August 6, 1945

This is the text of President Harry Truman’s “rain of ruin” speech where he announced the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Sixty years on, it remains the single most controversial military action of the Second World War. For a superb analysis — that I agree wholeheartedly with — I urge you read “60 Years Later: Considering Hiroshima” on National Review Online, by military historian Victor Davis Hanson.

Address to the Nation, August 6, 1945

Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT. It had more than 2,000 times the blast power of the British “Grand Slam,” which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.

The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid manyfold. 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. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.

Before 1939, it was the accepted belief of scientists that it was theoretically possible to release atomic energy. But no one knew any practical method of doing it. By 1942, however, we knew that the Germans were working feverishly to find a way to add atomic energy to the other engines of war with which they hoped to enslave the world. But they failed. We may be grateful to Providence that the Germans got the V-1’s and V-2’s late and in limited quantities and even more grateful that they did not get the atomic bomb at all.

The battle of the laboratories held fateful risks for us as well as the battles of the air, land, and sea, and we have now won the battle of the laboratories as we have won the other battles

Beginning in 1940, before Pearl Harbor, scientific knowledge useful in war was pooled between the United States and Great Britain, and many priceless helps to our victories have come from that arrangement. Under that general policy the research on the atomic bomb was begun. With American and British scientists working together we entered the race of discovery against the Germans

The United States had available the large number of scientists of distinction in the many needed areas of knowledge. It had the tremendous industrial and financial resources necessary for the project, and they could be devoted to it without undue impairment of other vital war work. In the United States the laboratory work and the production plants, on which a substantial start had already been made, would be out of reach of enemy bombing, while at that time Britain was exposed to constant air attack and was still threatened with the possibility of invasion. For these reasons Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt agreed that it was wise to carry on the project here

We now have two great plants and many lesser works devoted to the production of atomic power. Employment during peak construction numbered 125,000 and over 65,000 individuals are even now engaged in operating the plants. Many have worked there for two and a half years. Few know what they have been producing. They see great quantities of material going in and they see nothing coming out of these plants, for the physical size of the explosive charge is exceedingly small. We have spent $2 billion on the greatest scientific gamble in history–and won

But the greatest marvel is not the size of the enterprise, its secrecy, nor its cost, but the achievement of scientific brains in putting together infinitely complex pieces of knowledge held by many men in different fields of science into a workable plan. And hardly less marvelous has been the capacity of industry to design, and of labor to operate, the machines and methods to do things never done before so that the brainchild of many minds came forth in physical shape and performed as it was supposed to do. Both science and industry worked under the direction of the United States Army, which achieved a unique success in managing so diverse a problem in the advancement of knowledge in an amazingly short time. It is doubtful if such another combination could be got together in the world. What has been done is the greatest achievement of organized science in history. It was done under high pressure and without failure

We are now prepared to obliterate more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground 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 26 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.

The secretary of war, who has kept in personal touch with all phases of the project, will immediately make public a statement giving further details

His statement will give facts concerning the sites at Oak Ridge near Knoxville, Tennessee, and at Richland near Pasco, Washington, and an installation near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Although the workers at the sites have been making materials to be used in producing the greatest destructive force in history, they have not themselves been in danger beyond that of many other occupations, for the utmost care has been taken of their safety

The fact that we can release atomic energy ushers in a new era in man’s understanding of nature’s forces. Atomic energy may in the future supplement the power that now comes from coal, oil, and falling water, but at present it cannot be produced on a basis to compete with them commercially. Before that comes there must be a long period of intensive research

It has never been the habit of the scientists of this country or the policy of this government to withhold from the world scientific knowledge. Normally, therefore, everything about the work with atomic energy would be made public

But under present circumstances it is not intended to divulge the technical processes of production or all the military applications, pending further examination of possible methods of protecting us and the rest of the world from the danger of sudden destruction.

I shall recommend that the Congress of the United States consider promptly the establishment of an appropriate commission to control the production and use of atomic power within the United States. I shall give further consideration and make further recommendations to the Congress as to how atomic power can become a powerful and forceful influence towards the maintenance of world peace.

58 thoughts on “August 6, 1945”

  1. When offered the option of bombing the Sierra Maestra to annihilate Castro’s guerrilla forces, Batista refused. He was appalled at the notion of killing innocent non-combatants, men, women and children; and convinced that if he ever recoursed to such a measure the Cuban people would rise en masse against him. So he didn’t bomb the Sierra Maestra. Truman had no second thoughts about killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, and he knew the American people well enough to be certain that they would approve of his actions.

  2. M.A.T., you are an idealist and I commend you for that. However, idealism does not win wars; overwhelming firepower does. I have never questioned the decision drop the bomb. Knowing my history, I know there were bombing raids over Tokyo that caused much greater loss of life. The bomb was dropped to demonstrate to the Japanese that the United States would not rest until they unconditionally surrendered.

    Considering the alternatives Truman had in the summer of 1945, it was probably the correct path. And do not forget, the Emperor himself — over the objections of the military — put a stop to the war after the second bomb at Nagasaki. In the end, it worked. Japan surrendered, with minor concessions on our part regarding the Emperor, and today they are staunch allies and a world economic power.

    If only we fought today’s wars with that much vigor and will…

  3. George
    I agree with you, some people, especially some of the ones posting here are “idealists”
    However, I do have some concerns about that…
    Are we saying that we commend idealism and that being an idealist is perhaps a good thing??
    Fidel was a HUGE idealist
    Hitler was an idealist
    Stalin was an idealist
    Marx and Lenin were idealist
    Those idealist were not exactly good leaders, or great thinkers.
    Truman was a realist. He knew what he had to do to end the war, did it, end of war.
    If Batista had done the same in Sierra Maestra, things would have turned out differently for Cuba.

  4. Carmen, I was being tongue-in-cheek, but not sarcastic, as is my usual style 😉

    Your list is not quite right. I would not put those men as the “idealists” I was talking about; rather, the imbeciles that followed them were/are the idealists.

    God save me from them.

    P.S., and I am not implying M.A.T. is one of those, so no comments on that, please. I just think idealists do not live in the same world that the rest of live in.

  5. I really do not think of myself as an “idealist.” I have been systematically leaving comments this weekend on all the topics presented for discussion in August, and if anyone will but look over these recent posts in past topics they will discover a great deal of cynicism and very little idealism. As for Batista, he is certainly the most unjustly vilified of all our pre-revolutionary presidents. But that is changing, and Batista can thank Castro for it. Castro has been what the Cuban people never knew before — a dictator. Now, at least, they can tell the difference. It amuses me to hear very old men who in their youth fought Machado admit, with the benefit of 70 years of hindsight, that he was the greatest Cuban president. If they live a few more years they might even be arguing with their own sons whether Machado or Batista was Cuba’s greatest president. If I had been president of Cuba in 1956-58, I would have bombed the Sierra Maestra. In fact, my grandfather, who was Batista’s last Minister of Communications and penultimate Minister of Labour, advised Batista to do precisely that, as did a majority of the Council of Ministers. But Batista refused because he did not want to be compared to a monster like Trujillo (who regularly bombed Haitian migrants to thin out their ranks). I mentioned this episode to show that Batista, unlike Castro, did not cherish shedding the blood of his enemies whom he still regarded as part of the “Cuban family.” As for Truman, nothing can ever justify the barbarism of the Atomic Bomb, which was used because it was available not because it was necessary. Only two leaders in history ever contrived to drop an atomic bomb — one was Truman (successfully), and the other was Castro during the Missile Crisis (unsuccessfully). And, by the way, how far would you have gone to stop Castro? Would you have choked the baby Fidel in his crib? Anything less makes you an idealist.

  6. “And, by the way, how far would you have gone to stop Castro? Would you have choked the baby Fidel in his crib?” Assuming I could travel back in time to his nursery? Yes. Unhesitatingly, yes.

  7. M.A.T., I was basing my assumption of your idealism on what I hear all the time about the A-Bomb. Your other comments — especially the Batista comments you have left for other posts — have been cogent, intelligent, and reasonably thought out.

    I, however, do not think that Truman’s actions were barbaric in the least. On the contrary, I think he helped save countless millions of Japanese lives and the lives of may be half to a million American troops by dropping Fat Man and Little Boy.

    When you have Japanese officers beheading sick American POWs marching in Bataan — or Islamists beheading civilians in Iraq, for that matter — the game is pretty well defined for you. You play by their rules.

  8. “Nothing can ever justify the barbarism of the atomic bomb.” Let’s remember that Truman gave the Japanese an ultimatum, which they turned down. Let’s remember Pearl Harbor: they started it. And let’s remember that the Japanese killed more people in China during the late ’30s than we killed with the two atomic bombs. I refer you to Iris Chang’s, “The Rape of Nanking.” And let’s also remember that dropping the bombs ended WWII.

  9. I agree with you: If the Japanese are beheading American POWs, then by all means behead their POWs. But DON’T burn off the faces of their kids by bombing civilian targets. For my part, I do not think I would have the heart to kill any baby, not even baby Fidel. I would, however, have kidnapped him and raised him myself in the hope that B.F. Skinner is right and nurture is everything. For starters, I would have made Batista his godfather, so that 25 years hence when Castro asks Batista to support him in a run for Congress, Batista would have said “yes.” Batista was a master at co-opting (or buying off) his enemies. He had a chance to “bring Castro into the tent” in 1951 when Castro requested from him and would have accepted any patronage job. Sadly, Batista did what he rarely would do for such petitioners: he sent Castro away empty-handed, and that, my friend, was the real cause of the Cuban Revolution.

  10. Regina: Don’t you find Red China’s recent condemnations of Japan for the “Rape of Nanking” rather risible? Here is a genocidal regime that has killed 120 million of its own people castigating a democratic Japan for the deaths of 50,000 Chinese 70 years ago. 50,000 casualties does not even equal a day’s work for Mao.


    Was the decision to drop the Bomb correct? I can tell you my opinion, unequivocally, YES!

    The S.S. Hood Victory, a troopship that I signed on, carried 1,800 soldiers from Le Havre to New York or Boston, men who had spent months or years in Europe, many hardened combat veterans. They were told that they’d get 30 day leaves, then board ships for the Pacific and the invasion of Japan. The Hood Victory would go through the Canal to transport troops to the Pacific from San Diego or San Francisco.

    The newspapers Headlined about estimated casualties of half a million men among the Allied forces. (The U.S. had 16 million men and women in the service then). We expected Kamakazi attacks and the loss of troop transports, which might mean up to 5,000 men in a tragical moment, depending upon the size of the troopship.

    I had witnessed one ship blow up with 580 U.S. military men and merchant seamen aboard without a single survivor, so I knew what could happen! Just Google: Bright Red was the Night and you can read the story.

    In wartime too often there are no second chances; you make a decision and must live with it. Truman made a hard but correct decision. If the Germans had put the bomb together, they had a couple of long range bombers that could have reached N.Y. We bombed their heavy water plant and so, they did invent and did not drop one.

    They sent a great deal of scientific material to Japan, and if Japan had discovered the secret, make no mistake, the west coast would have no cities of any size there today. Japan would have had no qualms about dropping such Bombs.

    What did it accomplish? It freed China, the Philippines, IndoChina, Taiwan, countries in almost the whole Pacific basin in a few days; it instantaneously stopped the War! There was a battle looming in the Philippines with a fully battle hardened army of 70,000 Japanese and the casualties would have been tremendous. Two or three more days of war (they were ready to surrender…oh yeah, like North Korea dragged out the Peace Talks) could have cost US, the Americans, and our Allies hundred or thousands more dead and wounded.

    We were so relieved and happy to know it was at an end, and it was. The G.I.s were cheering, and they went crazy in N.Y. when the surrender was announced.

    Don’t hand me that crap about women and children!

    One recent story said 95% of t he dead were women and children. Balls. Most of the women were doing war work, making torpedos, bombs, bullets, rifles and big guns. In war, screw them. It was a time of war. We did not question Truman’s decision then and no amount of second guessing can alter the fact that when Nagasaki was hit, the war stopped and a dozen countries were free of Japanese tyranny, Japanese torture, Japanese cruelty, and men who looked like human skeletons came out of those camps alive, some to whom three or four more days or a month, would have meant death, a slow agonizing death of starvation or inhuman beatings inflicted upon hapless prisoners-of-war.

    Only a few week earlier the Japanese had just slaughtered tens of thousands of Philippine men, women and children in Manila, but I guess that doesn’t count, eh?


    Yes, the Nanking massacre happened and 300,000 Chinese died in three months of rape, torture and pillage. The Japanese executed an entire Army of 100,000 men that had surrendered to them at the time…in Nanking. Think of that.

    And, if it wasn’t for those 16 million men and women, if they had put the bomb together first, you can damn well bet your bottom dollar that we would be bowing to Japanese soldiers in the streets of Los Angeles, and they’d be speaking ;and voting in German on the east coast (and no Spanish translations).

    So, don’t hand me any crap about women and children. I noticed a couple weeks ago where a terrorist killed 34 children, right. The Japanese fought wars like Terrorists then, and they used prisoners for bayonet practice or raped women, then slit their bellies open. They took the whole crew from a merchant ship, tied them together and on the deck of a submarine, began beheading them one by one! Two men escaped to tell the story.

    War is horrible. War kills men, but it also kills the children who will grow up to be soldiers, or women who make the bombs. War is horrible, but when we win it, don’t dishonor our men and women who fought in it, died in it, and won it…won it so that you could be free. I knew some of those men, and I still talk to some of them today. We would not apologize for winning the war, nor shed a tear over it.

    Hitler bombed cities, Japan bombed cities. We just had the luck to have the biggest Bomb of all, and because of it, you have the freedom to write and to criticize and second-guess a man, a President, who made a difficult but correct decision. It wasn’t your fanny on the line, buster, so big talk today is inane.

    I say, “Halleluja” it’s us sitting here now and using a computer to put down our thoughts and to debate an issue. In Cuba, think what would happen if you tried to do the same, but it was not the same opinion of fidelito. Yep, Balls!

  12. I would add to that, as an example of what real resolve can actually produce in even the most fanatical enemies, two additional documents. Keep in mind that the Emperor did indeed risk his life at the hands of a palace coup even AFTER Nagasaki. First, the surrender proclamation itself. The body of the text is extensive and detailed, but the opening and closing paragraphs exemplify what I’m talking about, in that the total war Japan fought was turned on itself as an absolute commitment to its surrender:

    We command all Our people forthwith to cease hostilities, to lay down their arms and faithfully to carry out all the provisions of Instrument of Surrender and the General Orders issued by the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters hereunder.

    Any delay or failure to comply with the provisions of this or subsequent orders and any action which the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers determines to be detrimental to the Allied Powers will incur drastic and summary punishment at the hands of the Allied military authorities and the Japanese Government.

    This second day of the ninth month of the twentieth year of SHOWA.

    | Seal of the Empire |

    Signed: H I R O H I T O

    And second, reproduced in full, the radio broadcast the next day, which was the first time anyone in Japan other than high officials of the imperial court had ever heard their Emperor’s voice:

    To our good and loyal subjects: After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

    We have ordered our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that our empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration.

    To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by our imperial ancestors and which we lay close to the heart.

    Indeed, we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to insure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.

    But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone–the gallant fighting of our military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of out servants of the State and the devoted service of our 100,000,000 people–the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

    Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

    Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, nor to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our imperial ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the powers.

    We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire toward the emancipation of East Asia.

    The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met death [otherwise] and all their bereaved families, pains our heart night and day.

    The welfare of the wounded and the war sufferers and of those who lost their homes and livelihood is the object of our profound solicitude. The hardships and sufferings to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great.

    We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that we have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unavoidable and suffering what is unsufferable. Having been able to save face and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, we are always with you, our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity.

    Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion that may engender needless complications, of any fraternal contention and strife that may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.

    Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith of the imperishableness of its divine land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities, and the long road before it. Unite your total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, nobility of spirit, and work with resolution so that you may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world.

  13. Howarde,

    You have no idea how much I appreciate you sharing your insights with us. NOTHING like a first hand account of history to remind us that WWII was not just words in a history book. It was a real life or death struggle that tested all its participants to the limit and beyond.

    When I read a history book of the period, it always has the same begining, middle and end. It is perfectly linear and the outcome is always the same. Not so in real life! We forget that the final outcome of the war was very much in doubt throughout most of its 6 years! My generation is not used to this! And so, we love to second guess decisions that in hindsight seem cruel or unnecessary. This is dumb and dangerous.

    I am glad Truman used the bomb. It saved millions of lives…period. Too bad it wasn’t ready sooner so we could have used it against Hitler.

    We didn’t start WWI, we were only asked to finish it. And you and your generation did.

    If you will read over that message from the Emperor, you will find “Indeed we declared war on America and Great Britain out of our sincere desire to insure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thoughts to either infringe upon the soverneighty of other nations or territorial aggrandizement.
    Pardon me for one more BALLS! I do not like to do so in polite company, but Japan had invaded China and Korea, both for territorial expansion and I followed it in the newspapers day by day by day from the early 1930s, and those papers were more honest than today’s media by far, a living history book. The ruthlessness the Japanese troops employed in Korea will sicken even the strongest stomach, and to this day they have not apologized to either country. MacArthur was the big difference, because if ever a man had a knack for handling power justly, he was it.A
    My best school chum was only an airplane mechanic servicing fighter plans in the closest base to Japan, but his group was among the first to land in Japan, so he had some close-up knowledge. We talked about the Atom Bomb a few weeks before he became ill and died last year. “Howie, we did the right thing. At our base we were estatic, because we were scheduled to land on the first airfield they captured, and we expected heavy losses. It was us or them and I’m glad it was them.” Joe died shortly after that; we had spoken to each other a couple of times a month for years.

    Yes, and what was he most proud of? The title “Fighting Mechanics” because they’d taken rifles and fought off a Japanese counter-attack on one airfield they’d just taken and were already flying out of. Yeah, Joe came home; he might not have if the Bomb had not been dropped. And, so did my cousin head home because of the Bomb, but the destroyer carrying the combat weary Marines rolled over in a storm, and his my Aunt Francis became a Gold Star Mother for the second time.
    “Drop the Bomb?” Mr. President, thank you!

  15. There were two atomic bombs: If Truman had dropped one bomb on Germany and the other on Japan, we could at least conclude that he wasn’t a really a racist (despite all those racist letters to his wife). A sadist yes, but a racist no. Wars are fought among soldiers: in the accidents of war, noncombatants, women, children and the elderly may unintentionally be killed, but they should never be purposefully targetted as they were at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This crime would not have been possible if U.S. propaganda had not first prepared the way for it by depriving the Japanese of their humanity in exactly the same way that Nazi propaganda stripped the Jews of theirs. Consequently, neither the German nor American public expressed any outrage at the incineration of these “subhumans.” But if the children whose faces were burned off by the atomic blast had had little locks of blonde hair sticking out from what remained of their heads, then the American public–being essentially a decent people when not blinded by racial hatred–would have demanded Truman’s impeachment and assumed their collective responsibility for this most monstrous of all war crimes.

  16. Manuel, you can second-guess Truman all you want, but the bottom line is that a few days after Nagasaki, the Emperor accepted the Yalta ultimatum. ‘Nuff said. There were a lot of little children with the burned faces in Manchuria, China, Burma, and Australia, too. As General Sherman once said, “if the people raise a great howl against my barbarity and cruelty, I will answer that war is war, and not popularity seeking.”

  17. M.A.T.,

    The little children of Dresden DID have blond hair and blue eyes. So did those in London, and Stalingrad, and Warsaw… It was total war and we played for very high stakes — their children or our children. I am glad it was them and not us.

    In a way, I am glad you have differing views about that part of our history ’cause it means THE RIGHT SIDE WON! Imagine the alternative.

    I will also argue with you that civilians have been legitimate targets in war for most of recorded history. Knowing that your wife, kids and family are legitimate targets prevents conflict and not the other way around. The Cold War and the principle of MAD (mutually assured destruction) worked.

    If there had been a credible chance that Sadamm could have retaliated against American civilian populations in US soil we would still be patroling No-Fly Zones in Iraq.

  18. The United States didn’t bomb Dresden (Britain did). And, yes, that was a war crime, too. The war in Germany had already been won, and Britain was getting even for the bombing of London. Casualties in Dresden were nothing like Hiroshima or Nagasaki, of course. However, the British wantonly destroyed one of the great jewels of Western Civilization. By the way, let me say something good about Truman: He did not follow the advice of his predecessor as vice president, Henry Wallace, who wanted Truman to raze every building and dismantle every factory in Germany, and turn the country into a vast agricultural commune. Wallace, needless to say, was a Stalinist agent, as were many of Roosevelt’s closest advisers.

  19. Manuel, the bombing of Dresden, it could be argued, was pure and simple vengeance for the years Britain was subjected to the Blitz. If I had been bombed for 5 years mercilessly I think I’d want my pound of flesh, too. I’m not saying it was right or wrong, I am just pointing out the reality of the world. It would seem from your comments, though, that other than the use bows and arrows, blunderbusses and long swords, you think pretty much anything we did in WWII was a “war crime.” Methinks you are an idealist, despite your protestation to the contrary. Any comments?

    (One more thing about Dresden. The psychological effect on the German people was devastating. They may have fought on, but they knew the Thousand Year Reich had only months to go.)

  20. MAT,

    The USAAF participated fully in the Allied firebombing of Dresden.

    “On the 13th February 1945, 773 Avro Lancasters bombed Dresden. During the next two days the USAAF sent over 527 heavy bombers to follow up the RAF attack. Dresden was nearly totally destroyed. As a result of the firestorm it was afterwards impossible to count the number of victims. Estimates range from 35,000 to over 100,000 dead.”

    On an earlier post you made made a reference to American racism against the Japanese, like only Japanese cities and civilians were razed to the ground in WWII. I only mentioned Dresden to illustrate that in WWII we were an equal opportunity devastator of Axis cities.

    I am still thankful we won.

  21. I am thankful also that the United States won; but not so thankful that Stalin emerged as the biggest winner of all. I personally see no moral distinction between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. But I should hope that there was a moral distinction between the U.S. and Great Britain on one side and Germany and Japan on the other. But, apparently, as you gentleman have shown, the democratic Allies were motivated by revenge and driven by hatred no less than the Axis powers. And because the Allies were the victors their atrocities were explained away as unavoidable and even beneficial while those committed by the Nazis and Japanese were held up to the opprobrium of the world.

    One of the greatest moments in Cuban history, which showed that Cuba was no longer a pawn of the United States, was when the Cuban representative to the United Nation, following President Grau’s instructions, voted against the Resolution that established the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. The Cubans argued– and, of course, they were right– that such trials would be a violation of international law, one of the oldest tenets of which is that ex post facto laws are inherently unfair and contrary to all legal tradition. (An ex post facto law, for the non-lawyers, is a law passed after the fact to criminalize an act which was not illegal when it was committed). In 1959, Fidel Castro would use these same ex post facto laws to execute more than 15,000 of his opponents.

  22. Grau was also instrumental in the decision by Cuban authorities to refuse entry to the St. Louis, a refugee ship full of Jews that were escaping Germany, into Havana Harbor.

    Reports about the upcoming sailing of the “St. Louis” fueled a large antisemitic demonstration in Havana on May 8, five days before the ship left Hamburg. The rally, the largest antisemitic demonstration in Cuban history, had been sponsored by Grau San Martin, a former Cuban president. Grau spokesman Primitivo Rodriguez urged Cubans to “fight the Jews until the last one is driven out.” The demonstration drew 40,000 spectators. Thousands more listened on the radio. (

    These poor Jewish refugees ended up back in Germany were most of them were gassed by the Nazis in the camps. I am not surprised that Grau would be against the Nuremberg trials; he agreed with the defendants!

    Manuel, I’m glad you chose such a moral man as an example to us of what the rule of law should be…

  23. Principles are not subserviant to personalities. Ex post facto laws are a legal monstrosity that are equally odious when applied to evil men as they are when applied to good men. These laws were wrong when the Allied powers used them to try the Nuremberg defendants and they were wrong when Castro used them to murder his opponents in 1959. The FACT is that Cuba accepted more Jewish refugees prior to 1941 than did any Latin American country except Mexico. Most of these refugees were transients who eventually made their way to their real destination, the United States, although some did make their home in Cuba, where the people welcomed them and where they prospered. Laredu Bru, not Grau, was the president when the St. Louis was turned back at the orders of FDR (who also refused to admit the refugees into the U.S.). Roosevelt, who was facing re-election in 1940, didn’t want the “Jewish question” to become a campaign issue, and prominent Jews, like Adolph Sultzberger of The New York Times, obliged him). Blame Roosevelt and the assimilationist U.S. Jewish establishment, then, for the unhappy fate of the St. Louis. And by the way, to help you further weave your fantastic tale of Grau as an “anti-Semitic,” let me inform you that Cuba under Grau also voted against the U.N. Resolution to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. And, of course, Cuba was right on principle there, too. This fact, however, is irrelevant to me except to prove that by 1948 Cuba was no longer a pawn of the U.S. and pursued a foreign policy consonant with its own principles and interests. Did Castro ever cast a vote at the United Nations that differed from the position of the Soviet Union? Of course not. By the way, I am prepared to defend Grau, Batista, Machado or any pre-revolutionary Cuban president because I believe that those who attack our republican past are playing into Castro’s hands and doing his work, whether consciously or not.

  24. Manuel, your comment is simply astounding! I do not think criticizing an anti-semite — regardless of Cuba’s republican past — is playing into castro’s hand! I thought it was all anout about free expression…

    But I digress. Please explain to me the “principles” involved in denying the St. Louis safe harbor — irrespective of Roosevelt, who was a hypocritical politician — and voting against a Jewish state. Explain to me how these two actions are not prima facie evidence of Grau’s (and many others’) deep-seated anti-semitism? Why do you think these decisions are principled in any way, shape or form?

  25. I never said that Cuba took a principled stand by declining to admit the St. Louis refugees. If I had been in President Laredu Bru’s place, I would have cherished the opportunity to slap the hypocritical Roosevelt in the face and admit the refugees inspite of him. What could a couple of thousand more refugees mean to a nation that had already admitted more than 300,000 in the decade of the 1930s? Refugees from both the Fascist and Stalinist sides of Spain’s Civil War had flocked to Cuba and been welcomed. Let’s put that number in context. If the United States had opened its door to refugees to the same extent as Cuba did in the 1930s, it could have admitted 17,000,000, enough to save all the Jews of Europe and then some. Cuba did all that she could do to accomodate refugees from Europe. Did the United States?

    Before and after the St. Louis, Cuba received Jewish refugees from Europe in greater numbers than did any Latin American republic save Mexico. Cuba’s pre-revolutionary Jewish community was one of the largest in Latin America. In fact, per capita, Cuba had the highest concentration of Jews in the hemisphere, and I don’t mean tourists but permanent residents of the island. The Cuban Jewish community was also the most successful in Latin America as well as the most assimilated.

    The first Jews to come to Cuba, incidentally, were the rejects of Ellis Island — those who had been classified as infirmed, “intellectually feeble,” “morally deficient” or “subversive” and denied admission to the U.S. Many of these would-be immigrants rather than return to Russia or Germany chose to sail to Cuba whence they hoped to try again to gain admission to the U.S. Most stayed in Cuba, though. And thrived.

    You are free to criticize whatever you please about republican Cuba, and I am free to tell you that you are being unjust. Many Cuban-Americans believe that they must tear down pre-Castro Cuba first or else their criticisms of Castro’s Cuba will be discounted as the petty gripes of batistianos. Clearly, I do not subscribe to that position. While Castro and his minions are depicting pre-1959 Cuba as a massive outdoor bordello run by the Mafia for the benefit of American tourists, or as a Third World backwater where education and health care were restricted to the rich and the poor fared worse than in any other country–while these lies are generally disseminated and believed– it is the responsibility of every Cuban who knows better to defend his country against these slanders and never to join in disparaging her or her past leaders. Castro is the enemy and no one else.

  26. I applaud President Ram?n Grau San Mart?n for the principled stand which he took against the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. The last 50 years have shown that this was the most foolish and divisive decision that the United Nations ever took and one that undermined and continues to undermine the security of the world. Let us remember that it was the Germans and their European accomplices who decimated the Jews of Europe. It was NOT the Palestinians. Yet the hapless Palestinians were compelled to atone for the sins of the Germans by relinquishing their country to the Jews. Why didn’t the United Nations partition Germany and give, say Weimar, to the Jews for their new state? That would have been justice.

    Grau is to be commended for refusing to right one injustice by committing another. The wisdom of his decision stands in stark contrast to the duplicity of those who sought to clear their guilty consciences in the fastest, cheapest and most mercenary way.

  27. The “hapless” Palestinians? The same “hapless” Palestinians who, under the tutelage of Eichmann and Himmler’s buddy, The grand Mufti of Jerusalem, murdered Jews in Palestine by the bushel BEFORE the partition? The same “hapless” Palestinians that created modern terrorism? Are those the peace-loving folks you are talking about?

    Chico, I dont’t want to offend you, but you are sounding suspiciously like the majority of leftists in this country who claim to be “anti-Zionist” while really just hating Jews and hiding behind the less offensive description so they can be politically correct. I am in favor of Zionism and its goals. The land was Jewish land for thousands of years, it was Jewish land then, and it’s Jewish land now. Shame on Grau San Martin for his decision. As exiles, we feel the sting of our own diaspora on a daily basis; Grau’s actions toward the Jews are exactly what we are reaping in return.

    I’ll have more to say on this later since I have a prior engagement and cannot take the time to respond now.

  28. For your information, I am not a “leftist” nor have I ever sound like one. Nor am I an anti-Zionist or a pro-Zionist: Zionism does not in any way define me. I have already condemned on these pages Fidel Castro for sponsoring the 1975 U.N. Resolution declaring Zionism to be a form of racism. Zionism is no more racist than Marcus Garvey’s “Back to Africa” movement. It is, to use a favorite word of yours, an “idealistic” notion.

    As for Palestinians creating “modern terrorism,” I refer you to the bombing of the King David Hotel, which was a very modern affair. Or, if you prefer, the July 26th Movement’s indiscriminate bombing of night clubs, theatres and other public establishments: all these incidents preceded the rise of the PLO.

    The Jews’ claim to Palestine is based on the fact that they lived there 5000 year ago. The Palestinians, however, were the ones that were living there in 1949 and were uprooted from their lands and homes so that the descendents of Jews who had not set foot in Palestine in 2000 years could settle there. The Europeans, who had either ignored the Holocaust, participated actively in it or profitted from it, washed their hands of this great crime by turning a historical anachronism into the state of Israel.

    You know, of course, that we are not the original inhabitants of this continent. It belongs to its indigenous peoples who have endured not one but several genocides in the last 500 years. I propose that in just restitution for this greatest of all historical usurpations we relinquish control of this nation to its ancient occupants and move into refugee camps while we await resettlement on the moon.

    By the way, in your hurry to get to your engagement, you obviously did not read my long post of 4:52 PM where I explained that, far from being anti-Semitic, the Cuban people extended the welcome mat to Jews who had been refused admission to the U.S., and that Cuba’s 50,000-strong Jewish community, which Castro decimated, was once the most vital and prosperous in Latin America. But, of course, that doesn’t jell with your notion of Cubans as a nation of anti-Semites.

    If, as you say, 40,000 Cubans protested against the Jews, at the instigation of Grau, then that was the biggest anti-Jewish demonstration ever held outside of Germany and one of the biggest in history. I simply don’t believe it.

  29. Well Manuel, I got that from the Holocaust Museum. Then again, they are Jews so they should automatically be suspect. (/sarcasm/)

    You know a lot of Cuba, but very little about the history of Palestine, and much less about the struggle the Jews had there from the time they returned in the 19th Century. For your information, Jews and Arabs lived in relative peace for decades, up until about the time of the First World War, when that most damned of instruments was signed, The Balfour Declaration. That document, with its artificial partitions of the Middle East, was what flared up old hatreds. And I can tell you most assuredly, it was the Arabs that started the fight again, not the Jews. You mention the King David Hotel, famous for being blown up by Hagannah and Menachem Begin. I can point you to countless sources with Arab atrocities against the Jews that went unanswered. The Jews got tired of taking it in the ass after the Holocaust and took violent measures to drive the British out and end the mandate. For your information, Palestine WAS NEVER A COUNTRY! THE TERRITORY BELONGED TO JORDAN! Jordan was ready to cede it in accordance with the UN Mandate, and the Arab League was ready to approve the UN Partition document, as well. It was the Palestinian representatives, and the virulent anti-Semitic elements in the League, who urged holy war against the Jew. The indisputable fact that the Israelis kicked their ass in 1948 still sticks in their craw.

    The State of Israel deserved (and deserves) to exist. Despite the best efforts of the world, this people, decimated by the Holocaust, created the only democracy in the Middle East. They turned rock and desert into a vibrant country ?- and the Arabs hate them for it. BTW, the Jews won the ’67 war and the land is theirs. Period. I disagree with giving back Gaza or the West Bank. A monumental error laid at the alter of appeasement and political correctness that will cost Israel dearly in the years to come.

    And to answer your truly silly comment about the indigenous peoples — I hope you were kidding — let me say that I could care less who this country belonged to before. FUCK RESTITUTION. We won the Mexican War (and the Indian Wars) and the land is ours. Period. The Mambises with the help of the US beat the Spanish and the land was theirs. Period. Just as other peoples have been displaced in other countries all over the world, I don’t think Americans owe any special debt TO ANYNONE, anymore than any other country, just because a bunch of whiny, hand-wringing, angst-ridden pussy liberals feel guilty over how terrible we were and are.

    It’s all bullshit.

  30. One thing for sure MAT you do not know your middle east history. The only soverign Nation that has ever existed in what is today Israel, but acutally historically includes a much larger territory is Israel or Judea the Jews have always been there. Sometimes in fewer number because of forced exile. Yeah, you Cubano’s know about that! Both in ancient times and now. For centuries the land was occupied by the Persians, the Romans, the Turks, Britain. In fact between the establishment of the State of Israel and the 1967 war the Arabs had control of the holy sites in Jerusalem and the west bank. If they had such great national fervor why didn’t they establish a Palestinian state? I’ll tell you. Because there was never a palestinian people until 1967 when Israel beat the Arabs in that war. The palestinian name for these Arabs came from the PLO and Arafat, who by the way was Egyptian. The reason was because Islam does not allow Muslims to live under the domination of non-Muslims. That’s what this is all about. You’ve heard of the Jerusalem Post? Well is used to be the Palestine Post and it was always Jewish. The Jews have occupied the land of Israel continuously for over 5000 years. In fact it was the Romans who re-named the land Palestinia in an effort to strip it of it’s Jewish identity. It didn’t work. We are a really stubborn people, sorry to cause so much fucking trouble in the world, you know we have rules we live by, called the ten commandments.

  31. And another thing for the record. One branch of my family are Cuban Jewish exiles. They are Cuban first, and never experienced any antisemitism. If they had, I’m sure they wouldn’t be living in Miami, speaking Spanish and they will tell you the bad guy was not Batista compared to Castro, also for the record the first Jews came to Cuba with Columbus from Spain, not Germany escaping the Nazis.

  32. No, I was not kidding: If the Jews are entitled to the land of Palestine based on 5000 year-old claims, then the Native peoples of the Americas are entitled to re-claim their lands based on their 10,000-year continuous occupation of them.

    And, yes, I will write to the Holocaust Museum to inquire what evidence it has of this supposed 40,000-strong anti-Semitic protest in Havana, and whether it chronicles as exhaustively Castro’s decimation of Cuba’s Jewish community.

    I see that you still refuse to address my comments made at 4:52 PM. Apparently, the idea that there was once a thriving and respected Jewish community in Cuba is something that you find difficult to accept since it contradicts your belief that pre-revolutionary Cuba was a cauldron of anti-Semitism.

  33. I assure you, Kathleen, that I am not in the least “self-hating.” And my only “agenda” is to show that pre-Castro Cuba was not an anti-Semitic hellhole, as George seems to believe, but a place that welcomed Jews and treated them with respect and complete acceptance. For your personal testimony to that effect, I thank you.

  34. Just the opposite, it’s castro who is the anti semite,who has decimated the Cuban Jewish community just like the rest of Cuba. Who do you think said otherwise, I dont’ see it here.

  35. George has never addressed Castro’s own anti-Semitism, but preferred to label Grau San Martin as some kind of Caribbean Father Coughlin. I do not accept that. Under Grau’s tenure as president (1944-1948) no Jew was ever persecuted in Cuba. It is Castro and Castro only who is the anti-Semite, and he has proven it not only with words, but with actions.

  36. Manuel, don’t be ridiculous about my never labeling castro an anti-Semite. That fact is well known. castro to me is evil on a par with Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin and Lenin. That I can write on this blog, with the kind permission of Val, should be proof enough of my bona fides regarding my dedication to ending the regime of fidel. As for Grau, his actions speak louder than words. He actively participated in denying the entry of Jewish refugees into Cuba, knowing full well what the political climate was in Germany, and then years later he voted to deny a homeland for surviving Jewish refugees in the UN. That says it all.

  37. And BTW, I know Cuba was a place of refuge for many Jews in the early part of the century; I know the descendants of quite a few of them. I never stated anywhere that I believed that “pre-revolutionary Cuba was a cauldron of anti-Semitism.” My comments were directed at Grau, who by his actions, proved to me to be an anti-Semite.

  38. Again and for the last time: Cuba provided asylum to more victims of Fascism and Naziism than did any other nation in the hemisphere, including thousands of Jews. The St. Louis was an unfortunate aberration, for which the hypocritical and opportunistic FDR must bear most of the blame. Jews who lived in Cuba never encountered anti-Semitism of any kind until Fidel Castro seized power. If the Holocaust Museum says that there was a 40,000-strong anti-Semitic protest in Havana, in 1938, sponsored by Grau, then the Holocaust Museum is disseminating misinformation. Anyone who accepts and repeats this canard is in fact depicting pre-Castro Cuba as a “cauldron of anti-Semitism.” Grau was not an anti-Semite because he he did not support the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Many Jews, then and now, do not support Zionism. In fact, most Jews before 1945 were not Zionists. Finally, Fidel Castro, not Grau, is the greatest anti-Semite that Cuba has ever produced. Proportionally, not even Hitler managed to reduce the Jewish population of Europe as drastically as Castro did Cuba’s — from 50,000 to under 100 souls. THIS is what Cuban-Americans should focus on: Castro’s anti-Semitism. Let’s see if you can condemn that as forcefully as you have Grau’s putative anti-Semitism.

  39. Obviously, Manuel, you must have a defective neuron or a misfiring synapse or a bad pair of eyeglasses that prevents you from understanding clear English. So, here goes, loudly, with no ambiguity:


    Enough already, ?co?o!

    That said, Grau was one, too. His actions were wrong and immoral. You have not explained WHY his decisions make him principled. Until I am satisfied with an answer that I can verify, he will be the Number 2 worst anti-semite in Cuban history.

  40. Good. Finally, we have some common ground (though I am sure it will be eroding soon enough). Ramon Grau San Martin was one of Cuba’s greatest democratic presidents. During his tenure in office civil and human rights were scrupulously respected, and Cuba, indeed, became the haven for all victims of autocratic regimes in Latin America. He was, moreover, the idol of the Cuban people because of the progressive laws he signed (drafted by Guiteras) and because he didn’t pay any heed to the Americans and consistently challenged them in international forums while he forged an independent course for Cuba in foreign affairs. Grau was a great Cuban and a great patriot. As a Cuban, I judge him for what he did for the Cuban people. Castro is not even fit to wipe Grau’s shoes. I find it highly offensive that you would compare them in any way.

  41. MAT-Every year, Jews around the world end their Passover Sedars with these words. “Next year in Jerusalem” This is Zionism.

  42. Manuel, you still have not answered my question! I cannot understand how giving a little slice of land to the Jews can be so fucking controversial or immoral! It just boggles my mind. So once again I ask: what makes opposing the UN Palestine mandate a principled decision — other than the pleasure of sticking your finger in the eye of the US?

  43. If you know Cuban history, then you have some idea of how many times the Americans stuck their finger in our eye and how important it was for Cubans to see their own president doing the same to them. Grau was a nationalist, not an internationalist. From the first days of his presidency, Americans ships were in Havana Bay waiting for the signal to unload their cargo of Marines. Grau didn’t flinch but continued his own course till the ships finally departed. That was Grau. He followed his own course and his own council. He was a peculiar kind of man.

    In choosing to vote against the U.N. Resolution that created a Jewish state in Palestine, Grau came very close to achieving a rare consensus with the U.S.; for Truman had decided to veto the Resolution before an old Jewish friend from Missouri, begged him, with tears in his eyes, to support it. And Truman obliged his friend. If Grau had had a friend like Truman’s perhaps he could have been convinced (with tears but not facts) to vote for it, too. But, he didn’t. So Grau voted in accordance with what he perceived as the interests of the Cuban people (who were the only people whose interests he had sworn to uphold). He voted (or, rather, caused Cuba’s U.N. representation to vote) against the Resolution creating the modern state of Israel. I will explain to you the reasons that Grau considered his decision a principled stand in my next posting, though, frankly, these should be obvious to you.

  44. In January 1919 the Cuban Senate approved a Resolution in favor of the Jewish National Home in Palestine. It is, to the best of my knowledge, the first Resolution ever passed by a body politic in the Western Hemisphere that favored the creation of a Zionist state. Certainly, the U.S. Senate would never have approved or even moved such a Resolution. The Cuban delegation to the League of Nations (predecessor of the United Nations) also consistently supported the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. The president of the League of Nations was a Cuban, Sanchez de Bustamante, and he presided over most of the debates regarding this issue. It should be noted, of course, that the isolationist United States did not belong to the League of Nations. Cuba’s preeminence in that organization shows that even prior to the repeal of the Platt Amendment Cuba was considered an independent and sovereign nation by the world community and treated accordingly.

    When Grau became president in the exemplary elections of 1944, World War II had not yet concluded. Cuba continued its invaluable contribution to the Allied war effort as the #1 purveyor of essential minerals such as nickel and magnesium. At the conclusion of the war, Cuba became one of the charter members of the United Nations, which then consisted of barely 60 member states.

    When the question of the partition of the British-ruled Palestine mandate was raised at the United Nations in 1947, Cuba favored the holding of a plebiscite in the Palestine mandate to determine whether, first, the inhabitants wanted the British mandate to end, and, second, whether they were in favor of the partition of Palestine. The supporters of a Zionist state opposed the plebiscite because they were outnumbered in Palestine and would likely have lost such a vote. Grau was a firm believer in the popular will, and nothing could be more presumptious, imperialistic or tyrannical than to decide a people’s fate without consulting them. That was Cuba’s unhappy lot when the U.S. and Spain negotiated and signed the Paris Peace Treaty (1898) that concluded the Spanish-American War (so-called) without the presence or imput of those who had actually defeated Spain before the U.S. opportunistically intervened to deprive the Cubans of their hardwon victory.

    When the Cuban motion to hold free elections in Palestine was defeated, the Cuban government of Grau San Martin opted not to support U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947) which provided for the partition of the Palestine mandate and the creation of a Jewish and an Arab state.

    So you see, George, “anti-Semitism” had nothing to do with Grau’s decision not to support an arbitrary and undemocratic mechanism for the partition of Palestine. Of course, you will never believe that and I am through trying to convince you.

    Finally, allow me to say how odd it is to find a Cuban judging Grau not on what he did for Cubans, but on what he did (or didn’t do) for Jews. I wonder if Jews judge their political leaders on what they do or don’t do for the Cuban people.

  45. Let me answer your last comment first. I have been an admirer of Israel and have had Jewish friends all of my life. I have attended seders and brises and even learned a little Yiddish and Hebrew (now forgotten, I’m afraid) when I was much younger. I love their food and their violinists and comedians, I applaud their insatiable thirst for knowledge, and I greatly admire their religion, not only as the basis of Christianity, but also as a self-contained moral code that has survived millenia and disaster upon disaster.

    In a word: tradition.

    In many ways the Cuban experience with fidel is a microcosm of what the Jews have experienced in their diasporas. Plucky people who can survive just about anything. That’s them, and that’s us. They have shown the world what ingenuity, willpower, and tenacity can achieve. If that sounds familiar, it can be applied to the Cuban exile community here in Miami, and wherever else we end up.

    I find it very odd (and sad) that more people do not come their defense. Old habits die hard, I guess, and blaming Jews for the ills of the world is a very old (and easy) habit to keep.

  46. If what you are saying is correct, then I stand corrected on Grau. I would like to read more on this so send me whatever references you have. I still disagree with him on his decision to deny the Jews their homeland, however noble his reasons may have been. I think it defies common sense to ask for a plebiscite when the vast majority of the voters are potential enemies that surround you. And considering the enmity and blood already spilled between Jew and Arab — thanks to the Grand Mufti’s agitation and Nazi involvement in the Middle East — Israel would never have been born. The Arab League should have stuck to its guns and approved the UN Mandate despite the protestations of the Fascists agitating them not to.

    I want to know if the story posted on the Holocaust Museum site is correct. Do you have historical sources you can refer me to so I can confirm those facts? I’ll be the first to point our their error if indeed it is incorrect.

  47. George: I have taken the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s allegations about Grau very seriously and I shall begin immediately an exhaustive historical investigation, consulting original sources such as the Diario de La Marina and the Yiddish-language daily Havaner Leben/Vida Habanera, which was continuously published in Cuba from 1932-1963. I cannot honestly believe that 40,000 Cubans could have been assembled, by Grau or anybody else, for a demonstration against Jews. In 1939, Cubans couldn’t be moved like cattle in support of causes that had absolutely no relation to their daily lives as is the case in Castro’s Cuba. But if there is anything to this story I will find out and report it in this space. Only when we know the truth about our past can we learn from it.

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