Tag Archives: atomic bomb

‘Oppenheimer’: grim history lesson

J. Robert Oppenheimer knew the moment he decided to take on a monumental task in the 1940s that he likely would create a monster.

Indeed, that monster has been — more or less — caged up by nations around the world that have developed nuclear weapons. The United States was the first nation on Earth to develop The Bomb, and in August 1945, it decided to seek a relatively quick end to World War II by being the only nation (so far) to use the weapon in war.

“Oppenheimer,” a film I watched today with my sons, tells the gripping story of the physicist’s struggle dealing with what he created. It speaks to the awesome power of the atomic bomb and also whether scientists could perfect a bomb that fused atoms — rather than splitting them — to create an even more devastating weapon to use against our enemy in Japan.

On Aug. 6, 1945, Hiroshima felt the wrath of the first of two bombs; the second one dropped on Nagasaki three days later. Five days after that Japan surrendered.

Mission accomplished … in the eyes of those who believed the A-bomb was the better option than to send troops ashore in Japan.

The film tells a chilling tale of deception among the scientists working on the project. It speaks to the monstrosity that Oppenheimer, Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi and other brainiacs assembled.

“Oppenheimer” depicts a meeting between the title character and President Harry Truman in the Oval Office. Oppenheimer wonders aloud whether he did the right thing by creating the weapon. President Truman — portrayed in the film by Gary Oldman — tells Oppenheimer the world “doesn’t give a sh** who created it. The people of Hiroshima care who dropped it. I did that.”

Right there is a case study in nerves of steel by the president of the United States.

But the world still has this weapon in the arsenals of many more nations than anyone likely envisioned in 1945. May we never see its use in war ever again.


Recall Einstein’s projection about ‘WW IV’

An excellent analysis on Politico.com suggests that Iran isn’t likely to trigger an overarching armed conflict in the Middle East in reaction to the death of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Sulemaini on orders from Donald Trump.

The Iranians are blustering about a severe response to Sulemaini’s death in a U.S. air strike. Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, believes Iran will back off and will not provoke a conflict that would fester into a third world war.

Read his essayĀ here.

It goes without saying that I hope he’s right. I’ll say it anyway: I hope he’s right.

I want to look back at a statement attributed to the physicist Albert Einstein, who after contributing to the development of the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II, offered his view of how future world wars would unfold.

He supposedly said he didn’t know how World War III would be fought, but said he was certain “World War IV would be fought with sticks and stones.”

If ol’ Albert Einstein didn’t say precisely that, the message remains vital if the Iranian mullahs have any ideas about how they intend to react to the death of a killer.

As Takeyh said, the “last thing (the mullahs) need is a costly confrontation with a president willing to do things they once considered unimaginable.”

God bless President Truman

I have commented already on this blog about the significance that Aug. 6 has to the country and to me personally.

On that date in 1945, President Harry Truman issued an order that stands the test of time. He ordered a B-29 crew to take off from Tinian Island in the Pacific Ocean. It carried a single bomb.

The plane dropped that bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. The A-bomb killed about 70,000 people instantly. Three days later, another bomber would fly over Nagasaki, Japan, and would drop another bomb. It killed 50,000 people.

Five days after that, Japan surrendered. World War II had come to an end.

I long have saluted President Truman for having the courage to act as he did to bring that war to an end.

He became president after Franklin Roosevelt’s death in April 1945. World War II would rage in Europe until May 8. The Nazis surrendered as the Soviet Red Army marched into Berlin. The Japanese would continue the fight into the summer on the other side of planet. Truman knew a tiny bit about some New Mexico project that was developing a new kind of weapon. Then the Joint Chiefs briefed him, telling him, in effect, “Mr. President, we have this bomb that we believe can end this war quickly.”

My father was part of an occupation force in The Philippines that summer. He was preparing to take part in the invasion of Japan, were that operation were to commence. He had already seen plenty of combat in the Mediterranean Theater. Dad told me once he figured that more combat awaited him once the invasion of Japan commenced. He was a Navy boatswain’s mate. His shipboard duty required him to fire a deck gun in anger at enemy aircraft in the Med. More of that kind of duty likely awaited him.

But then the president ordered the dropping of those atomic bombs. The war ended quickly afterward.

I never have questioned for a moment the wisdom of President Truman’s decision or doubted the courage he demonstrated in issuing the order. Hey, I have some “skin in that game” ā€¦ you know?

I mean, if Dad hadn’t survived, well, I wouldn’t be here today, writing this blog telling you about how grateful I am to have been given life.

I once told a veterans group in Amarillo about my personal connection to the events of Aug. 6 and 9, 1945. I told those vets, “God bless President Truman.”

They clapped and cheered.

I feel just as strongly today as I always have about the president’s decision to end that terrible conflict in the manner that he did.

Yes, we’ve seen ‘fire and fury,’ Mr. President

You no doubt remember when Donald John Trump threatened North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un earlier this year with “fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen.”

Kim had issued some threats to the United States. The president was having none of it. Well, the president isn’t exactly a student of history, as we know.

Seventy-three years ago today, one of Trump’s predecessors, President Harry Truman, issued the order to release a new kind of “fire and fury” on a nation with which we were at war.

A U.S. Army Air Force B-29 bomber took off on Aug. 6, 1945, from Tinian Island and headed for Hiroshima, Japan. It dropped a single bomb on Hiroshima. It killed tens of thousands of Japanese citizens in an instant. It was the first time the world saw a nuclear weapon deployed in a hostile act. It wouldn’t be the final time.

Three days later, another bomber flew over Nagasaki, Japan, and repeated the destruction.

The Japanese surrendered five days later, ending the world’s greatest, bloodiest and costliest conflict.

President Truman took office in April 1945 upon the death of President Franklin Roosevelt. The new president knew only a tiny bit of information about the Manhattan Project, where scientists were working on this terrible new weapon way out yonder in Los Alamos, N.M.

President Truman was briefed fully not long after he took office. The military brass told him, in effect, “Mr. President, we have this weapon under development that we believe will bring a quick end to the war.” The president agreed.

He would say many years later that he harbored no regret over using the atomic bomb. I have saluted President Truman many times over the years for the decision he made, based on the evidence he had at the time — and the lives he saved by persuading the enemy to surrender and allowing us to forgo an invasion of Japan by sea, air and land forces.

Fire and fury? There it was.

‘Power like the world has never seen’?

Donald J. Trump has issued the sternest of statements to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. It’s full of bluster and a bit of bravado.

It’s also frightening in the extreme — to our side as well as to the North Koreans!

The communist regime reportedly now is able to place a nuclear weapon aboard an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the United States. That’s a line that the president cannot tolerate.

So, while vacationing in New Jersey, Trump issued a direct threat to North Korea, saying that the United States is prepared to unleash “fire and fury” and a “power like the world has never seen.”

Let’s hold on. The United States once did unleash “fire and fury” on an enemy combatant state. It occurred on Aug. 6 and again on Aug. 9, 1945. We dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. World War II was drawing to a conclusion and President Truman decided he needed to deploy those weapons to persuade the Japanese that continued fighting would be futile.

Truman learned of the Hiroshima bombing while returning from the Potsdam Conference.

The strategy worked. Japan surrendered just days after Nagasaki was incinerated.

If Donald J. Trump is proposing measures that would eclipse those twin events in August 1945, then we are truly embarking down the most dangerous path anyone ever imagined.

No apology coming for Pearl Harbor attack? It should


That settles that issue, I guess.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is coming to the United States late this month for a state visit with President Obama.

He won’t apologize for what his forebears did on Dec. 7, 1941. You see, Abe will be at the place where the United States was drawn into World War II. He’ll visit Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He’ll likely tour the USS Arizona Memorial. He’ll get to hear about the suffering brought to the men who are entombed in the shattered remains of the ship that still rest at the bottom of the harbor.

As the Associated Press reported: Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that ‘the purpose of the upcoming visit is to pay respects for the war dead and not to offer an apology.'”

Frankly, I wish he would at least offer an expression of regret.

We’ll learn in due course whether he changes his mind.

President Obama visited Hiroshima, Japan earlier this year. He didn’t apologize, either, for the atomic bomb that President Truman ordered dropped on that city. Then again, I don’t believe an apology — in that instance — was warranted. The Japanese started the fight with the sneak attack on our forces at Pearl Harbor; we finished it with the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and, three days later, on Nagasaki.

Abe’s circumstance, of course, is much different. He represents a government that in an earlier era talked to American diplomats about seeking peace while plotting an act of war.

He need not grovel. He need not beg for forgiveness. Indeed, U.S.-Japan relations are stronger than ever at this moment seven decades afterĀ the two nations’ forces fought each other to the death throughout the Pacific Theater of Operations.


He’ll emphasize the “reconciliation” that has occurred. That’s fine. We all know that it is strong.

The act of war that precipitated the era of good feelings that followed, however, ought to require a statement of contrition from the leader of the government that caused all that senseless carnage in the first place.

Can the candidates keep a secret?


Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald J. Trump — the Democratic and Republican candidates for president, respectively — are set to receive briefings from President Obama’s national security team.

The question keeps bugging me: Will they both receive identical briefings and will they get information that is at matching levels of security clearance?

Trump’s penchant for shooting off his mouth has become somewhat legendary as he campaigns for president. Clinton, too, has problems — allegedly — with protecting national security information.

Of the two, my sense is that Clinton — given her troubles over her use of personal e-mail servers while she was secretary of state — is going to be extra careful with any information she gets from Obama’s national security team.

Trump? I’m not so sure.

This has been a custom dating back to the 1952 when President Truman’s team decided to share this information with Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson, the candidates who sought to succeed Give ‘Em Hell Harry.

The intent is to avoid the new president from getting too much of a surprise when he or she takes office. Harry Truman took office in April 1945 and wasn’t told until 12 days after being sworn in after President Roosevelt’s death that, um, we had been doing research on a secret weapon in New Mexico that might end World War II in a hurry.

It was the atomic bomb!

I’m going to assume — yes, I know that’s a dangerous thing to do — that the information given to Clinton and Trump will be given in the strictest confidence. That means the people giving it will be sworn to secrecy, as well as the people receiving it.

Are they bound by any rule that requires them to give Trump the same intelligence briefing they give to Clinton?

More to the point, can the intelligence briefers and theĀ candidates keep itĀ all of it a secret?

Did we make a ‘mistake’ in Hiroshima?


I am drawn by a particular passage from remarksĀ President Obama made while visiting Hiroshima.

“We’re not bound by genetic codes to repeat the mistakes of the past. We can learn. We can choose. We can tell our children a different story,” Obama said in remarks at the memorial that commemorates the dropping of the atomic bomb on the Japanese city on Aug. 6, 1945.

To be sure, the president did not deliver an apology for the decision one of his predecessors, Harry Truman, made in seeking an end to the bloodiest war in human history.

Nor should he.

But the statement seems to imply that the decision was a “mistake.”

I beg to differ, Mr. President. I think many of your fellow Americans beg to differ as well, particularly those of us who are descended from those who were participating in that theater of operations at the end of the war.

The president’s speech was far-reaching and it spoke to a “moral awakening” that the event brought to the world. Indeed, it did, and for that awakening we should be grateful. The world saw first hand in 1945 just destructive these weapons can be.


President Truman, who took office upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, felt at that moment he had to make a decision that would (a) end the war quickly and (b) change the world forever.

It did both. President Truman said late in his life that he never regretted the decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima and, three days later, on Nagasaki.

For me personally, he might have saved my own father’s life. Dad was in the Philippines serving in the Navy and well could have taken part in the campaign against the Japanese homeland. The bombs prevented that campaign from occurring.

Those of us who have this connection with what happened that at the end of World War II perhaps see the event with a different form of clarity than others.

I’m glad President Obama has spoken out about the need to remain alert to the tragedy of these terrible weapons.

Was its use in Japan a “mistake”?

No. It was not.


Yep, VPOTUS is an important office

Jeffrey Frank’s essay in The New Yorker lays it out clearly.

The office of vice president of the United States is the second-most important office in the country, if not the world. It took the death of a president to make that fact abundantly clear.


Frank writes about Franklin Roosevelt’s death 70 years ago, on April 12, 1945. Vice President Harry Truman was told of FDR’s death in Georgia. He was rushed to the White House and sworn in as president.

It’s what President Truman didn’t know at the time that has been the subject of discussion ever since.

He didn’t know about the Manhattan Project, which produced the atomic bomb, which then ended World War II in August 1945.

Truman only that there was something afoot in New Mexico. Secretary of War Henry Stimson told the president he had something to tell him involving a top-secret project. He informed him of the bomb and said, in effect, that if we use this device it could end the war in a hurry.

The gist of Frank’s essay is that the vice presidency was fundamentally changed after FDR’s death. Presidents have had to rely on their No. 2 men, required to keep them briefed on everything of importance that goes in the government. Why? Well, as we’ve learned, presidents can leave office quickly and without warning.

President Kennedy was murdered in November 1963. President Nixon resigned in August 1974. Both men had selected steady and seasoned men as their vice presidents who could take over at a moment’s notice. Lyndon Johnson did so while the nation grieved JFK’s death and Gerald Ford took the oath after Nixon’s resignation and reassured us that “Our long, national nightmare is over. The Constitution works.”

Presidential nominees have picked well since FDR’s time. Some have chosen not so well, as Frank notes.

But the notion that vice presidency — in the (sanitized) words of Texan John Nance Garner — “isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit” was laid to rest forever when Harry Truman was handed the keys to the Oval Office.

We’ll be sure to keep this in mind when the next nominees for president pick their VPs.


Degree not a requirement for White House

The mini-hubbub over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s academic credentials is rather funny.

Some Democrats are snickering at Gov. Walker’s lack of a college degree, suggesting that he’s somehow not qualified to be elected president of the United States — an office he’s considering seeking next year.

The GOP governor’s background was criticized, for instance, by former Vermont Gov. (and physician) Howard Dean, who sought to make light of Walker’s lack of a degree.

Walker attended the University of Wisconsin, but dropped out short of obtaining his degree.

I won’t belabor the point, but I should point out that degree-less men have served already as president. Indeed, a college degree isn’t a requirement for holding the Most Powerful Office in the World.

Let’s see, who can I cite as an example of what we’re discussing here?

Oh, yes. Harry Truman comes to mind.

You know, Give ‘Em Hell Harry acquitted himself well as president, getting thrust into the office upon the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in April 1945; he then had to decide quickly whether to useĀ atomic bombs to end World War II; he had to act to save Greece and Turkey from communist rebellion after the war; he then had to send U.S. troops into battle to stave off another communist invasion, in Korea — and thenĀ relieved General of the Army Douglas MacArthur of his command in Korea for challenging civilian authority over the military.

President Truman did all right during his eight years in office, even without his college degree.

Do I intend to vote for Gov. Walker next year? Probably not. There’s a lot of things I dislike about his public service record. His lack of a college degree isn’t one of them.