Truman grandson visits Hiroshima memorial

Harry Truman went to his grave insisting he made the right decision to use the atomic bomb to end the war. He never wavered, never questioned, and, as he said many times, he never lost any sleep over the decision.

Now, one of his grandsons has taken it upon himself to show solidarity with the Japanese who were victims of their government's intransigience as much as they were of the atomic bomb.


Clifton Truman Daniel visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on Saturday and laid a wreath for the 140,000 people killed by the Aug. 6, 1945, bombing authorized by his grandfather. Another atomic blast in Nagasaki three days later killed 70,000 more.

"I think this cenotaph says it all - to honor the dead to not forget and to make sure that we never let this happen again," Daniel said after offering a silent prayer.

Daniel, 55, is in Japan to attend ceremonies next week in Hiroshima and Nagasaki marking the 67th anniversary of the bombings. His visit, the first by a member of the Truman family, is sponsored by the peace group Sadako Legacy, named after Sadako Sasaki, an A-bomb victim who died of leukemia at age 12. While in the hospital, Sadako folded hundreds of paper cranes after hearing a legend that people who make 1,000 origami cranes can be granted a wish. Origami cranes have since become a symbol of peace.

Daniel, a former journalist, met Sadako's 71-year-old brother, Masahiro Sasaki, who survived the bombing, at a peace event in New York in 2010. They agreed to work together to deepen understanding between the two countries, which are still divided over the question of the legitimacy of the atomic attacks.

By April of 1945, the Japanese situation was hopeless. The battle for Okinawa -- the last major Japanese held Island before the mainland - had gotten underway and the Japanese military were under no illusions that they could stop the Americans, only make the price so high they would seek peace. It was fool's belief and the Japanese people paid for it with round the clock bombings of the wood and paper cities of Japan and the eventual use of the atomic bomb to knock some sense into the Japanese government.

Also in April, the first tentative peace feelers from Japan came via Sweden. But the Japanese idea of "peace" was a cessation of hostilities, keeping 2 million Japanese troops in place in Manchuria and other islands as well as denying the allies occupation and the disarming of the military. It was a recipe for a continuation of the war in 10 years or less.

The anti-nuclear bomb absolutists would rather have seen a million American casualties in an invasion (and many millions more Japanese civilians) than the end of the war prior to that by using nuclear weapons. Their case is based on the notion that we didn't have to occupy Japan and that any terms were acceptable when compared to using the bomb. Leaving the militarists in power and allowing Japanese troops to continue to occupy large areas of Asia was better than bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those are the only terms that Japan would have accepted prior to the use of a nuclear weapon -- and they would have been unacceptable to the American people, much less the government.

But the debate will continue because Japanese children are not taught the history of that time. The teaching doesn't include the fact that their military literally raped their way across Asia, that they routinely executed large numbers of men, women, and children in captured cities (400,000 in Nanking alone), that they treated prisoners of war so brutally that most of them died, and most importantly, that they started the war by attacking us without warning. (Note: Even if Nomura had delivererd the ultimatum on time, the attack was scheduled to begin 1 hour after the note was in Secretary Simpson's hands - hardly enough time to warn our Pacific commands that war was going to break out).

If Daniel feels guilty about what his grandfather did, that's fine. But President Truman would no doubt have had a few choice expletives for his grandson if he were alive today.