Letter To The Editor
While many Americans do admire Harry Truman, the number who regard him as one of America’s “wisest, most effective leaders” may be fewer than Dr. Lorin Swinehart implies in his article in January’s El Ojo. Certainly many would not be persuaded by the assessment of Truman by arch-conservative and soundly-rejected presidential candidate Barry Goldwater that Swinehart seems to offer as evidence.
Lawrence Stone and Peter Kuznick offer evidence in their television series and book, The Untold History of the United States, that had Roosevelt lived longer or Henry Wallace instead of Truman succeeded him, civilian populations in Japan might not have been incinerated by atomic bombs, an act that in the opinion of many irreparably and unnecessarily damaged the moral authority of the U.S., and the world might have been spared the nuclear arms race and the worst of the cold war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Swinehart claims that use of the bombs was a painful alternative to an estimate by the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the U.S. would suffer a million casualties in having to invade Japan to force its surrender.
But Stone and Kuznick show that there is no documentation that such an estimate was made. It has been used to justify Truman’s decision to use the bombs, but there is evidence that once the Soviet Union opened a second front against Japan, it would have surrended without the bombs having been used.
Stone and Kuznick (the latter a professor of history at American University) provide evidence that Roosevelt favored Wallace and did not replace him with Truman as his vice-presidential running mate. That was done by Democratic party bosses under the leadership of party treasurer Edwin Pauley, who ran the convention at which Truman was nominated, because they realized that Roosevelt might not complete his term and wanted to stop Wallace, who they regarded as too liberal, from becoming president. Wallace’s name was about to be placed in nomination by Claude Pepper and he would doubtless have been nominated by acclamation, had not the convention been abruptly adjourned just as that was to be done, in what has been called “Pauley’s Coup.”
I think it would be more balanced to say that like other presidents, Truman did some very good things–asserting civilian control over the military and ordering an end to racial discrimination in it–along with some very bad ones.
(Dr.) Kenneth G. Crosby
San Antonio Tlayacapan
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