For victory,  not vengeance

The following exchange between a US senator and President Harry Truman offers a glimpse into the reasoning and ethics of the man who made the dread decision to drop the atom bombs.

Senator Richard B. Russell of Georgia to President Harry Truman, August 7, 1945:

Permit me to respectfully suggest that we cease our efforts to cajole Japan into surrendering in accordance with the Potsdam Declaration. Let us carry the war to them until they beg us to accept the unconditional surrender. The foul attack on Pearl Harbor brought us into war and l am unable to see any valid reason why we should be so much more considerate and lenient in dealing with Japan than with Germany. I earnestly insist Japan...should not be the beneficiary of a soft peace....

If we do not have available a sufficient number of atomic bombs with which to finish the job immediately, let us carry on with TNT and fire bombs until we can produce them....

This was a total war as long as our enemies held all of the cards. Why should we change the rules now, after the blood, treasure and enterprise of the American people have given us the upper hand[?] Our people have not forgotten that the Japanese struck us the first blow in this war without the slightest warning. They believe that we should continue to strike the Japanese until they are brought groveling to their knees. We should cease our appeals to Japan to sue for peace. The next plea for peace should come from an utterly destroyed Tokyo....

President Truman to Senator Russell, August 9, 1945:

...I know that Japan is a terribly cruel and uncivilized nation in warfare but I canít bring myself to believe that, because, they are beasts, we should ourselves act in the same manner.

For myself, I certainly regret the necessity of wiping out whole populations because of the "pigheadedness" of the leaders of a nation and, for your information, I am not going to do it unless it is absolutely necessary. It is my opinion that after the Russians enter into war the Japanese will very shortly fold up.

My object is to save as many American lives as possible but I also have a humane feeling for the women and children in Japan.

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