Sunday, July 31, 2016

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 6 Days


Each summer I count down the days to the atomic bombing of Japan (August 6 and August 9, 1945),  marking events from the same day in 1945.  I've written  three books on the subject:  Hiroshima in America (with Robert Jay Lifton),  Atomic Cover-Up (on the decades-long suppression of shocking film shot in the atomic cities by the U.S. military),  and Hollywood Bomb  (the wild story of how an MGM 1947 drama was censored by the military and Truman himself).

July 31, 1945:

--In Germany, Admiral William D. Leahy, chief of staff to Truman--and the highest-ranking U.S. military officer during the war--continues to privately express doubts about the bomb, that it may not work and is not needed,  in any case. (Gen. Eisenhower had just come out against using the Bomb.)  Leahy would later write in his memoirs: 

"It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.

"The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children."

--The assembly of Little Boy is completed. It is ready for use the next day.  But a  typhoon approaching Japan will likely prevent launching an attack. Several days might be  required for weather to clear.

--Secretary of War Stimson sends semi-final draft of statement for Truman to read when first bomb used and he has to explain its use, and the entire bomb project, to the U.S. and the world, with this cover note: "Attached are two copies of the revised statement which has been prepared for release by you as soon as the new weapon is used. This is the statement about which I cabled you last night.  The reason for the haste is that I was informed only yesterday that, weather permitting, it is likely that the weapon will be used as early as August 1st, Pacific Ocean Time, which as you know is a good many hours ahead of Washington time."
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.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 7 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.   As many know, this is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including the recent Atomic Cover-Up on the U.S. suppression of film for decades and another on a Hollywood film)  since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media reactions in the decades after.

July 30, 1945

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of U.S. troops in Europe, has visited President Truman in Germany, and would recall what happened in his memoir (Mandate for Change): "Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act...

"During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face'. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude..."

In a Newsweek interview, Ike would add: "...the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing."

-- Stimson, now back at the Pentagon, cabled Truman, that he had drafted a statement for the president that would follow the first use of the new weapon--and Truman must urgently review it because the bomb could be used as early as August 1. Stimson sent one of his aides to Germany with two copies of the statement. The Top Secret, six-page typed statement opened: "____ hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on ______ and destroyed its usefulness to the enemy. That bomb has more power than 20,000 tons of TNT.... It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe." Later, as we will see, the claim that Hiroshima was merely "a military base" was added to the draft.

--After scientists sifted more data from the July 16 Trinity test of the first weapon, Gen. Leslie R. Groves, military head of the Manhattan Project provided Gen. George Marshall, our top commander, with more detail on the destructive power of atomic weapons. Amazingly, despite the new evidence, Groves recommended that troops could move into the "immediate explosion area" within a half hour" (and, indeed, in future bomb tests soldiers would march under the mushroom clouds and receive harmful doses of radiation). Groves also provided the schedule for the delivery of the weapons: By the end of November more than ten weapons would be available, in the event the war had continued.

--Groves faced a new problem, however. Gen. "Tooey" Spaatz on Guam urgently cabled that sources suggested that there was an Allied prisoner of war camp in Nagasaki just a mile north of the center of the city. Should it remain on the target list?" Groves, who had already dropped Kyoto from the list after Stimson had protested, refused to shift. In another cable Spaatz revealed that there were no POW camps in Hiroshima, or so they believed. This firmed up Groves's position that Hiroshima should "be given top priority," weather permitting. As it turned out, POWs died in both cities from the bombing.

Greg Mitchell, former editor of Nuclear Times and Editor & Publisher, is the author of more than a dozen books, with three on the use of the bomb, including Atomic Cover-Up (on the decades-long suppression of shocking film shot in the atomic cities by the U.S. military) and Hollywood Bomb (the wild story of how an MGM 1947 drama was censored by the military and Truman himself).

Friday, July 29, 2016

So Long, Marianne

Marianne Ihlen, the lovely muse of Leonard Cohen almost half a century ago, immortalized in his classic "So Long, Marianne," has passed away suddenly, shortly after being diagnosed with leukemia.  Their story was really remarkable.    From a Leonard poem:

I have lost a telephone
with your smell in it

Did you take the telephone
knowing I'd sniff it immoderately
maybe heat up the plastic
to get all the crumbs of your breath

and if you won't come back
how will you phone to say
you won't come back
so that I could at least argue


Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 8 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.   This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including the recent Atomic Cover-Up on the U.S. suppression of film for decades and another on a Hollywood film)  since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media reactions in the decades after.

On July 29, 1945: 

—Truman wrote letter to wife Bess from Potsdam on deals there (but does not mention A-bomb discussions with Soviets): “I like Stalin. He is straightforward, knows what he wants and will compromise when he can’t get it. His Foreign Minister isn’t so forthright.“ Truman casually informed Stalin about the atomic bomb but no one is quite certain that the latter understood.

—Japanese sub sinks the U.S.S. Indianapolis, killing over 800 American seamen. If it had happened three days earlier, the atomic bomb the ship was carrying to Tinian would have never made it.

—A Newsweek story observes: “As Allied air and sea attacks hammered the stricken homeland, Japan’s leaders assessed the war situation and found it bordering on the disastrous…. As usual, the nation’s propaganda media spewed out brave double-talk of hope and defiance.” But it adds: “Behind the curtain, Japan had put forward at least one definite offer. Fearing the results of Russian participation in the war, Tokyo transmitted to Generalissimo Stalin the broad terms on which it professed willingness to settle all scores.”

—Assembling of the first atomic bomb continued at Tinian. It would likely be ready on August 1 and the first use would be dictated by the weather.  The second bomb—the plutonium device—was still back in the States. The target list, with Hiroshima as #1, remained in place, although it was being studied for the presence of POW camps holding Americans in the target cities.

—Secretary of War Stimson began work on the statement on the first use of the bomb that President Truman would record or release in a few days, claiming we merely hit a "military base," assuming the bomb worked.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 9 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.   In this way the fateful, and in my view, very tragic, decisions made by President Truman and his advisers can be judged more clearly in "real time."  As many know, this is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including the recent Atomic Cover-Up on the U.S. suppression of film for decades and another on a Hollywood film)  since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media reactions in the decades after.

July 28, 1945

--Two days after receiving it, the Japanese leadership  rejected the Potsdam declaration calling for their "unconditional" surrender, or seemed to. The official word was that it would ignore the demand mokusatsu, or "with silence." Another translation, however, is "to withhold comment." This not-quite-rejection has led some historians to suggest that the U.S. should have pursued the confusing Japanese peace feelers already circulating, especially with suggestions that unconditional terms were the main, or perhaps only, obstacles.

--Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal had breakfast with Truman at Potsdam.  He had flown there at least partly to press the president to pursue Japanese peace feelers--especially concerning letting them keep their emperor-- before using the bomb and killing countless civilians.

 --Returning to Washington from Potsdam, Secretary of War Henry Stimson consulted with the top people at Los Alamos about the bomb (or "S-1" as it was then known) and wrote in his diary. "Everything seems to be going well."

 --U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Joseph Davies wrote in his diary that Secretary of State James Byrnes was overly excited by the success of the bomb test vis-a-vis future relations with our allies, the Soviets: "Byrnes' attitude that the atomic bomb assured ultimate success in negotiations disturbed me more than his description of its success amazed me. I told him the threat wouldn't work, and might do irreparable harm." Four days earlier, Byrnes aide Walter Brown had written in his diary that Byrnes' view was that "after atomic bomb Japan will surrender and Russia will not get in so much on the kill." The Soviets were scheduled to enter the war on August 7 (which might have prompted a Japanese surrender, even without use of the Bomb), so there was some urgency.

--A U.S. bombing raid on the small Japanese city of Aomori -- which had little military significance beyond being a transportation hub -- dropped 83,000 incendiaries and destroyed almost the entire city, killing at least 2,000 civilians.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Back Cover "Blurbs" For My Upcoming Book

Just designed by Crown with "advanced praise" blurbs.  Thanks to them, the many tunnelers and escapees who sat for interviews, my editors, and my research team (Emely, Stephane, Jeni and Barbara).   Pub date:  October 18, 2016.   More here.

The Tunnels is one of the great untold stories of the Cold War. Brilliantly researched and told with great flair, Greg Mitchell’s non-fiction narrative reads like the best spy thriller, something Le Carre might have imagined. Easily the best book I’ve read all year.” —Alex Kershaw, author of Avenue of Spies


“When you have read the last page of Greg Mitchell’s The Tunnels you will close the book—but not until then.” —Alan Furst, author of A Hero of France and Night Soldiers

"Greg Mitchell has written a riveting story about one of the most powerful documentaries ever broadcast on television – NBC’s The Tunnel.  Those of us who saw it that December night in 1962 have never forgotten the experience.   Now Mitchell, an exemplary journalist, goes beyond what the cameras saw, deep into the political dynamics of Cold War Berlin.  John Le Carre couldn’t have done it better."
                                                   -- Bill Moyers 


“Greg Mitchell is the best kind of historian, a true storyteller. The Tunnels is a gripping tale about heroic individuals defying an authoritarian state at a critical moment in the Cold War. A brilliantly told thriller—but all true.” Kai Bird, author of The Good Spy

 The Tunnels uncovers an unexplored underworld of Cold War intrigue. As nuclear tensions grip Berlin, a whole realm of heroes and villains, of plot and counterplot, unfolds beneath the surface of the city. True historical drama.”  —Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars

“A compelling look at a wrenching chapter of the Cold War that chronicles the desperate flights for freedom beneath the streets of post-war Berlin and the costs that politics extracted in lives.”
—Barry Meier, author of Missing Man


Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 10 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.   For more, see my book Atomic Cover-Up (click on right rail of this blog).

July 27, 1945

Truman continued to meet with Allied leaders in Germany, as the Soviets got ready to declare war on Japan in early August ("fini Japs" when that happened, even without the bomb, Truman had written in his diary this week).

Preparations at Tinian in the Pacific to get the first A-bomb ready for use, possibly within a week (weather permitting) were finalized, with the city of Hiroshima remaining as #1 target. It has been barely touched by Allied bombing so it would serve as the best site to judge the bomb's experimental effects.  Also it is nearly surrounded by hills, promising a "focusing effect" that will likely guarantee killing tens of thousands.

The Japanese government today released an edited version of the "unconditional surrender" Potsdam declaration (which did not mention the atomic bomb) to their press and citizens, but had not yet rejected it. The Domei news agency had already predicted that the surrender demand "would be ignored." The U.S, after use of bomb, would later accept conditional surrender -- with Japan allowed to keep its emperor -- yet call it unconditional.

Eleven days after the first, and quite secret, atomic test at Trinity, which spread wide clouds of radioactive fallout over residents downwind -- livestock had been sickened or killed -- radiation experts had become concerned about the exposure for one family, the shape of things to come.

"A Petition to the President of the United States" organized by famed nuclear scientist Leo Szilard, and signed by sixty-eight of his Los Alamos colleagues -- the only real pre-Hiroshima protests -- urgently urging delay or extreme caution on the use of the new weapon against Japan, continued to be held in limbo and kept from the President's eyes while Truman remained abroad.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 11 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.  This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including Atomic Cover-up  and Hollywood Bomb) since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.  

July 26, 1945:

Early on July 26, Chief of Staff Gen.George Marshall cabled to Gen. Leslie Groves, military chief of the Manhattan Project back in Washington, DC, his approval of a directive sent by Groves the night before. It read: “1. The 509th Composite Group, Twentieth Air Force, will deliver its first special bomb as soon as weather will permit visual bombing after about 3 August 1945 on one of the targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Nigata and Nagasaki…. 2. Additional bombs will be delivered on the above targets as soon as made ready by the project staff…..”

This assembly-line approach would have tragic consequences for the city of Nagasaki. (Kyoto had been removed from the target list after the Secretary of War Henry Stimson pleaded that destroying this historic and beautiful city would really turn the Japanese against us in the postwar period.)

In a 1946 letter to Stimson, Truman reminded him that he had ordered the bombs used against cities engaged “exclusively” in war work. Truman would later write in his memoirs, “With this order the the wheels were set in motion for the first use of an atomic weapon against a military target.” Even years after the decision, and all the evidence (largely kept from the American people) that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were only partly “military” targets, Truman still acted otherwise.

--The other major event from this day was equally significant. The Potsdam Declaration was issued in Germany by the United States, Britain and China. (The Soviet Union was still ostensibly not at war with Japan but agreed to enter the conflict around August 7. This has led some to suggest that we used the bombs quickly to try to end the war before the Russians could claim much new territory.) It was Truman’s first key wartime conference with other top leaders.

The declaration ordered Japan to surrender immediately and unconditionally or face a reign of ruin—“prompt and utter destruction”—although the new weapon was not mentioned (such a warning had been considered by Truman but rejected). Much was made of the importance of the “unconditional” aspect but three weeks later, after the use of the new bombs, we accepted a major condition, allowing the Japanese to keep their emperor, and still called the surrender “unconditional.”

Some historians believe that if we had agreed to that condition earlier Japan might have started the surrender process before the use of the atomic bombs. Others believe an explicit warning to the Japanese, or a demonstration of the new weapon offshore in Japan, would have speeded the surrender process. But the Potsdam Declaration set US policy in stone.

Greg Mitchell’s latest book (also out as an e-book) is Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never Made. He also co-authored, with Robert Jay Lifton, Hiroshima in America.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 12 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945. This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including Atomic Cover-up  and Hollywood Bomb) since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.  

Yesterday's entry.  Today:

July 25:  Still at Potsdam, Truman wrote in his diary this day an entry that raised the following.  Did he know that the U.S. was targeting the center of cities--the vast majority of citizens then living in the target cities were women and children--or was he lying to himself and history?   "We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark.  Anyway we ‘think’ we have found the way to cause a disintegration of the atom. An experiment in the New Mexico desert was startling - to put it mildly. ...The explosion was visible for more than 200 miles and audible for 40 miles and more.

"This weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Sec. of War, Mr. Stimson, to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital or the new.

"He and I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one and we will issue a warning statement asking the Japs to surrender and save lives. I’m sure they will not do that, but we will have given them the chance. It is certainly a good thing for the world that Hitler’s crowd or Stalin’s did not discover this atomic bomb. It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful."   

Note:  "Military" made up only about 10% of the casualties in Hiroshima (including American POWs), and 1% at most in Nagasaki (including Dutch POWs.). The majority of the 200,000  killed were women and children.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 13 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.    This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including Atomic Cover-up  and Hollywood Bomb) since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.  

Yesterday's entry.  Today:

July 24:   Truman at Potsdam discloses the existence of the atomic bomb to Stalin (who had possibly already been informed about it by his spies).  In his memoirs, a decade later, Truman would describe it briefly this way:  "On July 24 I casually mentioned to Stalin that we had a new weapon of unusual destructive force. The Russian Premier showed no special interest. All he said was he was glad to hear it and hoped we would make 'good use of it against the Japanese.'" American officials present would assert that Stalin failed to grasp the import of the new weapon in future world affairs.  But a Soviet official with the Stalin party later claimed that Stalin immediately ordered his scientists to speed up work on their own weapon.  See views of Churchill and others who witnessed the telling.

Gen. Groves drafts the directive authorizing the use of the atomic bombs as soon as bomb availability and weather permit. It lists the following targets in order of priority: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki.  They are all large cities and orders are to drop bombs over center of them, thereby dooming tens of thousands of civilians for death. This directive constitutes final authorization for atomic attack--no further orders are issued.  Indeed, there would never be a separate order, even by Truman, to use the second bomb against Japan--it just rolled off, as if from atomic assembly line. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 14 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.  This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including Atomic Cover-up  and Hollywood Bomb) since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.  
Yesterday's entry.  For today: 

July 23, 1945:  More decoded cables and reports suggest Japanese might very well surrender soon if "unconditional surrender" amended to allow them to retain their Emperor as symbolic leader.  U.S. will rule that out in its upcoming Potsdam Declaration, but then allow it, after using the bomb.

Truman had come to Potsdam mainly to get the Russians to keep their promise of entering war against Japan in early August--and Truman believed that would mean "fini Japs."  But, after Trinity, Stimson writes in diary today, that he and Gen. George Marshall believe "now with our new weapon we would not need the assistance of the Russians to conquer Japan."  So he again presses for info on earliest possible date for use of bomb.  So the bomb would be useful--even if not, perhaps, necessary.

Out in the Pacific, the first bomb unit, without explosives, dropped in a test at Tinian.  Meanwhile, 600 bombers get ready to bomb the hell out of Osaka and Nagoya without conventional weapons.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 15 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.   This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including Atomic Cover-up  and Hollywood Bomb) since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.  

Yesterday's lengthy entry, including Gen. Eisenhower opposing using bomb against Japan. Today:

July 22, 1945:  Still at Potsdam, Secretary of War Stimson meets with Prime Minister Churchill, who says that he was baffled by President Truman's sudden change in getting tough, almost bullying, with Stalin--but after he learned of successful first A-bomb test at Trinity he understood and endorsed it.   Everyone also cheered by "accelerated" timetable for use of bomb against cities--with first weapon ready about August 6, and the second by August 24th.  Stimson in diaries notes that two top officials endorse his striking off Kyoto (which he had visited and loved) from the target list.

The U.S. learns through its "Magic" intercepts that Japan is sending a special emissary to the Soviet Union to try to get them to broker a peace with the U.S. as soon as possible (the Japanese don't know the Russians are getting ready to declare war on them in two weeks).

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Chicago 'Police Riot'

Protests outside this year's GOP convention have drawn little media coverage and one might say they have "fizzled."  And no wonder: police and city officials for conventions for decades have learned to force protesters into "security zones" far from the convention halls and provided overwhelmingly numbers of security forces nearby.  I guess we can blame it all on...1968, and the infamous bloodbath on the streets of Chicago.  I happened to be there at the age of twenty.     Here's a piece I wrote not long along ago about how I witnessed that at close hand.
 ***
Forty-eight years ago my trip to Chicago for the Democratic National Convention would culminate in the crushing of Sen. Eugene McCarthy's anti-Vietnam crusade inside the convention hall and the cracking of peacenik skulls by Mayor Richard Daley's police in the streets. Together, this doomed Hubert Humphrey to defeat in November at the hands of Richard Nixon.

I'd been a political-campaign junkie all my life. At the age of 8, I paraded in front of my boyhood home in Niagara Falls, N.Y., waving an "I Like Ike" sign. In 1968 I got to cover my first presidential campaign when one of Sen. McCarthy's nephews came to town, before the state primary, and I interviewed him for the Niagara Falls Gazette, where I worked as a summer reporter during college. I had been chair of the McCarthy campaign at my college. So much for non-biased reporting!

My mentor at the Gazette was a young, irreverent City Hall reporter named John Hanchette. He went on to an illustrious career at other papers, and as a Pulitzer Prize-winning national correspondent for Gannett News Service. Hanchette was in Chicago that week to cover party politics as a Gazette reporter and contributor to the Gannett News Service (GNS). I was to hang out with the young McCarthyites and the anti-war protesters. To get to Chicago I took my first ride on a jetliner.

To make a long story short: On the climactic night of Aug. 28, 1968, Hanchette and I ended up just floors apart in the same building: the Conrad Hilton Hotel in downtown Chicago. I was in McCarthy headquarters and Hanchette was in one of Gannett's makeshift newsrooms.  Just after the peace plank to the DNC platform was defeated,  TV coverage switched to shocking scenes of young folks getting beaten with nightsticks on the streets of Chicago, but we didn't know where.  Then we smelled tear gas and someone  the curtains along a wall of windows and we looked out  to see police savagely attacking protesters with nightsticks at the intersection directly below.

Soon I headed for the streets. By that time, the peak violence had passed, but cops were still pushing reporters and other innocent bystanders through plate glass windows at the front of the hotel, so the danger was still real. I held back in the lobby, where someone had set off a stink bomb. Some Democrats started returning from the convention hall -- after giving Humphrey the nomination even though McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy won most of the primaries -- as protesters inside the Hilton chanted, "You killed the party! You killed the party!"  And: "You killed the country." And, of course, "Dump the Hump!"

Finally, I screwed up my courage and crossed to Grant Park where the angry protest crowd gathered, with troops in jeeps with machine guns pointed at us. And there I stayed all night, as the crowd and chants of "pig" directed at the cops increased. Many in the crowd wore bandages of had fresh blood on their faces. Phil Ochs (later a friend)  arrived and sang, along with other notables, including some of the peacenik delegates and a famous writer or two.  This was Zuccotti Park but with heavily armed soldiers ready to swoop in, not simply NYC cops. Somehow we survived the night. 

When I returned to Niagara Falls that Friday, I wrote a column for that Sunday's paper. I described the eerie feeling of sitting in Grant Park, and thousands around me yelling at the soldiers and the media, "The whole world is watching!" -- and knowing that, for once, it was true.

More than 35 years later, after I had written two books on other infamous political campaigns, I returned to Chicago for a staged performance of a musical based on one of them. As I got out of a cab to make my way to the theater, I had an eerie feeling and, sure enough, looking up the street I noticed Grant Park a block away -- and the very intersection in front of the Hilton where skulls were cracked that night in 1968.

P.S. Norman Mailer's terrific book, Miami and the Siege of Chicago, is still in print.

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 16 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.     This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including Atomic Cover-up  and Hollywood Bomb) since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.  

July 21,  1945:  Gen. Leslie Groves' dramatic report on the Trinity test lands on Secretary of War Henry Stimson's desk.  Residents of New Mexico and Las Vegas, who witnessed a flash in the desert (some received radiation doses) are still in the dark.

The Interim Committee has settled on a target list (in order):  Hiroshima, Kokura, Nagasaki.  Top priority was they must be among the few large Japanese cities not already devastated by bombardments--so the true effects of the new bomb can be observed.   That's also why the bomb will be dropped over the very center of the cities, which will also maximize civilian casualties.  Hiroshima has the added "benefit" or being surrounding by hills on three sides, providing a "focusing effect" which will bounce the blast back on the city, killing even more.  Kyoto, on the original target list, was dropped after an appeal by Stimson, who loved the historic and beautiful city. 

Stimson in his diary recounts visit with Truman at Potsdam after they've both read Gen. Groves account of the successful Trinity test.  He finds Truman tremendously "pepped up" by it with "new confidence."  This "Trinity power surge" (in Robert Lifton's phrase)helped push Truman to use the new weapon as soon as possible without further reflection,  with the Russians due to enter the war around August 7.  Truman has not yet told Stalin about existence of the bomb.

Note: Groves' lengthy memo generally pooh-poohed radiation effects on nearby populations but did include this:  "Radioactive material in small quantities was located as much as 120 miles away. The measurements are being continued in order to have adequate data with which to protect the Government's interests in case of future claims. For a few hours I was none too comfortable with the situation."

Bombing crews start practicing flights over targets in Japan.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus-17 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.   This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including Atomic Cover-up  and Hollywood Bomb) since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.   What happened on today's date:

July 20,  1945:    Secretary of War met several top U.S. generals in Germany.   Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower would years later in Newsweek write:   "Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. …the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent.   During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.

"It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude."

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 18 Days

As I noted yesteday: Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.   In this way the fateful, and in my view, very tragic, decisions made by President Truman and his advisers, and the actions of scientists in Los Alamos, and others, can be judged more clearly in "real time." This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including Atomic Cover-up  and Hollywood Bomb) since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.  

Now, today's entry, going back to July 18-19, 1945.  Read yesterday's entry for more on Truman's view of how Russia's entry in war would mean "fini Japs."

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At Potsdam, Truman wrote in his diary today:
"P.M. [Churchil] & I ate alone. Discussed Manhattan (it is a success). Decided to tell Stalin about it. Stalin had told P.M. of telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace. Stalin also read his answer to me. It was satisfactory. Believe the Japs will fold up before Russia comes in. I am sure they will when Manhattan [reference to Manhattan Project] appears over their homeland. I shall inform about it at an opportune time."
So there is a "telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace."  Of course, we'll never know if peace could have been worked out shortly. One alleged hang-up was that the U.S. was demanding "conditional surrender" while the Japanese wanted to be able to keep their emperor as a figurehead.  Of course, after we dropped the bomb, we allowed this condition.  This, and Truman's view that the Soviet entry into the war, set for around August 8, would provoke a surrender made it vital for him--in the view of some historians--to use the new weapon as soon as possible.

Truman also wrote a letter to his wife Bess, affirming his belief that the Soviet declaration of war--even without the Bomb--would cause an end to the war well before the planned U.S. invasion.
I've gotten what I came for - Stalin goes to war August 15 with no strings on it... I'll say that we'll end the war a year sooner now, and think of the kids who won't be killed! That is the important thing. 
 Truman would use the new weapon anyway, killing at least 50,000 Japanese "kids." 

Good Old Stephen Colbert Returns

In former guise, with a great "Word"--which is "Trumpiness."

Monday, July 18, 2016

Live-Blogging the GOP Convention 2016

God help me, I've live-blogged every GOP hootenanny since 2004, first for Editor & Publisher (where I also served as the editor) and then at The Nation.  I even wrote books about the 2008 and 2012 campaigns.   In 2004, I attended the GOP convention in New York, got kicked off the floor, and also marched in the massive peace march.  So, with nothing much else doing at home tonight, I thought I'd try again tonight, off the TV,  for those with better things to do, updated at the top below.  All times ET.

Tuesday 9:55:  Campaign manager Manafort at presser just now defends speech, says Trump furious about complaints, claims Melania "comfortable" that a few "normal" words she used reflected her feelings.  "When Hillary Clinton threatened by female" she attempts to destroy her, he says.  At first he refuses to take questions, then calls her speech highlight of convention so far.  Indeed, that is true, as it turns out....


Later:  It looks like Melania plagiarized part of speech...from Michelle Obama...you know, the part on hard work and integrity.  Yikes.   Robert Mackey here.  There's now a delicious theory that a disgruntled speechwriter did this as an act of sabotage.  Some point to the obvious direct "Rick Roll" lines also in speech about Donald not letting you down.

Melania last night claimed she wrote most of speech herself.  After controversy, Trump team put out brief, incoherent statement and suddenly she has large "team of writers."  They try to suggest that Melania was "inspired" by a lot of things, maybe even Michelle speech? But since huge number of Trump backers think she is the devil, that may not wash either....

Now Trump manager blames guess who...Hillary!  And he digs hole deeper by claiming she "knew what she was doing" and the lifted passages contain words that "do not belong" only to the Obamas.

Chris Christie this morning defends her, saying that, actually, 93% of the speech was original!  But Reince Priebus says that if it happened to him he would indeed fire the speech writer (Melania herself?).  

My old friend Lizz Winstead comments:  "BREAKING: Kim Kardashian has the tape of Michelle Obama giving Melania permission to use that speech."  Rep. Alan Grayson tweets new Tru,mp campaign slogan:  "Make America Copy and Paste Again."

11:55  Yes, Jon Stewart  reunited with Stephen Colbert for five minutes or so, in pretty lame skit (he pretends to be a hermit who goes bonkers on learning that Trump is GOP nominee--fortunately, however, Colbert then returns to former blowhard guise and does a Tonight's Word for old times sake, and it's  "Trumpism").

11:30  I suffered all night for you but I gave up with arrival of Joni Ernst.  MSNBC just brought on my old pal Paul Rieckhoff for a reality check on vets community.  

10:55  New York Daily News front page for tomorrow posted. 

10:50  Quote of the night from speaker Flynn: "War is not about bathrooms." Then he agrees with crowd: "Lock her up, that's right." Adds: "Damn right."  And "American exceptionalism is very real.  Our country was built upon Judeo-Christian principles."

10:22:  And Trump is on.  "Oh, we're gonna win, we're gonna win so big." Then repeats it.  Amazingly, says just a few more words before introducing wife.   She claims he is "kind and fair and caring," but admits that others do not always see it.  Otherwise not much to say.  Crowd seemed sleepy until ovation at end. She offered not a single personal anecdote, just declared his goodness without example, probably a first for candidate wife.  And sacrilege of intro with "Brown Eyed Girl."  Have to hope Van sues. 

10:10   Now weighing in -- Samantha Bee with video, see @FullfrontalSamB

10:00  Primetime.  The three networks join coverage.  MSNBC running clip from  impossibly lame interview Matt Lauer just did for Today with Trump and wife on the plane.  Melania:  Don is an "amazing guy." Stop the presses, if any are left....In the hall, the first protest, Code Pink, natch.  Now Rudy G on, still called "America's mayor" today by Jake Tapper.  Ranting like a hysteric.  As Molly Ivins said about a previous GOP confab, "It sounded better in the original German." And three-times married Rudy hailing three-times-married Trump as great family man.

9:45  Sen. Tom Cotton, likely 2020 candidate, on now. Tells troops, "Help is one the way."  Want us to "win wars not just end wars."  What do you think most troops in Afghanistan would prefer?  These GOPers love vets who have gone to war, unless they are on the other ticket, when they get swiftly boated.

9:25  Milwaukee sheriff on now, ready to slam Blacks Lives Matter and Obama.  He lost it with Don Lemon last night. Opens with "Blue lives matter," sparking chants. And brings "good news" of latest acquittal in Baltimore case.   Accuses BLM and Occupy of "anarchy."  Now Don Lemon on and proudly stating that he does not support Black Lives Matter either.

9:00  Underwear model speaking now.  He has said that he Obama is a Muslim.  Jesus told him to do it.   Says he has kids, in case you were thinking they were letting a gay guy speak.   Naked appeal for Trump....And over on Fox, Megyn welcomes...a former Black Panther and a Cleveland cop who claims Obama has "blood on his hands." 


8:45 Controversy over on Fox!  Trump went on O'Reilly taking attention from Benghazi woman!  Even Brit Hume hitting Bill over this.  Bill claims Trump broke news on promising to use Black Lives Matter against Dems.  And so on....Good Steve Schmidt line:  "The weaponization of grief." 

8:25  Delegates may bounce Pence and name Marcus Lutttrell veep.  Not craziest thing they're doing this year....Mother of Benghazi victim says she holds Hllary "personally" responsible.  How many probes and congressional committees have now cleared Hillary on this?  Says, "Hillary for prison--she deserves to be in stripes." Crowd goes crazy. Then they go to Benghazi video.  Don't recall any of thousands of 9/11 family members at DNC convention in 2004 naming Dubya as killer of their spouse or kid...MSNBC brings on congressman, and Richard Engel, to defend Hillary on this. 

8:10  Chris Matthews hailing Trump kids as incredibly great and nice (as if raised by Jackie Kennedy, he adds) and even "genteel," except maybe when shooting rare creatures in Africa, and so on....."Duck Dynasty" star, the "yuppie hillbilly," takes the stage with prayer and American flag headband.  Still recall when Abbie Hoffman got arrested for wearing a flag shirt....Scott Baio now on, claims Hillary wants to be president only "for herself." Trump just acting for USA, closes, "Let's make America, America again."  Shark jumped.

7:35  Preferred Sarah Paulson's Nicolle Wallace to Nicolle Wallace's....Former obnoxious Saturday Night Live bandleader G.E. Smith once again providing the music for the GOP confab, as he has done in past....Elsewhere in the national league, Cornel West today endorsed...Jill Stein.

 7:15  Every four years there are predictions of protests at conventions making a lot of news and causing chaos but when the times comes they rarely have any impact--as the parties and cities learned long ago to restrict them to security zones far from the hall and most of the media.  I guess I am partly to blame, as a attendee at infamous  Chicago convention protests in 1968. 

7:00  A reminder that Jon Stewart re-joins Stephen Colbert at least briefly tonight.  If you missed Stephen taking the GOP stage, watch

6:40  MSNBC interviewing Ohio's Connie Schultz, great columnist and wife of Sherrod Brown, who would be my pick for VP--if that wouldn't cost Dems a Senate seat.  Dana Bash on CNN chats with Rick Perry who says he is backing Trump because of SCOTUS (but she misses chance to ask him for other reasons)...Chris Hayes runs clip of him interviewing folks at Roger Stone and Alex Jones rallies. Brian Williams now in the anchor chair, with Rachel, and Gene Robinson and Steve Schmidt....Rep. Steve King also told Chris that white race (literally) sueprior to others.

6:25  Just kicking this off by noting that I watched the brief anti-Trump (or if you will, "fair rules") rebellion this afternoon, which the two cable channels almost blew with confusing coverage, though they have compensated since.  Question is: Did delegates really withdraw signatures on petition calling for vote, and if so, what pressure produced it?   One might say it's much-ado-about-little, as the effort to "stop Trump" had no chance to succeed though embarrassment was not killed, as the cablers have been going wild about it since.   Highlight for me was former U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey denouncing the "brown shirt" tactics, linking this to "fascism," and then doubling down by saying it reflected "Trump."   NBC's Kelly O'Donnell later got kicked off the floor, for a bit. We'll see if this goes anywhere later tonight or, as I suspect, the promises of disruptions will go nowhere.

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus-19 Days

Two days ago in my annual series the highlight was the first nuclear test, at Trinity, on that date 71 years ago.  The following day, in Potsdam, Truman met Stalin for the first time, and had a new bounce in his step after receiving word of the positive test.  Still, he had to insist that the Soviets keep their promise to enter the war for he knew, as he wrote in his diary, that would mean "fini Japs," even without use of the atomic bomb.  As it would turn out, he decided not to wait for that but chose to use the bomb first.  As he wrote in his diary on this date he was certain that Japan would would quit when "Manhattan" (his name for the bomb, from the still-secret Manhattan project) appeared in the sky.

Also today Gen. Leslie Groves, who managed the Manhattan effort, sent a long and detailed memo to Secretary of War Stimson on the Trinity test, which included eyewitness accounts by scientists and what would become a decades-long theme: downplaying the negative effects of radiation. 

This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including Atomic Cover-up  and Hollywood Bomb) since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.  

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 20 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.   In this way the fateful, and in my view, very tragic, decisions made by President Truman and his advisers, and the actions of scientists in Los Alamos, and others, can be judged more clearly in "real time."  As many know, this is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and two books (including the recent Atomic Cover-Up) since the early 1980s--along the way I've spent a month in the two atomic cities and weeks at the Truman Library--with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.

Now, today's entry, going back to July 17, 1945.
*
Even at this late date, Americans would be surprised to learn that President Harry Truman, just three weeks before ordering use of the new atomic bomb against Hiroshima, wrote in his diary, after meeting Joseph Stalin in Germany, that the Russians’ promised entry into the war against Japan would end the conflict—“Fini Japs”—even without the Bomb. It happened on this date in 1945.

As it happened, the Russians did enter the war—on schedule—within two days of the bombing of Hiroshima, and some historians believe that this shock, as much as the two A-bombs (the second against Nagasaki on August 9), provoked the speedy Japanese surrender a few days later. The question remains: Would this have happened without the Bomb? It’s a close argument, but the fact remains: most citizens of the only country to use the dreadful weapon (killing 200,000 civilians) are not even aware of it.

Now here, verbatim, is a famous (to some) passage from Truman’s diary on July 17, 1945. Also note Truman’s assessment of Stalin as “honest.”
Just spent a couple of hours with Stalin. Joe Davies called on Maisky and made the date last night for noon today. Promptly at a few minutes before twelve I looked up from my desk and there stood Stalin in the doorway. I got to my feet and advanced to meet him. He put out his hand and smiled. I did the same, we shook, I greeted Molotov and the interpreter and we sat down.
After the usual polite remarks we got down to business. I told Stalin that I am no diplomat but usually said yes and no to questions after hearing all the arguments. It pleased him. I asked him if he had the agenda for the meeting. He said he had and that he had some more questions to present. I told him to fire away. He did and it is dynamite—but I have some dynamite too, which I am not exploding now. He wants to fire Franco, to which I wouldn’t object and divide up the Italian colonies and other mandates, some no doubt that the British have. Then he got on the Chinese situation told us what agreements had been reached and what was in abeyance. Most of the big points are settled. He’ll be in the Jap war on August 15. Fini Japs when that comes about.
We had lunch, talked socially, put on a real show, drinking toasts to everyone. Then had pictures made in the backyard.
I can deal with Stalin. He is honest, but smart as hell.
Most American when asked about the Soviets entering the war at that late day seem to believe they were just   “getting in on the spoils.”  In fact, we had demanded that the Soviets do this and we knew it was coming, bomb or no bomb. This has led to theories – which I have never embraced – that the main reason we dropped the bombs, knowing Japan was already defeated, was to keep the Soviets out of Japan, and intimidate them in the postwar era.   I’d call this a reason, not the reason.  

Be that as it may, there is no question that the Soviet declaration would have had a huge impact on the Japanese.  That's why Truman, in his diary, declared that the Russian attack alone meant "fini" for "the Japs."

The key point is:  We didn’t wait around to find out if the Japanese would have surrendered to us shortly (especially after we let them keep the emperor) to prevent the Russians from invading, or if a strong nudge via use of our bomb would have been required.