Truman Discusses Using the Atomic Bombs

Published in: on August 8, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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July 20, 1945: Dear Bess

Harry Truman was a very happily married man and whenever he was separated from his wife, he would write her chatty letters which are a first rate source of what he was thinking on a particular day.  He wrote this letter after the start of the Potsdam Conference with Stalin and Churchill:


Berlin July 20, 1945

Dear Bess:

It was an experience to talk to you from my desk here in Berlin night before last. It sure made me homesick. This is a hell of a place–ruined, dirty, smelly, forlorn people, bedraggled, hangdog look about them. You never saw as completely ruined a city. But they did it. I am most comfortably fixed and the palace where we meet is one of two intact palaces left standing.

Jim Blair came to see me yesterday and had breakfast with me this morning. He is a Lt. Col. and is in charge of food and clean up for American forces here. Said it was the filthiest place he ever saw when he arrived–but it’s clean now.

We had a tough meeting yesterday. I reared up on my hind legs and told ’em where to get off and they got off. I have to make it perfectly plain to them at least once a day that so far as this President is concerned Santa Claus is dead and that my first interest is U.S.A., then I want the Jap War won and I want ’em both in it. Then I want peace–world peace and will do what can be done by us to get it. But certainly am not going to set up another foil here in Europe, pay reparations, feed the world, and get nothing for it but a nose thumbing. They are beginning to awake to the fact that I mean business.


Published in: on July 20, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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July 14, 1948: Truman Begins Giving Them Hell


In 1948 the Democrats held their national convention in Philadelphia as they did this year.  No president seeking election has ever faced a more daunting prospect than Harry Truman.  His party was fractured, with the pro-segregation Dixiecrats, under Governor of South Carolina Strom Thurmond, peeling off Democrats of the right and the Progressives, under former Vice-President Henry Wallace, peeling off Democrats of the left.  In his acceptance speech Truman gave notice to the nation that if he was going down in November, he was going down swinging.  Here is the text of his speech:

I am sorry that the microphones are in the way, but I must leave them the way they are because I have got to be able to see what I am doing– as I am always able to see what I am doing.

I can’t tell you how very much I appreciate the honor which you have just conferred upon me. I shall continue to try to deserve it.

I accept the nomination.

And I want to thank this convention for its unanimous nomination of my good friend and colleague, Senator Barkley of Kentucky. He is a great man, and a great public servant. Senator Barkley and I will win this election and make these Republicans like it– don’t you forget that!

We will do that because they are wrong and we are right, and I will prove it to you in just a few minutes. (more…)

Published in: on July 14, 2022 at 3:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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June 7, 1945: Truman Press Conference



Harry Truman as President usually had weekly press conferences.  The press conference he held on June 7, 1945 was the tenth he held since assuming the office on the death of Roosevelt in April.  Looking at the transcript of the press conference below is how blunt, direct and concise Truman was in his answers. Here is the transcript:


THE PRESIDENT. [1.] The first thing, I am exceedingly happy over the Bretton Woods–345 to 18. And the nonpartisan character of the support of that legislation makes me believe that the Congress really is for a peace treaty.

[2.] In connection with Justice Jackson’s war crimes report, which was given to you this morning, I have been reminded that next Sunday, the 10th, will be the third anniversary of the ruthless destruction of that Bohemian village of–I don’t know how to say it–L-i-d-i–

Voices: Lidice.

THE PRESIDENT. This is one of the most barbarous of all the crimes on the Nazi calendar. June 10th will be remembered always as another day of infamy.


[3.] I want to say something to you about the transportation situation that we are facing now, on account of the redeployment situation.

Colonel Johnson was in to see me yesterday, and told me very plainly that we were going to have to meet this transportation situation in 10 months. We have only a third smaller job to do than the one which has just been finished, and it took–that was over a period of 48 months. This will be over a period of 10 months; that is, to transfer all our armed forces across the United States and the deployment in the Pacific–redeployment in the Pacific. The first transportation job was considered a miracle, and this one ahead of us is even bigger.

And I want to impress it on our citizens that their best contribution in this case will be to stay at home. (more…)

Published in: on June 7, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Llewellyn M. Chilson: One Man Army

Many brave men served in our armed services during World War II, but certainly one of the bravest was Llewellyn M. Chilson.  Born on April 1, 1920 in Dayton, Ohio, his father Frank was a veteran of World War I.  He was drafted into the Army on March 28, 1942.  He served with the 45th “Thunderbird” Infantry Division in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany.  By the end of the War he had risen in rank from Private to Technical Sergeant and earned the following decorations:  3 Distinguished Service Crosses (the second highest decoration for valor in the United States Army), 3 Silver Stars, 2 Bronze Stars, 1 Legion of Merit and two purple hearts.  Go here to read his citations for the decorations that he earned. (more…)

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February 10, 1945: The Boss Wasn’t Amused

Bacall and Truman

One of the odder pictures in American history, this photo of 20 year old actress Lauren Bacall draped seductively over a piano being played by then Vice-President Harry Truman on February 10, 1945 caused considerable controversy and made headlines around the world.  The photo was taken at the National Press Club canteen where both Bacall and Truman were appearing to entertain 800 servicemen.  Bacall, reluctantly, posed on the piano at the request of her press agent Charlie Enfield, who was also publicity chief for Warner Brothers.  Bacall later recalled that Truman was a bad piano player. Bess Truman, Harry’s wife, was quite irked according to her daughter Margaret Truman, and ordered Truman not to play the piano in public again.

Published in: on February 10, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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November 15, 1945: Declaration on the Atomic Bomb


In the aftermath of World War II one of the many pressing issues confronting Harry Truman was the future of atomic weapons and atomic energy.  One of the first moves was made 70 years ago when a joint declaration by Truman and the Prime Ministers of the UK and Canada made it clear that there would be no rapid disclosure of the technology for the industrial uses of atomic energy for fear that this information could lead to the construction of additional atomic bombs by nations eager to  break the US monopoly.  Instead the declaration recommended that a UN commission be set up to give recommendations on the spread of nuclear technology and the elimination of nuclear weapons.  With 70 years of hindsight, the faith in the United Nations seems both stunning and absurd, as does the idea that the “secret” of constructing atomic bombs would long remain a “secret”, Stalin’s spies having long since supplied the Soviets with detailed information on the Manhattan Project.  Here is the text of the Declaration:

Washington, November 15, 1945

The President of the United States, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and the Prime Minister of Canada, have issued the following statement:


(1) We recognize that the application of recent scientific discoveries to the methods and practice of war has placed at the disposal of mankind means of destruction hitherto unknown, against which there can be no adequate military defense, and in the employment of which no single nation can in fact have a monopoly. (more…)

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March 5, 1946: Churchill Delivers Iron Curtain Speech


Seventy-four years ago Winston Churchill delivered what is remembered as his “Iron Curtain” speech, although Churchill referred to it as his “Sinews of Peace” speech.  Invited to speak at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri by President Truman, Churchill, out of power since the defeat of his Conservative Party at the polls in 1945, had looked on developments in Europe with growing alarm as the Soviets installed puppet regimes throughout Eastern Europe.  Harry Truman, also convinced that it was impossible to work with Stalin, warmly applauded the speech.  The Cold War had been waged by the Soviets since before the last shots had been fired of World War II.  Now the West would begin to fight back.  Here is the text of the speech:


President McCluer, ladies and gentlemen, and last, but certainly not least, the President of the United States of America:

I am very glad indeed to come to Westminster College this afternoon, and I am complimented that you should give me a degree from an institution whose reputation has been so solidly established. The name “Westminster” somehow or other seems familiar to me. I feel as if I have heard of it before. Indeed now that I come to think of it, it was at Westminster that I received a very large part of my education in politics, dialectic, rhetoric, and one or two other things. In fact we have both been educated at the same, or similar, or, at any rate, kindred establishments. (more…)

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Interview With Truman

The Kansas City Public Library has a fascinating series where historical figures who have played a role in the history of Kansas City are “interviewed”.  Here we have Harry Truman, portrayed by Ray Starzmann, questioned by  Crosby Kemper III, the director of the Kansas City Public Library. (more…)

Published in: on December 29, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Interview With Truman  

Truman Announces the Bombing of Hiroshima



Truman’s statement after Hiroshima was classic Harry Truman:  blunt, concise and no confusion about who had made the decision and what he intended to do next if Japan did not capitulate.  Truman did not write it, he was still at sea returning from the Potsdam conference, but Arthur W. Page who did captured Truman’s style perfectly.  His statement in the text given to the press that Hiroshima was an important army base has engendered a lot of criticism, although considering that the Second General Army, that commanded Japanese defenses in southern Japan, was headquartered in Hiroshima, and that on the day of the bombing there were 43,000 Japanese troops stationed in Hiroshima, of which 20,000 died, a good argument can be made for his interpretation.  Here is Truman’s statement:

A short time ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima and destroyed its usefulness to the enemy. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT. It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British “Grand Slam” which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.

The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid many fold. And the end is not yet. With this bomb we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction to supplement the growing power of our armed forces. In their present form these bombs are now in production and even more powerful forms are in development.

It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.

Before 1939, it was the accepted belief of scientists that it was theoretically possible to release atomic energy. But no one knew any practical method of doing it. By 1942, however, we knew that the Germans were working feverishly to find a way to add atomic energy to the other engines of war with which they hoped to enslave the world. But they failed. We may be grateful to Providence that the Germans got the V-1’s and V-2’s late and in limited quantities and even more grateful that they did not get the atomic bomb at all.

The battle of the laboratories held fateful risks for us as well as the battles of the air, land, and sea, and we have now won the battle of the laboratories as we have won the other battles.

Beginning in 1940, before Pearl Harbor, scientific knowledge useful in was pooled between the United States and Great Britain, and many priceless helps to our victories have come from that arrangement. Under that general policy the research on the atomic bomb was begun. With American and British scientists working together we entered the race of discovery against the Germans. (more…)

Published in: on August 7, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Truman Announces the Bombing of Hiroshima  
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