tv The Presidency Harry Truman - Wartime President CSPAN February 14, 2021 8:58pm-10:01pm EST
harry truman's assumption of the presidency following the death of franklin d roosevelt. it was left to this former senator and only recently sworn in vice president to end world war ii and lay the groundwork for the post-war world. the featured speaker is military historian gates brown with the us army command and general staff college which co-hosted this program with the kansas city public library the library provided the video. i chose to retitle my talk. because one of the interesting things about this. period is most folks know that it's going to happen most folks understand that by 1944. president roosevelt's not going to complete his fourth term in office the question is when and
who's going to take on this responsibility? so to help us talk about or think about this period of truman assuming the presidency and then ending the war there are three main questions that we're going to try to answer. the first one is why harry truman is the vice presidential vice presidential candidate in 1944? and the second question is what is a post-war europe look like and then the third one? how is truman going to end the war? in the pacific when we think about truman as a vice presidential candidate. he would have been. the most surprised person to be on the ticket in fact going into the convention 1944 truman is a sitting senator from missouri. he's there to give a nomination speech for james burns. for the vice presidential
nomination he doesn't aspire to be president. his wife doesn't aspire for him to be a president. he's perfectly happy. being a senator and that's really where he sees his career staying. the problem is by 1944. president roosevelt once a new vice president his sitting president henry wall is sitting vice president. henry wallace is too radical. for roosevelt and so their needs to be somebody else. and there are no shortage. there's no shortage of potential nominees the issue is each one of these potential nominees. detracts from the ticket and one of the first jobs of a vice presidential candidate is to do no harm. and so when you look at some of the other contenders
like the speaker of the house representative rayburn he can't even carry his home state of, texas. and as a vice presidential candidate if you're not going to bring your own state. to the ticket, then you don't really offer much. the senate majority leader, senator, berkeley berkeley similarly has some promise but he and roosevelt don't get along and roosevelt doesn't want him on the ticket. then there's james burns the man that senator truman was going to give the nomination speech for it. he is a senior advisor to president roosevelt some people refer to him as a president and hiding the problem is he's from the south and there's a worry that if you put him on the ticket, he may alienate. black voters also, mr. burns was born catholic, but he left the church to marry his protestant wife, and there's real concern
that he could alienate catholic voters. so again not doing no harm. he's actually doing quite a bit of harm to the ticket in 1944. roosevelt did have someone in mind outside of harry truman. supreme court, justice william dodge but dodge had no political experience and even though this is roosevelt's fourth campaign and the expectations not that the vice president needs to bring a lot of political capital a lot of political experience. you still need somebody who understands how politics works and a sitting supreme court justice just doesn't seem the right fit. harry truman has the least amount? of baggage or scandal associated with his candidacy, but when he's initially approached about this opportunity. he denies it. and he's worried about scandal
that he knows and that's the fact that his wife is on the senate payroll as a staffer, but she doesn't actually work a full-time job. his advisors let him know that's no bar. to you being the vice presidential candidate because if that's the bar for scandal half of the united states congress. is in scandal but even that is not enough to convince truman. to accept the possibility of being nominated it takes a direct. conversation with roosevelt and roosevelt basically tells truman you really can't deny the president, especially not in a time of war. and that's enough to make truman accept. the possibility of being nominated because there's still the convention. the convention in 1944 operates much differently than conventions today. political conventions today
largely make official what people already know. because of the primary and the caucus system that we have, but that doesn't exist in 1944. and so as folks are gathering in chicago. in 1944 there's really a horse race and the convention is going to solve it. after the convention nominates roosevelt in that's not in doubt. they quickly move to the business of nominating a vice presidential candidate. and you can see this picture. this is from the floor of the convention and you see all the signs roosevelt wants wallace. the people want wallace. we want wallace wallace has a great ground game at the convention. he's got the house organ playing his convince his campaign song. and he's got his floor delegates. really riling up the convention
and it looks like things are going to get out of control. the democratic national committee understands roosevelt desperately does not want wallets to be the vice president. and so they spring into action. they send someone up to cut power to the organ and cuts off the music. they then let the convention attendees know we've exceeded the building occupancy. limit and now it's a fire hazard. we have to leave the fire marshals telling us we're breaking the law. that's not true. but they have to stop the momentum. of the wallace campaign they resume the next day. and wallace and truman are neck and neck in the first ballot wallace has 429 votes truman has 319. and the second ballot is they
get into states calling their votes the state of maryland gives all of their delegate votes to truman. and that's going to create a landslide where truman is going to have 1,176 votes for his nomination to be the vice president and he only needs 589. what's interesting is truman and most everyone in the democratic party and most senior members of government understand that the vice presidential nominee in 1944. will be the president. and so it's interesting is after the inauguration. on january 20th. there's really no concerted effort. to bring truman into the roosevelt administration in a serious way. in the 21st century, we've seen vice presidents. either be the voice of experience or have specific policy responsibilities. and they play a little bit more
of an active role then truman played. and the roosevelt administration his duty mainly is to gave all the senate into session. and gavel the senate out of session. and that's what truman enjoys because again, he has a lot of colleagues in the senate. he enjoyed being a senator. but there's an irony in that everyone around roosevelt understands that he's not going to make it the next four years. and so you need to create some experience you need to build in truman. the understanding of what the roosevelt administration is planning for and is trying to accomplish with its war policies. when truman is brought to the white house? and 12 april 1945 he's at the senate. and he summoned to go to the white house, but he's told that
he needs to enter in. the official entry the main entry and it needs to go in such a way that he is. his visit is going to be logged in the official visitors log any things that's weird because oftentimes he goes into side entrance where his visits aren't necessarily logged in the way that this visit is going to be. he's met by eleanor roosevelt who tells him that the president has died. and truman asked if there's anything that he can do for her. and she says no mr. truman. it's we who need to help you. and certainly that speaks to eleanor roosevelt's character but i think it also gives insight into the burden that she knows that truman is about. to assume because he's going to be responsible not just for a
war in europe or war in the pacific but a global war. and the united states is supporting 12 million men and uniform five million of those men are deployed. and that's an astounding task just to support the us servicemen, but in addition the united states economy, it's industrial base. is supporting the soviet union? and great britain and the chinese fighting in the pacific and truman again. has not really been introduced. into the war policy, it's not as if he doesn't understand at some level remember he serves as a senator. he has a committee that is investigating wartime contracts. so he understands the scale of the effort, but what he doesn't understand.
is the reason behind the policies he doesn't he's not read into. what roosevelt's trying to achieve? with his war aims and that's where we're going to see truman. doing an incredible amount of learning. of really being open to advice. and making decisions and being confident in those decisions. now if you have to assume responsibility for a country at war one that is an incredible responsibility. and if you have to do it in world war ii. you can't pick a much better time than the spring of 1945. the war is not over by any stretch of the imagination. but it's much more clear. where the war is going in the spring of 1945? then in the end of 1941 or 1942
the questions are more. how are you going to bring it to a close? and what's a post-war world going to look like? well first talk about the european theater because things are going to move much more rapidly and europe than they are in the pacific. if you look at this map. this is the state of the war in europe. in april 1945 so around the time that truman is going to take responsibility after roosevelt's passing but it's a little less than a month before the end of the war and europe ve day, which is eight may. and the reason for that is the fall of germany happens in a similar way to hemingway when he discusses going broke.
first slowly and then all at once what you see is the british the americans and the french are pushing in. from the west and they're moving eastward and they're going to be meeting up with the soviets who are coming from the east and pushing westward and one of the first decisions. that truman's not going to make but actually general eisenhower is going to make is to stop. the allied british american and french forces at the river l and the reason for that is because of the demarcation of occupation zones this is an example where truman's falling in on some decisions that roosevelt had already made. and there's only so much he's going to be able to do to affect a post-war europe. eisenhower is going to be criticized for this decision because the what if conversation
that's going to come about in the 1950s is well, what if you just push forward into berlin? what if the americans take berlin? and not the soviets. and the argument is that would be something that when fundamentally changed the balance. of a post-war europe but that overlooks the reality of europe at the stage in the war if we look at the blue on the east side of the map. this is all the red army. occupies and controls and this is going to be the thing that's going to shape. the european settlement much more than whether or not the americans take berlin or the soviets. take berlin because what truman's going to have to wrestle with.
is the reality of the auto agreement in this conference happened in february of 1945 and it's between roosevelt who seated in the middle? churchill who is on the screen's left roosevelt's right and stalin who's on the screen's right roosevelt's left. this is the big three and they're coming to discuss what a post-war europe is going to look like who is going to be responsible for occupying which countries and what are these occupied countries? going to do how do we move them from liberated and occupied? to autonomous and independent and one of the things that the alta conference codifies is self-determination that the countries of a newly liberated europe. should be able to determine their own form of government.
and the most legitimate way to do that. is through elections? and that's what? everybody signs on to that's what stalin roosevelt and churchill agree to they also admit the reality that the red army is pushing from the east the red army is the one that is going to liberate eastern europe. the united states the british and the free french they're going to be coming from the west. and so again when these betrayals will be altered discussed in the 1950s. it's willfully overlooking. the different strategic realities that the soviets are facing and that roosevelt's facing. because we'll see stalin has some specific strategic. needs from world war ii
roosevelt wants to create an international organization the united nations that will be more effective at preventing war than the league of nations, but will be a concert of powers. and what roosevelt wants to create is an organization where the soviets? the united states the british the french and the chinese led by shanghai shek. will be the senior members of the international order. and each one of these senior members will be responsible for different areas of influence across the globe. when truman really starts to take some ownership over this policy. it's at the potsdam conference. which is held in the summer of 1945. from mid july to early august and this is trying to bring into
reality. the plan that was hammered out at yalta. as truman is going to the conference and potsdam is a small suburb. outside of berlin truman's introduced to the destruction of world war ii and what he realizes? is there's the political aspect of this? war you got to figure out where lines on the map are going to be you have to figure out what powers are going to be responsible for what countries and and how we make a new europe that hopefully is more stable and secure but there's also the real material need. that europeans have this is a picture of the reichstag in berlin after the war. and truman this drives home to truman that there's going to be real economic.
and social problems in europe that it's not just enough to have a political consensus about the governments of these newly liberated countries that it's going to take real proactive steps. to relieve the economic. and industrial devastation of the war. and this is something that's going to. start to drive a wedge. between the plan that roosevelt created and the reality that truman's going to face. because when you start to talk about economic policies the assumptions from the united states position the truman administration and the british is that these economic incentives these economic structures are going to be based in free markets. that of course is antithetical to what the soviets.
want and as they start to talk about what? a post-war europe's going to look. truman is confronted with the reality of these differences now. what's interesting is truman initially has pretty good assessment of stalin a pretty rosy assessment. he believes that stalin is. gruff but that stalin fundamentally is pragmatic. and truthful the issue is truman at the time at potsdam which is still early in his administration really doesn't understand the ideological differences. between the soviet union and the
united states and this comes about in an exchange between stalin and truman where truman's discussing how they can work together. and stalin says well, our countries are quite different and the soviets don't like you and if we're being honest americans don't like me stalin and truman says will certainly this can be ameliorated or mitigated if we visit each other's countries. so maybe stalin comes to the united states truman goes to the soviet union. boa truman overlooks is the real security threats? that stalin is seeing as europe is moving away from world war ii and into what's going to come next? because for stalin the war needs to solidify.
the soviet union's fundamental security problem and that's the problem that the czars faced. it's a problem that russia today faces. and that is there's no geographic barriers. between where russia is today where the soviet union was where russia is under the czars and europe? and so you need an inland empire in order to provide security you need those buffer states? and that's what stalin wants to create. so it's one thing to talk about self-determination. but stalin's not going to sacrifice tens of millions of soviet. civilian and red army dead just so people in eastern europe can determine the type of government that best suits them? these sacrifices have to solidify the security of the soviet union. and the reality the situation is there's really nothing that the british. the united states or the french
can do about it. and this comes to a head. with a discussion of poland because there are two different. governments that could rule a post-war poland one is the government exile the polish government and exile that's based in london that that's supported by the british. and the other is a polish government that's actually based in poland but is supported by stalin. and stalin looks like he's offering a compromise where he will allow a coalition government. let's bring in the government next. i'll have them work together with the government and poland and that'll work out just fine. but he ends up arresting the government in exile and there's frustration. from the united states and from the british but there's really not much they can do because to address this situation would really require continuing the war.
and redirecting the war effort towards the soviets. and that's not what this war was about? this war was an alliance with the soviet union. i'll be at a marriage of convenience. but an alliance based on destroying nazi, germany. now that that's over there's real hope. truman has real hope that the soviets will be a good partner. and that's one of the problems one of the flaws that roosevelt. saddled truman with roosevelt's united nation ideal assumes that the soviets are going to act in good faith. from a united states perspective and in point of fact the soviets are trying to solidify what stalin considers as his most dire security threat. he's less interested in creating a new international organization.
because although stalin is paranoid. he's also. a marxist not a doctrinal marxist, but he is a communist and he does believe in the anesthetical relationship. between imperialism and capitalism versus socialism and while the soviet union was able to come alongside of the united states and the british for a time to fight a more direct threat. fascism and europe that doesn't mean there's going to be peaceful coexistence. because these two systems are anesthetically opposed to one another. and truman doesn't quite understand that doesn't understand the depth of this difference. at potsdam he will learn about that as you move from world war ii into the cold war.
another aspect of yalta that's going to confined but also be a benefit for truman is the secret agreement that the soviets have. to participate in the war against the japanese about two to three months after the end of the war in europe. this secret agreement does require that the chinese again roosevelt assumes that they'll be led by shanghai sheck. it assumes that the chinese are going to acquiesce. in terms of spheres of influence over outer mongolia in terms of operation rights of rail lines that go through siberia. but the reason that roosevelt wants this guarantee from stalin that the soviets are going to fight the japanese. is because it represents the ability to tie down about a million and a half japanese. groups you see the war in
germany quickly ends. shortly after truman takes office. the war in the pacific though is still raging. and when truman enters office, he's told that it could be six months. it could be longer. to bring the japanese. to defeat and even though it potsdom he's going to get notified of a new. success in the manhattan project the first detonation of an atomic weapon. we'll see that this isn't the war ending tool that it turns out to be that this is not believed to be the final thing that the united states needs to destroy japan. because when we look at the map. in 1945 the red areas are areas
controlled by the united states and its allies in the pacific. and so you see where the united states has really drawn a very continually smaller. news around the home islands of japan and they're cutting off these. japanese imperial ocean holdings and then here in mainland china you see the japanese have a continental presence, but it's continuing to be eroded from. chinese forces and this will be something that the soviets once they declare war on the japanese. will be even more. difficult for the japanese to hold but what they find? what the united states forces
find as they're getting closer and closer. to the home islands. is this resistance of the japanese? gets more and more determined and dogged by the time you're in the middle of 1945. kamikaze attacks show the determination that the japanese have they can't match the united states in terms of munitions productions. but they're willing to sacrifice. their servicemen and suicidal attacks as forces are taking okinawa. it's not just a uniform members that are willing to die for the defense of japan. civilians are throwing themselves off of cliffs because they believe that being captured by the allies will be a fate worse than death. and one of the things that most assume and the truman
administration and in the roosevelt administration is the only way to really defeat the japanese. is to invade the home islands and so as you get closer and this defense just continues to get more and more. stiff you realize that invading the home islands. is necessary but it's going to be incredibly bloody both in terms of what it's going to cost the japanese. but for the truman administration the more important cost is what it's going to require. in us service members but there are other advocates there are other folks talking about different operational approaches. there's folks that are advocating an air campaign that if you just give it time to air campaign will bring japan to its. not because of the atomic bomb but because a fire bombing. the naval component some of the naval advocates are saying well,
maybe the blockade if we just give the blockade enough time and con in combination. with an air campaign that's going to be enough to starve the japanese out. and the problem with both of these options. is it? requires a longer war and what truman wants to do is in the war as quickly as possible. that's the way you save more servicemen's lives. that is the way that you. stop the tragedy for the japanese but it requires a japanese to accept unconditional surrender. and so truman takes on all of the above approach that it's going to take an invasion. we're going to continue a blockade and we're going to continue an air campaign. the air campaign is something that we tend to focus more on the atomic weapons, but by the spring of 1945 the united states
has a new way. of bombing, japan you have napalm? and this is a picture of tokyo. after first large scale fire bombing of tokyo on the night of the 9th and 10th of march and this is going to kill a hundred thousand japanese. in one night it's going to create a firestorm where you'll have almost hurricane force winds. that are blowing flames. throughout the city because japanese cities are uniquely vulnerable. in a way that european cities or less susceptible to fire bombing. because as much of the japanese construction is wood framed buildings. you see there are some stone concrete buildings, but a majority of the buildings are going to be wood frame, which means they are going to readily
succumb to fire bombing and this is the weapon that the air advocates are arguing is going to bring the japanese to their needs. but on this raid. the united states loses 20 b-29 what's interesting is when you get into april 1945 the japanese start. to change how they're reacting. to us bombing rates no longer are there going to be scrambling? fighters and pursuit aircraft to attack the bombers because while they're able to take out 20 b-29s over tokyo. they're all so losing. a lot of airframes in that air war they're also burning aviation gas that is more difficult to replace and they know. that the invasion is coming and so by april 1945. they're going to restrict the
air war and they're not going to challenge air superiority. largely over japan. and their husbanding their resources and in the same way as the united states is moving. from the european theater of operations and starting to planning what operation downfall which is the plan to invade japan what that's going to look like. it's staggering. this is what they've got planned? for august in august of 1945 the first wave operational olympic will take place. in the beginning of november 1945 and it will be comprised of about four core of troops to land and the southern part of japan and try to fight north and then in march of 1946 you'll bring in two field armies. and they'll land close to tokyo
to try to drive home the invasion and so from truman's perspective what his military advisors are offering him. is a blockade an air campaign and an invasion that's going to start in november. and then a second wave in march of the next year. and they're not sure exactly when it's going to end. but they have to drive home to the japanese that they are defeated. they don't want to have a similar problem. that the german military was able to create this this counter narrative after world war one that the german military wasn't defeated in world war. i because the us the british and the french never invaded germany that is the political will that collapsed the united states wants to drive home to the japanese people the japanese government and the japanese military that they were defeated in world war ii.
and the assumption is that's going to take an invasion. the atomic bomb is part of the shaping effort? it's not any more destructive than the fire bombing over tokyo. in fact, it's as far as direct casualties on the night or day of the bombing. it's about half as effective. but it's an incredible increase in efficiency. instead of dozens of bombers flying over a target you need one bomber with one bomb. now when? they get the technology. many scientists working on this project implore truman to please have a demonstration. pick an uninhabited island close to japan dropped the bomb let the japanese people see the destruction let them have a chance to step back from the
abyss. truman denies that because the worry is this is still a new technology. and if you call the world's attention to this demonstration, and it doesn't work. then you really have an advanced the information operation aspect of this campaign. better to fly a bomber over a city drop a bomb if it works now you've made your statement. if it doesn't work well. you haven't drawn the world's attention erroneously. but once you make the decision of the fact whether you use it or not, you still have to figure out where you use it. and there are several cities that the united states has specifically protected from bombing rates. hiroshima and nagasaki are both in that camp and the reason why
you hold some cities back. is because you want to see what this bomb really does. this is a picture of hiroshima. before the atomic bomb is dropped. now hiroshima is an industrial city in japan. it's not the largest industrial city. but at this stage in the war after you've bombed a lot of the other major industrial areas. hiroshima is an important aviation production. center and it is a military militarily important. city one of the difficulties of targeting japanese industry is the fact that it's not as concentrated as european industry. whereas european industry will have huge factories and the workers will live around it, but the work will take place in more singular or centralized manner. in japan, you'll still have a factory but some of the piecework some some of the
smaller parts fabrication. that will take place in smaller facilities or in a more autism manner people will do it in their homes. and so you'll have many people in hiroshima associated with war industries. but not all of them are going to work in a big factory. that complicates targeting that's another reason why this bomb seems to be effective or adequate for hiroshima. they want a good test case so they can see. how well or how poorly this bomb? performs this is a picture of hiroshima after. the bombing and this takes place on six august. after the bombing truman releases a statement talking about this new weapon that the united states has and implores
the japanese. to please surrender or else should we subject? to a continuing reign of ruin from the sky. on the 9th of august the second atomic bomb was dropped over nagasaki. but also on 9 august the soviet union declares war on the japanese. and it's this combination. of atomic bombs fire bombing years long blockade years long ground campaign that slowly tightening the noose around the japanese. that's going to bring about the surrender of japan. there's going to be some questioning of this in the 60s 70s two degree the 1980s about the morality of this decision is truman dropped the bomb because he wants to get revenge or
retribution on the japanese or is he sending a message to the soviets to show the efficacy of the united states? and its nuclear weapons program but in point of fact the reason that truman is dropping the bomb. is to stop the war. and hopefully to mitigate the risk to invasion forces when they're dropping the bomb. on the sixth in the 9th of august there's not an understanding that peace is just days away. the japanese will surrender on 15 august. but you have to do everything that you can. to erode the defensive capacity of the japanese. to mitigate the risk for the invasion that you know, you're planning in november of 1945. and so when we look at the result of the war it's easy and 2020 to to look at this and say well, of course, that's the
thing that causes a japanese to surrender. but truman doesn't know that. and even inside the japanese government there are those who are plotting to overthrow anybody who would seek to end the war? but it's the confluence of all of these burdens that finally drives home the fact that the japanese can no longer carry on this war. but truman makes this decision. because he wants to save the lives of us servicemen. not because he's looking at retribution or looking at sending a message to the soviets. when we think about truman. what's inspiring about his? first months in office from april when he assumes office to august when the japanese surrender is he's fundamentally unprepared to do this job. it doesn't want this job and it's not a criticism to say he's unprepared because it's not a
job that he really wants before the president asks him. to serve on the ticket he has to execute a plan that's got some flawed assumptions. we saw that with the role that the soviets were supposed to play under roosevelt's ideal form of the united nation. but he's willing to learn. he's willing to work incredibly hard. to learn not just the policy, but why the policy was there? he's willing to take advice. and he's confident and his decisions once he's made them not these bull-headed not these unwilling to reassess. but he's confident that he's done the work. to arrive at the best policy decision and that's why i think it's no surprise that when you look at what he had to accomplish and a short couple of months.
that he's one of our more well respected presidents today. if you're looking for a couple of different books to read on this mr. truman's war and the accidental president. are both great books that talk about this era and the truman administration with a lot of good detail. gates i'm throwing a curveball at you. this is steve wieberg with the library. i'm stepping in for steve who got called away here momentarily. terrific. i've been monitoring this from the beginning. i've been looking forward to this for a while. now as i do all of the command and general staff college events and this has been terrific. you've got time for a few questions. we've got a few from the audience here. yes, sir. first one and you you talked
about truman in the question of japanese surrender were there. any suggestions at all? that the japanese actually surrendered prior to either of the bombs being dropped. yeah, there's the pots and declaration that truman in conjunction with the british. make at the possum conference and this implores the japanese to surrender at that time, or they would be subject to destruction and this kind of a veiled reference to the atomic bomb and the japanese don't publicly respond to it. but they do reach out to the soviets and ask the soviets to be mediators. if the soviets are willing of course the problem is the japanese don't know that the soviets are planning on declaring war on the japanese. and so there's really not an incentive for stalin to remove himself from the victors because that's how he's going to gain
the most. in the war ending and so they do reach out. the soviets was really a dead end effort. but the other problem is the japanese aren't willing to accept unconditional surrender. and so when they do reach out to the soviets, it's not. to publicize their acceptance of unconditional surrender. they want to negotiate and the japanese. military leaders feel that they're one great victory away from having some leverage to open negotiations. and so there's really not a good honest effort to approach the united states on its own terms of unconditional surrender, and that's why you see the truman emission administration continuing on to the atomic bombing and continuing to plan for the invasion of the home islands. um how was truman accepted by others in the roosevelt administration when he stepped
in and as well as as my my eisenhower, what was the confidence? level, what was the trust level? skeptically and truman is not well-versed as far as his military experience. he's a captain in world war one. he does a lot of personal studies as far as reading military history, but truman's name recognition such as it is is really more associated with the pendergrass machine out of kansas city. and so what people know of truman is maybe the truman committee that's investigating war contracts. maybe they know him is tom pinder the representative from tom pendergrass. and so there's a lot of skepticism. of truman in the inner roosevelt circle, but also as you reference and the military, but what's incredible is as people start to have interactions with truman. they realize that he's willing to do the hard work to learn he's willing to do the hard work to understand the situation and
so while they start out skeptically most of the advisors most of the senior military officers are going to come away after their experiences with truman with a great amount of respect. at the end of world war ii there's going to be some changes you get into the korean war that are outside the scope of this talk, but for world war ii, there's a lot of respect for truman. another question. are are you able to speculate as to how different? the end of the war might have been had fdr survived to see it through. i'll do the best i can i think that the real problem that roosevelt's plans faced. was the reality of the soviet union? and that's something that roosevelt believes he can shape stalin and believes that he can not manipulate but have stalin. cooperate in a way that really i
don't think is based in reality when you look at the map of europe stalin holds the cards to achieve what stalin wants? so he doesn't need the permission of the united states or the british to occupy and control eastern europe. and so even if roosevelt lives through the end of the war even if he lives until 48, i don't think that it's fundamentally different just because of the security reality that stalin believed he faced. one more question here. actually one that just popped in what were the terms on which the japanese offered to surrender? they're not specific and they don't come to the soviets with. a well-defined list of concessions they're willing to make and demands that they want the americans to accept.
it's more about. or the americans open to negotiation and so one of the things that's a point of discussion a point of contention in the truman administration is the role of the emperor. and by the time you get to the summer of 1945. the truman administration is okay with the idea that the emperor can stay. but the emperor needs to serve kind of at the behest of whatever the occupying authority is going to be. and there are some folks that argue the pots and declaration should be more clear on that that the united states should be open that the emperor can stay. we're not going to topple him but the japanese are never really clear specifically with the concessions they're willing to make and the demands that they have but it really does center around the emperor is one of the things that we know the japanese military and the japanese government were determined to maintain before
they did surrender did the japanese military leaders think there was any place they could get a victory to turn the tide of the war. there's there's hope and there's reality and so when you try to understand what's going on. i think it's you have to be honest about the situation that japan faces in the war in the middle of 1945. and what the japanese think is possible. is that the united states is hopefully on a breaking point of its morale that one clear victory will make the united states take a step back and all of them. they'll be open for negotiations. in point of fact there really is no feasible tactical or even operational defeat that would cause that reassessment if anything if the japanese are
successful tactically operationally it would only cause the united states to redouble its efforts and so i don't think that there's really a feasible way one of the worries. that the japanese government has is what's going to happen in mainland china. and so if you're looking at where the japanese think they can do the most harm it's going to be those mainland china forces because the forces in the imperial holdings in the pacific those are largely cut off and they're going to wither on the vine and the home island forces aren't going to get in the fight until the invasion happens. and so where the japanese hope that they're going to be able to maybe redression is possibly in mainland asia. from your vantage point looking back. what what qualities and truman do you think it was? that brought him through this episode in particular in this
transition these decisions. i think the historian so i have to say appreciation history, but no his reality his willingness to work hard. and that's one of the things that that keeps coming up both in. truman's writings about how much he's having to read how much he's having to study. how much work he's doing late into the night. but also it comes through in the folks that are part of his cabinet. in the people who don't have a pre-existing connection to truman. they're over-awed by his willingness to do the work. and i think that's one of the things that really does allow him to overcome the steep learning curve and quickly grasp. the reality the situation and start to see the risks of the situation. final question here at least final for the time being and we
really appreciate the audience engagement here and the fact that we're getting good engagement is really a reflection of you know, just what a what an interesting presentation this is. and end timely now is from this question us is now in the midst of a couple of wars that have spanned three presidencies. so we're talking about different errors and different objectives, but in terms of bringing a war to an end. is there anything modern presidents might learn from how truman handled the end of world war ii maybe shy of dropping nuclear weapons, right? i think one of the things that truman has the benefit of and it's awkward to call it a benefit. world war ii there's no disagreement about the existential nature of the threat and so the nation is really coalesced around the scale of the war. and the necessity of sacrificing for the war effort. one of the problems that we've
seen in the 21st century is the rhetoric of some of our wars in the 21st century really has stated that the threat is existential that this is a generation's long war. but the ask of society is nothing, and so that's one of the things that i think. the roosevelt administration the truman administration continues is if you're going to tell the american people. that they really have to be concerned that it is an existential threat. you need to ask them to do something and if you get that buy-in and they agree, then you can really have some traction one of the difficulties we've had in the 21st century is there seems to be a mismatch between the rhetoric and the effort? and i'm not sure. how to square that well gates,
thank you so much again for joining us tonight. thank you. you know, this is the the second program in the return of the command in general staff college presentations and our lineup online. it's it's it's so good to have you back in the saddle. from george washington to george w bush every sunday at 8pm at midnight eastern we feature the presidency our weekly series exploring the presidents their politics policies and legacy. you're watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span 3. you're watching american history tv every weekend on c-span 3 explore our nation's past american history tv on c-span 3 created by america's cable television companies and today we're brought to you by these television companies who provide
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be much less able to sustain life. than it is now the story of these last eight years and this presidency goes far beyond any personal concerns. it is a continuation really of a far larger story a story of a people and a cause. occurs that from our earliest beginnings has defined us as a nation and given purpose to our national existence. the hope of human freedom the quest for it the achievement of it is the american saga and i have often recalled one group of early settlers making a treacherous crossing of the atlantic on a small ship when their leader a minister noted that perhaps their venture would fail and they would become a byword a footnote to history. but perhaps two with god's help. they might also found a new world a city upon a hill a light under the nations.
terry security alone more than the net income of all united states corporation corporations. now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry. is new in the american experience. the total influence economic political even spiritual is spelled in every city every state house every office of the federal government. we recognize the imperative need for this development. yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. our toil resources and livelihood are all involved. so is the very structure of our society? in the councils of government we car guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence whether sought or unsought by the military industrial complex and it's time to leave.
i hope it may be said. a hundred years from now that by working together we help to make our country more just more just for all of its people. as well as to ensure and guarantee the blessings of liberty. for all of our posterity that's what i hope but i believe that at least it will be said that we tried.