Monday, June 14, 2010

My mother met President Truman!

     I just found out my mother, Barbara Reynolds, and some of the survivors of the Hiroshima bomb (hibakusha) met with President Truman during their World Peace Study Mission in 1964! I've edited the following interview, sent to me by one of the translators.

This is a translation of the excerpts for the book entitled “Pilgrimage to Hiroshima” written in Japanese by Mizuhoko Kotani.  The book was published in 1995 by the publisher Tsukumashobo.  Chapter 4, from page 135 to page 139 was translated into English by World Friendship Center members, Michiko Yamane, Takako Hiramoto and Mieko Yamashita. 

An Interview with President Truman
     On the afternoon of May 5, [1964] the World Peace Study Mission from Hiroshima and Nagasaki met former President Harry S. Truman, who had given the order to drop the Atomic Bomb, and was interviewed at the Truman Library in Independence City, Missouri.  
     The Library has not only many documents and historical records from during his presidency but also a room that looks exactly like the Oval Office in the White House.  The historical interview with hibakusha was held in the big auditorium with a capacity of 250.  Truman appeared on the stage received by a lot of TV camera lights and flash-bulbs from the news reporters who thronged there.
    Truman had made official announcements about the reason for his decision to drop the A-bombs.  However, he had never met hibakusha until then.
     Truman was eighty years old. Takuo Masumoto was 76.  Matsumoto, leader of the delegation, had experienced the A-bombing at the campus of Hiroshima Jogakuin High School, a prestigious mission school, of which he was headmaster.  He had lost his wife and 350 students.  On the stage the two men shook hands firmly, smiling as if to say, “an enemy yesterday is a friend today.” Behind Matsumoto seven other hibakusha were present, including Hiromu Morishita [current chair of WFC], a high school teacher, Shizuko Abe, a case worker, Hiroko Takahara, Chie Yoshida, and Akira Mitsui, a newspaper reporter. 
     While explaining the reasons for his decision to drop the A-bombs 17 years before Truman said, “In August 1945 I used it in order to end the war without adding half a million more casualties on both sides.  I could not help but use it under the circumstances.”   
     It was true, as Truman remarked that there had been a plan to invade the mainland of Japan through Kyushu with 775,000 soldiers, and 31,000 casualties were expected during the first three days alone.  Japan had not accepted the Potsdam Declaration, despite the fact that not only Tokyo, but most major cities, were bombarded by countless B-29’s almost every day.  On the contrary, the government [of Japan] was urging people, including women and children, to carry bamboo spears, and take to heart a slogan that we must defend Japan, a divine land, as long as the last soldier remains.
     The order was issued that an atomic bomb should be dropped on any of the cities of Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, or Nagasaki unless Japan surrendered by August 3rd.  It came from Washington to Tinian US Air Base.  Japan didn’t surrender, even after the A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th.  The second one was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9th
     Barbara [Reynolds, founder of WFC] and Matusmoto talked about the interview with Truman.  The conclusion was that if they had asserted the inhumanity of the A-bombs and brought the issue of violations of international law up to Truman at the interview, he would have criticized the way the Japanese Military urged citizens, including women and younger people to fight on even if they were the last person in Japan.  They believed that they would have been at a loss and would have had a fruitless argument.  They had to be satisfied with Truman’s assertion that “It never happened again.”
     “After both Japan and the US once fought a desperate fight in the war, both countries created better cooperative relationships than other countries.  Let’s make this friendly relationship more important than any other thing.”  Truman always led the talk with Matsumoto with a smile.
     This interview was broadcast all over American TV networks and made a front page headline “Historical Interview” in the New York Times.
     Some A-bomb survivors who were present at the interview were indignant, saying, “the interview ended in a whitewash.  We should have overtaken [insisted on his recognition of] his responsibility for mankind.”  Barbara [Reynolds] calmed them down and said, “It was so good that we informed American TV viewers of the living situation of the people of Hiroshima through this interview.”      The hibakusha's feelings toward Mr. Truman were only natural.  They thought: if only President Truman had not given an order, the disasters in Hiroshima and Nagasaki would never have happened and they would not have to live with fear of the A-bomb disease even now.
     Thirteen years later when Truman was interviewed by CBS TV on the argument over America’s hydrogen bomb testing, he again explained the grounds of his decision for using the A-bombs.  “In those days America was planning to invade Japan and face the enemy, at the Kanto Plain and the south-western part of Japan.  One and a half million soldiers would have been needed and 750,000 casualties, including 250,000 deaths would have been inevitable.  Since we had this new type of powerful weapon at hand, I did not feel any conscientious torment for its use simply because it was a mass murder weapon.  Nobody would want war, and I oppose war.  However, if you did not use the weapon at hand knowing it surely would bring you victory, you would be a fool.  I hope hydrogen bombs would not be used, but if the world were thrown into chaos, it might be used.”
     Barbara thought they would have to be satisfied with the fact that hibakusha could meet Truman for the first time in 19 years since the war, where Truman admitted that the A-bombs should never be used again.  If used, the world would be destroyed.  She tried to satisfy herself by thinking that it was at least good that tens of thousands of Americans who watched this interview on TV came, hopefully, to realize the possible results – the end of the world – if the hydrogen bomb were used.  If used, instead of putting the world back into order, it would create a greater chaos with the gigantic explosion.  

     Response from my brother (the one who navigated the Phoenix around the world): "After meeting with the hibakusha, later in the same session, with the hibakusha still present, Truman was asked by an interviewer what he most regretted in his life.  He responded "That I didn't meet my wife earlier."
     "When Barbara told me that, I hoped for Truman's sake that there was no afterlife, because that comment would surely have gotten him an extra millenium of Hell."

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