Chuck Sweeny: Truman was right to drop atomic bomb
Friday was “Hiroshima Day,” when people of the peace movement give speeches condemning the Americans who killed 140,000 people when President Truman ordered the A-bomb dropped over Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and another 80,000 on Aug. 9, when he OK’d a second bomb released over Nagasaki.
They’re entitled to their opinion. But for me, Friday was “Harry Truman Day.” I am grateful to the “buck stops here” president who saved a million Americans and millions more Japanese by dropping two A-bombs.
Without Truman’s forceful action, I probably would not be here. The day the war ended in the Pacific, Aug. 15, 1945, Fay C. Sweeny, the American lieutenant who would become my father, was on the SS Monterey, a ship of the Matson Line headed to the Philippines from Europe. He had recently finished slogging through France and Germany to help end the “Thousand Year Reich.”
I have the ship’s newsletter framed in my rec room. The headline reads, “War is Over!” Dad wrote the latitude and longitude of the ship’s position when the end came. All on board knew one thing, he told me years later.
They would not have to invade Japan and die.
“Operation Downfall” was planned to start in October 1945. Dad told me the War Department estimated more than 1 million Americans would be killed or wounded. Tens of millions of Japanese would die, for they had vowed to fight to the death. This included civilians committing mass suicide, something U.S. Marines had witnessed on a small scale in their island-hopping campaign in the South Pacific.
Conventional bombing with B-29 Superfortresses had already inflicted much more damage and death on Japanese cities, including Tokyo, than the two A-bombs would. But Emperor Hirohito and the warlords just couldn’t bring themselves to surrender.
The Hiroshima bomb worked. Still no surrender came. Truman ordered a second atomic attack. That convinced the Japanese warlords and the emperor to quit. Adm. Yamamoto, leader of the Pearl Harbor raid, had been right when he said on Dec. 7, 1941: “I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant, and filled him with a terrible resolve.”
It has become popular in revisionist circles to say the Pearl Harbor raid was America’s fault: The Japanese attacked us because we had cut off their oil supply. Japan had no oil of its own and bought most of what it needed from the U.S.
But do you know why we turned off the oil? We were trying to stop Japan from continuing its brutal annexation of China in a stomach-turning reign of terror that knew no bounds. President Franklin Roosevelt told Japan’s warlords: Get out of China, then you can buy our oil. They said no, and started planning the Pearl Harbor attack.
War is horrible. But when tyrants march, holding hands and singing “Give Peace a Chance” will not stop them.
Actually, Japan got a good deal. Gen. Douglas MacArthur brought in America’s best legal minds to write Japan a constitution with individual rights and something we do not have in our own Constitution: women’s rights. “Mac” oversaw the nation’s rebuilding and made the emperor admit he was not divine. U.S. occupation forces protected Japan from foreign attack and Japan became the prosperous, democratic and peaceful nation it is today.
Thank you, President Truman.
Reach Rockford Register Star Senior Editor Chuck Sweeny at 815-987-1366 or firstname.lastname@example.org.