Recently we had a letter to the editor from a man who was opposed to having a statue of President Harry Truman in Jefferson City that would replace one of Francis Preston Blair, who represented Missouri in Congress, served in the Union Army during the Civil War and was an outstanding citizen.
The letter writer was highly critical of Truman, who served in the U.S. Senate prior to being elected vice president. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt died in April 1945, Truman became president. Truman had to make some tough decisions when president. One was giving the order to drop the atomic bombs on Japan, which ended World War II, several months after the war ended in Europe.
The letter writer said the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan “did not shorten the war and did not have to be used.” We usually don’t answer letters to the editor except in extreme circumstances and this is one of them. There is no question that the dropping of the bombs brought the war with Japan to an end quickly. The development of the bombs was a closely held secret, except for the people directly involved in the project, and the airmen who were to drop the bombs. Our troops didn’t know anything about it. Even Clarence Cannon, our congressman, who was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, knew only that expenditures were going for development of a weapon for the war effort.
We had thousands of troops who were poised to invade Japan. The predictions of the Allied casualties in an invasion of the Japanese mainland were enormous. Not only that, but the Japanese would fight to the last man, so to speak. The terrain is such in Japan that the war could have dragged on for months. While serving briefly in Japan during the Korean War, we often thought of what a job it would have been to root out all the Japanese defenders in the mountain areas, and other places where the terrain would have made fighting very difficult.
The Japanese surrender days after the dropping of the bombs not only saved the lives of our servicemen and -women, but also those of the Japanese people.
Tell an infantryman ready to invade Japan, perhaps who had survived combat in Europe, or other parts of the Pacific, that Harry Truman did the wrong thing in giving the order to drop the bombs to end the war, and we would like to hear what he had to say. In fact, when the soldiers did come home, we heard them praise Truman for what he did. As a boy and teenager during World War II, the dropping of the bombs came as a relief to the American people, especially to those families who lost loved ones in combat, and still had members serving in the armed forces.
Who started the war? Who treated our prisoners of war in such an inhumane way? Who raped the women, ravished the countries they invaded and committed all kinds of atrocities against our troops and civilians? The Japanese!
You had to live through that period to fully appreciate what Truman did. The dropping of the bombs took a heavy toll on Japanese lives. But had the war continued, and it would have, the Japanese would have suffered even more casualties. More of their cities would have been leveled.
Our thoughts go back to members of our military who we talked to after they came home from the war, and how grateful they were to Truman. We remember the telegrams that came to notify families of the war dead — killed in action, wounded in action, missing and believed dead or prisoners of war. We remember the tears shed, the prayers said and the grieving. They were grateful to Truman.
As mentioned, we usually don’t answer letters to the editor, but we couldn’t hold back when someone says the dropping of the atomic bombs didn’t shorten the war. There is no question that it did. Dropping the bombs was one of the many tough decisions the man from Missouri had to make while in the White House, and the Americans who lived in that era appreciated what he did.