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Truman on Trial: Not Guilty

Philip Nobile's shrill tirade is long on invective and sarcasm, woefully deficient in logic and historical accuracy. It is as if he were caught in a time warp, repeating the discredited cliches of 1960s and 70s revisionism.

In addition to the authors Ronald Radosh mentions, the work of Herbert Bix, Lawrence Freedman, and Saki Dockrill renders completely untenable the revisionist claim that the Japanese would have surrendered during the summer of 1945 if only they had been assured that they could retain the emperor. Robert Newman has shown that the U. S. Strategic Bombing Survey, long a favorite of revisionists, was a scam. Its conclusions were not based on what Japanese officials actually said, but were rigged to support the advocates of conventional bombing. Finally, D. M. Giangreco has demolished the"low casualty" figures Barton Bernstein and Gar Alperovitz have been peddling for years.

Regarding the last point, Nobile in his" cross examination" of Truman asks him whether he can produce any War Department document that mentions high figures. He has Truman answer"No." That is wrong. An annex (August 30, 1944) to a Joint Chiefs of Staff directive (JCS 924) stated that on the basis of losses suffered on Saipan, an invasion of Japan"might cost us half a million American lives and many times that number in wounded."

Nobile is equally misleading in citing a number of generals and admirals who later wrote or said that the atomic bombs were not necessary to end the war. Well, of course, but when? After a bloody invasion coupled with conventional bombing? After months, if not years, of blockade and conventional bombing? Both alternatives, by the way, would have inflicted horrible suffering on the women and children Nobile professes to care so much about.

Two things should be kept in mind here. First, that at the 18 June 1945 meeting Nobile refers to, the Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously recommended an invasion to Truman. Second, that of the officers Nobile mentions, not one of them--not Leahy nor anyone else--ever claimed to have uttered a peep of protest against the bombs to Truman at the time. Indeed, on 9 August 1945, General Spaatz and General Nathan Twining recommended that a third bomb be dropped on Tokyo. Admiral Nimitz and General LeMay concurred. Eisenhower later claimed that he protested to Stimson, but there is no evidence for his recollection and parts of it are demonstrably false (he said he was with Stimson when news of the successful atomic test took place. He was not.)

Space precludes a thorough airing of Nobile's other distortions. One point should be made. According to Nobile's"logic," if Truman had unnecessarily prolonged the war by failing to use atomic bombs, he should have been tried as a war criminal. That is, he should have been charged with the number of additional killings that actually took place because of his actions, as opposed to what would then have been only the theoretical deaths the bombs would have caused. Oh, please.