Posts Tagged ‘Harry Truman’

Hiroshima

August 7, 2012

 

I don’t know how I managed to miss it, but yesterday happened to be the sixty-seventh anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. I read about the commemoration ceremony they had in Fox News, this morning. This year was special, it seems, because Harry Truman‘s grandson attended.

 Japan marked the 67th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bomb attack with a ceremony Monday that was attended by a grandson of Harry Truman, the U.S. president who ordered the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

About 50,000 people gathered in Hiroshima’s peace park near the epicenter of the 1945 blast that destroyed most of the city and killed as many as 140,000 people. A second atomic bombing Aug. 9 that year in Nagasaki killed tens of thousands more and prompted Japan to surrender to the World War II Allies.

The ceremony, attended by representatives of about 70 countries, began with the ringing of a temple bell and a moment of silence. Flowers were placed before Hiroshima’s eternal flame, which is the park’s centerpiece.

Truman’s grandson, Clifton Truman Daniel, and the grandson of a radar operator who was on both of the planes that dropped the atomic bombs, joined in the memorial. Ari Beser’s grandfather, Jacob Beser, was the only person who directly took part in both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

In a news conference after the memorial, Daniel declined to comment on whether his grandfather’s decision was the right one.

“I’m two generations down the line. It’s now my responsibility to do all I can to make sure we never use nuclear weapons again,” he said, according to Japan’s Kyodo news service.

Daniel, 55, said earlier that he decided to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki because he needed to know the consequences of his grandfather’s decision as part of his own efforts to help achieve a nuclear-free world.

I dislike how the Japanese how somehow managed to convert themselves into the victims here. I dislike even more this idea that our use of the atomic bomb was an atrocity that we should be ashamed of. I think we should consider a few factors that put the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki into the proper historical context.

First, the simple fact is that dropping the atomic bomb quite probably saved many thousands of lives. The Japanese islands had never been successfully invaded. The Mongols tried when their empire was at the height of its power, and they were defeated. This was one of the few defeats the Mongols suffered.

It is true that the Japanese Empire was in a difficult situation by the summer of 1945. Their navy was destroyed. American forces had captured Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and an invasion of the home islands was imminent. Allied bombing had destroying most Japanese industry. But, the situation was not hopeless. The military leaders of Japan believed, with good reason, that if allied forces became bogged down in Japan, taking massive casualties, they might choose to negotiate an armistice. They were arming and preparing the civilian population to this end. At any rate, the military leaders who ordered pilots to crash their planes into American ships had no problem sacrificing a good portion of the population of Japan rather than facing the shame of surrendering.

I have read that it is possible that an invasion of Japan might have resulted in more than a million US deaths. I am not sure about that. I think that we would have kept bombing Japan night and day, and used incendiary and chemical weapons until there was nothing standing in Japan. I think that once we were finished invading Japan, there wouldn’t be much  left. I believe, therefore that using the atomic bomb was far preferable, especially in lives saved, than any alternative.

I would also like to mention here that the nuclear bomb is the one thing that kept the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union cold. Without the nuclear weapons possessed by both sides, there is a good chance that there would have been an actual war, with millions of casualties. Strange as it might seem, there might well be hundreds of millions of people alive today thanks to the atom bomb. I am not so sure that a nuclear-free world is something desirable, even if it were possible. Since it is not possible to uninvent the technology, I doubt it is possible have a nuclear free world.

The other point to consider is that the Japanese military government before and during World War II was a truly evil regime. They were the aggressors in China, in Korea, and at Pearl Harbor. The Japanese who ruled Japan at the time were every bit as nasty as the Nazis, and perhaps even worse, at least in terms of atrocities inflected on the people they conquered. If you have any doubts about that look up Asian Holocaust or the Rape of Nanking. And, unlike the Germans, the Japanese have never seriously examined the history of the horrors the Japanese army committed, nor have they ever given the impression that they are particularly sorry for anything that happened.

I don’t want to give the impression that I hate the Japanese or hold contemporary Japanese responsible for the deeds of the earlier generations. I actually rather admire the Japanese. They were not the victims at Hiroshima or Nagasaki, however.

 

 

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Harry S. Obama

August 18, 2011

That is the title of Michael Barone‘s column here.

Harry S.?

 

Barone speculates on the possibility that Obama will pull a Harry Truman, that is come from behind in the polls and win unexpectedly. Barone seems skeptical.

In addition, Truman’s victory was brought about by two “F factors” — the farm vote and foreign policy — the first of which scarcely exists today and the second of which seems unlikely to benefit Obama in the same way.

When the nation went to war in the 1940s, 1 in 4 Americans still lived on farms. The 1948 electorate still reflected that America. Voter turnout was actually lower than it was in 1940, and the vast postwar demographic changes were not reflected in elections until turnout surged in the contest between Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson in 1952. Truman promised to keep Depression-era farm subsidies in place and charged that Dewey and the Republicans would repeal them. That enabled him to run ahead of Franklin Roosevelt’s 1944 showing in 13 states with large farm populations, from Indiana to Colorado and Minnesota to Oklahoma.

Without that swing in the farm vote, Truman would not have won. Dewey, waking up to find that he would not be president as he and almost everyone expected, spotted that immediately the morning after the election.

Today only 2 to 3 percent of Americans live on farms. Farm prices currently are running far ahead of subsidy prices. Obama is not going to be re-elected by the farm vote.

The second F factor that helped Truman was foreign policy. As Ornstein correctly notes, Truman’s Cold War policies — the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan — were supported by Republican congressional leaders and by Dewey. Top Dewey advisers were taken into confidence by Truman’s foreign policy appointees. It was the golden era of bipartisan foreign policy.

But on one policy, Truman went further than his top advisers and Dewey’s. When the Soviets blocked land access to West Berlin in June 1948, Truman’s advisers — men of the caliber of George Marshall and Omar Bradley — said that it was impossible to supply food and fuel to Berlin and that we should just abandon it.

At a crucial meeting in July 1948, Truman listened to this advice. After others had finished talking, Truman said simply, “We’re not leaving Berlin.” Gen. Lucius Clay, our proconsul in Germany, set about organizing what became the Berlin Airlift.

Gen. William Tunner, who had run the wartime airlift from Burma to China, made the Berlin Airlift work. Vast quantities of food and coal — far more than experts had estimated — were brought into Tempelhof Airport on planes landing in foul weather every 90 seconds. And the pilots took to throwing out pieces of candy to the hungry kids lining the runways.

Andrei Cherny​, now the chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, tells the story in his book “The Candy Bombers.” He argues persuasively that the Berlin Airlift — an example of American strength, determination, technological prowess and generosity — played a key role in re-electing Truman.

Well, we already know that Obama will not be known in history for his tough foreign policy.

All I can say to Barak Obama is, “Mr. President, I knew Harry Truman, Harry Truman was my friend, and Mr. President, You’re no Harry S. Truman”.

Well, I didn’t really of course, that was before my time, but you get the idea.

 


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