Letter at length, August 17

Learning from our mistakes

I agree that President Harry Truman made one of the most difficult decisions of any leader in history when he decided to drop atomic bombs on Japan. I also believe that Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Barack Obama had to make many extremely difficult and unpopular decisions about how to deal with the financial crisis that each of them inherited from a marginal previous president. Making tough decisions is a major part of the job of president.

Truman became vice president on Jan. 20, 1945, and less than three months later he became president upon the death of FDR. Less than four months after that he ordered the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and three days later we dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. It is estimated that somewhere around 350,000 Japanese people died as a result of these two bombings, while several highly respected U.S. generals and admirals of that time have said that the bombings were completely unnecessary, as Japan was already defeated and on the verge of surrender.

I do not think that 64 years after the fact we should be piling on or trying to ruin the legacy of an accidental and unprepared president who had almost no communications with the ailing FDR during his brief vice presidency. Truman was a decent and honorable man who is now regarded by many as one of our best presidents.

On the other hand, I do not think that it is unreasonable to look back upon history, learn from the mistakes of the past and come to the conclusion that we must work toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons in order to avoid the complete destruction of the planet. Nuclear waste can have a half-life of more than 1,000 years, and nuclear explosions not only kill — they vaporize! Those who are not killed will likely have their lives substantially shortened by cancer. Nuclear explosions can cause extreme earthquakes. Nobody wants nuclear waste dump sites in "their backyard." Who can blame them?

In his diary, Truman wrote of the atomic bomb: "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 famous ark."

Ed Dillon


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