Hiroshima 1945: Truman got it right


We remember the 72nd anniversary of one of the most consequential decisions and days of the 20th century.

Seventy two years ago, many people heard about Hiroshima on the radio or perhaps saw the scenes on one of those newsreels at the movie houses.

In the summer of 1945, President Truman was confronted with one of those decisions that only a president faces.  He looked at the horrible options and made the right call, as my friend Bill Katz explained.

In other words, the bomb stopped the war and the killing:

Of course we regret the lives that were lost, as we always regret death and destruction in war, but guilt is not required. In what is sometimes called the bloody arithmetic of war, the nuclear bombs reduced the ultimate death toll of World War II dramatically. And as the late historian Paul Fussell, a soldier in the Pacific at the time of Hiroshima later wrote, recalling his thoughts when he learned of the atomic bomb’s use, “We were going to live. We were going to grow to adulthood after all.” For that we can be grateful.

We will probably hear the usual criticism of President Truman’s decision, specially from those who were not alive back then nor have taken the time to study the real options on his desk. In other words, President Truman was not choosing between war and peace but rather war and more war. He also knew that there would be huge casualties on both sides, if he decided to invade Japan.

Today’s anniversary also reminds us that presidents are often confronted with hard decisions or very ugly choices.

President Truman got it right on this day in 1945.