Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including the new one, The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood--and America--Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.
Yesterday's entry. Today:
July 25: Still at Potsdam, Truman wrote in his diary this day an entry that raises the following: Did he know that the U.S. was targeting the center of cities--the vast majority of citizens then living in the target cities were women and children--or was he lying to himself and history? "We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark. Anyway we ‘think’ we have found the way to cause a disintegration of the atom. An experiment in the New Mexico desert was startling - to put it mildly. ...The explosion was visible for more than 200 miles and audible for 40 miles and more.
"This weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Sec. of War, Mr. Stimson, to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital or the new.
"He and I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one and we will issue a warning statement asking the Japs to surrender and save lives. I’m sure they will not do that, but we will have given them the chance. It is certainly a good thing for the world that Hitler’s crowd or Stalin’s did not discover this atomic bomb. It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful."
Note: "Military" made up only about 10% of the casualties in Hiroshima (including several American POWs), and 1% at most in Nagasaki (including Dutch POWs.). The vast majority of the 200,000 killed were women and children.