Tag Archives: Manhattan Project

We must celebrate this event

All the men pictured here are now deceased, but the deed they performed 77 years ago in Tokyo Harbor will live forever.

The man at the table is signing his name to a document accepting the unconditional surrender of Japan in its war against the rest of the world. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur commanded our forces in the Pacific Theater of Operations.

The Japanese surrender marked the end of the bloodiest war in human history and, to my way of thinking, we need to mark this day in some official manner, the way we commemorate Veterans Day, or Memorial Day, or the Fourth of July.


I say this because I believe I have some skin in this game. I wasn’t there, of course. I would enter this world a little more than four years after Gen. MacArthur’s signature dried on the document.

My father, though, was serving in the Navy when the war ended. He was in the Philippines. Dad had served his time in hell in the Mediterranean theater, fighting the Germans and the Italians. He endured 105 consecutive days of aerial bombardment.

After all that, Dad was sent to the Philippines, I believe to prepare for the invasion of Japan. He’d already taken part in three amphibious landings: in North Africa, in Sicily and in Salerno, Italy. Dad was, shall we say, an experienced hand.

Then came one of the most fateful decisions in the history of the world. A new U.S. president, Harry Truman, was briefed on a weapon he didn’t know existed when he took office in April 1945 upon the death of President Roosevelt. The military brass told him the A-bomb could end the war immediately, and that it could save many more Japanese and American lives than would be lost if we dropped the bomb.

In August 1945, President Truman ordered two of these devices dropped on Japan. The enemy sued for peace five days after the second bomb exploded over Nagasaki.

Over the course of my career in journalism, I had several opportunities to speak to community groups. I spoke one day to a group of veterans at the Thomas Creek VA Medical Center in Amarillo. I spoke to the vets about political courage and specifically about the guts Truman showed in using those horrible weapons.

I received one standing ovation during my time speaking to community groups. I got one that day when I said, “May God bless President Truman.”

The way I figure it, President Truman likely might have saved Dad’s life when he ordered the bombs to fall on Japan and, thus, enabled me to enter this world.

So, you see, the surrender that Gen. MacArthur accepted that day aboard the USS Missouri is — to borrow a phrase — a big … deal.


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 essay 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.”

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.

Mr. President, you see … we have this bomb

I posted earlier today a blog item about how Franklin Roosevelt’s death changed the vice presidency for the better.

Vice President Harry Truman became president upon FDR’s death in April 1945. He took office, asked his Cabinet to pray for him and then set about finishing off the Axis Powers as World War II came to an end. Nazi Germany surrendered just about three weeks after FDR’s death. The Pacific combat remained to be fought.

But he knew next to nothing about the secrets that FDR took with him to the grave. One of them involved the Manhattan Project. Imagine the conversation taking place between Secretary of War Henry Stimson and the president of the United States.

Stimson: Uh, Mr. President? I’ve got something to discuss with you.

Truman: Sure, Henry. What is it?

Stimson: Well, sir, we’re developing this bomb out in New Mexico. We’ve been working with really smart fellow: Bob Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, Albert Einstein, to name just three.

Truman: Bomb? We’ve got all kinds of bombs. We dropped them by the thousands every day in Europe and we’re still doing so in the Pacific.

Stimson: But Mr. President, this bomb is a big one. Really, really big. It’s an atomic bomb. I mean, when it explodes, it registers enough firepower to equal several thousand pounds of dynamite.

Truman: Holy s***, Henry. One bomb equals all that power?

Stimson: Yes sir. We’re going to detonate one of them in July out in Alamogordo. It’ll be the first one. If it works, we’re going to propose something quite dramatic.

Truman: And that is … ?

Stimson: We think we ought to use it on Japan. Send them a message that if they keep fighting we’ll use it again and again. Mr. President, we don’t think the Japanese will have the stomach for many of these.

Truman: OK, Henry, we’ll wait to see how the test blast goes and then we’ll make that call.


The test went off successfully. Less than a month later, President Truman issued the order to bomb Hiroshima. The Enola Gay took off on Aug. 6. Three days later, Nagasaki was demolished by the second A-bomb — and the rest is history.

God bless President Truman.

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.


Auschwitz liberation turns 70

This still-new year has just welcomed the first of many 70-year anniversaries, most of which are related to the Second World War.

It was 70 years ago this week that the Red Army, which was storming across eastern Europe on its way to Berlin, liberated the Auschwitz death camp, where the Nazi monsters exterminated thousands of prisoners, mostly Jews, while pursuing what Adolf Hitler called “the final solution.”


Other death camps would be liberated by the Soviets — and by American, British and Allied forces rolling toward Berlin from the west. They would uncover horrors never imagined.

The world will spend a good bit of time this year looking back on the final chapter of the world’s most destructive conflict.

Seventy years ago this year:

* Hitler died, taking his own life to avoid being captured by the Soviet army. Good riddance to that hideous monster.

* Franklin D. Roosevelt died. For many Americans alive at the time, he was the only president they knew. He helped rescue the nation from the depths of depression and then led it into battle against tyranny.

* The Manhattan Project brought us the atomic bomb, which FDR’s successor, President Truman, ordered dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We’ll have much more to say about that at a later time.

* The Allies declared Victory in Europe, and the world celebrated VE Day, as Nazi Germany surrendered.

* The Japanese surrendered later and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur accepted their surrender aboard the USS Missouri.

* The United Nations was founded in San Francisco.

Nineteen forty-five was a monumental year, yes?

World War II ended and the world began picking up the pieces of its shattered existence.