I read with interest the editorial in your December issue re Conrad Black’s biography of F.D.R. I attended a book signing in 2004 in Toronto at which Conrad Black spoke to an audience of about 100 people. I asked him what he thought F.D.R. would have done about dropping the atomic bomb on Japan. Black replied he had never contemplated that scenario. He hoped F.D.R. would have dropped an atom bomb on a remote, sparsely populated island to show the Japanese high command the horror and futility of continuing the war. Alas, F.D.R. died before the decision needed to be made. Truman ordered Hiroshima and then Nagasaki to be leveled. The rest, sadly, is history.
Our Editor Replies:
For many years, I held the same belief—until I read John Hersey’s Hiroshima. In the weeks leading up to the dropping of the Atomic Bomb, Japan had been almost decimated by virtually around-the-clock air raids by the American B-29s based in nearby Okinawa. Japan by this time, however, was ruled by only one man, General Tojo, who was maniacally driven to fight on, regardless of the horrific plight of his people. Indeed, Tojo refused to surrender even after the first super-bomb was dropped. It was only after the second such bomb was dropped on Nagasaki a little more than a week later that Emperor Hirohito stepped in and promptly surrendered. I think the verdict of history is definitely on the side of President Truman.