The bomb in Hunter's Point
Monday, April 4, 2005, 03:15 PM
THE SECOND ATOMIC BOMB USED AGAINST THE JAPANESE in World War II exploded over Nagasaki at 11:00 a.m., August 9, local time. A day later in Washington, D.C., according to an entry in Commerce Secretary Henry Wallace's diary, President Harry Truman said at a cabinet meeting that"he had given orders to stop atomic bombing. He said the thought of wiping out another 100,000 people was too horrible. He didn't like the idea of killing,as he said, 'all those kids.'" In fact, the record of the sequence of events between July 25, the day the specific order to use the atomic bomb was issued, and August 10 strongly suggest that President Truman did not know about the attack on Nagasaki until after it happened.This is what we do know: On June 6, Truman approved the recommendation of the Interim Committee, chaired by Secretary of War Henry Stimson, that once it was tested, the bomb be used against Japan without warning. Then, on July 5, his diary recorded that he had given Stimson his "final order of the bomb's use," in which he told Stimson that he wanted it used on military targets and not on women and children. On July 23, 1945, when Truman was already in Berlin for the Potsdam conference, his diary recorded that the bomb would be used sometime between August 1 and August 10. The orders for dispatching the bombs to Japan were issued on July 25 by Gen. Thomas Handy, head of the Army Operations Department and acting army chief of staff in Gen. George C. Marshall's absence. (General Marshall was also in Potsdam.) There is no evidence that President Truman ever saw them. The orders were formally addressed to Gen. Carl Spaatz, commander of Strategic Air Forces. But though Handy signed the orders, they had actually been drafted the day before on orders of General Marshall, by Major Gen.Leslie R. Groves, the hard-driving commanding officer of the Manhattan Engineer District. Those orders were so carefully worded that they left considerable discretion to the field commander for the date, time of attack, and choice of target. That would seem to have given Gen. Carl Spaatz a free hand.The particulars would depend on local conditions. However, General Spaatz was not really in command of this operation. General Groves was. In a separate, Groves-drafted memo, approved by Marshall but not seen by Truman, the chain of command for authorizing the dropping of each atomic bomb began with General Groves. The orders Groves had drafted, which Marshall had approved, called for the first bomb to be dropped "after about 3 August" and the second and subsequent bombs to be "delivered on the above targets as soon as made ready by the project staff."