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President Harry Truman's decision to drop atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is one of the most controversial and consequential decisions ever made by an American President. But as NBC's Brian Williams reports, the man who took that fateful step never wavered in his belief that it was the right thing to do.
President, Harry Truman, Atomic, Bombs, Japan, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, World War II, WWII, Nazi, Germany, Berlin, Potsdam, Conference, Declaration, Great Britain, Winston Churchill, Soviet Union, USSR, Joseph Stalin, Unconditional, Surrender, Radiation, Hydrogen, Bomb, Nuclear, Weapons, War, Cuban Missile Crisis, Commander in Chief, Executive Branch, Presidency
"President Truman on His Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb." Brian Williams, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 6 Aug. 2005. NBC Learn. Web. 5 September 2012.
Williams, B. (Reporter), & Brown, C. (Anchor). (2005, August 6). President Truman on His Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb. [Television series episode]. NBC Nightly News. Retrieved from https://archives.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/browse/?cuecard=4962
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"President Truman on His Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb" NBC Nightly News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 08/06/2005. Accessed Wed Sep 5 2012 from NBC Learn: https://archives.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/browse/?cuecard=4962
President Truman on His Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb
CAMPBELL BROWN, anchor:
Finally tonight, remembering a moment that changed the world. The dropping of the first atomic bomb 60 years ago today. With the ringing of the peace bell and the release of doves, the people of Hiroshima paused to mark the blast that obliterated their city. The use of the bomb was one of the most controversial and consequential decisions ever made by an American President. But the man who took that fateful step never wavered in his belief that it was the right thing to do. Here's NBC's Brian Williams.
BRIAN WILLIAMS reporting:
Just 10 weeks after the defeat of Nazi Germany, President Truman toured the ruins of Berlin. That very day, in the New Mexico desert, the atomic age began. This successful test of the first atomic bomb gave the President a powerful new weapon in the war against Japan.
Truman was in Berlin for a summit with Great Britain and the Soviet Union, the Potsdam Conference. It was here that the President got the news of the successful test, and where he reviewed the final list of proposed targets before giving the go-ahead to drop the atomic bomb.
Truman saw the bomb as an alternative to a massive invasion of Japan, which was planned for that fall. The often suicidal determination of the Japanese to keep fighting could have meant extremely heavy casualties on both sides. Japan was given an ultimatum. Surrender unconditionally, or face destruction. Japan refused.
Truman headed home, crossing the Atlantic aboard the USS Augusta. On the Pacific island of Tinian, a B-29 bomber took off carrying a single bomb, which it dropped over the city of Hiroshima at 8:15 in the morning on August 6, 1945.
(Clip of bomb hitting Hiroshima)
President HARRY TRUMAN: (From file footage) It is an atomic bomb. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.
WILLIAMS: More than 80,000 people were killed. Tens of thousands were horribly burned, and poisoned with radiation. The President again warned Japan, surrender or face what he called a "reign of ruin." There was no reply, and so another bomb was dropped on Japan, this time on Nagasaki. More than 40,000 people died there. Many more were injured.
August 9, 1945
(Clip of bomb hitting Nagasaki)
WILLIAMS: Finally Japan gave up.
Pres. TRUMAN (August 14, 1945): (From file footage) I deem this reply a full acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration, which specifies the unconditional surrender of Japan.
WILLIAMS: The war was over, and Harry S. Truman had not hesitated in using atomic bombs to end it, a decision he stood by for the rest of his life.
Pres. TRUMAN (1953): (From file footage) I made that decision in the conviction that it would save hundreds of thousands of lives, Japanese as well as Americans.
(1963) The dropping of the atom bomb was the only sensible thing to do. It was the only thing to do.
WILLIAMS: Truman lived to see other nations develop atomic weapons. He saw the birth of the hydrogen bomb, far more powerful than the bombs dropped on Japan. He watched the world come to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis, and then stepped back with treaties to limit nuclear weapons signed under Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.
What did not happen again in Truman's lifetime or in all the years since, is another use of atomic weapons by anyone. The city of Hiroshima, devastated 60 years ago, is thriving today, so is Nagasaki. The planes that bombed those pieces are now museum pieces. And while the Cold War may be history, it's been replaced by fears of nuclear rogue states and terrorism. In the New Mexico desert, a simple monument marks the spot where the atomic age began. And Harry Truman? He lived to the age of 88 and went to his grave certain he had done the right thing.
Pres. TRUMAN: (From file footage) That bomb caused the Japanese to surrender, and it stopped the war. I don't care what the crybabies say now, because they didn't have to make the decision.
WILLIAMS: Brian Williams, NBC News, New York.