“Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on [Hiroshima] and destroyed its usefulness to the enemy.”
This is the opening statement from one of the most fascinating historical press releases I’ve ever read. These words derive from a press release issued by the President of the United States, President Harry S. Truman, on August 6, 1945.
Please keep in mind, I’m not really a political person. I respect the opinions of others, and I’m not making a political statement with this article. Instead, my goal is to illuminate the value of this press release as a significant historical document and perhaps show a few comparisons to modern times.
Imagine the pride President Truman must have felt when he released this news to his country and to the world. The use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima made the United States the first country to use this weapon during wartime. The U.S. remains the only nation to do so.
During World War II, the Nazi regime was working on nuclear weapons, and once the U.S. caught wind of this - thanks to none other than Albert Einstein - the country went into overdrive in research. The nation’s best scientists were brought into secret labs for the Manhattan Project, where they worked tirelessly to develop and test the atomic bomb. Harry S. Truman was the Vice President at the time this was going on, and he wouldn’t learn anything about the project until he became President. The U.S. was afraid that the Nazis would create the first atomic bomb…
On July 16, 1945, the first bomb was tested at the Trinity Site near Los Alamos.
Going back to the press release, the language used is such a sign of the times. There’s a sense of deep patriotism and pride, as well as old-fashioned storytelling:
“It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.”
I can’t help but think of an old black and white film playing from a noisy reel, with the stereotypical narrator speaking.
The press release goes on to disclose the research behind the bomb, the secrecy, the testing, and the amazing scientific discoveries that had been made. Of course, it then goes on to say this:
“We are now prepared to obliterate more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city. We shall destroy their docks, their factories, and their communications. Let there be no mistake; we shall completely destroy Japan’s power to make war.”
In the closing paragraph of the 3-page document, the President says he will recommend to Congress a commission to control the creation and use of atomic power and make recommendations to Congress “as to how atomic power can become a wonderful and forceful influence towards the maintenance of world peace”.
Today, there are 9 countries known to have nuclear warheads: the U.S., the UK, France, Israel, Pakistan, India, Russia, China, and North Korea. The second time a nuclear weapon was used in war was on August 9, 1945, in Nagasaki, days after Hiroshima. This was also the last time.
You can see the press release referenced in this blog post by visiting www.TrumanLibrary.org.