When the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Truman understood the repercussions. "This places a terrible responsibility upon myself and upon the War Department," he said.
Narrator: 8:15 a.m. - The atomic bomb dropped clear of the Enola Gay. Forty-three seconds later, it exploded over Hiroshima.
Harry Truman was eating lunch when he was handed a decoded message, "Results clear-cut; successful in all respects." Truman reacted immediately: "This," he said, "is the greatest thing in history."
That afternoon, Truman issued a warning to the Japanese government.
Archival Film of Truman on Camera: "If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a reign of ruin from the air the like of which has never been seen on this earth."
Narrator: Two days later, Secretary of War Stimson showed the President aerial photographs of Hiroshima. Truman did not yet know that the atomic bomb had killed more than 80,000 men, women, and children and that tens of thousands more would die from radiation sickness in the days and years to come.
Alonzo Hamby, Biographer: You see these pictures of Hiroshima just leveled for almost as far as the eye can see. Clearly he's distressed by that.
Narrator: He told Stimson, "This places a terrible responsibility upon myself and upon War Department." Three days after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, but still, there was no word of surrender.
August 9, 11:00 A.M. - a second atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese seaport of Nagasaki. In 1/10 of one-millionth of a second, the city was destroyed. Another 40,000 people were killed.
Narrator: Aug. 14 - The simple reason Truman always gave for using the atomic bomb was to end the war and save lives.
My American Experience
Who is your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it FDR? Reagan? Clinton? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United Sates through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?