Veterans commemorate Truman’s pivotal decision

Adrianne DeWeese

It was arguably one of the toughest political decisions made in the 20th century.

Sixty-seven years later, the decision – a pivotal one in American history, made by Independence, Mo.’s own Harry Truman – is still being discussed.

On Monday, in a brief ceremony at the Truman Presidential Library & Museum, members of the Harry S Truman Chapter of the Air Force Association and about a dozen visitors gathered in remembrance of the 67th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb Little Boy on Hiroshima, Japan. The members placed a wreath at Harry Truman’s tomb in the Library and Museum courtyard, commemorating the president’s historic, although controversial, decision to drop the first atomic weapon.

Three days later, on Aug. 9, 1945, Fat Man was dropped over Nagasaki. Hundreds of thousands of people died either immediately or in the months after the bombings. On Aug. 15, Japan announced its surrender to the Allies, and in early September, World War II ended.

President Truman expressed his anguish of making the decision to drop the bombs, which were developed by the Manhattan Project, in his personal diary in the weeks leading up to the bombings. He wrote that women and children shouldn’t be the targets and that the bomb shouldn’t be dropped on what, at that time, were old or new capitals of Japan.

“Truman also reflected how fortunate it was that we, and not Hitler nor Stalin, had discovered the atomic bomb,” retired U.S. Air Force Col. Jerry Hughes said.

Wrote Truman on July 25, 1945: “It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful.”

On Monday in Hiroshima, about 50,000 people gathered in Peace Memorial Park near the epicenter of the blast. Truman’s grandson, Clifton Truman Daniel, was present at the memorial.

“President Truman’s decision to use this cruel tool to end a long and bloody war must rank among the greatest strategic actions of military history,” Hughes said, calling the anniversary “marked by both anguish and elation.”

This marks the Harry S Truman Chapter of the Air Force Association’s second year of holding the wreath placement ceremony. The association’s president, Pat Snyder, said the event honors those who lost their lives in Japan because of the bombings, as much as it honors Truman for his tough decision.

“I think it finally ended the war,” she said, “and it saved a lot of lives. It’s unfortunate that we did lose a lot of lives, but that’s always what happens in a war. Sometimes, you have to lose lives in order to win – it’s sort of like the game of life.”