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Victory in the Pacific | Primary Source

Invade or Bomb?

President Harry Truman's diary is one source historians have evaluated for information about his decisions at the end of World War II. Read this excerpt written in mid-June, while the Battle of Okinawa was drawing to a close and Truman and his advisers were discussing a Japan invasion plan.

President Truman at desk, 1945. Library of Congress.

June 17 '45

The White House Washington

Went down the River today on the [presidential yacht] Potomac to discuss plan, issues, and decisions. Took [press secretary] Charlie Ross, straight thinker, honest man who tells me the truth so I understand what he means; [staff aide] Matt Connelly, shrewd Irishman, who raises up the chips and shows me the bugs, honest, fair, "diplomatic" with me; [former congressman and director of the office of war mobilization and reconversion] Judge Fred Vinson, straight shooter, knows Congress and how they think, a man to trust; [special counsel and speechwriter] Judge [Samuel] Rosenman, one of the best in Washington, keen mind, a lucid pen, a loyal Roosevelt man and an equally loyal Truman man; [former White House press secretary] Steve Early, a keen observer, political and otherwise, has acted as my hatchet man, absolutely loyal and trustworthy, same can be said as about Rosenman.

We discussed public relations in Germany, Italy, France, Holland, Belgium, England, and Russia. Food, fuel, transportation and what to do about it. Japanese War and the relations with China, Russia and Britain with regard to it, Supreme Commander [Douglas MacArthur] and what to do with Mr. Prima Donna, brass hat, Five Star McArthur. He's worse than the Cabots and the Lodges — they at least talked with one another before they told God what to do. Mc tells God right off. It is a very great pity we have to have Stuffed Shirts like that in key positions. I don't see why in Hell [President Franklin] Roosevelt didn't order [General Jonathan] Wainwright home and let McArthur be a martyr, guess he was afraid of the Sabotage Press-McCormick-Patterson Axis. We'd have had a real general and a fighting man if we had Wainwright and not a play actor and a bunco man such as we have now.

Don't see how a country can produce such men as Robert E. Lee, John Pershing, [Dwight] Eisenhower, [Omar] Bradley and at the same time produce [George] Custers, [George] Pattons, and [Douglas] McArthurs.

I have to decide Japanese strategy -- shall we invade Japan proper or shall we bomb and blockade? That is my hardest decision to date. But I'll make it when I have all the facts. So you see we talk about more that [sic] "Cabbages + Kings and Sealing wax and things..."

Handwritten diary pages of Harry Truman, on White House stationery. Source: The Truman Library.

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