactors in huge amounts at that point. and you could calculate all of these things. we needed this much, and it's going to take this long to fabricate it. so he was ready for many more than just two. but he thought two would initially be probably enough, but it wasn't going to stop there. he continued to make them. >> thank you. my name is kathleen sullivan. i'm here with the hibaksha
stories project. i would like to invite us to broaden our perspective. you know, when i look at this truman's nuclear legacy, i also think we could easily say humans' nuclear legacy. i think that if one concedes that nuclear weapons are a weapon of war, then one does not understand what a nuclear weapon is. and i think that while we can speak specifically about hiroshima and nagasaki, those of us who were at the symposium last night heard that the atomic weapons used in hiroshima and nagasaki are still killing survivors to this day. this isn't something that -- a violence that ends in a moment of time. and i think what's particularly interesting for an american audience is to consider how the production of nuclear weapons
have threatened united states citizens' lives on our own soil through the testing, atmospheric testing in nevada, through the production at the various assembly lines which were put into place by general groves. if we look at the one example of hanford in washington state right now, we have that -- vats that are filled with solid, liquid, chemical, and radioactive waste that are too hot to physically be around. we have literal ticking time bombs as a result of the manhattan project, which we have no idea what to do with. i think the issue of nuclear waist is germane to both the nuclear weapons and the nuclear power arguments. and for example, the one solution, quote/unquote, that has been manufactured and engineered in this country, the waste isolation pilot plant,
which has taken waste from rocky flats, formerly in colorado, said that waste would be safe for 10,000 years. 25 years later, we have big leaks going on there to this day. so i think if we broaden our perspective beyond the decision, we think about the hibaksha's testimony and how radiation is still killing survivors today. and we bring that forward to our own citizen ri, our own tax dollars and these weapons on this land and what it's done to u.s. citizens. the human nuclear legacy. i'd like to hear your comments. >> no, i think the question is a good one. and for almost -- for about 30 years i worked at a place called the natural resources defense council, which looked into the environmental legacy of making the atomic bomb and hydrogen
bomb from 1945 on. and we looked and sued the government many, many times over how quickly, how adequately they were cleaning up the mess that had been made. and environmental and health considerations were always secondary. primary was, you know, the russians are coming, i'm sorry, we got to build more bombs. and we built bombs like crazy. i think about 66,000 of them over the course of -- from '45 to about '92. constantly recycling them. you know, they were the things to have for the military. the military wanted them in every variety. we had two competing laboratories who supplied whatever they wanted and sometimes gave them things they didn't even know about.
so, you know, this was the dynamic of part of the arms race. the russians were coming, competing in interservice rivalry. good jobs in all of these places. it was in congress' interest to have good budgets to support it. this was the engine of the arms race. and, you know, we're going to live with the legacy of what happened for decades to come. and we've already spent countless billions of dollars cleaning up the mess that was made at rocky flats, hanford, oak ridge, smaller places. and it'll be long before all of us are gone, before they even begin to make a dent in this, but it's fueled the department of energy budget a great deal on
the cleanup. as far as testing, you know, people were exposed. the famous desert rock exercises in nevada where they had soldiers in trenches charging mushroom clouds. what were they thinking? so there are many, many legacies to say nothing of what the russians did. if we did it this way, you can imagine what the russians did. they did it in a horrible way. dumping all sorts of nasty things all over the place. so their legacy is even worse than ours. and there are smaller legacies among the british, the frerch, the chinese, and anybody else who decides to go for the bomb. but the person who asked the question i think raised a very good point, that the legacy
endures, and we have to think beyond what happened in august 1945. >> as i alluded to, you have to bear in mind that weapons that were in existence in 1945 are tiny, tiny compared to what has come after. and i also most emphatically agreed with the notion of expanding our horizons and putting all these events in context. and what i would like to emphasize to you is think about the, quote, good war, the way it actually was. on september 1st, 1939, when hitler rolled into the soviet union, tim snyder in a wonderful book called "blood lands" about the area of the greatest losses in europe between poland and the ukraine, he writes that at that point in time, hitler had killed
approximately 10,000 human beings on the basis of race or political reasons. and by that point in time, joseph stalin had killed somewhere between 6 million and 8 million human beings in implementing his policies, not counting what had gone before. by my count at that point, the japanese war in china had killed probably at least 4 million chinese. when hitler rolls into the soviet union in june 1941, stalin has now added several hundred thousand additional victims in poland, finland, the baltic states. hitler now has killed probably in excess of 600,000 human beings in war and political and racial reasons and its euthanasia program. by this time, somewhere in the vicinity of 7.5 million chinese have died. we cross, in my view, a very important moral rubicon in the 20th century at this point. we decide we're going to ally
with the soviet union. from a strategic standpoint, seems to me this is undoubtedly the only correct decision and really the only reasonable decision at that point. we did have a choice, however, about how we would characterize that relationship. we could have depicted it as simply at arm's length the enemy of my enemy is my friend. but we chose, instead, to depict stalin's soviet union as sort of proto democrats and obscured the nature of that regime. when the accounting came over the deaths of over 20,000 poles that we knew the soviets had killed, we chose to cover it up. now, when you understand that at the very outset of our participation of world war ii, we have made this very important fundamental moral choice about how we're going to depict our actions and allies. then you see the long slide from there through a whole series of events in the war that leads to the bombing of cities and ultimately to the use of atomic
weapons. and a series of other fraught moral choices that truman faced. and this is all part of a larger context of the issue of the possession and production and the residuals of using and making atomic weapons. but it's even bigger in my view than the question of atomic weapons. it's a whole moral universe that we have to recognize people were living in, in the 19 -- mid-20th century and that we live in today and we should give some consideration to what they thought they were dealing with at the time before making judgments. >> i would just add a couple of points. when we sit in our location today, we often wish things had sort of worked out differently, occurred differently, et cetera. but of course what drove the manhattan project initially was a fear that hitler and the nazis
were going to develop an atomic bomb. you would wish in retrospect everyone was just a good person and we decided not to pursue such technology. but i believe it was a responsible decision on the part of the americans and the british, of course, who were already engaged, because they feared what the world would be if adolph hitler was the first person to possess atomic weapons. so you understand what sort of drives the decision making and then sort of organizational genius like groves pushes at the remarkable industrial capability of the united states. i don't dispute for a moment some of the unfortunate consequences of the american possession of atomic weapons, et cetera. and yet, i think we should
mention that hiroshima and nagasaki are the only times when weapons were used in warfare and perhaps in a terrible way -- in a terrible way, they gave us an example of the awful consequences of these weapons such that statesmen on all sides in the cold war have held back because they know of the awfulness of these weapons, and they play at least some part in that regard. so i can see that there are all kinds of issues that bubble forth from nuclear weapons. for myself, however, i would have to say that during the cold war, i'm glad the united states didn't engage in any sort of unilateral disarmament. by and large, i think deterrence worked and the soviet union was
cohort of 86,572 survivors of the bombs in hiroshima and nagasaki, there have been above what the incidence would be expected to, what normal incidence of cancer and other diseases would be in those two cities. there have been an excess above what you would expect normally for those cities, deaths from cancer and other diseases possibly caused by radiation. there have been, again, between 1950 and 1997, the latest figures they have posted, 440 total deaths from solid tumors and 250 from noncancerous diseases. and also between 1950 and 2000, again, the latest figures they have posted, the excess number of deaths from leukemia -- and
this is what showed up first in the atomic cities. the excess number of deaths, again, beyond what you would expect in a population that size. the excess number of deaths in hiroshima and nagasaki was 94. these are not numbers to be dismissed, but i think they take issue with the perception, which i think is widespread in this country and possibly in japan, that there's still an epidemic of deaths from radiation from the bomb. these are serious numbers, and we have to take them seriously, but i think we have to be clear on what the numbers are. yes? >> my name is jerry skidmore. as aforementioned, it wasn't just a race to end the war. it was a race to get the bomb first. when president truman told joseph stalin that we had a
weapon, i guess, of mass destruction, there was almost no emotional reaction from stalin at all. probably their espionage had already undcovered it and knew what we were doing. no doubt they were also developing or trying to develop their own bomb, which they did a few years later. but do we know to what extent japan and germany, how far along they were in their program? was there any cooperation or collusion between germany or the axis powers to develop a bomb? and do we know how and where and when they would have used this weapon? >> well, there's been an extensive investigation of this question of the german bomb and how far along they were. this was an obsession of general groves. of course, this was an early recruiting method.
many of the scientists had worked for key german scientists and had fled to the united states and were concerned about what was going on back in germany. it appears after looking at just about everything that the the german program was halted just as the american program really got under way in a major way in probably the spring of '42. albert schpear would have been in charge, or was in charge. heisenberg was involved in all of this as were some other notable germans. and, you know, in the spring of '42, it looked pretty good for the germans here. maybe war is going to be going okay here. we don't need to divert
resources into this thing when we need more tanks and this and that. so the german program was deescalated, was created a a group of soldiers, scientists who were at the leading edge of the invasion of europe. first in italy and later in d-day to find out really what was going on. by about october 1944, october, november, this alsos team has found out that the german program was not going anywhere.
there's no fear of the bomb. nevertheless that didn't cause the american effort to go any slower. it was racing along at an extraordinary pitch. in late '44, '45, they rounded up these scientists, american soldiers and sent them to england, a place called farmhaul, a nice chateau near cambridge. of course. general groves had the place bugged and listened to the german conversations going on to find out what was going on. august 6, 1945, german scientists incarcerated learned of hiroshima.
he says, they did it, my god. he thought you needed a lot of highly enriched uranium, tons and tons and tons. of course, you don't need very much at all. so this began an skplang that the -- explanation that they used after the war. it was decided by highsenberg and the others that they would take the position that they knew how to make a bomb but they didn't want hitler because he's a nut case and a madman. they argued this for years. they never investigated enough to know how to make a bomb and organized themselves into making one. they could have done it.
anybody can do it. as we know in history what happened over the last 70 years, many other countries have done it. every country that set out to make one made one. they are still doing it. iran is going to get a bomb, there's no doubt about it. only one, south africa, has willingly given it up. that's another whole story. german science rested on, we know how to do it. but we didn't want hitler to know that. we were the dissidents. i think it's blown. there is a lot of books written about it. general groves listening in on these transcripts which finally became declassified, they are in our archives, he got first
copies all the time. fascinating reading about the state of the german bomb program which was going nowhere. anyway, that's how it ended up. >> with respect to the japanese, what you have to bear in mind is really there's two parts of an topic bomb program. the science part, so the basic idea well-known to any competent physicist in the world by 1939. the tough part was the engineering. that's where japan simply did not have the resources to advance an atomic bomb program beyond a low level experimental stage. that said, in addition to all the trees that died needlessly on this theory they didn't do it for moral reasons. published, claimed japanese program advanced so far, in one case claiming there was a test of a japanese atomic bomb in 1945 in korea, some such nonsense. thank you for that.
it's very helpful. that accurate sign tifb te-- scientific term we needed at this moment. from 1934, idea about atomic bomb and atomic bomb program, the potential importance of an atomic bomb was well-known in levels of leadership including the general on record on that point. so they understood the idea of an atomic bomb. they questioned, like the germans, whether anybody else could do it. >> hello, my name is trevor. this question may be more for you, father campbell. looking back throughout human history, world leaders have employed extreme tactics to bring nations to their knees. we appropriately decry such events as the welfare of ghengas
khan. too often we applaud their efforts. the same cultural mind-set is here. looking forward in light of that, should we view mr. truman's decision more kin to the philosophy where you must do what your conscious demands in faith even if the act seems or is evil. or does this signal more profound disconnects in our thinking that precludes us from finding the peace we seek or to add a modifier to the question, do we have any more of a decision whether or not we're a nuclear world than mr. trum did. thank you.
>> i tried to present the issue as truman choosing among deeply awful options and choosing the one the least -- looking in retrospect. i'm not suggesting he engaged in deep moral investigation. he was guided by groves, momentum there. they considered it a military weapon. they thought it would shorten the war and save american lives. that was his thinking at the time. in retrospect, i think there's a case pursued an option of the least awful option of the options they had. that's what i ask folks so quickly rush to judgment to consider. what was the alternate source
and what would have been the civilian casualties in that course of action, et cetera. i never want to see nuclear weapons utilized. i don't think they can in any way they can be justified because of the indiscriminate nature. particularly nuclear weapons as appointed out today, so vastly more damaging in their consequences than the weapons used in hiroshima or nagasaki. so ethically going forward, i think statesmen have to work hard to be sure there can be a reduction in these weapons and they never be utilized in warfare again. things hopefully like poison gas and so on, never be used again.
i don't know if that fully addresses your question but i hope it helps, trevor. thank you. let me add here, i think bill captures accurately mr. truman's attitude, which is often glibly written off, he's never on record saying he never lost sleep over the decision. no, this is not what happened. his mind is really operating on two levels. the one level was, did i make the best choice of the awful choices in front of me. i think he always felt he had done the best choice that was presented to him at the time. was he pained, stricken about the consequences of that decision for the rest of his life. i think the answer to that question emphatically also was yes. it's not something he glibly regarded as one decision among many he made as president. he was tortured.
when you read all the comments, it really leaks out. i would add one thing, in those interesting moments right after in august of '45, he talks directly,b!,÷z about killing 10 people. we know now that number, 100,000 was precisely a number that and in his hands that day or the day before and decode from the japanese, a report from japanese navy about karncasualties at hiroshima. he didn't pull that out of the air. he was reading with great interest and intensity the reports about what happened. >> as i mentioned in my comments, interjected himself into stopping any further droppings of the bomb which predelegated by general