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This Week in History
August 2-8, 2015

Commanders Opposed Truman on Hiroshima

August 6, 1945

This article was published in the August 16, 2002 issue of Executive Intelligence Review and is reprinted with permission.

Gen. Douglas MncArthur, the commander ql'the theater in which the nuclear bombs were used in 1945, was not consulted beforehand by the Executive branch. After the militarily pointless bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, MncArthur was "appalled and depressed by this Frankenstein monster, " wrote his pilot.

From Dwight Eisenhower's Mandate for Change: "The Secretary [of War, Stimson], upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent.

"During the recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment, I thought, was no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face.' The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude, almost angrily refuting the reasons I gave for my quick conclusions." Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was the commander of the theater in which the bombs were to be used, was not consulted. He had already sent his air chief, Gen. George Kenney, to Washington in the Spring of 1945, to report that Japan was on the brink of surrender. MacArthur' s sole concern was that the Emperor be allowed to maintain a position in post-war Japan. If the Emperor gave the order to surrender, MacArthur knew, all Japanese troops would surrender. Kenney came back to report to MacArthur that he had not succeeded in convincing his superiors in Washington. On the day after the bombing, MacArthur's pilot, Weldon E. Rhoades, noted in his diary: "General MacArthur definitely is appalled and depressed by this Frankenstein monster. I had a long talk with him today, necessitated by the impending trip to Okinawa. He wants time to think the thing out, so he has postponed the trip to some future date to be decided later."

Years later, MacArthur told Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins, that his advice had not been sought. "He saw no militaryjustification for the dropping of the bomb," Cousins reported. "The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the Emperor."

Herbert Hoover, who had advised Truman against dropping the bomb, met with MacArthur for several hours on a trip to the Pacific in early May 1946: "1 told MacArthur of my memorandum of mid-May 1945 to Truman, that peace could be had with Japan by which our major objectives would be accomplished. MacArthur said that was correct and that we would have avoided all of the losses, the Atomic bomb, and the entry of Russia into Manchuria," Hoover wrote in his diary.

Another prominent opponent was Roosevelt's chief military aide, Adm. William Leahy, who continued to serve under Truman. On June 18, 1945, Leahy had written in his diary: It is my opinion that at the present time a surrender of Japan can be arranged, with terms that can be accepted by Japan, and that will make fully satisfactory provision for America's defense against any future trans-Pacific aggression." In 1949, Leahy would tell his biographer, Jonathan Daniels: "Truman told me it was agreed they would use it, after military men's statements that it would save many, many American lives, by shortening the war, only to hit military objectives. Of course, then they went ahead and killed as many women and children as they could, which was just what they wanted all the time."

Ernest King, chief of Naval Operations and chief of the U.S. fleet, concurred with the predominant Navy thinking that an invasion would never be needed. In his autobiography (written in the third person), King wrote, "The President, in giving his approval for these attacks, appeared to believe that many thousands of American troops would be killed in invading Japan, and in this he was entirely correct; but King felt, as he had pointed out many times, that the dilemma was an unnecessary one, for had we been willing to wait, the effective naval blockade would, in the course of time, have starved the Japanese into submission through lack of oil, rice, medicines, and other essential elements."

—William C. Jones

Hiroshima: Hamlet Bombs Out (excerpt)

by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr.

This article was released on Aug. 7, 1995. It appeared in the Aug. 18, 1995 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.


On the surface, the issue is the fiftieth anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of the city of Hiroshima in Japan. Alperovitz writes, that there was no military necessity for the nuclear bombing of Japan cities; that far, he is right. The trouble is, too many veterans of the World War II Pacific Theater insist on retelling the lie which President Truman's crowd told them back then, that "one million American lives" had been saved by the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. That foolishness, by those veterans, could spell disaster for the United States whose honor they pretend, mistakenly, to be defending. They are falling into London's Alperovitz trap.

I was in service in northern Burma at the time. I heard the Truman administration's lie, just as the rest of my fellow-veterans from the Pacific Theater did. At that moment, I believed the lie, too. Later, I corrected my error; I checked the facts, and found that I had been misled.

Also, after the war, I reread Shakespeare's Hamlet. Hamlet was a swashbuckling, macho fool, ready to thrust his sword at the man behind the curtain before he knew who was there. Hamlet was a born soldier, afraid of nothing but ghosts and ideas which conflicted with his well-established prejudices; it was those fears that killed him, and those stubborn prejudices which led him, and his kingdom to their doom. Like Hamlet, some surviving veterans of the Pacific Theater choose to blindly defend the lying myth of "The One Million American Lives Saved." Like Hamlet, those old swashbucklers, too, are afraid of ghosts, and of ideas which might be contrary to a popularized mythology.

Consider the essential points. First, the facts about the U.S.A.-Japan military situation, 1945. After that, the significance of the way in which London is playing the issue of the Hiroshima bombing today: why that, which those thick-headed veterans are doing, is so dangerous to the United States today.

Spring/Summer 1945

By April 12, 1945, the day of President Franklin Roosevelt's untimely death, he, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and Adm. Chester Nimitz had led the United States and Australia to assured victory in the Pacific Theater. Already, Japan's Emperor Hirohito was negotiating surrender with President Roosevelt, and other U.S.A. allies, working through Pope Pius XII's acting secretary for diplomatic affairs, Giovanni Montini (later Pope Paul VI). At the time Roosevelt died, the islands of Japan were already effectively blockaded; Japan's military situation was hopeless. Surrender on the Emperor's proposed terms was virtually assured within a few more months, as the logistical noose tightened sufficiently to end all Japan military leaders' resistance to the Emperor's will. At the time, the best U.S. guess was Autumn 1945, by no later than November.

There was no need for a military invasion of the islands of Japan. There was no military reason for dropping those nuclear weapons on two cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, of a Japan which had been utterly defeated; there was only a British geopolitical motive, which had almost nothing to do with Japan as such.

As Niccoló Machiavelli's commentaries on the ten books of Livy emphasized to many generations of professional military officers, there is no military justification for a deadly assault on an adversary who is already hopelessly defeated, and cornered; to invade Japan head-on, in such circumstances, would have been a folly fit for the court-martialling of any commander incompetent enough to order it.

There was one crucial motive for that bombing: Winston Churchill and Company wished those bombs used. Once Churchill's political adversary, President Franklin Roosevelt, was dead and buried, Churchill and his U.S. accomplices had their way with Harry S Truman.

Among London's first steps toward setting up dupe Truman to drop the bomb, was sending British asset Allen Dulles and his wretched James Jesus Angleton into Italy, to wreck the channel of peace negotiations being run through OSS Italy, and to discredit with lies the Vatican's mediation between Tokyo and Washington. Inside Washington, D.C., itself, the key London asset was the group of so-called "brain trusters" gathered around Churchill's crony, Averell Harriman, especially Secretary of War Henry Stimson. London's other key asset, Truman's Secretary of State James Byrnes, was a special figure in the configuration; but, the key was Gen. Douglas MacArthur's deadly, Anglophile enemies inside Washington, the crowd of the so-called "best and brightest" of the Liberal Establishment, around the patron of President George Bush's father, and, later of George Bush himself, Averell Harriman.

To understand the U.S. side of Hiroshima nuclear politics, keep your eye on the Harriman-versus-MacArthur controversy of 1945-51, and keep your eye on the significance of post-MacArthur U.N.O. policy in the Korean War: the model for dragging the United States as a nation down into the quicksands of the 1964-75 Indo-China war, and into London's 1992-95 Serbian Balkan War, conducted under U.N.O. management, later on.