ON HOW VARIOUS ASPECTS OF THE "MYTH" WERE CREATED--
It had previously been thought the journal was simply misfiled. However, new evidence shows that the President personally directed that it be kept under wraps:
A letter to the president from Mrs. Ross dated October 16, 1951, explains:
Also, as you may recall, I still have where he placed it in our safety deposit box, the story Charlie wrote--while it was fresh in his mind -- of the decision to use the bomb. (See p. 554, Chapter 44)
The next day, October 17, 1951, Truman replied:
Truman told Ayers "to drop the matter as far as Mrs. Ross is concerned." (See p. 555, Chapter 44)
(As noted, the journal--made public in 1979--shows that after Stalin confirmed Russia would join the war Truman wrote: "Most of the big points are settled. He'll be in the Jap War on August 15. Fini Japs when that comes about.") (See above; see pp. 241-242, Chapter 19)
- For instance, Ayers later also recalled:
- Samuel I. Rosenman, Truman's close friend and counsel, expressed real concern (in an oral history interview conducted for the Library) that Truman would not get the historical recognition he deserved because--as late as 1969--
- On August 9, 1945 he stated to "the men and women of the Manhattan Project":
A grateful nation, hopeful that this new weapon will result in the saving of thousands of American lives, feels a deep sense of appreciation for your accomplishment. (See p. 515, Chapter 42)
- To the annual Gridiron Dinner on December 15, 1945 he explained that at the time he made the decision to use the atomic bomb:
- On April 6, 1949 the president told a group of new Democratic senators and representatives that he
- On April 28, 1959 Truman told students at Columbia University simply that "the dropping of the bombs stopped the war, saved millions of lives." (See p. 517, Chapter 42; emphasis added above and below for clarity.)
As he reworked the draft, a White House aide, Kenneth W. Hechler, noticed a problem with the response: Truman's estimate of "1/4 million casualties" was considerably different from an (unsubstantiated) "over a million casualties" estimate previously published by Secretary of War Stimson in a 1947 Harper's article and repeated in his memoirs. (See p. 518, Chapter 42; p. 466, Chapter 38) Hechler brought the problem to the attention of another White House aide, David D. Lloyd, in a January 2, 1953, memorandum:
Lloyd promptly prepared a memorandum to Truman on the basis of Hechler's observations which pointed out:
Although neither Hechler nor Lloyd seem to have bothered to check any actual records of casualty estimates ("your recollection sounds more reasonable")--and although Stimson's estimate had no documentary basis whatsoever (see below, pp. 23-24)--Truman approved Lloyd's revision as if it were historical fact.
A photostatic copy of the final version of the president's letter was reproduced and published as an authoritative source in the official U.S. Army Air Forces history. (See pp. 517-518, Chapter 42)
- In a December 31, 1946 letter to Secretary Stimson the president wrote:
(Neither city was deemed important--or targetted--because it was a war production center.) (See above pp. 14-15)
- In Mr. President, a 1952 book prepared by his journalist friend William Hillman, he stated:
I then agreed to the use of the atomic bomb if Japan did not yield. (See p. 521, Chapter 42)
It is true that the headquarters of the Fifth Division, the Second Army, and the Chugoku regional army were located in Hiroshima. However, as previously noted the idea that the city was selected primarily because of its military importance at this point in the war is incorrect. (See p. 521-525, Chapter 42)
The idea that Hiroshima had been bombed because it was "a military supply port"--as proposed in Mr. President--is also wrong; nor is there any evidence suggesting this. Moreover, Japanese shipping was already extremely crippled, and Hiroshima harbor had been successfully mined during Operation Starvation. On June 18 Marshall had informed Truman not only that U.S. air and sea power had already "greatly reduced movement of Jap shipping south of Korea," but that it "should in the next few months cut it to a trickle if not choke it off entirely." (See p. 522, Chapter 42)
- There also is no basis for the argument that Nagasaki was selected because it was a seaport. Although there is still some confusion about some details of the Nagasaki bombing, the Mission Planning Summary for Nagasaki defines the target as the commercial part of the city where there were large numbers of civilian homes. (See pp. 533-534, Chapter 43)
With the help of a young McGeorge Bundy--later to become John F. Kennedy's National Security advisor--an article Stimson penned for Harper's Magazine in 1947 became the primary source of established wisdom for two decades. In it the specific "million" estimate is offered not once but twice. Stimson suggests that had the bomb not been used, "the major fighting would not end until the latter part of 1946, at the earliest. I was informed that such operations might be expected to cost over a million casualties, to American forces alone."
A 1985 study by Rufus E. Miles, Jr., concluded that "the number of American deaths prevented by the two bombs would almost certainly not have exceeded 20,000 and would probably have been much lower, perhaps even zero."
At virtually the same time Barton Bernstein demonstrated in greater detail that even if a November Kyushu landing had actually occurred--and, moreover, continued without interruption to the end--it might have cost a maximum of 20,000 deaths.
The highest estimate discovered in the various planning reports prepared prior to the decision--assuming both the 1945 landing and the full-scale 1946 invasion to have taken place--was in the range of 40,000 to 46,000 deaths. (See pp. 466-467, Chapter 38)
There would have been no casualties had the war ended before the November landing, which as we now know appeared likely by July.
Byrnes was at first furious when he learned of the existence of such a diary. However, Byrnes' initial anger soon subsided and he eventually turned this record, too, toward his own uses.
The edited "excerpts" of Brown's diary entries for July 1945 that Byrnes eventually sent the State Department alter the meaning and substantially destroy the significance of Brown's diary. . . . The alterations and deletions indicated in Byrnes' own hand throughout the copy of the diary sent him by Brown, distort and at times totally reverse the meaning of the actual contemporary record.
"Having made certain that the State Department would no longer trouble with the Brown diary," Messer observes:
The petition was withheld from the public for almost 20 years. Groves arranged to keep key documents under his personal control even after his retirement. (See pp. 190-196, Chapter 14; and pp. 603-607, Chapter 47)
The chiefs reversed themselves--and eliminated the critical language--when "attention was called to the possible implication to be drawn by the public that the atomic bombs were dropped on a people who had already sued for peace. . . . " (Emphasis added.) (See pp. 625-626, Chapter 49)
- In early April 1945, a memorandum from Vice Admiral C. M. Cooke to Admiral Ernest King states:
- A May 18, 1945 memorandum found in the papers of Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy states:
- As a matter of policy General Groves avoided committing anything to writing whenever possible. When General Marshall asked him to take over foreign intelligence on atomic energy matters in the fall of 1943, for instance, "as was customary, nothing was put in writing." (See p. 602, Chapter 47)
- In a 1959 letter to Groves one Army Air Forces liaison officer (Lieutenant General Roscoe C. Wilson) recalled that when he first began working with the project,
Guide: Part IV
Main Debate Page