14

In his diary entry for July 25, 1945, US President Harry S. Truman wrote:

This weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Sec. of War, Mr. Stimson, to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital or the new.

He and I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one and we will issue a warning statement asking the Japs to surrender and save lives. I'm sure they will not do that, but we will have given them the chance. It is certainly a good thing for the world that Hitler's crowd or Stalin's did not discover this atomic bomb. It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful...

Did Truman believe that the bomb was not going to be used on civilians?

  • 1
    The same site, but a different page, notes that Truman subsequently called Hiroshima a military base. I've been thinking of asking on Skeptics whether his claim is accurate. – Andrew Grimm Nov 25 '13 at 21:40
  • The question asks us to conjecture about mental states. – denten Dec 7 '13 at 7:39
18

Here is a letter, dated the day before the diary entry, which describes Hiroshima as 'an "Army" city':

John Stone to General Arnold, July 24, 1945. Subject File, Atomic Bomb Collection:

(1) Hiroshima (population 350,000) is an "Army" city; a major POE; has large QM and supply depots; has considerable industry and several small shipyards.

Here are the minutes of the meeting in which those targets were chosen:

Minutes of the second meeting of the Target Committee Los Alamos, May 10-11, 1945

In the minutes of this meeting, note that:

  • They decided that a military target must be within a built-up area.
  • Kyoto was the number 1 target on the original list selected by the committee.

So, although the diary entry says "purely military" perhaps you should read that in the context of the previous paragraph: they decided to bomb 'an "Army" city' instead of the capital cities.

I see no evidence that he was "fooled" by his staff about what the target was. IMO, the simpler hypothesis (simpler than a conspiracy theory) is that he viewed Hiroshima as a (relatively) "military" target, albeit a city.

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