When I graduated from Washington University/St. Louis many years ago, the Commencement speaker was General George Marshall, a man who was then much admired. That was before we knew about his terrible mistakes. The George Marshall plan for winning World War II was to land our troops on Japan's beaches where they would fight the Japanese island by island. That invasion would have been a slaughter because the Japanese were prepared to defend their homeland with 5,000 kamikaze planes and 2 million troops, all sworn to fight to the death. Predictions were that 30% of U.S. soldiers would be killed or wounded during the first 30 days.
Today is the 65th anniversary of our dropping the first atom bomb on Hiroshima, and we now know that President Truman's decision saved the lives of tens of thousands of young Americans who would have died in George Marshall's foolish military maneuver. Dropping the atom bomb on Hiroshima meant that those fine young American men could come home, grow up to live normal lives, marry and raise families, instead of dying a tortured death 5,000 miles away.
We continue to hear criticisms of President Truman for dropping the first atom bomb on Hiroshima, but Truman had no regrets. Actually, Americans wondered why the bomb wasn't dropped earlier to avoid the tens of thousands of battle deaths we suffered that spring on Okinawa. Hisatsune Sakomizu, Japan's chief cabinet secretary in 1945, said later: "The atomic bomb was a golden opportunity given by heaven for Japan to end the war."
In war there are usually no good alternatives, and leaders must select between a very bad decision and an even worse choice. It is probable that any other scenario would have turned out worse than Hiroshima.
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