The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, brought the United States officially into World War II. In the surprise attack, Japan sunk several ships, destroyed hundreds of planes and ended thousands of lives. The Japanese goal was to cripple the U.S. Pacific fleet, and they nearly succeeded. President Franklin Roosevelt called the attack “a day which will live in infamy,” and the American people were shocked and angered.
The ensuing war was costly. Years of fighting brought the US armed forces closer and closer to Japan as they “hopped” from one island to another. The Japanese were vicious fighters, however, and every victory cost more time, material, and, sadly, lives. The last major battle, the fight for Okinawa, lasted almost three months and took more than 100,000 Japanese and American lives.
After President Roosevelt died on April 12th, 1945, it became Harry Truman’s job to decide how to end the war. The thought of invading Japan gave Truman and his advisors pause. The war had shown that the Japanese were fighting for the Emperor who convinced them that it was better to die than surrender. Women and children had been taught how to kill with basic weapons. Japanese kamikaze pilots could turn planes into guided missiles. The cost of invasion, they knew, would be high.
In mid-July, President Harry S Truman was notified of the successful test of the atomic bomb, what he called “the most terrible bomb in the history of the world.” Thousands of hours of research and development as well as billions of dollars had contributed to its production. This was no theoretical research project. It was created to destroy and kill on a massive scale. As president, it was Harry Truman’s decision if the weapon would be used with the goal to end the war. “It is an awful responsibility that has come to us,” the president wrote.
President Truman had four options: 1) continue conventional bombing of Japanese cities; 2) invade Japan; 3) demonstrate the bomb on an unpopulated island; or, 4) drop the bomb on an inhabited Japanese city.
He made the hardest choice, and so has President Biden, by pulling out of the losing war in Afghanistan. He is our latest hero.