In August 1945, I was an ambulatory patient in an Army hospital on the island of Leyte in the Philippines. On August 6th our air force dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima in Japan and three days later a 2nd bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.
On about August 14th, another patient and I attended an outdoor movie on the hospital grounds. The movie was interrupted and we heard a loud speaker announcement that Japan has offered to surrender on the condition that they be allowed to keep the emperor. After much shouting and applauding the movie continued. After the movie ended my army buddy and I walked baxk to our ward (a huge tent that housed about 20 cots). En route, I threw cold water on his enthusiasm by reminding him that President Roosevelt had said right from the beginning that we would accept nothing less than unconditional surrender. I predicted the war would continue a little longer, until the Japanese removed that last condition.
When we arrived at our ward, my GI friend interrupted the boisterous cheering to announce that Sgt. H. said the war was not other and told them my reasons why. In the next few minutes I learned - the hard way - about the dangers of being a "bearer of bad tidings". It was like, I alone, had the power to end the war or not and they all wanted to kill me because I was making the wrong decision.
We did, of course, accept Japan's condition. And in all the years since whenerer I remembered this incident a wave of shame came over me. What kind of a wet-behind-the-ears "Philadelphia lawyer" had I been to be hung up on such nit-picking details!
But recently, I read the biography of President Harry Turman ("Truman" by David McCullough, 1992, Touchstone-Simon & Schuster) and found that the decision to accept Japan's condition was far from a "slam dunk" one. Truman thought long and hard before he gave in.
In my opinion, Truman made a very wise decision. Keeping the Emperor in place as a go-between the Supreme Commander and the Japanses populous went a long way toward making our occupation a success, I believe. And what better choice for a Supreme Commander to sit one level above the throne of the God-Emperor Hirohito than he, of even greater holiness, the legendary American super-god General Douglas MacArthur!
And I, after 64 years, can hold my head up once again, knowing that my thinking in this one instance was on the same track with a President of the United States, and a great one at that.