tv FDR Truman and the Atomic Bomb CSPAN August 10, 2020 3:43pm-4:45pm EDT
that the ultimatum of july 26th was issued at potsdam. 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 ed lengel. 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 d. roosevelt presidential museum and library in hyde park, new york. following a career as a documentary filmmaker and the senior executive at the newseum and paul has been directing the
roosevelt library and 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's 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. so, today, we'll give a great opportunity for question and answer. and please weigh in with lots of questions. we've already been talking quite a bit off-camera about our topic today, and i guarantee you there's going to be a lot of interesting ideas and discussions. so i will begin and introduce paul to begin us in our program. thank you.
>> thank you, ed. and thank you, clifton, for being part of this today. i'm very excited. this is one of the those topics that has generated enormous amount of debate throughout the years. background for franklin roosevelt, of course, was he was struggling in the late 1930s to convince americans, who were very isolationist, that they had to take an interest in the problems that were going on in europe. and some of the things that he understood about the spread of fascist nazi germany and the threat from japan, many americans disagreed with and didn't want to see the american public get involved. so one of fdr's big issues was rebuilding the military. hundreds of new ships were constructed. there was a peacetime draft instituted and so he was very focused on how america would respond to the threat from nazi germany.
so i'm just going to share a powerpoint here that has a few images in it. that's the king and the queen and the president. and this is albert einstein on the right. they started drafting this letter to the president to try to convince him in the united states needed to get involved. now, although leo was a world-famous physicist, obviously, he didn't have the same status that albert einstein did. so the letter was drafted under einstein's name. here's a copy of the letter which you can see was sent in august of 1939. so the war in europe still has not started yet. right? germany doesn't invade poland until september, but this is the lead-up to it and there's tremendous concern on the part of these scientists. you can see here's an excerpt that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction and a large mass of uranium, a
vast amount of power and uranium-like elements would be generated. new phenomenon would lead to the construction of bombs and it is conceivable that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. a single bomb of this type carried by a boat and exploded in a port might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. and then, of course, just a few weeks later germany invades poland and we are in the start of world war ii. on october 19th fdr responds back to professor einstein and, obviously, a lot had been going on there, but he said i found this data of such import that i have convened a bureau consisting of the head of the bureau standards and chose a representative of the army and navy to thoroughly investigate the possibilities of your suggestion regarding the element of uranium. now, over the period of the next several years, there's different committees that are formed but
on june 28th, 1941, the office of scientific research and development is created which oversees the whole project and a man named vanover bush was put in charge and this is the point where the whole project gains 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 then, of course, just a few months later the japanese attack pearl harbor which gives even greater impetus to the development of this bomb. so the two men who were sort of responsible for the development, on the left there, you see leslie groves who was the military representative essentially in charge of the entire operation. and on the right you see the famous scientist, robert oppenheimer. now their los alamos facility is the most famous, but of course, there are 20 different facilities all across the
country. 100,000 more, 100,000 people involved in this from extracting uranium core, building muniti munitions, recruiting scientists, all done under top secrecy. meanwhile, at the same time, the british had been developing a similar nuclear bomb element which they called the tube alloys. early on in the war, they decided the germans and americans should work together and britain shared a lot of their data and their science with the americans and several british scientists came over, but by 1943 this photograph was taken at what is now camp david with fdr. what fdr called shangri-la. and cut the british out of the development of the bomb and the manhattan project. and this was done for a variety of reasons. but churchill was very upset about this and wanted the british to get back involved in
this partnership. and then a few months after this photo was taken in august of 1943, right before the quebec conference, there'd been tremendous tensions between the americans and the british regarding the plans for d-day. the americans wanted to go ahead and get a date and make british military were reluctant, dragging their feet coming up with alternative strategies. so at this meeting in august of 1943 enhyde park before the quebec conference, roosevelt and churchill applying appear quid pro quo here. roosevelt saying to churchill, we'll bring you back into the nuclear project and that is what happened. both agreements were signed on the same day before the quebec conference started. in 1944 this was taken at the this was taken right after the democratic convention. it's one of the few times the rows felt got together with vice presidential candidate, soon to
be vice president. there was very little communication going on at this point. it's really one of fdr's, i think, failings as a leader that he did not fully brief truman on the nuclear bomb, a whole range of topics. this was a critical part of t t that. this photograph was taken 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 development of the first atomic bomb. this is the scaffolding for the test, the trinity test, which was the first time they were actually going to test this
bomb, and then you see here this is the explosion at trinity. so by this point, of course, truman is president. i'm going to close this off now. at this point truman is president. he's been briefed, and i'll turn it over to clifton to talk about the processes that were 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 as soon as it was ready. >> thank you, paul, i appreciate that. and i'd just say i'm going to piggyback on the comment that you made about president roosevelt not telling my grandfather anything. that's certainly true. years ago when i met david roosevelt, fdr's grandson for the first time, we were talking about our grandfathers' relationship and before we went upstairs to our room in the hotel, i said david, you know, your grandfather didn't tell my
grandfather a damn thing. we all went to bed. the next morning i said good morning, david, how are you? and david said, i'm not going to tell you. i did not -- i'll start by saying that my grandfather never spoke to me about the atomic bomb. it was a tough subject. he died when i was 15 years old. we saw them on family vacations, it was always thanksgiving, christmas or going to key west during the spring. that's 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 stimson told him right after his swearing in on april 12th, 1945, but stimson only told him just the rudiments, just the bare minimum.
we have a new, very powerful new weapon i need to brief you on it. it wasn't until almost two weeks later that stimson and general groves gave my grandfather a full briefing on the manhattan project. not long after grandfather formed the interim committee, scientists and leaders in the field and including some of the -- including some of the scientists who had worked on the bomb including mr. oppenheimer, dr. oppenheimer, to decide if the weapons should be used; and if so, how. so it -- 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 of -- it's what you do afterward. it's how grandpa felt about it. it's how we deal with the
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 -- i guess my son wesley, this must have been in 2003 or '4 when my son wesley was 10 years old, he brought home a book from school, "sadako and the thousand paper cranes." for those of you who don't know the story. sada kch sadako is a real little girl, who survived the bombing of hiroshima and nagasaki. sadako 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 a thousand origami paper cranes you are granted a wish of good health, a long life, the crane is a symbol of life and longevity. she folded 1,300 cranes but sadly she died of the leukemia at the age of 12 in 1955. there a monument to her and to
all of the children who were killed or sickened or wounded by the bomb. that was the first human story i'd 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. she taught them japanese culture. they had a tea ceremony in class. they folded cranes. i came home one afternoon, and i found wesley in the living room wearing a kimono with green tea and sushi laid out on the coffee table behind it. i mention this. about every five years on the anniversaries of the bombing, japanese journalists call the library and ask if they can speak to a family member, and it's usually me. i mentioned that i had read sadako's story with my son and
that story got back to japan and i had a call from masahiro sasaki and he just said can we meet someday and maybe do something together, and i said yes. we met five years later in 2010 in new york at the 9/11 tribute center, and masahiro and his son were donating one of sadako's last cranes to the center in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. during that meeting, he had a tiny paper crane, and he put it in my palm and said that's the last one that sadako folded before she died, and at that point he and his father asked if i would go to the memorial ceremonies in hiroshima and nagasaki. i took as my lead for that, i took my grandfather. in 1947 he made a state visit to mexico, and during that visit he praised a wreath at the tomb of
six mexican army cadets who had fought to the death against u.s. forces in 1847. and of course a reporter asked my grandfather afterwards why would you place a wreath to a monument to our enemies, and my grandfather said because they had courage. courage does not belong to any one country. you recognize and honor courage wherever you find it. likewise i thought that suffering in war, universally does not belong to any one country. if you recognize it and you acknowledge it. and so we went to japan in 2012, my wife polly and my sons wesley and gates and i went. we attended both ceremonies in hiroshima and nagasaki, and in between we spoke to more than two dozen survivors just to let them tell us their stories. and if we have the powerpoint, i'm not quite as adept as paul is at doing this from home because i'm doing this on my phone. that is me and masahiro in the
peace park in hiroshima at the start getting ready to go in for the memorial that's on august 6th, 2012. the next one, please. and this is -- you can see behind, that's our interpreter sitting next to us, that's masahiro and me and our interpreter. you can see behind her and me is the atomic dome, which was the industrial hall in hiroshima, which was nearly directly below the blast and was spared because of its steel and stone construction. it withstood the bomb. it stands as a memorial to the bombing. i included that picture because the first question i was asked in japan is are you here to apologize, and my answer to that was no. i am here to -- i am here to honor the dead and listen to the living in the hopes that we don't ever -- anybody on the planet ever does this again. the question 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 ask clifton for an apology for hiroshima and nagasaki, he can ask us for an apology for pearl harbor and where do we go from there? then it just becomes a blame game. next slide, please. i'm placing the 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, and they are -- they are interned. they're buried with the japanese victims of hiroshima. a japanese gentleman shegake mori spent 25, 30 years, and a lot of his own money finding out, doing the research to find out exactly what 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 yuji, masahiro's son. that is one of sadako's original cranes. right after we went to japan in august, yuji flew to hawaii and donated that crane to the u.s.s. arizona memorial where it sits today at the end of the exhibit. next, please. those are seedlings. that's at the powell gardens in kansas city. those are seedlings from trees that survived the bombing of hiroshima and nagasaki, and some of them will be planted at the truman library when we reopen, hopefully later this year. next. that's the japan society. of course that's me on the left with me on the microphone. that's a woman who survived, one of the maidens, came to this
country for reconstructive surgery. next to her is cynthia miller whose father worked on the manhattan project and bombings afterwards. she has been dealing with radiation sickness since she was a child, so she is in some respects a survivor. and next to her with his head bow 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 just telling this story and letting students hear firsthand what it was like to survive a nuclear explosion, again, in the interests of peace and disarmament. next, please. that's orval amdahl. he brought that sword home from japan. he was a marine artillery captain. he brought that sword home at the end of the war, put it in his closet. he didn't really want to take it but the quartermaster was telling him to take the swords. orval brought it home, put it in the closet, kept it oiled and nice.
finally after 67 years through the nagasaki st. paul, minnesota, center committee, he found the son of the officer who had to surrender that sword, and he gave it back to him at a ceremony in st. paul in 2013, and that's him over on the left sitting down, his entire family. and over on the left-hand side of the photo is the sword and a shrine to it. it was a wonderful gesture on both parts. one for orval for giving it back. and two, for coming to this 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 servicemen, pacific war veterans who told me had it not been for my grandfather's decision, they would not have survived the war, they would not have families, and they would not be here. i've had their children and grandchildren tell me the same things.
but i've also held in the palm of my hand that little girl's crane. the object for me is to honor both. >> thank you, clifton, very moving and powerful presentation. there's so much to discuss with respect to two of the most important and towering personalities of the 20th century in relation to the manhattan project and to the dropping of the bomb or the bombs and the consequences in japan and the united states and the world. we have a number of questions, but i'm going to start off with a couple of my own. paul, fdr stood in charge of -- 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 that 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, and that's $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 was something that was concealed from congress. >> well, fdr was a master of the mechanics of government. he understood how to get things done. he would, as he famously said, try something. if it doesn't work, try something else. just make it happen. and so during this period prior to the start of the war, prior to pearl harbor, he had been consistently raising military budgets, building up a relationship with both democrats and republicans on capitol hill both his secretary of navy and his secretary of war were republicans that he appointed in
1940. so he had a pretty strong coalition. after pearl harbor, really it was unlimited checkbook. and one of the things that 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 at that point, was that truman had famously headed the truman commission, which was investigating expenditures, military expenditures, looking for corruption and profit taking. when he discovered this massive outflow of cash to this manhattan project and he
asked about it, he was told, you know, just leave that alone. and he did. he didn't make it a focus of his investigation. so this funding that he created for was really under this whole massive outlay of capital from the federal government, and although it was close to $2 billion at the time, again, it depends how you measure the money, it might have been more, might have been less. there's a lot of ancillary projects that fed into it. but you know, 50, $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. and actually, during the battle of the bulge in december, january of 1944 into '45, he asked is the bomb ready? can we use it in europe to stop this offensive? there's no question that he was willing to use the bomb. >> that's an interesting
contrast, too. you mentioned hitler. the contrast between him and fdr is that the nazis did pursue atomic weapons program. i think it's 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's not something he was willing to take seriously. obviously, 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 took the whole thing seriously from the very beginning. it was something where his stewardship really did play just a massive role in making it happen, as well as winston churchill.
>> he truly believed in the power of science. and i think with hitler, you see hitler had his own -- you know, he refused to fund the navy. he would fund rockets and things like that, but he essentially, you know 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 and the physics of it. if you look at the resources he put into the death camps and the concentration camps, he could easily have funded his atomic program if he hadn't been so intent on the destruction of europe's jews. >> i'm going to direct this comment to you, and it's really an observation, which had been made in a previous program we did with sal david about okinawa and the atomic bomb some weeks ago. this is from rod, i mentioned this at a prior museum briefing on this topic. i'm a museum docent at the
smithsonian national air and space museum. we had a museum guess some years back that had been a japanese pilot during the war. when seeing it, 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 you met in your tours? >> i have heard that, but i've heard it secondhand. i have not had a survivor tell me that firsthand. but the survivors that i worked with and the survivors that i know, we work together on the subject of disarmament towards peace and disarmament, so they and their american counterparts tend to be -- tend to sort of steer away from -- i don't want to say steer away from anything good, but they want to keep the
focus on the destruction, the devastation, the horror of the bombings. so we don't often, when we're talking to kids, we don't often let those stories in, but they do exist. you're right. there are japanese, there are former pilots, there are even survivors who will say that. 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. they were attached, civilian units were attached to military units. they would be under their command. they were told to fight to the death against american soldiers. so those stories i have heard. they go hand in hand with the destruction. >> i think it's fair to say that if operation 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 cohert, and i think this would be for both of you all. i'll direct it to you clifton, by mid-1945, the usa had three to five atom bombs. both uranium and plutonium types. if we used them, presumably we would have had to continue with the invasion. how did this paucity of weapons factor into truman's thinking about using the bomb and about targeting, and do we know if fdr realized we would have so few weapons? >> i think we only had -- jim, we only had three. we had done the test at alamogordo, and then we had the little boy, which we used 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've done on this, what the plan was. i know that grandpa was exhorted by senator russell of i want to say alabama. senator russell sent a long telegram, said, you know, use those bombs, and if you run out, use conventional bombs. bomb the japanese until there's nothing left. he was very angry and wanted -- grandpa did not want to do that and responded to senator russell that he did not like having to use those weapons, did not like the idea of destroying japan. he was taking the steps that he thought he had to take. his plans beyond -- and i know he was a little -- he was a bit 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 sort of flippant comment about i don't want some lieutenant colonel to be the one to make the decision to use one of those. it was a serious weapon and a horrible weapon, and he wanted a lot of thought to go into that. i honestly don't know, maybe paul does, what his -- what the plan was if they'd had to use the third one and then the japanese had still resisted. >> well, the third atomic bomb actually wasn't ready yet. it was going to be at least another week after the dropping at nagasaki before the next bomb would be ready, and then it was going to be several additional weeks before number four and five would be operational. so you know, there wasn't really another -- they couldn't just drop another bomb at that point. but i think it's very hard for people today to understand what the perspective was in august of 1945.
the world had been at war for almost six years. the level of destruction that had been inflicted on allies and on the axis powers, particularly germany, the fire bombing of dresden, the bombing of population centers in both germany and in japan, the fire bombing of tokyo. more people died in the fire bombing of tokyo than in hiroshima. the scale of violence, the horror that was being inflicted across the world, to be honest, the atomic bomb was not some kind of 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 this chaos. so, you know, there is a problem in understanding what the perspective was for people who'd lost family members, all these soldiers are there ready for an
invasion that a million americans might die. easily 5 to 10 million japanese would have died in the invasion. so was there a plan? you know, the plan was all out war, and they were going to use whatever weapons were available. >> and world war ii really built toward a crescendo of violence and horror at the end, and the atomic bombings in many ways were just a culmination of that, of what was already happening. we have a couple of questions on facebook, and i will personally field the first one, then open it to gentlemen for comments. david asks, he says my understanding is that german scientists intentionally dragged their feet to delay or prevent the completion of an atomic weapon. is this true? and this relates in particular to a german scientist named werner heisenberg, who called a number of meetings in that year and conferences where he made
the argument to albert speer as well as some others that an atomic bomb was feasible, that with the right resources he could make it happen, but then when speer and ferdinand porsche and others pressured him on that he suddenly backed off and indeed suggested that there was some question that an atomic detonation might unfold endlessly until the whole world was blown up, which is something many of the scientists worried about. there's a lot of debate whether heisenberg really meant what he said, whether he was in purpose trying to hold back the program, his fears about, you know, hitler gaining this power or whether he really was afraid and really was uncertain after all.
whether he could do it, i would suggest -- and we can't get inside heisenberg's head, i would suggest there was probably more an element of fear in him as well as he was accused by nazis of being a, quote, unquote white jew for carrying on this program. the nazis, as you said, paul, were extremely suspicious of scientists to begin with, so it's a tricky question that really hasn't been answered, but i rather err on the side that they were incompetent rather than necessarily trying to hold back the nazis. do either of you have any comments on that? then i'll move on. jim on facebook asks what was the relationship between roosevelt and truman with
general leslie groves? >> i'll just say real quick, again, back to my grandfather not being told anything about the atomic bomb, not being told much of anything about anything when he was vice president. i believe the first time he met general groves was when the secretary of war brought the general to the white house a little less than two weeks after grandpa was sworn in to give him the entire -- to tell him everything they could about the manhattan project and the atomic bombs. and grandpa even wrote in "where the buck stops --" he wrote his memoirs, and he wrote after the presidency, which my mother edited and put into a book, but he wrote that general groves had snuck in by the back do, so that nobody could see him coming. that's how top secret it was. >> yeah, fdr had a very specific
management style, particularly regarding military operations. you know, admiral leahy 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 out on the operational side of things. he did meet with groves, but again, he really wanted the operations to be managed as almost done by military, military operations. he had tremendous input on strategy, on technique, on where we should be focusing, but it was similar with eisenhower. he had very little contact with eisenhower, you know. even though he was the supreme commander, most of the communications went through general marshal or admiral leahy. >> yeah, and i don't -- and just paul, i don't mean to -- i keep sounding like, you know, fdr didn't tell my grandfather anything, like it was a crabby family problem. it was simply a difference in management styles. i don't mean to suggest that roosevelt was intentionally holding things back.
following up on that, tom from chicago asks, was there ever a list compiled of who knew what but was not disclosed until stimson told truman. >> a list of who knew what about the bombs? >> yeah, or about the manhattan project. >> about the manhattan project. they tried to keep that -- i know that tried to keep that list as small as possible. just as an aside, years ago i visit -- after we went to japan, i visited oak ridge, tennessee, to tour the city and to see the facilities where they would find the uranium. one of the chilling facts that came out, of course, they were scientists. scientists had families. they brought their kids with them. and they had a high school, and the high school had a football team. the high school football team never played a home game and
never had their names on their jerseys and never were allowed to talk to kids on the other team. they came, they played. they left. so a lot of secrecy. i don't know about a list of who knew what, but they kept it as small as possible. that tube alloy term was used in oak ridge, that they were making tube alloy rather than refining uranium. even the young women, the calutron girls, the women who were using -- who were calibrating machines that refined the uranium, they did not know what they were doing with those machines. i think one was even told that they were -- it was an ice cream maker. so it -- they tried to keep a lid on all. the list must have been small but probably bigger than we think it was. >> there are only about a dozen people in the administration, non-military people in the administration who really understood what the manhattan project was. first of all, the science was fairly complicated and somewhat
unknown. i mean, there had been lots of articles in popular mechanics and things about the possibility of a nuclear bomb, but it was not something that people really readily understood. even the people in los alamos understood they were working on a bomb and a weapon, but they didn't fully understand what they were working on. it was so compartmentalized. if you were in the department that was working on the explosives that would compress the uranium, you were focused entirely on how you create spherical explosives that would create a uniform compression to ignite the uranium, but they didn't even know what they were trying to ignite. so i do think the level of secrecy was extraordinary. >> despite that, though, the soviets did manage 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 that the soviet
union was our ally. >> right. >> so some of this idea that, you know, they were the bad guys here, they were the allies, and they lost more than 20 million people fighting the germans. so you know, there was a different perspective of who the soviets were during the war than there is now or even during the cold war. but yes, there were multiple penetrations of the operation. secrets were smuggled out. designs were smuggled out. obviously, you know, horrific damage. a lot of the espionage was not discovered until the '50s or even later. but again, at the same point, america was conducting espionage against the soviets. you know, the whole world was at war, and you trusted your allies only as far as you had to. >> and yeah, grandpa, of course, famously said during -- they
found out that the bomb worked i believe date after he arrived in potsdam to meet with stalin and churchill. he told stalin about the bomb. stalin took it very, very lightly and just sort of nodded and said, well, i hope you make good use of it. and grandpa got suspicious right then and there that he was very nonchalant about that. >> that leads into a question from jeff dasner, he says i'm curious about the reaction and response that the soviets had in regards to the dropping of the bombs. it's my understanding that stalin was hoping to become involved in the invasion of japan in hopes of splitting it into separate spheres much like post-war germany. was there any communication between truman and the soviets, or any of the other allied powers, before or after the dropping of the bombs? >> that, jeff, and that's a question that comes up when they start -- when they go on discussing whether or not the bombs were necessary or whether
it was cruel or specifically whether or not it was a gambit to keep the soviets from gaining influence in japan, from -- because we had -- the soviets had agreed to go to war with japan. they were fighting the japanese on the mainland, and the bombs were set off on -- in china -- not china, i'm spacing. anyway, 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, has it that the war was brought to a swift conclusion because of the double whammy of the bombs and the main -- on the home islands of japan and the soviet army coming in and engaging troops on the continent, that they were just -- that it was just too much. it was overwhelming.
my grandfather did not -- and the charge that's made, because the relationship with the soviets was -- and we just talked about about it. it was complicated. they were allies. we could trust them. we knew good and well what stalin would try to do and eventually tried to do in moving into various -- taking over various territories during and after the war. but grandpa, i don't think, used the weapons to stove the soviets from coming in. that was not a major point in his thinking. if it happened, great, that we kept them off of japan, but he did not make that decision to keep the soviets out of japan. he made that decision to stop the war and save lives. >> fred asked did truman and marshal inform douglas mcarthur in advance the atomic bomb would
be dropped on hiroshima? and if yes, how many weeks and days in advance was mcarthur informed? i'm going to build on that by asking -- this is something we had discussed separately before when we were arranging this about informing eisenhower and eisenhower's opinion, but beginning with mcarthur, do we know if he was informed or not? >> i'll just say i have not heard that he was told ahead of time. they kept that bombing under wraps as much as they could. so i'll just say honestly, i don't know whether they told mcarthur in advance or not. >> and what about eisenhower's opinion on this? >> i don't know. eisenhower's opinion on the bombing afterwards? >> yes, was he informed before this took place? >> i don't -- again, i don't know if eisenhower was told before. i don't know how secure that we thought our communications were to let them know far afield what was -- what was going on.
although, that -- you'd think they would. i mean, these -- eisenhower and mcarthur were on the ground running the war. you'd think they would let them know, planning an invasion, you know. >> i would think that nimitz in the pacific probably was informed. because, of course, they had to transport the bombs aboard the "uss indianapolis" and the trigger mechanisms were flown into naval bases in the pacific, tinian island. there's no way they could have not informed, you know, the naval supreme commanders out there. so i would assume that nimitz probably knew about it as did, i'm sure, leahy. >> and eisenhower was critical of the bombings. does that -- does that ring true with both of you that it was an honest criticism that if he had
been consulted or had been in charge, that he wouldn't have dropped the bombs? or does that seem more like 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 the 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, although i can't imagine given what -- given the projections for the invasion, i would have thought that he would have agreed with anything that would have stopped that or stalled that because they were -- i mean, the projections were -- they keep coming down on, i think, the one telling fact is that we minted this country, made half a million
purple heart medals in advance of that planned invasion. medals that i believe we're still using today. i think we're still using that original cache of purple hearts, so they understood that it was going to be a blood bath on both sides. i don't know why -- that's what i think it is is just when you find out how horrible a weapon they are, people tend to back off. but i honestly don't know. i'm sort of spit balling here. >> i believe he wrote in his memoir is that he said that he felt that it was a mistake to do it, first of all, because of the civilian casualties, but, second, he thought the united states was ceding the moral high ground. but whether this was a case of him advising truman not to do it ahead of time or whether it was more something that he felt afterwards was a mistake is not entirely clear. >> militarily grandpa was getting the go ahead.
>> right. >> from his advisers. >> right. >> and general marshall included. >> again, i would just -- i would just say that eisenhower approved the firebombing of dresden. he had some kind of moral qualms against the wanton murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, again, this was total war. and i think many people after the bombs were dropped and the war ended, in hindsight said this was a horrific bomb. we should have found another way. but at the time, there wasn't another way, other than the invasion of mainland japan, which would have resulted in many, many more casualties on both sides. >> gus on facebook, who is age 11, asks how did they choose the targets? >> with the help of that interim committee, gus. they selected targets that they
believed to be military targets, primarily military targets. they knew there were civilians there. hiroshima, for example, had a port. it had a couple of military -- it was headquarters for a couple of military outfits including, i think, the second army and certainly the chugoku military police headquarters, and they had the port. they were training soldiers and shipping them out to china from hiroshima. so they had a port. nagasaki was a ship building center. you had the mitsubishi ship works down at the mouth of the river in the harbor, so those were -- those were considered military targets, and that's how they chose. also, there was some -- unfortunately some factor, i believe, they factored in whether or not these places had been bombed already because the scientists and the military wanted to know what kind of destruction the bombs would
have. they wanted a pristine target. i'm not sure how much that figured in, but i know that that was at least part of it. but they were trying to choose military targets that would cripple some industry and do a lot of damage. >> i do know that in the initial list of targets, the japanese sacred city of kyoto was listed as a potential target, and it was taken off the list because it was felt to be such a cultural icon for the japanese that it had very little military value. so there was a consideration of the sites from a cultural perspective. again, they were -- at that point they understood that they might have to literally bomb the entire country in order to be successful in the invasion. >> yeah. there was -- i met years ago at
one of the former docents of the truman library, named lana white, she lived in kokura which was actually the primary target for the second bomb. but the weather was cloudy that day, and the planes circled for a time looking for a break in the weather, couldn't find one and flew on to nagasaki. and lana at the age of 12 remembered those planes overhead and when she heard later that nagasaki had been bombed, she knew that kokura had missed being the target for the second bomb. >> paul, you said earlier at the end of your presentation that you feel confident that fdr would have used the atomic bombs. do you think that he -- 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 that he would have used it against germany, and he even asked whether the bombs were ready,
again, during the battle of the bulge. again, i think it's so hard for people today to understand what toll the war had taken on our leadership. you know, it was a horrible, horrible war, and fdr wanted to end the war. and you remember there was tremendous pressure on him to find the 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. and so i believe if the bomb had been ready and he felt that by dropping the bomb it could end the war and save the jews, he would have done it. >> we have time for one more question, i think, and then i'll open it up to you gentlemen for any closing comments. and this one is from fred which asked a while ago, how much did
colonel tibbets and the crew of the enola gay know if the devastating, destructive power of the bomb they were launching in hiroshima. did they realize tens of thousands of civilians would be killed? how did the captain and crew of boxcar that came afterwards know of the destructive power of the atomic bomb that was dropped on nagasaki? >> from what i know, they could see it and feel it. they not only got the shock wave, tibbets, i think both, i believe they said they could taste -- after the shock wave hit them, they could taste -- it tasted like metal. the air was filled with the -- i assume that's due to the radiation or some of the effect of the bomb, but they could all taste metal in their mouths as they flew away. they dove to get away from hiroshima. one of the survivors was on a schoolyard in hiroshima, and she remembered -- just before the bomb hit, she remembered looking up and seeing a curved contrail,
so the enola gay dropped the bomb, turned and dove to gain speed so they could get as far away as possible. that's the last thing -- rinko survived the bombing. she was knocked out but that was the last thing she saw before the bomb exploded. and it wasn't the -- wasn't it the pilot of -- was it the pilot of boxcar who went on i believe on what's my line later in the '50s and met reverend tomomoto from hiroshima. i'm probably mixing apples and oranges here. he felt really bad about -- he felt guilty and bad about the bombing. >> yeah, i think the pilots of the enola gay had been told that they were going to drop this very, very powerful bomb, but other than the small number of people who had witnessed the test at trinity of these -- no one understood what these bombs were capable of.
i think everyone was shocked, even the people who had studied and built the bomb were shocked at the destruction of hiroshima. now, the pilots for boxcar, nagasaki they knew because they had seen what had happened at hiroshima, so they certainly understood what they were about to do. but i think all of the people aboard the enola gay were, you know, stunned when they saw the explosive power of one bomb. remember, many of these were experienced air force pilots who had flown dozens or more missions where you would drop hundreds of bombs on a target and not get anywhere year that. >> and that being said, paul tibbets to the end of his life was, i think, unapologetic is the right word. it's not that he was happy to have had 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 let's start with paul and then move to clifton on the lessons to be learned from this, one of the most important, if not the most important event of the 20th century? >> i think it goes to what fdr's dying wish was, which was the creation of the united nations. he understood that the horror of world war i and world war ii had brought us to the point where if there was another world war, it would destroy the planet. and so his focus was on creating this international entity that could help diffuse the tensions, that could find ways that were diplomatic for solutions. it's all he really cared about at the very end. when he went to warm springs to try to recover because at the end of april it was going to be the first meeting of the united nations to draft a charter for how this international
institution would work. and i think we have to look back and say 75 years later, he was right. you know, the united nations is a flawed organization, but it has prevented us from going into another world war despite enormous tensions and the frictions that were created in the post-war world. i do think the importance of international diplomacy, the importance of countries learning ask having a venue to come together to resolve their differences is really the positive legacy and perhaps the only positive legacy of the tragedy of having to drop atomic bombs. >> thank you. >> and i'll just -- i'll piggyback, we were talking a minute ago about colonel tibbet tibbetts. when my grandfather met him after the war, he asked him has anybody been giving you a hard time about using that weapon about dropping the atomic bomb. he told him he had not had that experience. grandpa said if you do, you tell them that was my decision, not yours.
so he kept the decision to himself. five years later he was on wake island getting ready to meet with general mcarthur, and he had with him a white house photographer named joe o'donnell who had been a marine photographer and taken some of the first photos of the destruction at hiroshima and nagasaki, and o'donnell had my -- he had been very shaken by that and o'donnell had my grandfather alone for a couple of minutes, and he asked him point-blank, he said didn't you ever have any regrets about using that weapon? and my grandfather said, hell, yes. you don't use something like that without regretting having to use it. he said he would do the same thing again under the same circumstances, but he regretted having to do it. i'll just end with something that a nagasaki survivor said. she didn't say it to me, but she said it publicly. she said, i think the basic idea of peace is to have some idea of
other people's suffering. so that going forward we can debate the use of the bomb and whether or not it was just or right. i think that we all have to look with eyes wide open at what those bombs did and who it happened to and prevent it. >> thank you. i think that's an appropriate ending to what has been a wonderful and i think very enlightening conversation. paul sparrow, clifton truman daniel, thank you very much. >> thanks, ed. >> thank you, ed, and thank you clifton. i appreciate the chance and opportunity to talk with you. >> likewise, paul. thank you. that was great. you're watching american history tv. every weekend on c-span3, explore our nation's past. c-span3, created by america's cable television companies as a public service and brought to you today by your television provider. weeknights this month we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on
c-span3. tonight a look at the "uss indianapolis." on july 30th, 1945, two japanese torpedos sunk the "uss indianapolis" in shark-infested waters. only 317 out of 1196 crew members survived. they were not rescued for several days. on the 75th anniversary of the ship's sinking, congress awarded the entire crew the congressional gold medal, its highest civilian honor. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 eastern and enjoy american history tv this week and every weekend on c-span3., and enjoy history tv this week and every weekend on c-span3. 75 years ago this month, the u.s. exploded an atomic bomb over hiroshima, japan. up next, a 1945 newsreel about events leading to the decision to release the bomb. ♪ ♪
IN COLLECTIONSCSPAN3 Television Archive Television Archive News Search Service
Uploaded by TV Archive on