Letter: Whose war crimes?

Frederick Starkey
Sunday 30 May 1999 23:02 BST
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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Sir: I hope Tony Blair will not be as "decisive" as Harry Truman, as suggested in your editorial (22 May). You repeat the discredited myth that Truman believed that atomic bombing would avoid a lengthy land invasion of Japan, saving thousands of lives.

The President, his Secretary of State, and his Secretary of War had been repeatedly advised to the contrary. Talk of a Japanese surrender dates from as early as September 1944, almost a year before the bombing, in a report from the British Ambassador to the US quoting Sweden's minister in Tokyo. Right up to the Potsdam meeting in July 1945, information of the Japanese desire to accept defeat continued to reach the presidential team.

For the motives behind the decision to use the atom bombs you have to look at factors like the impending entry of Russia into the war in the Far East, the momentum and the logic of the development of the bomb, the determination of the enthusiastic Secretary of State Byrnes and the docility of the British. In the months following the bombing there was mounted in the United States a monumental spin on the events that would leave some recent political spinners looking like amateurs.

Apparently even Truman began to believe the myth.

FREDERICK STARKEY

Pantymwyn, Clwyd

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