tv Hiroshima Nagasaki and End of World War II CSPAN August 9, 2020 7:00pm-8:03pm EDT
and it world war ii. american history tv and c-span's washington journal were live this morning to examine president harry truman's decision to use the new weapon and the legacy of these atomic attacks. you will hear from richard frank, author of "downfall: the end of the imperial japanese empire." it will be followed by peter k uznick, director of american universities nuclear studies institute. >> on august 6 an army air force b-29 dropped atomic bomb number two on hiroshima, japan's seventh largest city. a communications at military and industrial center of considerable importance. [explosion] a stunned universe swiftly learned that man had a new weapon of shocking destructiveness. a weapon bordering on the absolute. in the blast, thousands died instantly. 70,000 persons were killed or listed as missing. 140,000 persons were injured.
of these, 43,000 were badly hurt. the city was unbelievably crushed. of its 90,000 buildings, over 60,000 were demolished. the desolate remains were aptly described as vapor and ashes. man had torn from nature one of her innermost secrets. and with his newfound knowledge he had fashioned an instrument of annihilation. menacing implications of this extraordinary weapon were frightening to everyday people. >> what did you think of that japs,as dropped on the mrs. glenn? >> terrible. all of those people killed. >> three days later, another b-29 dropped an improved bomb on the seaport of nagasaki. a highly congested industrialized city boasting the best natural harbor in western kyushu. and extensive naval facilities. [explosion]
this bomb, exploding over the north factory district, took the lives of 42,000 persons. and injured 40,000 more. it destroyed 39% of all of the buildings in nagasaki before the calamity. the japanese described their mutilated city as a graveyard, with not a tombstone standing. these two terrifying blows were struck in japan only after profound consideration of all of the human and military factors. -- factors involved. the atomic bombs were dropped to end the war quickly, and they did end the war quickly.
host: richard frank is author of downfall."al here to talk to us further about the 75th anniversary of the drop of the atomic bombs by the u.s. on japan. richard frank, thank you for joining us. guest: thank you for having me. host: in that last clip, the military film from 1946, it said pretty definitively that the atomic bombs were dropped to end the war quickly, and they did in -- did end the war quickly. was this the right decision to make and were those bombs the reason for the end of the war? guest: the short answer is that yes and yes. overwhelmingly the primary reason was to end the war as quickly as possible. save lives of both the americans and japanese. one thing that i think it's really critical to get to his to understand the context of this. there are two basic principles we have to follow. one is to count all the dead. second is to treat all the dead as sharing a common humanity. i mean the japanese as well.
the asia-pacific war resulted in the death of about 19 million noncombatants. of that number, a number of japanese noncombatants was maybe 1.2 million. about 25% of them were due to the atomic bombs. more than that was due to soviet intervention in 1945. that math tells you immediately that for every japanese noncombatants who died, between 17 and 18 other noncombatants died. they are overwhelmingly other asians and about 12 million of them are chinese. by the summer of 1945 most of those noncombatants who were not japanese were already dead. they were dying at a rate of about 14,000 a day. that is the context in which all of this takes place. it is important we not overlook or diminish the japanese. equally it is important that we understand the total context of
this and where the deaths are taking place. they are primarily not japanese. host: richard frank is with us for half an hour. as we look back further on the 75th anniversary of the u.s. atomic tom drops over hiroshima -- atomic bomb drops over hiroshima and nagasaki. we will take your calls after a couple of minutes of conversation. we will put the numbers on the screen for our guest. if you live in the central or eastern time zones, (202)748-8000. if you live out west, mountain and pacific, it is (202) 748-8001. we have two separate special lines this sunday morning. one of them is for world war ii veterans and their families. (202) 748-8002. and for japanese-americans. (202) 748-8003. we look forward to talking with you and you talking to our guest, richard frank. more perspective here. how widespread in 1945 was support for president truman and his decision to use atomic
weapons? has that changed over time? guest: the support for truman in 1945 and sometime there afterwards was extremely high. numbers, i've seen above 80%. it's changed over the years because the narratives have been employed over the years have changed very much. one of the things that really concerns me about this is, i don't question that we should talk about this and it should be controversial. but i find it astonishing that this conversation takes place in which alternatives are advanced in lieu of the atomic bombs. what is conspicuous is, they never talk about what the cost of these alternatives are. when you actually get down and start doing the costs of the alternatives, you understand why mr. truman, in his decision, not -- did not make a good choice,
he basically was making choices between the astonishingly awful to the horrendously horrific, and he chose what secretary of war stimson would call the least abhorrent choice. in terms of the total effect of these events. host: this is the 75th anniversary of the nagasaki bombing. the second bombing. august 5 being the first one. what was different between those three days and what was the truman administration looking at? the destruction in hiroshima, what made them decide to drop a second bomb three days later? guest: there was no specific decision on the second bomb. the authorization order released the people to start dropping bombs and keep dropping bombs. there was no further check back. when we talk about the two bombs, this is another aspect about the controversy, i think,
people don't understand. the problem with the notion that one bomb would have done it or a demonstration would have done it is, you have to look at the japanese side. their reaction was based upon the fact that they had an atomic bomb program which had not produced a bomb, but it had educated the top levels of japanese leadership in the fact that producing fissionable material was difficult. the imperial army immediately responded, well, we can see they have one bomb. we need an investigation. the imperial navy took the track that, they may have one bomb, they can't have that many, they can't be that powerful. basically, what the japanese leadership was looking at was not fear of one bomb, it was that the u.s. had an arsenal of nuclear weapons. as it happens, that is what the nagasaki bombs dead. -- did. it convinced top leadership that the u.s. did not have simply a bomb, we had an arsenal of atomic bombs.
the war minister, the second most powerful man in japan, he had been adamant for continuing the war after the hiroshima bomb. after the nagasaki bomb he went around telling leadership that the americans have 100 bombs and the next target is going to be tokyo. that's an amazing argument to make if you are continuing the war. host: how far along with the u.s. at the time of the dropping of the bombs, in its planning for an invasion of japan? the main island of japan? guest: very good question and very different from what it is usually presented. there had been a plan to invade japan on november 1. mr. truman had approved that on the 18th of june, 1945. at that time he was quite reluctant, but he was presented with a scenario in which we were going to have overwhelming superiority going into southern kyushu. and therefore american casualties would be acceptable. and what we now know, which was released decades after the war, radio intelligence had uncovered
the fact that the japanese had exactly anticipated that the first american invasion was going to take place on southern kyushu. they built this huge buildup of ground and air force over 10,000 aircraft. kamakf them, cozzi's -- azi's. 7000 troops. instead of us going on with overwhelming superiority, our assault would be facing 700,000 japanese. we now know a senior naval officer had never wanted to invade japan. he had been biding his time and -- time to bring on a showdown over whether an invasion should take place. by the ninth of august, 1945, with the intelligence he was prepared to bring on this huge showdown with the army over whether there should be any invasion of japan. surrender cutese that off before it reached the level of mr. truman having another review. host: let's take a call from tom, from west virginia. you are on with richard frank. we are talking about the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings in japan. go ahead, tom.
caller: good morning. i am age 60 and i remember the howard zinn lectures of my college years, of how history is being rewritten so much right now by people with agendas. i'm hearing on talk radio that the only reason we bombed -- progressive talk radio, that is -- the only reason we bombed japan, because they were not europeans. in other words, there were people of caller, which is nonsense because we bombed dresden in germany. that was a purpose of demoralizing the german people, for them to surrender. it is unfortunate what happened with the dropping of the two bombs. it did open up pandora's box, but on the other hand it saved millions of japanese lives who would have been caught in the crossfire, as well as american lives and casualties. am i wrong on that?
guest: no. basically, you have to bear in mind that until the end it was assumed the bombs were going to be used against germany. as soon as they were available. it turned out from a tactical standpoint they didn't have bombs ready in time to use against germany. germany surrendered in may. the first bomb, a test bomb, was detonated in july 1945. let me come back again to a basic point. it is not that the argument time advancing says we don't care about the japanese who died. i wrote graphically about that in my book. both the fire raid in tokyo in 1945 and hiroshima. what i have been going over these many years now is the fact that our narratives we have been using on this simply talk about japanese deaths, the fact that japanese were asians. they don't mention we were in the war because we wouldn't
abandon china. our american people at that time, reading the new york times had been reading it day by day through the whole war. they were well aware of how horrific the war was in asia. we have completely blotted that out. that is why those narratives are so powerful. people simply do not realize how horrific the asian-pacific war was. host: richard frank, how have japanese textbooks for young students portrayed the war? has that approach changed over the years? guest: that is a complex question. issue for japan, i think, was the whole period of ii was an area not forthrightly discussed, still not forthrightly discussed. there is a tendency in japan to view themselves as the greatest victims of the war. if you have been dealing with historians and people from other asian nations, you really get a full flavor of how infuriated
that makes people in china and elsewhere. i was sitting in a conference once with a historian from the people's republic of china. the argument was made along the lines of the critical literature. as he is sitting there i see him going from bafflement to fury as he realizes that this narrative entirely omits, it does not count and doesn't treat chinese, vietnamese, indonesians, koreans as sharing a common humanity with japanese civilians in two cities. let me add further, basically when the soviet union enters the war, according to john dower, and his embracing defeat, which is a powerful book about the occupation of japan, they capture between 1.6 million and 1.7 million japanese nationals in manchuria. when the repatriation process is over, they only returned 1.2 million.
between 400000 and 500,000 japanese disappeared and died. we know from soviet archival documents about 61,000 are japanese soldiers. basically between 340000 and 440,000 japanese noncombatants died in soviet captivity after the end of hostilities. those are higher numbers than died in the atomic bomb attacks. including the latent deaths. host: we go to rick. in phoenix. good morning. caller: good morning. just want to add my voice. not sure what had been discussed earlier, my father, who barely survived the war in europe, was being prepared to transfer to japan. that would have eliminated my brothers' life after that date. and many other men's lives. also it would've been criminal, and you add everything up here, it would've been criminal for truman not to drop that bomb, not just the rape of nanking, so-called. hundreds of thousands of chinese
massacred, as you say. -- massacred in a horrible way. as you just mentioned, the russian threat that would have taken japanese territory and greatly complicated the postwar era. there are so many reasons why truman had to do that. what was the alternative? i heard generals saying they were going to blockade japan until they gave up. what? could you address those points that you haven't yet? host: thank you, rick. richard frank? guest: that is a really excellent point. on the american side there was an unstable compromise between the army and the navy over a strategy to end the war. -- war in unconditional surrender. the army thought the critical issue was time. therefore, they advocated invasion because they believed invasion would be the swiftest way to end the war. the navy, one of the fundamental premises of that study was that
invading the japanese home islands would produce politically unacceptable casualties. the navy's alternative was blockade. what doesn't get mentioned in these discussions as it should -- and this was basically the policy the navy officers lined up behind -- this get back to the very basic point i made about counting the dead. blockade was bluntly aimed at ending the war by starving to death millions of japanese, mostly noncombatants. that is what blockade was about. in view of the limited power of the atomic weapons and other conventional weapons at that time compared to what we have today, a blockade was actually the most ruthless strategy the u.s. was prepared to employ. -- employ against japan. that was the direction we were going in august 1945. if the invasion was off, then we do blockade. and we do try to kill millions of japanese noncombatants. by the way, those asians who are not japanese, who are dying every single day, at their
their deaths on top of the japanese done. the death tolls for these alternatives when you sit down and contemplate them are sickening, mind-boggling. host: we have lynn on the line from west virginia. hello. caller: good morning c-span and mr. frank. i am the son of an okinawa veteran who was trained to go to japan. of course, he never had to go because president truman had the common sense to do what he did. for those who criticize truman, i'm going to tell you what my dad said. let every one of those critics go to the families of people, american gis who were saved from invading japan and tell them that truman did the wrong thing. i know you don't have the guts to do that. thank you, mr. frank. your book is very informative. host: thank you for calling. richard frank, has history been
fair to president truman? regarding his decision? guest: in my view, no. let me add another dimension to this. mr. truman, you know, he famously said he didn't lose any sleep over the decision and various comments like that. if you go through everything he actually said, in his mind he had a whole area in two compartments. one compartment was, did i make the best decision of what was presented to me? he always believed that if you really understood all the alternatives, he made what was called the least of horror and choice. -- he made what secretary stimson called the least abhorrent choice. as bad as the bombs were, the alternatives were actually worse. on a personal level, truman was never in different to the deaths of japanese that his order had caused. in fact, shortly after hiroshima we intercept this message from
the japanese navy reporting that 100,000 japanese had died hiroshima. mr. truman clearly was reading that. he talks at a cabinet meeting and says, the hiroshima bomb killed 100,000 people. and all those kids. he has various other comments he is making about the fact that this was horrendous, the consequences may have been right, but the consequences were horrendous and he felt that very deeply. you know, once again, when you deal with people from other asian nations who were trapped in japan's empire or americans saying were two bombs necessary? a common comment from them is, why only two? from their perspective, that is -- the death rate is so incomparable between the japanese and these other people that they find the american struggle over this to be baffling. host: richard frank we have a
, little bit more of the history of the end of the war in 1945. hiroshima happens on august 6. on august 9 the u.s. dropped the atomic bomb on nagasaki same day, soviets declared war on japan. they invade manchuria. six days go by, august 15, the emperor announced japan's unconditional surrender. what happened? walk us through those six days to get the emperor to the point of surrender. guest: a little context here. basically, what you have to understand is, to get japan to surrender was really two steps. someone with legitimate authority had to decide that pan -- that japan's nationstate would surrender. then japan's armed forces had to comply with that surrender. neither one of those steps was a certainty through most of 1945. the emperor makes the critical decision. he actually makes it in the afternoon of august eighth, 1945, when he talks to the foreign minister.
the war must end now. this is after hiroshima. this is before soviet intervention. there were other factors on his mind including his loss of faith in the strategy to meet the invasion. concern about the japanese people reaching revolutionary state sometime probably in the fall. these are played into his mind. he announces that decision before the inner circle of leadership, and the early -- in the early morning hours of august 10. we have the diary entry of the number two man in the imperial army, a general named koabe. one of the other officers comes to him and says, i don't think the overseas commanders will comply. even with an order from the emperor. right on cue, two of the three overseas commanders of the imperial army send a message saying, we are not going to comply with the surrender order, even from the emperor. there is more back-and-forth in the tokyo. they send their first message, which is really the first serious message about ending the war, but it has this language in
it that says, the precondition they want is that the prerogatives of the emperor, the sovereign ruler will not be compromised in surrender. the american state department officials immediately realized that what this is, this is a demand that the u.s. make the emperor supreme, not only over the japanese government, but over the occupation authorities. so he has a veto over the occupation. the occupation reforms. of course, send a message back saying, clearly the emperor is going to be subordinate to the occupation commander. that causes more turmoil in japan. the emperor persists and insisting that japan surrender, and he gets the government to agree. would he ever agree, i don't know. then we still have a very fraught period where japanese armed forces, going on 7 million -- 6 million strong to surrender. members, thebinet
admiral, later tells interrogators that the most fraught days he spent with these four or five days worrying about whether the armed forces were going to comply with the emperor's order. i described this as a miraculous deliverance that we actually got the government and armed forces of japan to surrender in august 1945. fredericksburg, virginia. caller: good morning. my father served in world war ii. i would like to ask professor frank if he reads japanese? second of all, i would like to ask him if he has read the overwhelming number of comments just after the war by japanese generals and admirals that it was not the two nuclear attacks, nakasaki, butnd the entrance of the soviet union into the war. they had invaded manchuria and they were occupying the korea islands, which they still occupy to this day, and they were threatening hokkaido.
and the decision to surrender was based on that much more than it was based on the two nuclear attacks. thank you. host: thank you, steve. guest: let me unpack that at several levels. first of all, in terms of the impact of soviet intervention, when the emperor is at that imperial conference, in the early hours of august 10, 1945, the chief of staff of the imperial army tells the emperor in a classic understatement that soviet intervention is unfortunate, but it doesn't negate the plan to counter the american invasion. if you go through all of these other statements i have been through, yeah. the notion all of these japanese officers are talking only about soviet intervention being the key reason, it is simply not true. it is certainly not true of the officers in the inner cabinet who make the decision for them to surrender. soviet intervention does play an important part. as i say in my book.
it is important in terms of getting compliance of all of the japanese armed forces, particularly those who are on the asian continent, for whom soviet intervention is a direct menace, unlike the atomic bombs, understandneed to nor did the u.s. have a viable target. we are not going to drop an atomic bomb on singapore or some chinese city to convince the japanese to surrender. soviet intervention is important in getting compliance of all of the japanese armed forces, but it does not move the key decision-makers to move the government and eventually japan to surrender. host: on to san diego now. barbara is in san diego. good morning to you. caller: good morning. i am very interested in this subject because i am an australian. i was a small child in australia at the time of the second world war. my father was a coast watcher and we lived in north queensland. the japanese had been coming
down through the islands and we were terrified. we had huts set up in the mountains, ready to evacuate. i always say, i want to thank america saving australia. because we could not have done it alone. we had such a small population. all of our men were fighting in other areas. anyway, that is about all i want to say. except, it is easy to be an armchair quarterback. all of these years later. they don't remember how it was, how intense the fighting was. host: barbara, thank you very much for calling. richard frank, your reaction to that? guest: the australians, we tend in our histories to overlook the australians. they were valuable allies and carrying the main burden of inhting in new guinness
1943. in new guinea in 1943. the australian military deaths in the part of the war fighting against japan numbered about 17,000. of those, about 8000 of those australians died as prisoners of war of the japanese. there were mostly captured on singapore and other locations early in the war. that is just one part of the whole thing with japan. herbert bics, american historian, points out that at the end of the war, the japanese have been fighting in china for eight years. they have killed at least 3 million chinese military personnel. they are supposed to turn over all of the prisoners of war they held. over 56 individuals after eight years of fighting with the chinese and killing millions. 56 pows. that is part of the savagery of the war that was driven by the terms by which the japanese insisted the war before upon. host: richard frank is the
author of "downfall: the end of the imperial war," thank you for your time, your insight on the 75th anniversary of the bombings in japan. appreciate your time. guest: thank you. host: next on washington journal, peter kuznick, director of the nuclear studies institute at the american university talks about the 75th anniversary of the u.s. dropping of the atomic bomb on nagasaki, three days after hiroshima. first we have this excerpt from a film shot and created in 1945 and 1946 by japanese film crews documenting the aftermath of the bombings for scientific purposes. here is a look. [video clip] ♪ >> three days after the tragedy visited hiroshima. the ninth of august 1945. the day was come, bright and winless. -- windless.
the hot summer sun shone upon the city. an area alarm was on. then it was lifted. for 2.5 hours, the warning continued to prevail. exactly at 11:00, two super fortresses appeared over the city. from the northeasterly direction, flying at high altitude. the first plane dropped three objects attached to parachutes. at 11:02, a second plane dropped an object. its dissent taking about 40 seconds. then came a blinding flash. followed by an explosion and a blaze. the destruction was the greatest ever wrought by man. the bomb missed the center of the city and detonated above a canyon to the north. let us now view the general scene of devastation a top of one of the hills east of the city.
break,other side of the left of the hills, left of the harbor lies the city. these hills on both side of the city where the brakes that intercepted the atomic blast, and prevented the destruction from extending to the harbor section, and the heart of the city. at the right of this narrow pass lies total devastation. all buildings with enforced concrete were demolished. the home of this neighborhood left teams with wooden houses and small factories, now it's flattened out. only pebbles and broken tiles remain. ♪ [end of video clip] our guest is the director of the nuclear studies institute at the american university. thank you for joining us dr. kuznick. as we look back at the 75th anniversary of the atomic calming on japan, that harry
truman make the right decision? guest: no. he made the absolute wrong decision. he defended it throughout the rest of his life. he said i never lost any sleep over that decision. he said he had no remorse over that decision, and he made the absolute right decision. the united states made an official apology. the official narrative is that the united states dropped the bomb because i was the only way to force japan's surrender without an invasion. if the u.s. invaded, truman said a his memoir, that half-million people would have been killed in the invasion. years later, they add to the fact that many japanese whatever ould have also been killed. there were two ways to end the war without the atomic bombs. the first was chase and surrender terms.
to japanesetacle surrender was the u.s. demand for unconditional surrender. they would be tried as a war criminal and probably be executed. command said in a briefing in the summer of the emperorion of to them would have been like the crucifixion of christ to us. that understanding was pervasive. truman,sors ron secretary stimson, almost all of truman's close advisers urged him to change the surrender terms. the main impediment was jimmy burns, as truman relied on burns more than anybody else. from the day he becomes president, his first day in office, april 13, until july 3 rnsn he names bu
secretary of state. he told him he would be politically crucified if you let the japanese keep the emperor. they were doing everything they could to convince him to change his surrender terms. mightl leahy said there be no way to get the japanese to surrender if we demand unconditional surrender. how do we know that, we had broken the japanese codes. we intercepted their telegrams. there telegrams, for example, july 13, the telegrams were to the ambassador in moscow. thehe middle of may, japanese decided the best way to get better surrender terms was to ask the soviet union to intercede on their behalf. back and forth and said things like this. july 13 it was sent, his majesty, mindful of the fact that the president brings greater evil and sacrifice upon the people of all powers, says
it may be quickly terminated. unconditional surrender is the only obstacle to peace. thean first intercepted july telegram as the telegram from the jap emperor asking for peace. those are his words. assistant aboard the augusta on the way back from japan writes on august 3, aboard a bus to, the president, admiral japs, and burns agrees the are looking for peace. what we the cables and broke the also, not only truman, but others followed me with that assessment. the japanese knew they were defeated since the battle of saipan in july of 1944. in february of 1945, the
three-time former prime minister sent a memo to the emperor saying, "i regret to inform you, a defeat is inevitable." the japanese knew that and the americans knew that. the second wait to force in a render was to wait for the soviet invasion. president roosevelt had been urging russia to come into the pacific war. but the russians were busy -- busy fighting against the nazi's. the u.s. and british were facing 10 germans combined while the soviet were facing 200 division. they had their hands full. but at yalta in february of 1945, stalin agrees to come into the pacific war. wasr the war in europe august 8 and august 9. what did american intelligence say? the intelligence committee report on april 11 "if at any
time the ussr should enter the war, all japanese will realize that absolute defeat is inevitable." i can give you more cases. july 6, a lot of these are intelligence summaries. they make the same point over and over again that once the soviets enter the japanese structure. what did truman understand? he wanted to make sure the russians were coming in. 17.et with stalin on july after which he wrote in his diary, stalin will be in the jap war by august 15. he writes home to his wife the next day. the russians are coming in, we will end a war -- and the war a year sooner now, think of all the kids who won't be killed. to question is, why does the u.s. dropped the bomb? this is the debate. was the bomb necessary to end
the war? absolutely not. not only the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of japanese who were killed and the hundreds and thousands more who are going to suffer throughout the rest of their lives, but truman knew he was beginning a process that could ultimately end life on the planet. he gets his first real briefing on the bomb on april 13 from burns. burns says this was a weapon great enough to destroy the whole world. on july 25, truman gets a briefing about the bomb. writes that burns and stimson said that within four months we will have a weapon, one of which could destroy an entire city. they could determine the future of human civilization. me jump in and take a phone call, because we have plenty of callers waiting to
talk to you. 's director of the nuclear studies institute at the american university. .eff for peter kuznick go ahead. caller: thank you for taking my call. mr. kuznick, i agree with everything you said. i actually anticipating answering the last question. there is also a moral depravity that should be spoken about with the use of an atomic weapon. it is not just a new weapon. dness to a certain goo the way the city was made. not only was it understood that this may be a problem with nuclear war going forward, but they said at the time it could cause a chain reaction in the atmosphere of the earth and destroyed the world or just a weapon that was a little more
powerful than the one they tested in the desert here in the united states. to take that type of chance, , it reallywing how can people rationally make a decision about using a weapon like this if they are taking a chance to destroy the earth? not to mention, going forward they have given license to everybody else to use a weapon as soon as they got it. it's astounding to me that they could do such a thing. host: thank you for calling. peter kuznick. guest: that was the point i was starting to make. truman knew there was not a bigger or more powerful weapon. they tested the bomb on july 16. he writes in his diary that they have discovered the most terrible bomb in history. this may be the fire destruction arc --y after no and his
noah and his arc. he was not the only one. alcan heimer briefed the to theee on may 21 political leaders and warned it them that within three years we will likely have weapons between 700 and 7000 times as powerful as the hiroshima bomb. the find this a warning about this. but when you get to the moral equation, you have to remember that seven of america's 85 star admirals and generals in 1945 were on record saying that the atomic bombs were either military elite unnecessary, morally reprehensible or both. and the most outspoken was williame -- admirable leahy. he was truman's personal chief of staff. were readye japanese
to surrender. the use of this barbarous weapon wasiroshima and nakasaki not needed in the war against japan. in being the first to use it we adopted an ethical standard common of barbarian of the dark ages. similar comments by eisenhower, mcarthur, king, they all knew it was not necessary and some of them recognized the moral insignificance of using it. because as you are saying, we knew there was no secret to the bomb and that other countries would develop it. the soviets took three to five years to catch up. example thatg this we can use the bomb. the other thing about that, the soviets knew the bomb was a necessary because the japanese would try to get them to intercede to get better surrender terms.
may, the japanese former prime minister met several times with the soviet ambassador in tokyo. he writes back to the kremlin and says the japanese are desperate to surrender. so when the united states dropped the bomb, the soviets knew better than anybody that there was no military reason to do it, and they interpreted it exactly the way we saw some of the scientists had warned they would. reaction of stalin and the others in the kremlin. richard, thank you for waiting. good,: this is fine and but i was about eight years old whenever they dropped the bomb. in theber our attitude united states, in school and everywhere. we had our gentleman from our little town.
we were tickled to death that they dropped that bomb. -- itold us it dropped stopped the war and we were happy it did. the other tune of the american people is the, cozzi and all this, we have seen all that. nothing was too bad to do to the japanese at the time. macarthur -- truman was in war himself. he had seen what war was. i think macarthur, at one time wanted to drop the bomb in korea when it was getting hard up there. if we do not have bombs, would there be more wars now? we all know everybody has a bomb and we are all playing chicken with it. host: thank you. peter kuznick.
yes, the american public was told exactly what richard were saying. that the bombs ended the war and saved lives. susan rice might be our next vice president, wrote in the new york times that truman saved her father's life, that he was ready to fight in the pacific and that dropping the atomic arms ended the war and forced the japanese surrender. that is the myth. obama said the same thing when he was in hiroshima. that world war ii reached its brutal and in hiroshima and nagasaki. 85% of the american people, according to the gallup poll in 1945, supported the dropping of the bomb. inoll came out shortly after 1945 and said that 22.7% of the american people wished the japanese had not surrendered so quickly so they could have dropped more atomic bombs.
30% in the southwest. that was the attitude. racism might have factored in a little bit, but the japanese were brutal and vicious. in 1942h march happened and does not get known in the u.s. until january of 1944. what the japanese did was horrific. what the japanese were doing throughout the pacific was horrific. .e are not debating about that we are debating about whether dropping the bombs with the right thing, and what the consequences were. as the scientists and others warned, it did lead to an uncontrollable arms race, and we are lucky to survive since then. it has beeny, hanging over the head of all humanity. truman is not bloodthirsty, he is not evil, truman went into this with his eyes wide open, knowing the beginning of this process, and knowing that the
way we did it, which was even warned about, triggered the exact response from the soviet union that was predicted at the time. and the soviets had their own crash bomb program. they tested their bomb in august of 1949. in 1952, the united states tested a bomb in the soviets tested a prototype bomb. movede atomic scientists the hands of the doomsday clock at that point at two minutes before midnight. now it's at 100 seconds before midnight, the closest it has ever been. very dangerous situation, and there are many instances during the cold war and since that we have survived. including during the cuban missile crisis. , you haver kuznick led student groups for roughly , every summer to
japan to attend the annual memorial services. what have you learned from the ofanese over that period time. what has their perspective been and has it changed over time? guest: one of the things that makes my student trips so interesting is that we travel with japanese students and professors. so we get to see the war through the americanized and through the japanese eyes and there are a lot of other asians on the trip. they have a very different perspective than the japanese. we go to the commemorative events in hiroshima and nagasaki. we go to the atomic bomb museum in hiroshima and not a sake. but we also study -- nagasaki. but we also study the japanese war. i take i students to the museum students toke -- my the museum in nakasaki. it was mostly towards other asians. people have to keep in their
minds that the japanese were victims, but they were also victimizers. while american students who participate have to deal with their guilt about what the u.s. did in world war ii, the japanese have to deal with their guilt and their sense of responsibility. and neither the american government, nor the japanese government has dealt well with their history. the one place that has taken responsibility with their past is germany. the japanese have not done it, especially not under shinzo abe. we saw happen when the smithsonian tried to have the historical exhibit in 1995. maybe now we are getting ready to have this discussion in a way that we didn't. host: let's go to brian in massachusetts. caller: good morning. thanks for letting me speak. i have a question for your
guest. conference we saw franklin roosevelt with stalin and winston churchill. i am wondering if they made the decision to drop it then or if they were still in the planning stage. and with stalin's spies in the manhattan project, did he know exactly what was going on? is,other question i have what about the generals and the admirals that were closer to the front lines in the pacific? where they briefed on what was going to happen before those bombs were dropped? did they have knowledge of that? host: go ahead, finish up. caller: did oppenheim or have a chance to talk to truman about what would go on if they dropped this bomb? host: several different -- guest: several different points
there. the meeting on may 5, 1943. they decided that japan would be the target and not germany. the project began under the urging and of the scientists who had led -- fled from nazi occupied europe. after they split in december of were veryphysicists alarmed about the prospects of hitler developing an atomic bomb. they went to einstein and then einstein got roosevelt's attention. he wrote three letters to roosevelt, urging them not to drop on japan, but as a deterrent against the japanese bomb. the project it's off the ground very strongly, and then it gets momentum in 1942.
the admirals and generals, some of them were briefed about the use of the atomic bomb. he mentioned halsey and nimitz, most of whom were on record saying the atomic arms were not necessary to end the war. but even somebody like eisenhower, under eisenhower's presidency america's nuclear arsenal increases almost 30 fold. has 30 bombs, his budget cycle was finish any has a most 30,000 bombs. eisenhower says that stinson told him we were going to drop the bomb. eisenhower said, they told me they would drop it on the japanese. i did not volunteer anything so my war was over in europe and it was not up to me. he asked for my opinion so i told him, i was against it on two counts. first the japanese are ready to surrender and it was not
necessary to hit them with that awful thing. i hated to see us using a horrible weapon. in the exchange with former president hoover, and had written to truman, urging him to change the surrender terms in may, mcarthur said that if truman had followed your wise advice, the japanese would have happily.ed, and and mcarthur implies that would have been as early as may. we told them if they could keep the emperor, which we let them do. we told them we have a horrible new weapon. we could have ended the war, possibly a month or two earlier, and save more lives. american lives, japanese lives, chinese lives, vietnamese lives. but instead we dropped the bomb on august 6 in order to prevent an invasion that was supposed to begin november 1. an invasion many of the military
leaders did not want to see happen at all. especially the naval leaders. host: briefly, peter kuznick, did stalin know? guest: yes. there were two or more prominent people who were giving intelligence to the soviets. was common doing so. stalin knew the americans were developing a bomb. he did not know exactly what -- he knew it would be tested, he did not know the results until truman finally told him at the end of the conference that the united states had a terrible new weapon. truman thought that he did not get it. stalin knew exactly what that meant. marvin calling from tuscaloosa, alabama. welcome to the program, marvin. playingthank you for
fast and loose with the -- i think you have been playing fast and loose with the facts. i don't think you have given credit for the sacrifice americans put into this. it was germany, japan and italy and their dictators who started the war. i think you have ignored the fact of all the atrocities committed by the japanese purity you have mentioned them, but we don't hear a lot about that. those atrocities were proven at the tokyo war trials. you mentioned the 10 death march. the rape of man king. the killing and flattering of american pows. the burma death railway that was built. i think you played fast and loose with the facts, because truman had the facts, and he made a reasonable decision.
i'm not going to go into that detail, but i think we owe it to americans on the 75th anniversary at the end of world war ii, to just say to the american and families that died, including my two uncles and my father in law that fought in it, honor and glory to all of the families and all of the americans who died in world war ii. i feel like you are not fair and in context.this i definitely disagree with your statement that we had atrocities just like the japanese. that three writing history and that's wrong, sir. host: let's get a response from peter kuznick. guest: marvin, you weren't listening very closely. i think world war ii was a necessary war. i think the united states was on the side of the angels in world war ii. i am happy we won world war ii.
that is not a question for debate. the debate is, and i certainly don't play japanese atrocities or german atrocities, but the issue is something very, very different. that thethat reason entire history of the cold war and the nuclear arms race is not something that we can't ignore. dropping the bomb was instrumental in starting that cold war. -- there areut it so many people we should be quoting. admirable leahy said i was unable to see any justification from the national defense point of view to an invasion of an already thoroughly defeated japan. now, if you are saying we should have dropped the bomb to get revenge on the japanese, that is a different question. that is one that truman, in his initial statement, says we are
repaying them back for pearl harbor and their atrocities. that is not the argument that is made. the argument is whether or not the bomb is necessary to end the war. in charge ofho was repairing the magic summer he, we brought them down to an abject surrendered to accelerated sinking, and then we need to do it, and we knew we did not need to do it, and they knew we knew we did not need to do it, we use them as an experiment for two atomic bombs. why would we do that? we are fighting the good war that we had to win. es said, there was never a time any allusion on my part that russia was our enemy, in the project was conducted on that basis. the future nobel peace prize winner said, in march of 1944
over dinner, you realize that the main purpose of this project is to subdue the russians. thing whenthe same they all met in south carolina on may 28. he said this is our way to make the russians more manageable in europe. if you think that that is a justifiable reason for killing hundreds of thousands of people, then there is on most no limit to what you could justify. then you could justify using atomic bombs today if it will give us a way to achieve some moral purpose. fortunately, that's not the attitude the world has adopted. under the current u.s. review under the trump administration, february of 2018, we are developing two more usable,
smaller nuclear weapons, and the world is in a very, very precarious situation now. host: what is the legacy, in your view, of the bombings of hiroshima and nagasaki? mr. kuznick: the legacy, i think it undermined america's claims toward exceptionalism. we like to think of ourselves as different from all of the countries, as more moral, more just. we go out and the world and do things, spread freedom and democracy. at the heart of that understanding, and it begins with the cold war, really, and our victory in world war ii. world war ii was a good war, as close as we have ever come to a good war, but there is no such thing as a good war. and the use of the bomb certainly compromises our moral position around the world.
we have to look honestly at our past. because if we do not study the past honestly, we will commit the same mistakes or new mistakes going forward in the future, and the world is too dangerous for us to have that luxury. host: peter kuznick is director of the nuclear studies institute at the american university. thanks a lot you for your time and your insight this morning. much appreciated. announcer: american history tv is on social media. follow us at c-span history. announcer: next on the presidency, we hear from michael neiberg, were studies chair at the u.s. army war college, about the personalities and stakes involved at the 1945 potsdam conference convened near the end of world war ii. president truman had just assumed office after the death of franklin the roosevelt and he met with britain's winston churchill and the soviet union's joseph stalin.
it was during these meetings from july 17 until august 2 that mr. truman informed his soviet counterpart about the new u.s. super weapon. it would soon be unleashed on the japanese cities of hiroshima and nagasaki. the truman library institute provided this video. are at therg: we 75th anniversary of the potsdam conference. big numbers like the 75th anniversary or 100th anniversary are always occasions for looking back and drawing attention. i think there is another reason to look back at potsdam, as we are reentering a world of great power competition and reentering a world where gl pot -- where geopolitics seems to have come back to the fore of international relations thinking. so it is well worth us coming back to this subject. i am glad to have a chance to talk to you about it. i was it was in person in kansas city. i wish that we were able to do this face-to-face, but we will do the very best that we can.
IN COLLECTIONSCSPAN3 Television Archive Television Archive News Search Service
Uploaded by TV Archive on