tv FDR Truman and the Atomic Bomb CSPAN August 7, 2020 10:42pm-11:44pm EDT
their factories, and their communications. let there be no mistake, we shall completely destroy japan's power to make war. it was to spare the japanese people from utters destruction that the ultimatum of july 26th was issued at potts dam. their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. if they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth. behind this air attack will follow sea and land forces in such numbers and power as they have not yet seen and with the fighting skill of which they are already well aware. >> i'm senior director of programs at the national world war ii museum in new orleans, and i'm joined today by two
gentlemen, the first is paul sparrow who is director of the franklin de roosevelt presidential museum and library in new york, following a career as a documentary filmmaker and a senior executive at the museum. paul has been directing the roosevelt library museum since 2015. he will be talking obviously about fdr and the manhattan project. our second guest is clifton truman daniel who is the eldest grandson of president harry truman. he is also a truman scholar. he has spent quite a bit of time studying the life and career of his grandfather. and he currently serves as honorary chairman of the board of trustees at the harry truman presidential library and museum in independence, missouri. today, we will give a great opportunity for question-and-answer.
please weigh in with lots of questions. we have already been talking quite a bit off-camera about our topic today. and i guarantee there will be a lot of interesting ideas and discussion. so i will begin and introduce paul to the program. thank you. >> thank you, ed. thank you, clifton, for being part of this today. i'm very excited. this is one of those topics that has generated an enormous amount of debate throughout the years. the background for franklin roosevelt, of course, is that he was struggling in the late 1930's to convince americans who were very isolationist, that they had to take an interest in the problems going on in europe. some of the things that he understood about the spread of fascist nazi germany and the threat from japan, many americans disagreed with and
did not want to see the american public get involved. one of fdr's big issues was rebuilding the military, hundreds of ships were constructed, there was a peacetime draft instituted. he was very focused on how america would respond to the threat from nazi germany. i'm just going to share a powerpoint here that has a few images in it. that is the king and the queen and the president. and then this is albert einstein on the right. they started drafting this letter to the president to try to convince him that the united states needed to get involved. he was a world famous physicists, obviously he did not have the same status that albert einstein did. the letter was drafted under einstein's name. here is a copy of the letter. in which you can see was sent
in august of 1939. the war in europe still has not started yet. germany does not invade poland until september. but this is the lead up to it. there is tremendous concern on the part of the scientists, as you can see in the expert -- excerpt, but it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction by which vast amount of power and large quantities of new radium like illness would be generated. this new phenomenon would lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable though much less certain that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. a single bomb of this type carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. and then of course, a few weeks later, germany invades poland. and we are in the start of world war ii. on october 19th, fdr responded back to professor einstein.
obviously, a lot had been going on. he said, i found this data such import, but i've convened a bureau consisting of the head of the bureau standards and the chosen representative of the army and navy to investigate the possibilities of your suggestion regarding the element of uranium. over a period of the next several years, there are different committees that are formed. on june 28th, 1941, the office of scientific research end of element is created which oversees the whole project. this is at the point in which the whole project against tremendous momentum. there is a sense now that there is a cohesive and coherent objective. they need to develop a bomb. they need to beat the germans to it. and then of course, a few months later, the japanese attacked pearl harbor, which
gives an even greater impetus to the development of this bomb. the two men who were responsible for the development on the left, you see leslie groves who is a military representative and in charge of the entire operation on the right, you see the famous scientist, robert alton heimer. the los alamos facility is the one known, but there were 20 different facilities across the country. more than 100,000 people involved in this. from extracting uranium core and building ammunition, all done under top secrecy. meanwhile, at the same time, the british had been developing a similar nuclear bomb development, which they called the tube alloys. early on in the war when the germans were bombing the british, they decided the british and americans should work together.
and britain shared a lot of their data and their science with the americans. several british scientists came over. by 1943, this photograph was taken in what is now shangri-la. by 1943, the americans had cut the british out of the development of the bomb in the manhattan project. this was done for a variety of reasons. churchill was very upset about this and wanted the british to get back involved in this partnership. a few months after this photo was taken in august of 1943, right before the quebec conference, there had been tremendous tensions regarding the plans for d-day. the americans wanted to go ahead and get a date and make d-day happen. churchill and the british military were reluctant. they had been dragging their feet, coming up with alternative strategies. at this meeting in august of 1943, in hyde park, before the quebec conference, roosevelt and churchill are essentially compiling a quid pro quo. roosevelt saying if you will
commit to the d-day invasion of normandy, we will bring you back into the nuclear project. that's what happened. both agreements were signed on the same day before the quebec conference started. in 1944, this was taken at the -- right after the democratic convention. it is one of the few times that roosevelt got together with his vice president candidate. there was very little communication going on at this point. it is really one of fdr's i think, failings as a leader that he did not fully brief truman on the development of the nuclear bomb, his plans for the united nations, a whole range of topics. this was a critical part of that. this photograph was taken on april 11th, the night before fdr died. you can see he is a very sick man here. when he died, there was a tremendous sense of loss, not just for americans, but for people all over the world who had seen him as this great champion of freedom and a
fighter for their independence and against fascist nazi germany. a few months later, they had completed the development of the first -- this is the scaffolding for the tests, the trinity test, the first time that they were going to test this bomb. then you see here, this is the explosion of trinity. by this point, truman's president. i'm going to close this off now. at this point, truman is president. he has been briefed. i will turn it over to clifton to talk about the processes happening internal to the truman administration. but i will say this, there was never any question within the roosevelt administration or his top military advisers if they were going to use the bomb. they were going to drop that bomb, the facility was ready. >> thank you, paul. i appreciate that.
i will just say, i'm going to piggyback on the comment you made about president roosevelt not telling my grandfather anything. that's certainly true. years ago when i met david roosevelt for the first time, we were talking about our grandfather's relationship. before we went upstairs to our rooms in the hotel, i said david, your grandfather did not tell my grandfather a dang thing. the next morning, we came down to breakfast, i said good morning, david, how are you? and he said, i'm not going to tell you. i will start off by saying that my grandfather never spoke to me about the atomic bombs. it was a tough subject. he died when i was 15 years old. we saw them on family vacations. thanksgiving, christmas, etc. that is my fault, i could have asked him. but i didn't. had i asked him, he would not have told me anything that he has not -- had not written or
said publicly. he made the decision to use the atomic bomb to shorten the war and save lives, both american and japanese. he did not find out about the atomic bombs until secretary of war stinson told him right after his swearing in on april 12th, 1945. but stinson only told him the rudiments, just the bare minimum. we have a new, very powerful new weapon that i need to brief you on. it was not until almost two weeks later that stinson and general groves gave my grandfather a full briefing on the manhattan project. not long after grandpa formed the interim committee, scientists and leaders in the field, including some of the scientists who had worked on the bomb, including dr.
oppenheimer, to decide if the weapons should be used, and if so, how. and i never learned about any of this from grandpa, as i said. i found out about this in school. i learned in school like everybody else. i learned from my textbooks. for me, the dropping of the bomb has always been much more -- it is what you do afterward. it is how grandfather felt about it. it is how we deal with the legacy. as paul said, this continues to be debated. people still write books about this. people still talk about it. and it goes back and forth. in 20 -- it was my son, wesley. this must have been in 2003 or 2004 when my son wesley was 10 years old, he brought home a book from school. for those of you who don't know the story, he was a real little girl who survived the bombing in nagasaki. she and her family did. but she was diagnosed with radiation-induced leukemia about nine years later.
to help in her treatment, she followed a japanese tradition that says if you fold 1000 origami cranes, you are granted a wish. good health, a long life. she folded 1300 cranes, but sadly, she died of leukemia in 1955. there is a monument to her and all the children who were killed or sickened or wounded by the bomb. that was the first human story i had ever seen of hiroshima or nagasaki. everything up to that point had been in my textbooks or from my mother talking about my grandfather's decision. so this was the first human story. and the teacher didn't just give the kids the book, she taught them japanese history and culture, they had a tea ceremony in class, they folded cranes. i came home one afternoon and
found wesley in the living room wearing a kimono with green tea and sushi behind him. i mention this, about every five years, japanese journalists on anniversaries of the bombing, they call the truman library and ask if they can speak to a family member. it is usually me. and i mention to a japanese journalist that i had to read sadako's story with my son. in that story got back to japan. and i had a call from masahiro sasaki who was her older brother that survived the bombing. he just said, can we meet someday and maybe do something together? i said yes. we met five years later in 2010 in new york at the 9/11 tribute center. masahiro and his son were donating one of her last cranes to the center as a gesture of healing in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
during that meeting, he took out -- he had a little plastic box, he removed a tiny paper crane, and he put it in my palm and said, that is the last one that sadako folded before she died. at that point, he asked if i would go to the memorial ceremony in hiroshima and nagasaki. i took my grandfather. in 1947, he made a state visit to mexico. during his visit, he placed a wreath at the tomb of six mexican army cadets who had fought to the death against u.s. forces in 1847. of course, a reporter asked my grandfather why would you place a wreath to a monument to our enemies? my grandfather said, because they had courage. courage does not along to any one country. you recognize and honor courage wherever you find it. likewise, i thought suffering in war, universally, does not belong to anyone country. if you recognize it and you acknowledge it. so we went to japan in 2012. my wife, polly, and my sons
wesley and grayson, we attended both ceremonies in hiroshima and nagasaki. we spoke to more than two dozen survivors just to let them tell us their stories. christy, if we have the powerpoint? i'm not as quite as adept as paul is in doing this from home. i'm doing this on my phone. that is me and masahiro in hiroshima at the start, getting ready to go in for the memorial event on august 6, 2012. the next one, please. and this is -- you can see behind us, that as our interpreter sitting next to us. you can see behind her, and me, the atomic bomb dome, which was the industrial production in hiroshima. that was nearly directly below the last and was spared because of its steel and stone construction. it withstood the bomb. i included that picture because the first question i was asked in japan is, are you here to apologize? my answer to that was no.
i am here to honor the dead and listen to the living. in the hopes that we don't ever, anybody on the planet earth, ever does this again. the question that came up several times, and during this interview it came up again, and masahiro answered it for me, he jumped ahead of the question and said look, if we asked clifton for an apology for hiroshima and nagasaki, he can ask us for an apology for pearl harbor. then where do we go from there? it becomes a blame game. next slide, please. i'm placing a wreath at the back of an office building. it used to be the site of the military police headquarters where 12 american prisoners of war were being held when the bomb went off. all 12 of them died.
they are buried with the japanese victims of hiroshima. a japanese gentleman spent 25, 30 years and a lot of his own money finding out, doing the research to find out what happened to those 12 servicemen. because their families back here in the states did not know. the secrecy around the bombing and the war and the fact that there was destruction, records were destroyed, people did not know what had happened to their loved ones. he found out for them and reported on the fate of every one of those men. next, please. that is ugi sasaki, that is one of the original cranes. right after we went to japan in august, ugi flew to hawaii and donated that crane to the uss arizona memorial where it sits today at the end of the exhibit. next, please. those are seedlings. that is at the power gardens in kansas city. those are seedlings from trees
that survived the bombing in nagasaki. some of them will be planted at the truman library when we open -- when we reopen hopefully this year. that is me on the left with the microphone, and this woman who survived hiroshima. she came to this country for reconstructive surgery. next to her is cynthia miller whose father worked on the manhattan project and bombings afterward. she has been dealing with radiation sickness since she was a child. she is, in some respects, a survivor. next to her, with his head bowed, is also a survivor of hiroshima. this is speaking to high school students. i did this on-and-off for four years, speaking in the company of survivors, telling the story and letting students hear firsthand what it was like to survive a nuclear explosion. again, in the interest of peace and disarmament.
this man, he brought the sword home from japan. he was a marine artillery captain. he brought the sword home, put it in his closet. he didn't want to take it but the quartermaster was telling him to take the sword. orville brought it home, kept it oiled, and finally after 67 years, through the nagasaki st. paul minnesota sister city commission, he found the son of the officer who had to surrender the sword. next slide, please. and he gave it back to him in a ceremony in st. paul in 2013. that is him sitting down with his entire family. and on the left-hand side of the photo is the sword and a shrine to his family. it was a wonderful gesture, on both parts. one for orville for giving it back, and two, for the family to come to the country to receive it. those are the kinds of things i've been interested in since
the bombings. the acknowledging the harm that was done on both sides. i have shaken hands with american serviceman, pacific war veterans, who have told me that had it not been for my grandfather's decision, they would not have survived the war. they would not have families, they would not be here. i've had their children and grandchildren tell me the same things. i've also held the little girl's crane. the object for me is to honor both. >> thank you, clifton. very moving and powerful presentation. there is so much to discuss with respect to two of the most important and a towering personalities of the 20th century, in relation to them manhattan project and to the dropping of the bombs and the consequences in japan and the united states and the world. we have a number of questions. i'm going to start off with a couple of my own. paul, fdr stood in charge
through the first several years of the manhattan project. it was really his administration that brought it to fruition. and one of the most important things he accomplished was the funding of the manhattan project. correct me if i'm wrong, i recall that it cost $2 billion to bring the manhattan project to completion. that is $2 billion in 1945 money. you can imagine, it would be astronomically more now. can you say something about how fdr made that happen? and this is something that was concealed from congress. >> well, fdr was a master of the mechanics of government. he understood how to get things done. he was, as he famously said, try something, if it doesn't work, try something else.
during this period, prior to the start of the war, prior to pearl harbor, he had been consistently raising military budget, building up a relationship with the democrats and republicans on capitol hill. both the secretary of the navy and the secretary of war were republicans he appointed in 1940. so he had a pretty strong coalition. after pearl harbor, really, it was unlimited checkbook. one of the things he was really very astute on was the ability to keep everything compartmentalized. so as the manhattan project grew, it became this black box project that literally only a handful of people in the administration knew what it was about. i've always felt that one of the reasons that fdr brought truman on as his vice president, was that truman had headed the
truman commission which was investigating expenditures, military expenditures, looking for corruptions. and when he discovered this massive outflow of cash to this manhattan project and asked about it, he was told, leave that alone. and he did. and he didn't make it a focus of his investigation. so this funding that he created was really under this whole massive outlay of capital from the federal government. although it was close to $2 billion at the time, again, it might have been more, might have been less, there is a lot of ancillary projects fed into it. but $50 billion, $60 billion in today's dollars, and it was his effort, because he was so terrified that hitler was going to get the atomic bomb before we did. actually, during the battle of
the bulge in december -- january of 1944 and 1945, he asked, is the bomb ready? can we use it in europe to stop this offensive? there is no question that he was willing to use the bomb. >> and it is an interesting contrast too. you mentioned hitler. in contrast between him and fdr, the nazis did pursue atomic weapons program. and i think it is arguable whether, had they made the right decisions during the process, they might have reached a point of achieving that power by the end of the war. but hitler scoffed at his scientists and scoffed at the whole concept. it was not something he was willing to take seriously. of course many of the greatest scientists who lived in germany and europe were jewish, and they had fled nazi persecution before the war and had gone to
places like britain and the united states. but hitler was very cynical toward the whole thing. and you put by contrast fdr who took the whole thing seriously from the very beginning. and it was something where his stewardship really did play a massive role in making it happen. as well as winston churchill. >> he truly believed in the power of science. i think with hitler, you see hitler refused to fund the navy, he would find funds for rockets and things like that. but he essentially, early in the war, cut the funding for the nuclear program. he also didn't like the fact that there were so many jewish scientists involved in the physics of it. that was one of his issues. if you look at the resources he put into the death camps and concentration camps, he could easily have funded something
else if he had not been so intent on the destruction of europe's jews. >> i'm going to direct this comment to you, clifton. it is really an observation of something that had been made in a previous program we did with okinawa and the atomic bomb some weeks ago. this is from rob eisenberg. he says, i mentioned this in a briefing on this topic. i'm a museum docent at the museum national air and space museum. we have had a guest who had been a japanese pilot during the war. when seeing the enola gay in the museum, he referred to it as the plane that saved his life by bringing a rapid end to the war, which he thinks is an interesting perspective. did you hear any similar perspectives from the japanese that you met in your tours? >> i have heard that. but i have heard it secondhand. i have not had a survivor tell me that firsthand. but the survivors i worked with in the survivors that i know,
we worked together on the subject of disarmament. toward peace and disarmament. they and their american counterparts tend to be, tend to steer away from -- i don't want to say steer away from anything good, but they want to keep the focus on the distraction, the devastation, the horror of the bombings. so we don't often, when we are talking to kids, we don't often let those stories in. but they do exist. you're right. there are japanese -- former pilots, even survivors, who will say that. and the survivors, as heart-wrenching as their stories are, they will also tell you that they were gearing up for the invasion. they were training. they were drilling with bamboo poles, sharpened bamboo sticks, civilian units were attached to
military units. they were told to fight to the death against american soldiers. so those stories, i have heard. they go hand-in-hand with the distraction. >> right. i think it is fair to say that if operational olympic had taken place, not only would there have been tremendous casualties for american and allied forces conducting the invasion, but the devastation in japan would have been astronomical. i have a question from jim. i think this would be for both of you, directed to you, clifton first. he says by mid 1945, the usa had three to five atom bombs. presumably we would have. how did this factor into truman's thinking and targeting? and do we know if fdr realized
we would have so few weapons? >> i think we only had three. we had the test at alamogordo and the little boy on hiroshima and fat man on nagasaki. little boy being uranium and fat man being plutonium bomb. i think we had one more. i don't know, as much research as i have done on this, what the plan was. i know that grandpa was extorted by senator russell of, i want to say, of alabama. senator russell wrote him a telegram that said, use those bombs. and if you run out, use conventional -- bomb the japanese until there was nothing left. he was very angry. grandpa did not want to do that and responded to senator
russell that he did not like having to use those weapons and did not like the idea of destroying japan. he was taking the steps he thought he had to take. his plans beyond -- and i know he was a little taken aback that the second bomb had been used as quickly as it had, and it was then that grandpa took control of the atomic weapons, it was after nagasaki that he took control back from the military and put it in the office of the president, where it resides today. his flippant comment was i don't want some lt. col. to make that decision. it was a serious and horrible weapon and he wanted a lot of thought to go into that. i honestly don't know, maybe paul does, what the plan was, if they had to use the third one and the japanese still resisted. >> the third atomic bomb wasn't yet, it would be at least a
week after nagasaki before the next bomb was ready, and several additional weeks before number four and five would be operational. there wasn't really -- they could not just drop another bomb at that point. i think it is hard for people today to understand what the perspective was in august of 1945. the world had been at war almost six years. the level of destruction inflicted on allies and axis powers, particularly germany, the firebombing of dresden, the bombing of population centers in germany and japan, the firebombing of tokyo. more people died in the firebombing of tokyo than in hiroshima. the scale of violence, the horror being inflicted across the world, to be honest, the
atomic bomb was not a massive escalation of what was already going on. it was simply a more powerful weapon that was just part of this horrific world that had descended into chaos. there is a problem in understanding what the perspective was for the people who lost family members, the soldiers ready for invasion, a million americans might die. easily 5 to 10 million japanese would have died in the invasion. was there a plan? the plan was all out war and they were going to use whatever weapons were available. >> world war ii really built toward a crescendo of of violence and horror at the end, and the atomic bombings is just a culmination of what was already happening. we have a couple of questions on facebook and i will personally field the first one
and then open it to you for comment. david asks, he says my understanding is german scientists intentionally dragged their feet to delay the completion of an atomic weapon. is this true? this relates in particular to a german scientist named werner heisenberg who was probably the leading german atomic scientist in 1942, who called a number of meetings in that year, conference, where he made the argument to albert speer as well as some others that an atomic bomb was feasible, and with the right resources he could make it happen. but when speer and ferdinand porsche pressed him, he backed off. there was some question about whether an atomic explosion could unfold endlessly until the whole world was blown up, which was something many of the scientists worried about.
there's a lot of debate whether heisenberg meant what he said, whether he was in purpose trying to hold back the program, his fears about hitler gaining power and whether he really was afraid and certain about whether he could do it. i would suggest, and we cannot get inside heisenberg's head, but i would suggest there was probably more an element of fear in him, as well as -- he was accused by nazis of being a "white jew" for carrying on this program. the nazis, as you said, paul, were extremely suspicious of scientists to begin with. it is a tricky question that
really has not been answered. i would rather err on the side that they were incompetent rather than necessarily trying to hold back, the nazis. do either of you have any comment on that? then i will move on. jim asks, what was the relationship of roosevelt and truman with general leslie gross? >> i will say really quickly, asked to -- back to my grandfather not being told anything about the atomic bomb, not being told much of anything about anything as vice president. i believe the first time he met general gross is when henry stinson brought the general to the white house a a little more than two weeks after grandfather was sworn in to tell him everything he could about the manhattan project and the atomic bomb. and grandpa even wrote, he wrote his memoirs and he wrote
after the presidency, which my mother edited and put into a book, he put in that the general snuck in by a back door so no one would see him. that is how top-secret it was. >> fdr had a very specific management style, particularly regarding military operations. admiral lahey was his chief of staff, george marshall was the army chief of staff. he dealt with them almost exclusively with the way he would communicate what he needed to have done on the operational side of things. he did not meet with gross, but he really wanted the operations to be managed, the military to be military operations. he had tremendous input on strategy on technique and where we should be focusing, but similar with eisenhower -- he
had very little contact with eisenhower. most of the communications went through general marshall or admiral lahey. >> and paul, i keep sounding like fdr didn't tell my grandfather anything, like a crabby father -- family problem, it was just a management style. i did not mean to say that roosevelt was holding things back. >> someone asks him was there a list compiled of who knew what that was not disclosed until simpson told truman? >> a list of who knew what about the bombs? the manhattan project? they tried to keep that, i know they try to keep the list as small as possible. years ago, after we went to japan, i visited oak ridge, tennessee to see the facilities where they refined the uranium. one of the chilling facts that came out of this -- of course they were scientists and
scientists have family, they brought their kids with them, and they had a high school and the high school had a football team, and the high school football team never played a home game and never had names on their jerseys and were never allowed to talk to kids on the other team. they came, they played, they left. a lot of secrecy. i don't know about a list of who knew what, but they kept it as small as possible. the term was used in oak ridge as well, that they were making alloy rather than refining uranium. even the women who were calibrating the machine who refined the uranium, they did not know what they were doing
with those machines. one i think was told it was an ice cream maker. they tried to keep a lid on it. the list must have been small, but probably bigger than we think it was. >> there are only about a dozen people in the administration, not military people, in the administration, who really understood what the manhattan project was. first of all, the science was fairly complicated and somewhat unknown. there have been a lot of articles about the possibility of a nuclear bomb but it was not something people readily understood. even the people in las almos knew they were working on a weapon but they did not know they were working on. if you were working to compress
the uranium, you are focused entirely on creating spherical explosive to ignite uranium. but they did not know what they were trying to ignite. the level of secrecy was extraordinary. >> despite that, the soviets managed to infiltrate the manhattan project. paul, why was that? was there anything fdr could have done to have prevented that? is there any blame to be laid anywhere? >> remember, the soviet union was our ally. some of this idea that they were the bad guys here, they were our allies and they lost 20 million people fighting the germans. there was a different perspective of who the soviets were during the war than there is now or even during the cold war. there were multiple penetrations of the operation, secrets were smuggled out, designs were smuggled out. terrific damage. a lot of it was not discovered until the 1950's or later. again, by the same point, america was conducting espionage against the soviets.
the whole world was at war and you trusted your allies only as far as you have to. >> and yet grandpa famously said -- they found out the bomb worked i believe the day after he arrived at potsdam, and stalin took it very lightly and said i hope you make good use of it. grandpa got very nervous that he was very nonchalant about it. >> we have a question from jeff, who says i am curious about the reaction and response of the
soviets in the dropping of the bomb. it is my understanding that stalin was hoping to be involved in invading japan. >> that is a question that comes up when they go on discussing whether or not the bombs were necessary or if it was cruel, or specifically whether it was a gambit to keep the soviets from gaining influence in japan. the soviets had agreed to go to war with japan. they were fighting the japanese on the mainland, and the bombs were set off. they were engaging the japanese army on the continent, and the bombs were dropped on the japanese islands.
some of the latest scholarship i believe is that the war was brought to a swift conclusion because of the double whammy of the bombs and the soviet army coming in and engaging troops on the continent. it was just too much, it was overwhelming. my grandfather did not -- because of the relationship with the soviets, we talked about it, it was complicated, they were allies and we could trust them you'd butwe didn't trust them.
but we knew very well what stalin could do, taking over various territories before and after the war. but i don't think grandpa used the weapon to stop the soviets. there was not a major point in his thinking. if it happened, great, we kept them out of japan. what he did not make the decision to keep the soviets out of japan, he made the decision to stop the war and save lives. >> fred asks, did truman and marshall inform douglas macarthur in advance that the atomic bomb would be dropped on hiroshima, and if yes, how many days or weeks in advance? i will build on that by asking -- this is something we discussed separately when we were arranging this, about informing eisenhower, and eisenhower's opinion. beginning with macarthur, do we know if he was informed or not? >> i have not heard that he was told ahead of time. they kept the bombing under wraps as much as they could. i will just say honestly, i don't know whether they told macarthur in advance or not.
>> what about eisenhower's opinion on this? >> i don't know. i know his opinion on the bombing afterwards. >> was he informed before? >> i don't know if he was told before. i don't know how secure we thought our communications were to let them know far afield what was going on. you would think they would. eisenhower and macarthur were on the ground running the war. you would think they would let them know, planning an invasion. >> i would think that nimitz in the pacific was probably informed. because they had to transport bombs from the uss indianapolis and then the trigger mechanisms were flown into naval bases in the pacific, the indian islands.
there was no way they could not have informed the naval supreme commanders out there. i would assume that nimitz probably knew about it as i am sure lahey. >> eisenhower was critical of the bombings. does that ring true with both of you, that it was an honest criticism? that if he had been consulted or in charge, he would not have dropped the bombs? or does it seem more like the benefit of hindsight from his perspective? >> there was some hindsight on the part of general eisenhower, president eisenhower, and others after the bombings, after the true nature of the destruction and the radiation and illness was beginning to be learned. people did back off. i don't remember whether or not ike was for it in the beginning or not. i can't imagine, given the projections for the invasion, i would have thought that he
would have agreed with anything that would have stopped or stalled that. the projections -- the projections keep coming down on, the telling fact is that we made half a million purple heart medals in advance of that planned invasion. medals i believe we are still using today, that original cache of purple hearts. they understood it would be a bloodbath on both sides. but that's what i think it is, when you find out how horrible a weapon it is, people tend to back off but i don't know.
>> i believe he wrote in his memoirs he thought it was a mistake to do it first of all because of the civilian casualties. he thought the united states was sceding the moral high ground, but whether this was a case of him advising truman not to do it ahead of time or if it was some thing he felt afterward as a mistake is not entirely clear. >> militarily, grandpa was getting the go-ahead. the go-ahead from his advisors, marshall included. >> i would just say that eisenhower approved the firebombing of dresden. if he had moral qualms against the wanton murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians -- again, this was total war. i think many people after the bombs were dropped and the war ended, inside -- in hindsight said this was a horrific bomb and we should've found another way. at the time, there was not another way other than the invasion of mainland japan,
which would have resulted in many more casualties on both sides. >> gus on facebook who is age 11, asks how did they choose the targets? >> with the help of the interim committee, gus. they selected targets they believed to be, or knew to be military targets, primarily military targets. they knew there were civilians there. hiroshima had ports, some military headquarters and some assets i think for the second army, and certainly the military police headquarters. and they had the port. they were training soldiers and shipping them to china from
hiroshima. they had a port. nagasaki was a shipbuilding center, you have the mitsubishi ship works at the mouth of the river at harbor. those were considered military targets. in that is how they chose. also, there was unfortunately some factors, they factored in if these places have been bombed already. the scientists and the military wanted to know what kind of destruction the bombs would have. they wanted a pristine target. i am not sure how much that figured in that i know that was at least part of it. they were trying to choose military targets that would cripple some industry and do a lot of damage. >> i know that in the initial list of target, kyoto was an initial target and taken off the list because it was felt it
would be such a cultural icon for the japanese and had very little military value. there was a consideration of the sites from a cultural perspective. again, at that point, they understood they might have to literally bomb the entire country in order to be successful in the invasion. >> years ago, one of the former docents of the truman library, lanna white, she lived at the primary target for the second bomb. but the weather was cloudy there that day and planes could not find a break in the weather and flew onto nagasaki. at the age of 12, she remembered the planes overhead. when she heard later that nagasaki had been bombed, she knew that her city had missed being a target. >> you said earlier that you
feel confident fdr would have used the atomic bombs. do you think -- and this is true for harry truman as well -- would have considered using them against germany if the situation had demanded it? >> i absolutely do believe he would've used them against germany, and he asked whether the bombs were ready, again, during the battle of the bulge. i think it is so hard for people today to understand what toll the war had taken on our leadership. it was a horrible, horrible war. fdr wanted to end the war. there was tremendous pressure on him to find a way to save the jews who were being killed in these death camps. they knew that the only way you could save the jews was to end the war.
i believe if the bomb had been ready, he felt that if dropping the bomb would end the war and save the jews, he would have done it. >> we have time for one more question before closing comments. this is from fred. how much did colonel tibbetts and the crew of the enola gay know, did they know that tens of thousands of civilians would be killed? and how did the captain and crew of the boxcar, did they know of the power of the bomb on nagasaki? >> from what i know, they could see it and feel it. they got the shockwave, tibbetts, and i believe both. i believe they said that after the shockwave hit them, they could taste it, it tasted like
metal. i assume it was the radiation. they could all taste metal. they dove to get away from hiroshima. one of the survivors was in a schoolyard in hiroshima and she remembered just before the bomb hit, she remembered seeing a curved contrail. the enola gay dropped the bomb and then dove to get away as fast as possible. she was knocked out but that was the last thing she saw before the bomb exploded. it wasn't -- is it the pilot of boxcar that i believe went on what's my line later in the 1950's and met the reverend from hiroshima? he felt really bad, guilty and
bad about the bombing. >> the pilots of the enola gay had been told it would drop this very powerful bomb, but other than the small number of people who had witnessed this test at trinity, no one understood what these bombs were capable of. i think everyone was shocked, even the people who have studied and built the bomb, were shocked at the destruction of hiroshima. nagasaki, they knew, because they had seen what happened at hiroshima. they understood what they were about to do. but i think all of the people aboard the enola gay were stunned when they saw the explosive power of one bomb. remember, many of these were experienced air force pilots who had flown dozens of missions where you would drop hundreds of bombs on a target and not get anywhere near this. >> that being said, paul
tibbetts until the end of his life was, i think, unapologetic is the right word, not that he was happy to do this but he felt it was a matter of duty, that it was his responsibility to do it to the best of his ability as an officer. do you have any final comments, i would say just broadly, paul and then clifton, on the lessons to be learned about this, one of the most important events of the 20th century? >> i think it goes to what fdr's dying wish was, the creation of the united nations. he understood that the horror of world war i and world war ii brought us to the point where if there was another world war,
it would destroy the planet. his focus was on creating this international entity that could help defuse the tension, with diplomatic resolutions, it was all he cared about at the very end. when he went to warm springs to try to recover it was because at the end of april was the first meeting of the united nations to draft charter for how this international institution would work. i think we have to look back and say, 75 years later, he was right. the united nations has vented us from going into another world war despite enormous tensions. i think the importance of international diplomacy, the importance of countries having a venue to resolve differences is really the positive legacy and perhaps the only positive legacy of the tragedy of having to drop the atomic bombs. >> i will piggyback on what we
were talking about a moment ago, colonel tibbetts. when my grandfather met him after the war, he asked them, has anybody been giving you a hard time about using that weapon, dropping the bomb? tibbetts told him no, he had not had that experience. grandpa says if they do, you tell them that was my decision, not yours. five years later, he was on wake island getting ready to meet general macarthur, and he had a white house photographer with him named joe mcdonnell who had been a marine photographer taking some of the first photos of the destruction of hiroshima and nagasaki. o'donnell had been very shaken and he asked my grandfather alone for a couple of minutes and he asked him point like a much do you have any regrets about using that weapon? my grandfather said hell yes, you don't you something like that without regretting it. he said he would use it again under the same circumstances
but he regretted using it. a nagasaki survivor, she did not say it to me, but publicly she said i think the basic idea of peace is to have some idea of other people's suffering, so going forward we can debate whether the use of the bomb whether it was just or right, but we all have to look with eyes wide open at what those bombs did and who it happened to come and prevent it. >> thank you. i think that is an appropriate ending to what has been a wonderful and i think very enlightening conversation. paul, clifton, thank you very much. >> thank you, ed.