Skip to main content

tv   The Presidency President Truman the Atomic Bomb  CSPAN  August 17, 2020 10:08am-11:06am EDT

10:08 am
hillary clinton, library of congress car la hayden followed by a forum on the 19th amendment hosted by all in together which includes remarks by house speaker nancy pelosi and former secretary of state condoleezza rice. the u.s. dropped atomic bombs on the japanese cities of hiroshima and nagasaki 75 years ago this august. japan surrendered shortly afterwards ending world war ii. up next on the presidency, education director mark adams shows items in the harry s. truman presidential library and museum collection that tell the story of president truman's decision to use the bombs, including white house documents and a sketch of a test explosion. we'll also see mr. truman's recorded announcement of the hiroshima bomb and hear him explain years later why he used
10:09 am
the new weapon. the truman library institute provided this video. what i would like to do tonight is to show you a number of artifacts, objects, photographs, documents, three dimensional related to the 75th anniversary of the atomic bomb. each of those i'm going to present to you digitally and have some questions in the chat box at the end. i hope you enjoy the presentation. i'm going to go right in and look at our first artifact which is actually not from july of 1945 but from april, shortly after truman became president. then we're going to look at some documents from july. you can see my time line here of the first five documents we're going to show you. and then we'll have another five to finish off as we get into august of 1945 and even some from later into the '60s that connect to this topic. so, the first that president --
10:10 am
first information that truman has about the manhattan project comes in april just 12 days after he becomes president on april 12th. this very famous letter some of you are probably very familiar with is when henry stintson, the secretary of war writes to truman to tell him about this highly secret matter as it mentioned in that first paragraph. now he mentioned this to truman after his inauguration on april 12th after fdr's death just in passing tells him that they need to talk about it in the future. and just under two weeks later, stimson sends this letter to truman telling them they need to get together quickly so he can tell him about this project. you can see some interesting handwritten notes on here. at the bottom, what i like to point out in harry truman's own handwriting he writes matt, put on list tomorrow, wednesday, 25th, hst.
10:11 am
matt is matthew colony, his appointment secretary. he's obviously telling mr. colony to get henry stimson on his calendar for the next day. now interesting truman did come across the manhattan project when he was a senator in charge of the truman committee looking at overspending during world war ii. he didn't really get into much detail as he started to see the budget numbers about the project. but stimson actually is the person that warned him off and said you can't investigate that anymore. let it go. now, of course, he's president. and stimson tells him more about the project. it's interesting, too, that in those 82 days as vice president truman did not know about the manhattan project. it takes him becoming president before he is told about the project. of course, at this point they have not done a successful test. but the work has been going on in two or three different
10:12 am
locations actually. as they start to develop the atomic bomb that we'll hear more about during the rest of this evening's presentation. so this is the first document i wanted to share with you out of the ten artifacts i'm going to share tonight because it really provides the context of when truman first finds out about the manhattan project and those interesting anecdotes that he didn't know while he was vice president he would come closer to it as a senator and it's about two weeks after he's president where stimson sits down and gives him all the detail. now, stimson, who had actually obviously worked in the fdr administration is really the person that's in charge of the whole operation. he's the one that's supervising the work of groves who we'll come across later on with another document. so stimson is the one that's the conduit between the white house and what's going on in new mexico. so he's an important key figure in all of this.
10:13 am
the second document we're going to look at is from lieutenant groves. and this is -- and you can see the date at the top of the page, this is from july 16th, 1945. and this is after the first test in new mexico of the atomic bomb. and this is a sketch that was included in a 14-page report that groves sends to stimson and then of course that is relaid to truman. now, we're going to learn more about this in a second, but of course, president truman at this time is at the potsdam conference in germany meeting with stalin and initially winston churchill before churchill is replaced after the british election. now this 14-page report is very detailed. it's not an official report. and it's actually quite casual in its writing as the excitement
10:14 am
and the wonderment of the scientists and the military people involved in this first successful test really comes through in the report. but this sketch is on the last page of that 14-page report. on the second page, lieutenant groves actually refers to the mushrooming cloud. that's the first time that the word mushroom cloud is really used in that concept. and they describe the explosion as being beautiful and all the different colors in the sky that they see. now, looking at this particular document, some of the handwritten cursive might be tricky for some of us to read, but if you go close in on this, underneath where it says cloud drawings, and it's a little faint, but it does say first atomic bomb explosion new mexico. sketches from a b29 flying at 30,000 feet about 50 miles away. in fact, the b29s sent up there
10:15 am
for observation couldn't get as close as they would have liked because of the weather. you can also see the time dated there. you can see 5:30, 5:38 and so on and then 5:42 at the bottom the second part of the sketch. and so you can see they've done this first thing in the morning. it was really dependent upon the weather when they were going to do this test. and then the report itself goes into more detail about the level of destruction and the impact it had. truman uses those exact words from those reports in some other documents that we're going to see a bit later on, namely his diary entries. it also talks about the colors, dark brown, light gray and so on. then it says see through here in the hole the middle of the cloud. then it also gives the elevation. so, of course, later on we're able to see photographs and other footage of this atomic
10:16 am
cloud. this is what truman receives while he's in germany and it's relaid to him via stimson to the officials in germany at the potsdam conference. so, he's -- truman himself, is very excited about the successful test. and they could really start now to plan if and when to use this against the japanese. just in a few short weeks when we get into two weeks later, of course, it's the end of july and we're getting close to when that happens on august 6th. i'll let you study that a little bit more. it's a fascinating document and i would encourage you to read all 14 pages of the report. that sounds cumbersome. it's tight. it's easy to read. and it's available on the truman library website. it's quite fascinating read. and the payoff as you get this sketch on the last page. the next document is what i had mentioned previously truman's diaries. now here is a number of
10:17 am
different diary entries. i could have chosen really one of three that he writes in this time period. this one is july 17th, 1945. so just a day after he gets that report. and of course this is handwritten. and it can be hard to read. those of us that work at the truman library have become familiar over time of truman's handwriting. this, of course, is when he's first meeting joseph stalin in this particular diary entry. we do have other diary entries from july 18th, the next day, when he meets churchill. and from july 25th, when he goes into a lot more detail about the atomic bomb testing. but he does mention it in this one page of his diary. and he's talking to stalin about the different negotiations that are going to come up and they're setting the agenda. so this is very much at the beginning of the potsdam conference.
10:18 am
and they're talking about china and they're talking about the soviets coming into the japanese war on august 15th, which is one of truman's goals of potsdam to get the soviets to join in there. but he has a cryptic phrase in here. and he asked them about the agenda and he told truman says i told him this is about halfway down. i told him to fire away. he did. and it is dynamite. but then truman says but i have some dynamite, too. which i'm not exploding now. he kind of have this cryptic reference to dynamite and not exploding now. it's not too surprising that he mentions this the day after finding out about the successful test. i'm just using one of the diary entries today, but in the following day on the 18th he says that he believes the japanese will surrender when the russians come in because stalin
10:19 am
does agree to enter the war. and then he has this phrase in the 18th of july entry where he says i'm sure they will when manhattan appears over their homeland. now, truman doesn't really refer to manhattan very often in his writings, but on this diary entry on july 18th he talks about manhattan appearing over the japanese homeland. then he also goes on to say i will inform stalin about it at an opportune time and, in fact, join the potsdam conference he does tell stalin briefly, but not really in detail, about the fact they have a new weapon they can use against the japanese. truman didn't think that stalin knew anything about that but of course as we know now in 2020, that stalin did, in fact, have spies in new mexico that were passing the information about the manhattan project back to
10:20 am
him. then a week later on july 25th, on his diary entry there, he goes into a lot more detail and he talks about how the weapons are to be used against the japanese between now and august 10th. so, those diary entries are really very revealing as truman expounds upon the information that he's been given by lieutenant groves. now, we've got two contrasting documents here or two documents that one is a little misleading. we're going to do that one second. i'm trying to keep them in chronological order if i can. this is from the national archives which the truman library is part of rather than the collections of the truman library. but this is the closest you would get to the ordering of the use of the atomic bomb. and this is a memo from thomas handy who is the acting chief of staff while marshall is at
10:21 am
potsdam with truman. and he's writing to general carl spaatz the commander general of the united states army strategic air force. you can see the date on this one is the 25th of july. so things are moving quickly, as you can see. and, you know, you can see this. it's not super sharp but basically it's got four points on this single page memo. it talks about the 509 composite group, the 20th air force will deliver its first special bomb as soon as weather will permit. and so they refer to it as the special bomb without saying using the word atomic. then it talks about the various targets. and the first one there is hiroshima and the fourth one there listed is nagasaki. the second point says that the additional bombs will be delivered on the above target as
10:22 am
soon as they are made ready by project staff. now, we found out later that in early part of august only two bombs were ready. and they used both of them. the third bomb wasn't probably going to be ready until around the 16th or 17th of august. the third point there is that the dissemination of any information about this is reserved for the secretary of war and the president. so, the military are not going to make any comment about this. and any news stories, any people asking for information they need to refer back to the second war and the president for them to respond to. and then the last point is this is done with the approval of the secretary of war, which i mentioned before, is stimson and the chief of staff. and then it also mentions that a copy has been sent to general mcarthur and a copy has been sent to the admiral. so this is the closest you're
10:23 am
going to get to the actual orders for the dropping of the bomb on hiroshima. and that's dated the 25th of july. and it does say after about august 3rd on there. so it does give a date for that. and at that point they're waiting for a response from the potsdam document to the japanese. another document that is sometimes used incorrectly talk about the authorization of the bomb is this memo and its response. this is from the secretary of war to truman. and it's a few days later. it's the 30th of july. and this one is harder to read. and you know, some of these historic documents can be difficult to read. but if you close in on this one, this is from stimson to the president. and he's talking about the recent ultimatum. that's the ultimatum made at potsdam and that dramatic results of the test that we've
10:24 am
heard about already. and there are suggestions made by the british and of which secretary of state burns is well aware. and so he's giving recommendations of what to do. i'm going to talk about the context of this in a minute. this is a two-pager because you can see truman writes on the back of this memo he says secretary of war reply on the number of the memo 41011 suggestions approved, release when ready but not sooner than august 2nd. then again truman liked to use his initials hst. some people over time thought when he says release when ready he's talking about the atomic bomb. in fact, this is about the statement that's going to be released. like a pressure release rather than a release of a bombing.
10:25 am
so that's why there's confusion. i did want to point out again i meant to do this before, the number of the memo is 41011 and that's what truman used on the back. so this is an interesting document in that they're preparing the statements. saying we better get this statement approved because once the bomb is dropped we're going to need a statement immediately. so that's why this is a bit of a rush here because they've been going back and forth in terms of what to say to the world once this bomb is actually dropped. and so, they're trying to get the suggestions approved by both the british suggestions and suggestions from stimson himself and truman and burns and all of the others in the close circles of president truman at that time. so that's a fascinating one. but it shouldn't be used to mislead. it's more about statement rather than the bomb itself. okay. so now we're going to get closer and closer to that august 6th.
10:26 am
the last one we're going to look at from july is the letter home to bess. he actually writes a number of letters to bess. of course it takes about two weeks to get to potsdam by the uss augusta and goes across the atlantic rather than flying. many people argue he's done that to get ready to prepare to read the materials. but he also used some of that time to rest as well. and play poker and other things in the evening. and so he writes to bess from the uss augusta and then when he gets finally to germany, to potsdam, he continues to write to her. during that time he says very little in his letters about the atomic bomb. obviously there's some concern about secrecy and letters being intercepted, things of that nature. but in the july 31st letter he does make a rather cryptic
10:27 am
reference to that. then we're going to look at some video footage of the newsreel of his announcement. then we're going to look at the artifact of the safety plug. then the sadako crane and finish with a video on the screen gems footage which i'll explain when we get to that footage. so here is the letter to bess. this is just two pajs of this. as i mentioned it was written july 31st. of course truman's writing is not the easiest to read. the cursive. this is all digitized and on our website. and we have -- it goes up every time i say these numbers. we have more than 1,300 letters written by harry truman to bess wallace truman over their life time from 1910 to 1957 in most cases including the envelopes which is amazing to have that in our collection. and all of those letters that harry has written to bess are all digitized and available on
10:28 am
our website in chronological order. you can go straight into july and look at those other letters. this is the only one that really references the atomic bomb. and it's rather cryptic when he does so. but if you look at the bottom of the first page on the left and then the beginnings of the second page on the right, he finishes up this bottom of this first page where he says i rather think mr. stalin is stalling because he's not so happy about the english elections. just to remind you, wince ston churchill lost the elections in great britain during the potsdam conference and he's replaced by the new labour,3ina
10:29 am
worked. i think stalin is stalling because he's not so happy. he doesn't know it but i have an ace in the hole and another one showing. now you know truman loves his card games. so that's the one time that he refers rather cryptically to the atomic bomb in his letters to his wife bess wallace truman. i find that rather fascinating. sometimes in historical documents you learn from things that are not written. so the other seven or eight
10:30 am
letters that he writes he really makes no reference to the atomic bomb and the same with letters to his mother and sister at the same time. either no references are rather cryptic. moving on. we have a video clip. this is truman announcing the surrender -- not the surrender, announcing the dropping of the atomic bomb from the uss augusta. you can see the window in the background from the ship. >> a short time ago an american airplane dropped one bomb on hiroshima and destroyed its
10:31 am
usefulness. that bomb has more power than 20,000 tons of tnt. the japanese began the work in the air at pearl harbor. they have been repaid many fold. and the end is not yet. with this bomb we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction. to supplement the growing power of our armed forces. in their present form, these bombs are now in production. and even more powerful forms are in development. it is an atomic bomb. in is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. the force from which the sun draws its power has been used against those who brought war to the far east.
10:32 am
we are now prepared to destroy more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the japanese have in any city. we shall destroy their docks, their factories and their communications. let there be no mistake, we shall completely destroy japan's power to make war. it was to spare the japanese people from utter destruction 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
10:33 am
already well aware. >> there we go. i'm going to talk about this next artifact in a moment and make a couple comments a tbt newsreel. firstly, i think the quality is remarkable. the definition of the video i think is really spectacular. feel very fortunate that it remains in that quality 75 years later. to the second part is very, very compelling. you get the close up video. and truman looks at you with those eyes and you know he means business. and you wonder about that when he's at the negotiating table with stalin and churchill when churchill is replaced when he looked across the table it seems like he would have that same -- that same serious stare when he made those tough decisions as president. it's really fascinating video. and the fact that you can see the window on the uss augusta
10:34 am
behind him, giving you that sense of time and place as he's getting ready to come home just as the atomic bomb has been dropped on hiroshima. and the fact that you couldn't -- the one that really comes across to me is that he really means business. this next piece is an artifact, three dimensional artifact from our museum collection. i'm going to do a close-up of the tag that's attached to this. let me talk about the object first. and then the tag that's with it off to the side. i have an up right view in a minute. first of all, this green, black and silver plug is actually the safety plug taken out of the bomb fuse from the plutonium bomb that was dropped on nagasaki and the description on the tag tells us that, too. the green plug was removed and replaced with a red activating
10:35 am
plug on the boxcar, the name of the b29 that carried the bomb on its mission. and the plane's commander, let me show you this. this was the safety plug. it was removed to put in the right activating plug which of course went with the bomb. and then if you look on the next page here, you can see there's more up right and little easier to read, 10th of august, 1945, i certify this is one of the two green safety plugs used at nagasaki japan 9th of august, 1945. this was the second atomic bomb dropped on the empire. the second writing of the two gentlemen. i did research on this. the commander whose name comes first is frederick ashworth, one of the weapon nears. and then his assistant is lieutenant phillip bonds. those are the two people that
10:36 am
sign off on that to provide its authenticity. so fascinating object. i'm going to go back so you can see that plug again. and i should say that this artifact and the tag will be on display in the renovated mu see yum when we reopen the truman library museum later this year after our $30 million renovation. this safety plug will be in a special gallery dealing with the atomic bomb. and another artifact i'm going to show you later on will be in the same gallery. so a fascinating artifact. we're very fortunate to have it. then the tag that goes with it just adds to the story. so that is really special. and the fact that frederick ashworth and phillip barnes signed that giving that authenticity is very much appreciated. so, really fascinating object.
10:37 am
and next is its counterpart and this is from a little bit later and we've had this on display before at the truman library. gallery space as the safety plug. we're going to juxtapose one another. this is the paper crane made by sadako sue saky. she was a japanese girl who was a victim of the atomic bombs in hiroshima when she was 2 years old. now she did survive. and the story is that during her early part of her life in august 1955 she decided that she was going to start to make these paper cranes as a symbol of peace. and that was her wish. and different stories go back and forth on whether she
10:38 am
accomplished that. the more recent research is she actually made more than 1,000 cranes before her death. but there's children's stories about this crane. this crane is rather small. we've got it blown up on the power point for you to see today, but it's very small. this is going to be displayed in the museum when we reopen along with approximately 5 to 600 paper cranes made by students in the kansas city area that have made paper cranes to go in the exhibit alongside this original paper crane. so, we can help tell that story of sudako. the reason it's also appropriate is that this is part of the peace and reconciliation efforts made by truman's grandson clifton truman daniel in the last decade or more where he is been to japan and reached out. i think it's threw largely through his efforts that we were
10:39 am
able to get one of the last surviving cranes from sudako donated to the library's museum collection. all of those things have come full circle with the connection between clifton truman daniel and the japanese and of course the peace efforts after 1945 and the fact that sudako family would allow that to be donated to the library is very special. and i think that when you see the renovated museum when we reopen later this year, with both the safety plug and the sudako crane sharing the same space, it's really going to be a very meaningful approach and interpretation to that episode in history. moving on we have one more video to show you. and before i press play, might want to do it itself. i'm trying to not let it do that. these are from -- this is when truman looks back in the 1960s when he's asked about the atomic
10:40 am
bomb he never really wavered much from his belief that it was the right thing to do. in 1964 and 1945, there was a television series looking at truman's decisions. and the truman library is very fortunate to have many of these outtakes on the youtube channel. this is one of those. it's quite short where it talks about the decision to drop the atomic bomb. >> so when we issued the ultimatum to japan to surrender, the only answer we got was to go to the devil. yet all this time some of their people seem to be acting behind their backs to the cameras trying to sue for peace in one underhand way or another.
10:41 am
well -- >> oh. >> applied that way we knew there was only one of two things to do. we could advance and fight inches away losing a million of our own men or drop the atomic bomb. we dropped the bomb. and still there was no reaction. we learn later that the japanese cabinet met and finally there were enough who agreed to surrender to split the cabinet in half. one half in favor of surrender, the other determined to fight on. in this spirit, the emperor was finally called on to give his opinion. unprecedented move. he didn't want his people to die more than he wanted to surrender. yet the military was so strong that they still wouldn't notify us of their capitulation. so we had to drop the second bomb on nagasaki. that did it. the cabinet met again.
10:42 am
and really decided but that wasn't the end. they notified us that they would accept an unconditional surrender but implied that the condition that this emperor might be retained in some way. the emperor made a recording of the pronouncement to the japanese people for the radio. the first time the japanese populous ever heard his voice. yet, don't you think that one military group didn't speak into the office -- break in and try to record not -- try to head off that record so it couldn't be broadcast. they did broadcast it. and they surrendered. i'll tell you without those two a-bombs dropped on them to show we met business they might never have surrendered even though they knew. but they would have killed 3 million more people on both
10:43 am
sides. that's why there is no question that in view of the whole japanese military had on their people the dropping of the bomb was the only sensible thing to do. it was the only thing to do. >> okay. i think those are my ten artifacts. and i think we're ready for questions. >> excellent. thank you, mark, for a wonderful presentation. if you have a question and haven't added it, the q & a feature at the bottom of your screen, please go ahead and do so now. you can also like a question that has already been submitted that you would like to see answered. so our first question is, were the targets listed in that
10:44 am
document in priority order? if so, what moved up nagasaki to be the second location? >> i don't believe they were in priority order, no. they were there and a lot of the decision was going to be based on the weather. i know for nagasaki the weather was much more cooperative than some other locations. as far as i understand it, i don't believe that those were priority. that's a great question. i think it was more weather dependent. >> okay. our next question comes from zachary. it says how did the museum get the plug? is there a story? >> i believe it was donated by commander ashworth and lieutenant barnes, but i can double check that. that's what i understand. >> all right. >> i think just to clarify, it
10:45 am
may have been passed from ashworth on to others. i don't think he directly met president truman, but it was passed through the chain to be given to president truman eventually. >> all right. our next question comes from ed. were the materials koriered potsdam, trying to better understand the manner of document exchange in very different times? >> they were often curried. although they did have a telegraph system. >> all right. our next question comes from thomas who asked how was the report sent to truman the u.s. to potsdam? sorry. i didn't read that in advance. basically the same question. >> that's okay. >> all right. next one from deborah. where are the videos available in. >> the videos is available -- i love that question. the truman library has its own
10:46 am
youtube channel. probably the easiest way to get to it rather than give you a long url is go to, scroll to the bottom of the page and you'll see the little icon for youtube, little play button. you click on that button and you go all the way into -- it will take you directly to the truman library youtube page. what i like how the way that page is organized is there are play lists so you can look at play lists and find the area of history you're particularly interested in. if you're interested in the 1940 election campaign or truman's earlier life or post presidency, they're organized in that way so you can see different areas of truman's life and times and presidency through those play lists because you actually added quite a lot during the last few months. >> excellent. all right. our next question comes from
10:47 am
michael. and it says what is your response to the claim that we dropped the bomb to show the russians that we meant business and not the japanese? >> you know, i'm going to sound a little like a politician here. so i'm a federal employee. and we preserve and document all of the materials related to president truman and his life and times. and really our goal is to let you decide as the researcher to come and look at the materials either on our website or in person when we reopen after covid-19 ends and decide for yourself based on the evidence. of course we might have individual opinions about things, but as a federal employee and as a federal institution, we encourage you to research and decide for yourself. we don't dictate what the opinion should be. honestly, we hope that our new museum exhibits that are open
10:48 am
later this year are the same tenant that you decide for yourself on the accomplishments of president truman, good or bad. >> excellent. all right. the next question comes from kim. it says will there be new documents, in the old one the rumor about the bomb did not have this. few people know about the training of the japanese civilians to attack our soldiers. truman's aide george ellsley remarked about that to the author dennis jan grek koe. >> i believe that particular episode is not necessarily covered in the exhibits itself, although it sounds like a great public program. what we do have a number of audio pieces that will look at the japanese perspective alongside the american perspective on the reactions to the dropping of the bomb in a very balanced way. so both american and japanese perspectives on the use of the
10:49 am
bomb are used in an audio program that we plan to have in that same gallery where we have the sudako crane and the safety plug. we obviously realize what an incredibly controversial decision it was by president truman. we are very well aware of the smithsonian and the controversy in the 1990s. and our goal is to present the information and allow the visitor to decide. we have a comment book that we've had in the past when we dealt with the atomic bomb and we're going to have again so that people can reflect their own opinion there. but we are going to try to provide all the information that we can from both sides of multiple opinions, more than two sides in that gallery space. >> excellent. our next question comes from bart. it says is there any evidence that president truman deliberated to use the weapons or not?
10:50 am
any history of any moral debate? >> there's some but not a whole lot. i think truman had the main goal of ending the war as quickly as possible. now, there's a couple of things that are of things that are factoring in at the same time as the testing is taking place in new mexico, and what they deemed as a successful test. in that same month, in july, as you may well know, the united states had broken the currents of japanese intelligence, and they were received, i think i'm right on this, around about a million messages a month from the japanese. one of the crucial threads they were following was where the japanese build-up of troops were for a planned land invasion by the united states. and there is land invasion
10:51 am
intercepts the japanese were actually building up their troops in far greater numbers, in exactly the locations the american forces were landing -- were going to land with an invasion in the fall and then the following spring. so there were certainly some hesitation about a land invasion once they started to read those intercepts. the other part of that, of course, was really they decided after looking at those intercepts that the japanese, although some of those were saying they wanted to negotiate a surrender through the russians, they really were not ready for an unconditional surrender. so i thing think the intelligence code breaking re-enforced the opinion to use the weapon as quickly as possible and to end the war as quickly as possible. when truman was questioned about it later, you saw that video from the 1960s.
10:52 am
he often reminded people about pearl harbor and the fact that that attack had happened while they were not at war, and arguments of that nature. >> interesting. all right. our next question comes from corey. and it says, how great of a role did secretary of state stimson have in this decision, if any? >> secretary of war stimson, just to be careful about the right title. he was crucial. not only did he really head up the manhattan project, overseeing, he was supervisor in a sense, to use our modern day terminology for that, so he was obviously very much the first person to find out what was happening with the manhattan project, but he was also very close confidante to truman. you saw my first document in the presentation, he's the one who tells truman about it. when the committee meets in the summer, stimson is really the
10:53 am
one who is not making the decisions but certainly at the forefront of those decisions and was a really key player. i wouldn't say one person over another made those decisions, but in the top five, stimson certainly is one of those who truman goes to for advice and leans on for suggestions of what to do. and stimson's involved in discussions later about sharing the information with the soviets and the setup of the atomic energy commission and all of these other things that stimson was already seeing what the world would look like after the war was over, what would we do with this power, and how would it be shared with the world, so stimson was rather far reaching in that regard. >> all right, we have time for a few more questions. our next one comes from joran and it says how did truman's family react to the dropping of the atomic bomb?
10:54 am
>> i think, you know, this is a harder question because as far as i'm aware, there's not a great deal of evidence that we have, you know, and we like as historians and archivists and educators to rely on evidence for a response. but everything i have read about first bess wallace truman and margaret truman is they were entirely supportive of truman. there's not too many decisions i have found that they may have disagreed with truman on, or if they did, they didn't express it publicly. unfortunately, i mentioned all of those letters that truman wrote that we have in the museum and library collection. but we really don't have bess wallace truman's letters after the time that he sent -- when he's vice president and president, we don't have any of bess' letters. they were burned. she burned them. and so we don't have that evidence to say exactly what she
10:55 am
thought about it. but i can only imagine she was supportive of him and that the war was over very quickly after that. so i can't imagine that there would be any criticism of what he did as president in this particular case. >> all right, and our last question comes from pat, who asks, were there ever any thoughts of using the bomb on tokyo? >> there were some discussions of that. one of the reasons that hiroshima and nagasaki, along with the weather, they wanted to use the bomb on cities that had not received any kind of destruction so it was easy is the wrong word, but that's the only word i can think of right now. it was easier to see the level of destruction. tokyo, as you know, had received a lot of fire bombings and a lot of napalm and other attacks, so it would have been a little more difficult to show the level of
10:56 am
destruction that the atomic bomb was capable of doing. so that was one of the reasons why tokyo was not chosen. because of it already received damage in the past. these great questions, by the way. keep them going. >> let's do a few more then. all right. so our next question comes from delene. that says, i have always heard truman felt remorse after the dropping of the bomb. did he revisit that decision later in life? >> that was one of the reasons i showed that video clip at the end from 1964-'65 where he didn't seem to show much remorse there when he lives for another seven years now. clifton truman daniel told a story back in april about how he kind of questioned that right towards the end of his life in 1972. and there is some conversations he has actually at research
10:57 am
hospital in kansas city, where he passes away on december 26th, 1972, where he kind of has some discussions then about that. i'm obviously not party to those conversations, but from what i can tell, there was maybe some i don't want to say second guessing, but just clarification, did i do the right thing? you know, is it the right thing to do, right towards the end, as far as i can tell. but clifton truman daniel has relaid a story about that in the past, about maybe some comments in the last year or two of his life where he wonders about that at the very end, which seems quite natural to me. and most of the time he makes those decisions as president, and of course, he was responsible for so many in that seven and a half years as president. he didn't really look back, but it's not too surprising he may have questioned this one. when he was questioned publicly, whether it was on the television series i mentioned to you or in
10:58 am
writing, as i mentioned before, he often referred back to pearl harbor and the attack by the japanese as a large part of his justification, and the second part was he was saving lives. the other part about saving lives that the historian brings up and even though it wasn't truman's intent, he saved a number of asian lives because of japanese occupation of asian countries. richard frank estimates 400,000 japanese were saved, a mupthont believe it is, by the fact the japanese surrenders and were no longer causing those atrocities in asia. that's another set of lives saved by the expedient surrender that otherwise wouldn't have happened. >> excellent. our next question is from james. who says did truman ever visit japan? >> no, he did not. now, i mentioned before his grandson clifton truman daniel, has visited numerous times. but truman did not visit japan,
10:59 am
no. >> all right. >> i like those short answers. short answers are good. >> this i think is definitely the most questions we have ever answered during a program. >> this is a big topic and a big anniversary. >> yeah. all right. william asks, what was the timeline of decision making by president truman between the first and the second use of the atomic bomb? >> so there really wasn't a second decision. the way it's been explained to me is that he authorized the military's use of the bomb. so they had this new weapon, and they were able to use it. once the reports came in of the amount of devastation and things like that, then after the second bomb, then truman said no for the future use of this, it goes back to the executive. goes back to the president as commander in chief. so when he gave the first authorization for hiroshima,
11:00 am
there was no second order needed. it was use as necessary. you have this new weapon. now, there were only two. that even existed at that time. the third wasn't going to be ready until august 16th or august 17th. so there wasn't a third decision to be made. by then, if they were ready to use one, and japan had not already surrendered, it would have been truman's decision again. the first two, it was only one decision. that's often misunderstood, but there was only one decision for the first two bombs. >> all right. edwards asks, what would be your recommendation for the best book dealing with the decision to drop the bombs? >> richard frank "downfall of the -- i think japanese imperial empire." something like that, but downfall is in the subheading.
11:01 am
even though it's a little old now, it does include the information about the ultra and magic intercepts which some of the earlier studies did not include because a lot of those came out later on. and he also did a lot of his research with japanese and soviet archives as well. >> all right. next question comes from debra. it says, was anyone in congress -- was there anyone in congress that knew about the manhattan project? >> you got me. probably. probably. very few, though. it was a very tight circle. but i would hate to say no because there was a very tight circ circle. it's hard to say. i think you would have to go back and look at the committee notes and see who served on that committee. i don't think it got much further than that. those minutes and notes are on our website. i would have to go back and
11:02 am
look. i would imagine there was a few lead senators that were involved in those discussions, but very, very few. i'm not going to a blanket no. i think there were a few. sorry not so precise on that one. >> our last question comes from robin, who says, did truman and oppenheimer ever meet? >> gosh. actually, you know, you got me. this is like stumped. i don't know that, actually. we will get back to you on that one. one of our archives may have to look that up. we have appointment calendars online. if i was quicker with my fingers, i would do a search for oppenheimer on our appointment calendar and see if his name pops up. that would just be his presidential appointments. so i actually don't know off the
11:03 am
top of my head whether he did meet oppenheimer or not. i would guess that he did, but i'm just guessing. but our appointment calendar could probably come up -- although it may have been secret meetings and not recorded, too. it's not an all exclusive answer for that, but i would say off the top of my head, i'm sorry, i can't answer that question accurately. >> all right. >> i'm going to look it up as soon as we get done, though. >> we'll take a third and final question, then. so from dave, who says do you have any more information on the soviet spies that infiltrated the a-bomb development program in new mexico? >> we do, actually. and that's a whole other topic for discussion, but it's pretty obvious that we have on record now that the spies were in new mexico. truman did not know about them at the time. a lot of it came out later on about those spies. so that's a whole other presentation, but later on, it was found that were spies in new
11:04 am
mexico. i believe it's in 1949 that the soviets by that time, they have their atomic bomb. it's another four years later, but it's shortly after, so yeah, there is a lot of information at the truman library about that and the sources as well about those soviet spies. and there's been books written about it as well. >> you're watching american history tv. every weekend on std st, 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. >> week nights 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 100th anniversary of women's suffrage. on august 18th, 1920, tennessee
11:05 am
became the 36th and last state to ratify the 19th amendment. on the eve of the anniversary, we feature a conversation by the women's suffrage centennial commission with hillary clinton and carla hayden, followed by a forum on the 19th amendment hosted by all in together, which includes remarks by house speaker nancy pelosi and former secretary of state condoleezza rice. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 eastern, and enjoy american history tv this week and every weekend on c-span3. on august 6th at zero 815 japanese time, a b-29 dropped atomic bomb number two on hiroshima, japan's seventh largest city. a communications, military, and industrial center of considerable importance. a stunned universe now swiftly learned that man had a new weapon off


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on