You may have been mildly surprised to read the story on Sunday distributed by the Associated Press, revealing that Clifton Truman Daniel, the grandson of former President Harry S. Truman, visited Hiroshima, where he attended a memorial service for the victims killed by the August 6, 1945 bombing, and laid a wreath at the Peace Memorial Park.
You can read the entire text of that article by Eric Talmadge here.
The weight of making the decision on President Truman to drop the bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were never better chronicled than in the great biography, Truman, written by David McCullough (Simon and Schuster, 1993). His account actually makes you feel as if you were agonizing over that decision as well.
Note that Daniel’s visit was the first ever to the site by a member of the Truman family, some 67 years after the bombings. During the visit he said, “I think this centopath says it all – to honor the dead, to not forget, and to make sure that we never let this happen again….There are other opinions, there are other points of view, and I don’t think we evr finish talking about that.”
The article notes that Daniel chose to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki because he needed to understand the consequences of his grandfather’s action, and that he is committed to help achieve a nuclear-free world.
I don’t know about you, but the tone seems to indicate that, under the same circumstances, he would not acted as his grandfather, and would not have dropped the bombs. Does his presence and activity there signal regret, or go even further, as an apology?
I find that still today discussions about the two bombings are acrimonious, with people taking sharp polar positions about the legitimacy and need for the atomic attacks. I also find that very few people understand the agony that President Truman experienced while making the decision. A re-read of McCullough’s biography will help fill that gap. Young people in history classes are taught to consider the ethics of the action.
I find myself unsure what good this visit by Truman’s grandson really produced. It was not an official visit by an American elected official, nor sanctioned by the United States government. From all appearances, he did this for himself, by himself, and perhaps that is all it was, to provide personal fulfillment.
But, the visit was also symbolic. Ignoring it for 67 years as the family had done speaks for itself; calling it to attention in the limelight such as this event raises new questions. Regardless, it doesn’t bring back the 210,000 people who were killed, and it simply gets us to speculate about familial solidarity. More importantly, it doesn’t help us understand the two bombings any better, and it doesn’t prevent it from happening again.
And what do you think about it? Let’s talk about this really soon!