Truman on Trial: Not Guilty


Richard Jensen is a professor history emeritus, University of Illinois, and a writer for the History News Service.

I see three major problems with Nobile's indictment:

First he is being legalistic, so let's also be legalistic and look at the text of the Nuremberg charter which he quotes:

...it outlawed"the wanton destruction of cities, towns, and villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity."

Nobile silently switches from" cities" to" civilians" but let's look at the text and think about" cities." Were the Japanese cities a significant part of the Japanese war machine, or was it"wanton" to destroy them? WW2 was a war of production and almost all the Japanese war production came from its large cities. In 1945 alone they produced 5400 fighter planes, 1900 bombers and 3600 other warplanes--most of them intended as highly lethal kamikazis. The US Air Force dropped tens of millions of leaflets advising people to leave these war production centers--and over 8 million did so. Those who were essential to the Japanese war effort remained behind. So the destruction of cities was not"wanton" but was"justified by military necessity."

Secondly Nobile criticizes Truman for rejecting the advice of most of his generals and admirals. But Nobile never tells us what that advice was. The Navy wanted to use a total blockade of the islands to cause mass starvation and tens of millions dead. If Truman had adopted THAT plan Nobile would be here again, denouncing Truman ten times more vehemently.

The US Air Force wanted to double and triple the conventional bombing raids (that's why they needed nearby Okinawa). Bring Nobile back for that one. The Army wanted two invasions (of Kyushu and Honshu). It was much debated at the time--and today-- how many American soldiers would be killed in these invasions; no one knows for sure. But all the planners in 1945 knew how many Japanese soldiers would be killed: all of them. That is, about a million in Kyushu and several million in Honshu (including many of the 4 million women who in summer 1945 were being drilled in militia units to fight the invaders).

Third Nobile celebrates Hirohito and, indeed, his whole indictment reflects the official Japanese palace view of Hiroshima. The problem is that Hirohito was one of the main perpetrators of WW2, and the man largely responsible for insisting that the Japanese fight to the finish to defend his divinity and his throne. Perhaps Nobile does not realize the paradox of attacking Truman as a war criminal for NOT making enough concessions to keep Hirohito on the throne.

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