Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs against Japan

By J. Samuel Walker | Go to book overview

TWO
THE
MOST
TERRIBLE
WEAPON
EVER
KNOWN

One reason for the prevalence and tenacity of popular misconceptions about the use of the bomb is the mythology that has surrounded the central figure in the decision, President Truman. Truman won greater affection and esteem from the American people after his presidency, and especially after his death, than he ever achieved when he occupied the White House. In the public image of his performance as president that gradually emerged after he left office, he was honest, forthright, confident, and decisive (guided by the sign on his desk, “The Buck Stops Here”). In popular perceptions, he was, despite his limited formal education and executive experience, instinctively right in his policy judgments, using down-to-earth common sense to address complicated issues.

This image of Truman, while not totally inaccurate, is deceptively incomplete. His honesty was often tempered by political considerations. His bluntness could be indiscreet or needlessly offensive. His decisiveness could lead to superficial or impulsive judgments. And his confidence was often a show that disguised insecurity and self-doubt. Historian Alonzo L. Hamby, the most perceptive analyst of Truman’s personality, has described him as loyal, considerate, thoughtful, and courageous, and at the same time, petty, vindictive, thin-skinned, and suspicious. “It will not do to ask which was the real Harry Truman,” Hamby has observed. “Both

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Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs against Japan
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Preface to the Revised Edition ix
  • Preface xi
  • One - A Categorical Choice ? 1
  • Two - The Most Terrible Weapon Ever Known 7
  • Three - The Prospects for Victory, June 1945 20
  • Four - Paths to Victory 35
  • Five - Truman and the Bomb at Potsdam 53
  • Six - Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75
  • Seven - Hiroshima in History 98
  • Chronology Key Events of 1945 Relating to the Pacific War 111
  • Notes 113
  • Essay on Sources 131
  • Index 137
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