Letter to the Editor
(Ed. Note: With reference to Dr. Crosby’s Letter to the Editor on page 74 of the February issue)
The observations offered by Sir Winston Churchill and Senator Goldwater affirm the high regard that many leaders across the political spectrum, including President Obama, have expressed for President Truman. To suggest that Henry Wallace, had he ascended to the presidency, would have somehow avoided the horrendous decision to use the atomic bomb against a recalcitrant Japan is highly speculative. Use of atomic weapons at the time saved countless lives, and, in fact, saved far more Japanese than American lives.
Conservative estimates at the time were that Operation Olympic, the invasion of Kyushu, would have cost 500,000 US casualties, and Operation Coronet, the invasion of Honshu, another 500,000. Japanese citizenry, fully indoctrinated by the leadership, were being prepared to resist with bamboo spears. The use of the two atomic bombs saved thousands of Japanese lives.
While evasions and untruths have all too often characterized presidential statements over the years, President Truman was impeccably honest and would hardly have lied about the wrenching decision that confronted him. Earlier, the Tokyo Fire Raid cost more Japanese lives than either atomic bomb, and yet the ruling clique refused to surrender. It took the second atomic bomb, dropped on Nagasaki, to convince the leadership that Japan faced total destruction if it did not end hostilities. Throughout the war in the Pacific, Japanese soldiers had time and again fought to the death rather than surrender, often even committing suicide, a practice foreshadowing the infamous Kamikaze attacks as US forces neared the home islands. While it is easy for some to criticize Mr. Truman’s agonizing decision now, realistic alternatives are not provided because they have never existed.
Henry Wallace exhibited signs of mental instability, a factor in President Roosevelt’s desire to replace him on the ticket in 1944. A major policy in his 1948 presidential campaign was an often stated acquiescence regarding Joseph Stalin’s post-World War II expansions into Europe. It is difficult to imagine his initiating policies equivalent to the Berlin Airlift, Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan or NATO.
Dr. Lorin Swinehart