The Decision Of The Century The Decision of the Century On August 2, 1945, Harry S. Truman made the toughest decision of his life. He knew that if he made the right decision, he would save hundreds of thousands of American lives. In making this decision, he would also be responsible for the deaths of hundreds and thousands of Japanese lives. If he made the wrong decision, the war would drudge on as the death count rose higher and higher as each new battle was fought.
Japan would not surrender unconditionally, as the United States wanted. With Germany already beaten, the United States was not about to back down. No one knows whether or not he made the right choice, but he did, in fact, bring an end to World War II. World War II’s basic statistics qualify it as by far the greatest war in history in terms of human and material resources expended. In all, 61 countries with 1.7 billion people, three-fourths of the world’s population took part. A total of 110 million persons were mobilized for military service, more than half of those by three countries: USSR (22-30 million), Germany (17 million), and the United States (16 million).
For the major participants the largest numbers on duty at any time were as follows: USSR (12,500,000); U.S. (12, 245,000); Germany (10,938,000); British Empire and Commonwealth (8,720,000); Japan (7,193,000); and China (5,000,000). Harry S. Truman was born May 8, 1884 in Lamar, Missouri. He was named Harry after his uncle, Harrison Young.
His parents, John Anderson Truman and Martha Ellen Young Truman, wanted to honor both of Harry’s Grandfathers when they were deciding on a middle name for him. The only problem was deciding which one, Anderson Shippe Truman or Solomon Young. His parents finally decided to name him Harry S. and let the S stand for both of Harry’s grandfathers’ names.
Before Harry S. Truman became the thirty-third President of the United States, he had many jobs which included: railroad work, business man, sales rep., Captain in the United States Army, a United States Senator, and Vice President. Harry S. Truman became President of The United States on April 12, 1945 after Franklin Delano Roosevelt had passed away from a heart attack.
He never knew what he was really getting himself into. Harry S. Truman had only been the President of The United States for thirteen days when Henry L. Stimson, The Secretary of War, delivered a complete report on the United States of America’s new secret weapon that would supposedly end World War II. Before Harry S. Truman received this report, he had no idea that such a weapon existed or that the American scientists had been trying to develop the atomic bomb over the last four years.
On July 21, 1945 while at Potsdam, Truman received the results from General Leslie Groves testing of the atomic bomb at Alamogordo. The results were as follows: A force of 15-20,000 tons of TNT, a fireball lasting several seconds, a mushroom cloud rising skyward approximately 41,000 feet above sea level. There were many secondary explosions within the mushroom cloud causing a 1,200-foot crater in the ground. The 100 feet tower, which the bomb had been detonated in and a seventy-foot steel tower a half-mile away was disintegrated. It became obvious that Truman had two choices: invade mainland Japan or drop the atomic bomb. If Truman chose to invade Japan, he calculated he would need a ground force of 766,700 soldiers with roughly 31,000 American casualties within the first 30 days (Hamby 19).
In addition to the estimated casualties of the invading ground force the estimated 100,000 prisoners of war would be slaughtered (Ferrell 24). The order was issued by Japan’s vice minister of war as follows: “Whether they are destroyed individually or in groups, or however it is done, with mass bombing, poisonous smoke, poisons, drowning, decapitation or what, dispose of them as the situation dictates. In any case it is the aim not to allow the escape of a single one, to annihilate them all, and not to leave any traces.” Another factor in the equation of the bomb vs. an invasion was the weather. At close to the time of the planned invasion a typhoon struck mainland Japan almost leveling everything in its path (Ferrell 24).
Japan had anticipated a U.S. attack so they readied themselves by assembling 215 Kairya available with another 207 being built; 115 Koryu–five man suicide submarines complete with another 500 more being built, Kaiten–human torpedoes carrying bombs which were capable of sinking the largest U.S. ships. Also in their arsenal was the Fukuryu which was capable of staying under water for up to 10 hours with huge mines attached which could destroy a 950-ton ship. Other precautions they took were to send 4,000 Navy Shinyo to Kyushu with anti-landing obstacles, coastal batteries to set up pillboxes, bunkers, strong points underground fortresses and barbed wire entanglements to force the invaders into the enemy line of fire (Reese 41). Truman made his final decision on August 2, 1945 to drop the bomb on Japan August 6, 1945.
Colonel Paul Tibbets flew the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima from an altitude of 31,600 feet. The explosion occurred at 2,000 feet, killing approximately 80,000 Japanese instantly. No single device in the history of warfare had killed so many people so indiscriminately (Hamby 24). On August 9, 1945 at 11 am the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki killing approximately 40,000 Japanese instantly. Everyone knows that millions of lives were lost in this war. Even though we had solders fighting the war civilians lost their lives too.
Some of the death tolls are more substantial then others. The U.S. lost only 407,318 military personal, while Japan lost about 1,700,000 military personal and 380,00 civilian. Almost one half of the Japanese civilian casualties came from the dropping of the two atomic bombs.
Truman later said to the media on August 15, 1945: “I did not hesitate to order the use of the atomic bomb on military targets, I wanted to save half a million boys on our side and as many on the other. I never lost any sleep over my decision. I was there. I did it. I would do it again.” Truman later found out that Japan had perfected their atomic bomb one day after the U.S. bombed Nagasaki.
This discovery further confirmed in his mind that his decision was the correct one. There have been many people who have criticized Truman over the years for his decision. So many human lives were destroyed by his decision, but when you look at the facts and weigh the possibility of what would have happened if Japan had dropped their bomb first, then this was the only possible decision to make in order for the U.S. to come out victorious. With all that I have researched I have found that Trumans’ decision to drop the Atomic bomb on Japan was the right decision because it saved American lives. Bibliography Works Cited Barbor, John.
“When Harry Gave Them Hell.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 25 October 1992: 1C+. Bernstein, J.
Barton. “The Atomic Bombings Reconsideration.” Foreign Affairs. January/Febuary 1995: 135-152. Ferrell, Robert H. “President Harry S. Truman and the bomb.” National Forum Fall 1995: 22- 24, 29.
Ferrell, Robert H. Harry S. Truman and the Modern American Presidency. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1983. Ferrell, Robert H.
Truman: A Centenary Remembrance. New York: Viking Press, 1984. Hamby, Alonzo. “Truman and the bomb.” History Today August 1995: 18-26.
Hecht, Peter. “The Last Days of World War Two: 50 Years Ago.” The Sacramento Bee. 25 June 1995: Al+ “Impossible Measures.” Vital Speeches 15 June 1946: 578-80. Powers, Thomas. “Was it Right?” Atlantic Monthly. July 1995: 20-23.
Reese, Lee Fleming. “Yes: Japan had the bomb.” Education Fall 1991: 40-43. “Report on the Atomic Bomb.” Science 17 August 1945: 163-5. Van Warren=Bey, The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima. (1998): no page.
Online Internet, Yahoo. 5 March 1999. History Essays.