When Glenn L. met Harry! The B-26 Ma­rauder flap that lead to the White House and the atomic bomb drops

When Glenn L. met Harry! The B-26 Ma­rauder flap that lead to the White House and the atomic bomb drops

The Avenue News - - FRONT PAGE - By: BLAINE TAY­LOR

This is a con­tin­u­a­tion of part 1 of an ar­ti­cle pub­lished in the Jan­uary 3, 2019 edi­tion of the Av­enue News. To read part 1, visit www.av­enu­e­news.com.

Harry S. Tru­man, the new Pres­i­dent, 63, held his first Cab­i­net meet­ing with Roo­sevelt’s, and now his, gov­ern­ment. As Tru­man re­called a decade later in his mem­oirs Year of De­ci­sions, “The first meet­ing…was short, and when it ad­journed, the mem­bers rose and silently made their way from the room ex­cept for Sec­re­tary (of War Henry) Stim­son. He asked to speak to me about a most ur­gent mat­ter. Stim­son told me he wanted me to know about an im­mense pro­ject that was un­der­way, a pro­ject look­ing to the de­vel­op­ment of a new ex­plo­sive of al­most un­be­liev­able de­struc­tive power. That was all he felt free to say at the time, and his state­ment left me puz­zled. It was the first bit of in­for­ma­tion that had come to me about the atomic bomb, but he gave me no de­tails.”

Later, when he learned more, Tru­man was amazed that the se­cret had been kept from Congress so well, par­tic­u­larly since his own Se­nate Com­mit­tee had heard noth­ing about the top-se­cret Man­hat­tan Pro­ject while it toured de­fense plants all across the coun­try.

At that time, then-Sen. Tru­man sus­pected that some­thing im­por­tant was go­ing on when the Sec­re­tary of State came to see him at his of­fice about a planned in­ves­ti­ga­tion of plants in Ten­nessee and Wash­ing­ton State. “‘Sen­a­tor,’ the Sec­re­tary told me as he sat be­side my desk, ‘I can’t tell you what it is, but it is the great­est pro­ject in the his­tory of the world! It is the most top se­cret. Many of the peo­ple who are ac­tu­ally en­gaged in the work have no idea what it is, and we who do would ap­pre­ci­ate your not go­ing into those plants.’”

Sen. Tru­man agreed and called off the in­ves­ti­ga­tion im­me­di­ately. On Apr. 13, 1945, Sec­re­tary of State James Byrnes told HST in the Oval Of­fice “That we were per­fect­ing an ex­plo­sive great enough to de­stroy the whole world,” but crusty Navy Adm. Wil­liam D. Leahy didn’t agree, bluntly stat­ing, “That is the biggest fool thing we have ever done! The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an ex­pert in ex­plo­sives!”

Con­cerned about the up­com­ing San Fran­cisco Con­fer­ence, the new Pres­i­dent put thoughts about what would later be called sim­ply “the bomb” into the back of his mind.

In her bi­og­ra­phy of her fa­ther, daugh­ter Mar­garet wrote of his meet­ing with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to plan the pro­posed two, suc­ces­sive in­va­sions of Ja­pan, co­de­named Op­er­a­tions Olympic and Coronet re­spec­tively: “They handed him plans for a Nov. 1st as­sault on the Ja­panese Home Is­land of Kyushu with a to­tal force of 76,000 men. Some of the Chiefs pre­dicted light ca­su­al­ties, but Adm. Leahy strongly dis­agreed. He pointed out that in the bloody Ok­i­nawa cam­paign just end­ing, Amer­i­can losses (41,700) had been 35% of the at­tack­ing force. The Ja­panese still had an es­ti­mated 5,000 planes ready for kamikaze (sui­cide) at­tacks. There were an es­ti­mated 2,000,000 troops in the Ja­panese Home Is­lands. Fac­ing the Amer­i­cans on Kyusu would be 17 well-equipped, bat­tle-ready di­vi­sions. If the cap­ture of Kyushu, the west­ern­most Ja­panese is­land, did not per­suade Ja­pan to sur­ren­der, in the spring of 1946 there were plans for a land­ing on Hon­shu, the main Ja­panese is­land, where a cli­mac­tic bat­tle would be fought on the Tokyo Plain. On both Kyushu and Hon­shu, Ja­pan’s sol­diers would, if their per­for­mance on Ok­i­nawa was any in­di­ca­tion, fight with to­tal fa­nati­cism to de­fend their sa­cred soil. Based on this as­sump­tion, Gen. Ge­orge C. Mar­shall pre­dicted that the to­tal Amer­i­can dead on land and sea might reach 500,000 men.

She con­tin­ued, “More­over, and this was a very big more­over, the en­tire Amer­i­can bat­tle plan was based on the as­sump­tion that Rus­sia would en­ter the war be­fore the Amer­i­can in­va­sion. This would pin down Ja­pan’s crack one-mil­lion-man Manchurian Kwan­tung Army, as well as the ad­di­tional one mil­lion troops on the Asian Main­land fight­ing the Chi­nese. If sub­stan­tial por­tions of these troops could be shut­tled back to Ja­pan, by no means an im­pos­si­bil­ity, in spite of our air and sea su­pe­ri­or­ity---Amer­i­can losses might be many times that al­ready ap­palling fig­ure. More than any­thing else, these facts ex­plain Dad’s pol­icy to­ward the Rus­sians dur­ing these crit­i­cal months.”

“The atomic bomb was not men­tioned at this con­fer­ence. It con­tin­ued to be a ques­tion mark. No one re­ally knew whether it would re­ally work…”

In 1961, while pre­par­ing a tele­vi­sion show about then ex-Pres­i­dent Tru­man’s de­ci­sion to drop the atomic bomb on Ja­pan, the late Merle Miller had an op­por­tu­nity to speak at length with HST on the sub­ject. In 1974, Miller pub­lished his best­selling book based on these ear­lier con­ver­sa­tions, call­ing the work Plain Speak­ing: An Oral Bi­og­ra­phy of Harry S. Tru­man.

“If there was one sub­ject on which Mr. Tru­man was not go­ing to have any se­cond thoughts, it was the bomb. If he’d said it once, he’d said it a hun­dred times, al­most al­ways in the same words. The bomb had ended the war. If we had to in­vade Ja­pan, half a mil­lion sol­diers on both sides would’ve been killed and a mil­lion more ‘would have been maimed for life.’ It was as sim­ple as that. That was all there was to it, and Mr. Tru­man had never lost any sleep over that de­ci­sion…”

Miller pro­posed a pro­gram whereby the re­tired HST would ac­tu­ally visit Hiroshima, the first city in

Ja­pan, and the world, to be A-bombed. ‘I’ll go to Ja­pan if that’s what you want,’ he said, ‘but I won’t kiss their ass!’…He wasn’t go­ing to apol­o­gize for it, wasn’t go­ing to say he had been wrong, and for all I know, he wasn’t wrong. Maybe it did save lives, ours and theirs.”

Blaine Tay­lor is the au­thor of 22 il­lus­trated books of his­tory, vis­ited Ja­pan in 1967, the Tru­man Li­brary at In­de­pen­dence, MO in 2000, and is a for­mer mem­ber of the Glenn L. Martin Mary­land Avi­a­tion Mu­seum at Mid­dle River, MD/USA, where he is as well a for­mer res­i­dent of the Ch­est­nut Woods Con­do­minium de­vel­op­ment off Martin Boule­vard.

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Martin B-26 Ma­rauder Medium Bombers fresh off the as­sem­bly line at the Mid­dle River, MD plant dur­ing World War II. It was called, as­serted one wag, “The Bal­ti­more Whore” be­cause “it had no vis­i­ble means of sup­port” in its faulty, too-short wing­span. (Photo cour­tesy Stan Piet, the Glenn L. Martin Avi­a­tion Mu­seum, Mid­dle River, MD/USA.)

A feisty Harry Tru­man ready for ver­bal com­bat; GLM felt his sting. (HST Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary & Mu­seum, In­de­pen­dence, MO/USA.)

“Mr. Martin,” as seen, known, and revered by his em­ploy­ees over many decades. (GLM.)

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