Monday, August 29, 2016

'Tunnels' Vision

Just a reminder that Crown has launched a cool site devoted to my upcoming book The Tunnels, and I have been blogging there, related to that, while continuing on mainly other subjects here.  It includes videos, photos, excerpts from the book and posts derived from it (including U2 and Springsteen and an MGM drama), and naturally the latest early acclaim for the book.  Thanks for checking it out, right here.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Saturday Night Music Picks

Lucinda Williams, whose new double-lp is great, does Neil Young's "Rockin in the Free World" live.   Then another one of my favorite songs, from the late Chris Whitley.  (Now has well-known daughter Trixie.)


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

71 Years Ago: Time to 'Get the Anti-Propagandists Out'

As I've noted in many previous posts--and in my book Atomic Cover-up--the U.S. after dropping the bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki was confronted with a worldwide publicity (not to mention,  moral) problem:  reports from Japan of a mysterious new disease afflicting survivors of the twin blasts.  Some there were already dubbing it "radiation disease," which was what our bomb-makers and policy-makers expected--but still, officials and most in media in U.S. mocked the idea.  No one from the West had yet reached either city.

Seventy-one years ago this week one of the most remarkable conversation of the nuclear took place. (See partial transcript.)

Gen. Leslie Groves, head of the Manhattan Project (with J. Robert Oppenheimer, above), had received a telex the day before from Los Alamos, as scientists asked for information on those reports from Japan. Groves responded that they were nothing but "a hoax" or "propaganda."  The top radiation expert at Los Alamos also used the word "hoax."  Knowing that the press would be seeking his official response, Groves called Lt. Col. Charles Rea, a doctor at Oak Ridge hospital (part of the bomb project).  According to the official transcript, Rea called the reports of death-by-radiation "kind of crazy" and Groves joked, "Of course, it's crazy--a doctor like me can tell that."

But Groves knew it wasn't crazy and he grew agitated as he read passages from the Japanese reports.  He even asked if there was "any difference between Japanese blood and others."  Both men ultimately seized on the idea that everything was attributable to burns--or "good thermal burns," as Rea put it.  Groves replied, "Of course we are getting a good dose of propaganda"--and blamed some of our scientists and our media for some of that.  Groves revealed, "We are not bothered a bit, excepting for --what they are trying to do is create sympathy."

But Rea surely knew they were merely denying reality, admitting finally, "Of course, those Jap scientists over there aren't so dumb either."  Still, in a second conversation that day with Groves, Rea advised: "I think you had better get the anti-propagandists out."  One of the great quotes of our time. 

Five days later, on a visit to Oak Ridge, Groves labelled the reports from Japan propaganda and added, "The atomic bomb is not an inhuman weapon."

Groves' top aide, Kenneth D. Nichols, would admit in his 1987 memoirs that "we knew that there would be many deaths and injuries caused by the radiation..."  Much more on the decades-long cover-up, including film footage, in my book (and see below).

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sneak Preview of Leonard Cohen Album

Yes, it's coming, and his recent biographer Sylvie Simmons got one of the first copies, and claims on Facebook that it is "magnificent."  Nothing has leaked yet except cover, which shows Leonard, who said he would resume smoking when he turned 80 (two years ago), with a cigarette in hand--but, gentleman that he is, holding it outside a window (or picture frame, it's hard to tell).  Anyway, here's a part of the cover song, which was used on the recent season of Peaky Blinders series.

When JFK Backed Nixon Against a Famous (Female) Democrat

Sixty-six years ago this summer, a young congressman, who needed no introduction or invitation, visited the Capitol Hill office of another young representative in Washington, DC. Like Richard Nixon of California, John F. Kennedy had come to Congress three and a half years earlier and had served on the Education and Labor Committee. Their offices were not far apart in the back of the House Office Building, an area known as the attic, and they maintained cordial relations.

Each recognized that the other was a hot prospect in his party. Though both were ex-Navy men (the sinking of Kennedy’s PT boat in 1943 had occurred not far from where Nixon was stationed in the South Pacific), the two had little of substance in common socially or culturally. Nixon both envied and resented Kennedy’s wealth and connections.

Politically, however, they were not continents apart. They agreed, for example, on the threat of communism. Kennedy had voted to continue funding the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and favored the latest version of the Mundt-Nixon internal-security bill. Like Nixon, he strongly hinted that Truman’s policy of vacillation had led to “losing” China and inviting Communist advances in Korea. He favored aid to Franco’s Spain and vast increases in the Pentagon budget.
Both congressmen felt that organized labor had grown too powerful. Earlier that year, upon receiving an honorary degree at Notre Dame, Kennedy had warned of the “ever expanding power of the Federal government” and “putting all major problems” into the all-absorbing hands of the great Leviathan the state. Each man craved higher office, but Nixon’s ambition burned even brighter than Kennedy’s, if that was possible.

Like Nixon, Kennedy had ambivalent feelings about Joseph McCarthy. His father, Joseph P. Kennedy, the former ambassador to Great Britain, had placed him in a difficult position by striking up a close relationship with the Roman Catholic senator from Wisconsin. Always more conservative than his son, Joe Kennedy had turned rabidly anti-Communist, donating money to McCarthy for his investigations and introducing the senator to such friends as Francis Cardinal Spellman. Shortly after the California primary, McCarthy flew to Cape Cod for a weekend at the Kennedy compound. Jack Kennedy knew McCarthy well; his sister Pat even dated him. Jack liked Joe personally but distrusted him politically.

On his visit to Nixon’s office, Kennedy presented his colleague with a personal check from his father for $1,000. It was for Nixon’s campaign to defeat Kennedy’s fellow Democratic congressmember Helen Gahagan Douglas of Los Angeles (a former stage and film actress, now strong liberal activist), in a closely watched US Senate contest in California. Nixon and Douglas had recently easily won their June primaries out there and the race was then considered a toss-up.

A former movie executive, Joseph Kennedy was no stranger to California politics, and despised the brand of liberal activism embraced by Hollywood actors and writers. He had no use for Helen Douglas and a great deal of adiniration for Richard Nixon. “Dick, I know you’re in for a pretty rough campaign,” Kennedy observed, “and my father wanted to help out.” But what did the young Kennedy think? “I obviously can’t endorse you,” he explained, “but it isn’t going to break my heart if you can turn the Senate’s loss [that is, Helen Douglas] into Hollywood’s gain.”
Describing the visit to friend and aide Pat Hillings, Nixon exclaimed, “Isn’t this something?”

It is uncertain whether this gift marked the elder Kennedy’s only contribution to the Nixon cause. Nixon aide Bill Arnold deposited the one thousand-dollar check into the campaign account, but neither it nor any further Joseph P. Kennedy donation would be listed in financial records of the campaign. These records show, however—as I discovered in researching my book on the campaign, Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady—that another of Joe’s sons, Robert F. Kennedy, then attending law school at the University of Virginia, contributed an unspecified sum.

Decades later, in his memoirs, longtime Massachusetts congressman Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill claimed that Joe Kennedy once told him that he had contributed $150,000 to Nixon’s campaign in 1950, “because he believed she [Douglas] was a Communist.” In the same conversation, Kennedy reportedly said he donated nearly the same amount not much earlier to George Smathers’s crusade to defeat Claude Pepper in a notorious Florida race for the Senate.

Speaking to a group of students at Harvard three days after the election that autumn, Congressman Kennedy remarked that he was “personally very happy” that Nixon had defeated Helen Douglas. He reportedly explained that Douglas was “not the sort of person I like working with on committees,” but he did not make clear whether this was because of her manner, her politics, or her gender. On November 14, Kennedy wrote his friend Paul Fay, “I was glad to…see Nixon win by a big vote,” and he predicted that the winner would go far in national GOP politics, for he was “an outstanding guy.”

In 1956, on a visit to California—and looking ahead to a presidential race—Senator John F. Kennedy admitted to Paul Ziffren, now one of the state’s Democratic leaders, that he had supported Nixon in the 1950 race. He apparently wanted to “come clean” and “clear the decks,” according to Ziffren’s wife, Mickey.

Then, in 1960, Helen Douglas went to Wisconsin to campaign in the presidential primary on behalf of Hubert Humphrey (who had stumped for her in 1950). He was facing John F. Kennedy. That fall, Kennedy’s opponent was Richard Nixon, and Douglas felt compelled to endorse the Democrat. Kennedy again admitted that he had supported Nixon against Douglas, calling it “the biggest damnfool mistake I ever made.”

Greg Mitchell’s Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady was recently published in a new print edition and for the first time as an ebook.  His other books on great American campaigns include "Why Obama Won" and "The Campaign of the Century" (Upton Sinclair's EPIC race). 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Naumkeag

After about ten visits to the Lenox, Ma., area in recent years--for Tanglewood, for theater, for museums, or just to get away (note, Hampton Terrace place to stay)--we finally stopped by the Naumkeag estate, on the way home, no less, this past Friday.  I don't think we had even heard about it until last month.  Anyway:  ended up staying 2 1/2 hours and getting full tour of house.   Wealthy family, obviously, but Mabel Choate was fascinating woman, and early advocate and funder of women's education.  A few of my photos below, including BB in wonderful Chinese temple site.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

One Hooker to Remember

The late great John Lee Hooker with the astounding "I Cover the Waterfront," with a little help from Van the Man and, below that, his much earlier version.  John Lee also did greatest version of "Gloria," if you were wondering. 




I Read It Through the Great Vine

Perhaps any other authors, or book editor, out there can comment on this.

Since my last book was published, Amazon has introduced something called "Vine Voices." I'm not sure exactly what this is but it seems to be that they send bound unrevised galleys (not final books) to a select group of longtime reader/reviewers who are then allowed, perhaps encouraged, to post reviews. In fact, they are the only ones allowed to do so before pub date so obviously they have a good of potential influence. My upcoming book is doing very well with them (based on first 9 reviews) but I have no idea how they are picked to get each book--and there are only so many bound galleys in the universe. 

Do Vine reviewers request specific books? Does Amazon carefully send them to people based on their past reviews? Is it possible some of them actually have little interest in a book's subject or genre but like getting free books and/or posting reviews and gaining stature in that community? If they give a negative reviews does it hurt their chances of getting more advance copies? See link for what they look and read like with my book and thanks for any comments. At one of my photos from Naumkeag estate near Lenox, Mass., yesterday. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cold War Martyr

Fifty-four years ago today, almost exactly one year after the emergence of the Berlin Wall,  an 18-year-old East German youth named Peter Fechter attempted, with a friend, to escape to the West in broad daylight not far from Checkpoint Charlie.   The friend made it over the barrier but Fechter was shot by East German guards and collapsed at its base.  

Despite his cries for help,  no one came to his assistance--not the guards  who shot him, nor the West German police and American soldiers on the other side of the Wall.  A frantic call was placed to the White House.  Crowds gathered on both sides and urged action, to no avail.  Finally, after about fifty minutes, under a cloud of tear gas, the guards retrieved the limp body of the boy and carried him to a car--not even an ambulance--for transfer to a hospital.

Two hours later, an East German in a high apartment held a sign to a window to inform the large, angry crowd now gathering in the West: "He is dead."

The murder of Fechter drew international attention. The worst riots in West Berlin since the division of the city then broke out and continued for four days.  Many of them were, shockingly, anti-American in character.   Fechter seemed to symbolize the entire tragedy of Berlin, the helplessness felt in both East and West, the inability of the Americans to help those trapped in the East.   A photo of him being carried away for four guards, taken by Wolfgang Bera, made the front pages of newspapers around the globe and  quickly became iconic.  He would remain perhaps the martyr of the Cold War, until and beyond the all of  the Wall in 1989.

My upcoming book The Tunnels (see cover at upper right on this blog) is dedicated to Peter Fechter and it tells much more of this story. 


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

First Reporter to Reach Hiroshima Exposed 'The Atomic Plague'

On September 2, 1945, Australian war reporter Wilfred Burchett left Tokyo by train, intent on reaching distant Hiroshima before any of his journalistic colleagues, who were banned from taking such a trip by the American occupation chief, Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Burchett, who had written dispatches glorifying the firebombing of Japanese cities, was just looking for a scoop. The following morning he encountered what he would describe as a “death-stricken alien planet.” He noticed a dank, sulfurous smell as he was taken directly to one of the few hospitals left standing. Its director felt certain that radiation sickness, far from being merely “propaganda” or a "hoax" as the United States was claiming, was very real. One in five patients was developing purple skin bruises, white cell counts had plunged for many, some were also losing their hair or simply expiring without any known injuries.

The reporter pulled out his typewriter and, sitting on a chunk of rubble near the hypocenter of the blast, composed his historic article, detailing the new disease, and commenting, “I write these facts as dispassionately as I can in the hope that they will act as a warning to the world.”

This part of the story is, by now, pretty well known. What happened next is not: the real beginning of the decades of suppression I detail in my new book and ebook, Atomic Cover-Up.

As Burchett was finishing his story, a group of journalists arrived on an Air Force plane, with a censor in tow. Included were the celebrated Bill Lawrence of the New York Times and Homer Bigart of the New York Herald-Tribune. Burchett told them to forget about the rubble, “the story is in the hospitals.”

They were not happy to find Burchett already there and with a finished article. He asked them to carry the story back to Tokyo and transmit it to his paper. They refused. Burchett managed to transmit his story to a colleague in Tokyo, who sneaked it past the censors, and it ran on September 5 on the front page of the London Daily Express, under the headline the atomic plague.

Articles written by the American reporters who had landed in Hiroshima gave no evidence that they had visited the hospitals. Yet Lawrence, years later in his memoirs, revealed, “We talked with dying Japanese in the hospitals.” Were those stories censored by MacArthur’s people? Lawrence also disclosed that MacArthur was “hopping mad” about the press junket and cut off supplies of gasoline to planes that might make another journo trip possible. Then he ordered all American reporters out of Tokyo to a closely watched enclave in Yokohama.

Meanwhile, the first American reporter to reach Nagasaki, George Weller, had found a similar “plague” in that city, but made the mistake of filing his stories directly through MacArthur’s office. All of the pieces would be spiked, only appearing for the first time in 2005.

But the story doesn’t end there. Back in Tokyo, General Thomas Farrell, who was directing the post-bomb official studies, held a press conference and categorically denied reports of (a) 70,000 to 100,000 killed in the atomic cities and (b) any kind of lingering radiation sickness. Suddenly Wilfred Burchett showed up, ill and unwashed, and told Farrell he was sadly misinformed. Farrell replied that Burchett had “fallen victim to Japanese propaganda.”

When the briefing broke up, Burchett was taken to a hospital, where it was discovered that his white blood cell count was below normal. Then, on leaving the hospital a few days later, he discovered that his camera containing film shot in Hiroshima was missing—and that MacArthur had ordered him expelled from Japan.

For much more on censorship and suppression of words and images--and key film footage shot by our own military--in the decades that followed, see my book Atomic Cover-Up.  And my e-book on how the first Hollywood epic, from MGM, on the bomb was censored--including by President Truman himself.

When First Journo Reached Nagasaki--His Story Disappeared for Decades

A few days back, I covered the controversial case of Wilfred Burchett, the first reporter to reach A-bombed Hiroshima. See my full story here  on George Weller, a well-known correspondent for a Chicago daily, who was the first outside journalist to reach Nagasaki after the atomic bombing.  It's an incredible tale, all the more so for me, since I've been haunted about Nagasaki ever since visiting it for a few days in 1984.  As I've written elsewhere:  If there is very questionable defense for destroying 140,000 civilian lives in Hiroshima, there is no defense whatsoever for the attack on Nagasaki.

In any case, after Weller bravely reached the city, he foolishly filed his dispatches via Gen. MacArthur's office in Tokyo--from where they never emerged.  Ever.  They remained hidden until Weller's son, who I have interviewed, found the carbons in an old trunk about then years ago.  See my book here for the whole story,  the U.S. occupation of the city (where our troops were afflicted), my own visit to Nagasaki,  and for more on the decade-long "coverup" of many other elements of the atomic bombing of Japan, including U.S. film footage. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Back Cover "Blurbs" For My Upcoming Book

Just designed by Crown with "advanced praise" blurbs.    Pub date:  October 18, 2016.  Pre-order at discount rate and 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, Pulitzer Prize-winning 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


When Truman Failed to Pause in 1945--and the War Crime That Followed



By August 7, 1945, President Truman, while still at sea returning from Potsdam, had been fully briefed on the first atomic attack against a large city in Japan the day before.  In announcing it, he had labeled Hiroshima simply a "military base," but he knew better, and within hours of the blast he had been fully informed about the likely massive toll on civilians (probably 100,000), mainly women and children, as we had planned.  Despite this--and news that the Soviets, as planned, were about to enter the war against Japan--Truman did not order a delay in the use of the second atomic bomb to give Japan a chance to assess, reflect, and surrender.

After all, by this time, Truman (as recorded in his diary and by others) was well aware that the Japanese were hopelessly defeated and seeking terms of surrender--and he had, just two weeks earlier, written "Fini Japs" in his diary when he learned that the Russians would indeed attack around August 7.  Yet Truman, on this day, did nothing, and the second bomb rolled out, and would be used against Nagasaki, killing perhaps 90,000 more, only a couple hundred of them Japanese troops, on August 9.  That's why many who reluctantly support or at least are divided about the use of the bomb against Hiroshima consider Nagasaki a war crime--in fact, the worst one-day war crime in human history.

Below, a piece I wrote not long ago.  One of my books on the atomic bombings describes my visit to Nagasaki at length.
*
Few journalists bother to visit Nagasaki, even though it is one of only two cities in the world to "meet the atomic bomb," as some of the survivors of that experience, 68 years ago this week, put it.  It remains the Second City, and "Fat Man" the forgotten bomb. No one in America ever wrote a bestselling book called Nagasaki, or made a film titled Nagasaki, Mon Amour. "We are an asterisk," Shinji Takahashi, a sociologist in Nagasaki, once told me, with a bitter smile. "The inferior A-Bomb city."

Yet in many ways, Nagasaki is the modern A-Bomb city, the city with perhaps the most meaning for us today. For one thing, when the plutonium bomb exploded above Nagasaki it made the uranium-type bomb dropped on Hiroshima obsolete.

And then there's this. "The rights and wrongs of Hiroshima are debatable," Telford Taylor, the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, once observed, "but I have never heard a plausible justification of Nagasaki" -- which he labeled a war crime. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., who experienced the firebombing of Dresden at close hand, said much the same thing. "The most racist, nastiest act by this country, after human slavery, was the bombing of Nagasaki," he once said. "Not of Hiroshima, which might have had some military significance. But Nagasaki was purely blowing away yellow men, women, and children. I'm glad I'm not a scientist because I'd feel so guilty now."

A beautiful city dotted with palms largely built on terraces surrounding a deep harbor--the San Francisco of Japan -- Nagasaki has a rich, bloody history, as any reader of Shogun knows. Three centuries before Commodore Perry came to Japan, Nagasaki was the country's gateway to the west. The Portuguese and Dutch settled here in the 1500s. St. Francis Xavier established the first Catholic churches in the region in 1549, and Urakami, a suburb of Nagasaki, became the country's Catholic center. Thomas Glover, one of the first English traders here, supplied the modern rifles that helped defeat the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 19th century.

Glover's life served as a model for the story of Madame Butterfly, and Nagasaki is known in many parts of the world more for Butterfly than for the bomb. In Puccini's opera, Madame Butterfly, standing on the veranda of Glover's home overlooking the harbor (see left), sings, "One fine day, we'll see a thread of smoke arising.... " If she could have looked north from the Glover mansion, now Nagasaki's top tourist attraction, on August 9, 1945, she would have seen, two miles in the distance, a thread of smoke with a mushroom cap.

By 1945, Nagasaki had become a Mitsubishi company town, turning out ships and armaments for Japan's increasingly desperate war effort. Few Japanese soldiers were stationed here, and only about 250 of them would perish in the atomic bombing. It was still the Christian center in the country, with more than 10,000 Catholics among its 250,000 residents. Most of them lived in the outlying Urakami district, the poor part of town, where a magnificent cathedral seating 6000 had been built.

At 11:02 a.m. on August 9, 1945, "Fat Man" was detonated more than a mile off target, almost directly over the Urakami Cathedral, which was nearly leveled, killing dozens of worshippers waiting for confession. Concrete roads in the valley literally melted.

While Urakami suffered, the rest of the city caught a break. The bomb's blast boomed up the valley destroying everything in its path but didn't quite reach the congested harbor or scale the high ridge to the Nakashima valley. Some 35,000 perished instantly, with another 50,000 or more fated to die afterwards. The plutonium bomb hit with the force of 22 kilotons, almost double the uranium bomb's blast in Hiroshima.

If the bomb had exploded as planned, directly over the Mitsubishi shipyards, the death toll in Nagasaki would have made Hiroshima, in at least one important sense, the Second City. Nothing would have escaped, perhaps not even the most untroubled conscience half a world away.

Hard evidence to support a popular theory that the chance to "experiment" with the plutonium bomb was the major reason for the bombing of Nagasaki remains sketchy but still one wonders (especially when visiting the city, as I recount in my new book) about the overwhelming, and seemingly thoughtless, impulse to automatically use a second atomic bomb even more powerful than the first.

Criticism of the attack on Nagasaki has centered on the issue of why Truman did not step in and stop the second bomb after the success of the first to allow Japan a few more days to contemplate surrender before targeting another city for extinction. In addition, the U.S. knew that its ally, the Soviet Union, would join the war within hours, as previously agreed, and that the entrance of Japan's most hated enemy, as much as the Hiroshima bomb, would likely speed the surrender ("fini Japs" when the Russians declare war, Truman had predicted in his diary). If that happened, however, it might cost the U.S. in a wider Soviet claim on former Japanese conquests in Asia. So there was much to gain by getting the war over before the Russians advanced. Some historians have gone so far as state that the Nagasaki bomb was not the last shot of World War II but the first blow of the Cold War.

Whether this is true or not, there was no presidential directive specifically related to dropping the second bomb. The atomic weapons in the U.S. arsenal, according to the July 2, 1945 order, were to be used "as soon as made ready," and the second bomb was ready within three days of Hiroshima. Nagasaki was thus the first and only victim of automated atomic warfare.

In one further irony, Nagasaki was not even on the original target list for A-bombs but was added after Secretary of War Henry Stimson objected to Kyoto. He had visited Kyoto himself and felt that destroying Japan's cultural capital would turn the citizens against America in the aftermath. Just like that, tens of thousands in one city were spared and tens of thousands of others elsewhere were marked for death.

General Leslie Groves, upon learning of the Japanese surrender offer after the Nagasaki attack, decided that the "one-two" strategy had worked, but he was pleased to learn the second bomb had exploded off the mark, indicating "a smaller number of casualties than we had expected." But as historian Martin Sherwin has observed, "If Washington had maintained closer control over the scheduling of the atomic bomb raids the annihilation of Nagasaki could have been avoided." Truman and others simply did not care, or to be charitable, did not take care.

That's one reason the US suppressed all film footage shot in Nagasaki and Hiroshima for decades (which I probe in my book and ebook Atomic Cover-up).

After hearing of Nagasaki, however, Truman quickly ordered that no further bombs be used without his express permission, to give Japan a reasonable chance to surrender--one bomb, one city, and seventy thousand deaths too late. When they'd learned of the Hiroshima attack, the scientists at Los Alamos generally expressed satisfaction that their work had paid off. But many of them took Nagasaki quite badly. Some would later use the words "sick" or "nausea" to describe their reaction.

As months and then years passed, few Americans denounced as a moral wrong the targeting of entire cities for extermination. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, however, declared that we never should have hit Japan "with that awful thing." The left-wing writer Dwight MacDonald cited America's "decline to barbarism" for dropping "half-understood poisons" on a civilian population. His conservative counterpart, columnist and magazine editor David Lawrence, lashed out at the "so-called civilized side" in the war for dropping bombs on cities that kill hundreds of thousands of civilians.

However much we rejoice in victory, he wrote, "we shall not soon purge ourselves of the feeling of guilt which prevails among us.... What a precedent for the future we have furnished to other nations even less concerned than we with scruples or ideals! Surely we cannot be proud of what we have done. If we state our inner thoughts honestly, we are ashamed of it."

Greg Mitchell's books and ebooks include "Hollywood Bomb" and "Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never Made." Email: epic1934@aol.com

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Hiroshima: The Day After

As noted yesterday, President Truman's announcement to the nation--in which he carefully IDed Hiroshima only as a "military base," not a large city--broke the news of both the invention of an atomic bomb and its first use in war.  By that evening, radio commentators were weighing in with observations that often transcended Truman's announcement, suggesting that the public imagination was outrunning the official story. Contrasting emotions of gratification and anxiety had already emerged. H.V. Kaltenhorn warned, "We must assume that with the passage of only a little time, an improved form of the new weapon we use today can be turned against us."

It wasn't until the following morning, Aug. 7, that the government's press offensive appeared, with the first detailed account of the making of the atomic bomb, and the Hiroshima mission. Nearly every U.S. newspaper carried all or parts of 14 separate press releases distributed by the Pentagon several hours after the president's announcement. They carried headlines such as: "Atom Bombs Made in 3 Hidden Cities" and "New Age Ushered."

Many of them written by one man: W.L. Laurence, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times, "embedded" with the atomic project. General Leslie Groves, military director of the Manhattan Project, would later reflect, with satisfaction, that "most newspapers published our releases in their entirety. This is one of the few times since government releases have become so common that this has been done."

The Truman announcement of the atomic bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, and the flood of material from the War Department, firmly established the nuclear narrative. It would not take long, however, for breaks in the official story to appear.

At first, journalists had to follow where the Pentagon led. Wartime censorship remained in effect, and there was no way any reporter could reach Hiroshima for a look around. One of the few early stories that did not come directly from the military was a wire service report filed by a journalist traveling with the president on the Atlantic, returning from Europe. Approved by military censors, it went beyond, but not far beyond, the measured tone of the president's official statement. It depicted Truman, his voice "tense with excitement," personally informing his shipmates about the atomic attack. "The experiment," he announced, "has been an overwhelming success."

The sailors were said to be "uproarious" over the news. "I guess I'll get home sooner now," was a typical response. Nowhere in the story, however, was there a strong sense of Truman's reaction. Missing from this account was his exultant remark when the news of the bombing first reached the ship: "This is the greatest thing in history!"

On Aug. 7, military officials confirmed that Hiroshima had been devastated: at least 60% of the city wiped off the map. They offered no casualty estimates, emphasizing instead that the obliterated area housed major industrial targets. The Air Force provided the newspapers with an aerial photograph of Hiroshima. Significant targets were identified by name. For anyone paying close attention there was something troubling about this picture. Of the 30 targets, only four were specifically military in nature. "Industrial" sites consisted of three textile mills. (Indeed, a U.S. survey of the damage, not released to the press, found that residential areas bore the brunt of the bomb, with less than 10% of the city's manufacturing, transportation, and storage facilities damaged.)

On Guam, weaponeer William S. Parsons and Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets calmly answered reporters' questions, limiting their remarks to what they had observed after the bomb exploded. Asked how he felt about the people down below at the time of detonation, Parsons said that he experienced only relief that the bomb had worked and might be "worth so much in terms of shortening the war."

Almost without exception newspaper editorials endorsed the use of the bomb against Japan. Many of them sounded the theme of revenge first raised in the Truman announcement. Most of them emphasized that using the bomb was merely the logical culmination of war. "However much we deplore the necessity," the Washington Post observed, "a struggle to the death commits all combatants to inflicting a maximum amount of destruction on the enemy within the shortest span of time." The Post added that it was "unreservedly glad that science put this new weapon at our disposal before the
end of the war."

Referring to American leaders, the Chicago Tribune commented: "Being merciless, they were merciful." A drawing in the same newspaper pictured a dove of peace flying over Japan, an atomic bomb in its beak.

Hiroshima: The Day After

As noted yesterday, President Truman's announcement to the nation--in which he carefully IDed Hiroshima only as a "military base," not a large city--broke the news of both the invention of an atomic bomb and its first use in war.  By that evening, radio commentators were weighing in with observations that often transcended Truman's announcement, suggesting that the public imagination was outrunning the official story. Contrasting emotions of gratification and anxiety had already emerged. H.V. Kaltenhorn warned, "We must assume that with the passage of only a little time, an improved form of the new weapon we use today can be turned against us."

It wasn't until the following morning, Aug. 7, that the government's press offensive appeared, with the first detailed account of the making of the atomic bomb, and the Hiroshima mission. Nearly every U.S. newspaper carried all or parts of 14 separate press releases distributed by the Pentagon several hours after the president's announcement. They carried headlines such as: "Atom Bombs Made in 3 Hidden Cities" and "New Age Ushered."

Many of them written by one man: W.L. Laurence, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times, "embedded" with the atomic project. General Leslie Groves, military director of the Manhattan Project, would later reflect, with satisfaction, that "most newspapers published our releases in their entirety. This is one of the few times since government releases have become so common that this has been done."

The Truman announcement of the atomic bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, and the flood of material from the War Department, firmly established the nuclear narrative. It would not take long, however, for breaks in the official story to appear.

At first, journalists had to follow where the Pentagon led. Wartime censorship remained in effect, and there was no way any reporter could reach Hiroshima for a look around. One of the few early stories that did not come directly from the military was a wire service report filed by a journalist traveling with the president on the Atlantic, returning from Europe. Approved by military censors, it went beyond, but not far beyond, the measured tone of the president's official statement. It depicted Truman, his voice "tense with excitement," personally informing his shipmates about the atomic attack. "The experiment," he announced, "has been an overwhelming success."

The sailors were said to be "uproarious" over the news. "I guess I'll get home sooner now," was a typical response. Nowhere in the story, however, was there a strong sense of Truman's reaction. Missing from this account was his exultant remark when the news of the bombing first reached the ship: "This is the greatest thing in history!"

On Aug. 7, military officials confirmed that Hiroshima had been devastated: at least 60% of the city wiped off the map. They offered no casualty estimates, emphasizing instead that the obliterated area housed major industrial targets. The Air Force provided the newspapers with an aerial photograph of Hiroshima. Significant targets were identified by name. For anyone paying close attention there was something troubling about this picture. Of the 30 targets, only four were specifically military in nature. "Industrial" sites consisted of three textile mills. (Indeed, a U.S. survey of the damage, not released to the press, found that residential areas bore the brunt of the bomb, with less than 10% of the city's manufacturing, transportation, and storage facilities damaged.)

On Guam, weaponeer William S. Parsons and Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets calmly answered reporters' questions, limiting their remarks to what they had observed after the bomb exploded. Asked how he felt about the people down below at the time of detonation, Parsons said that he experienced only relief that the bomb had worked and might be "worth so much in terms of shortening the war."

Almost without exception newspaper editorials endorsed the use of the bomb against Japan. Many of them sounded the theme of revenge first raised in the Truman announcement. Most of them emphasized that using the bomb was merely the logical culmination of war. "However much we deplore the necessity," the Washington Post observed, "a struggle to the death commits all combatants to inflicting a maximum amount of destruction on the enemy within the shortest span of time." The Post added that it was "unreservedly glad that science put this new weapon at our disposal before the
end of the war."

Referring to American leaders, the Chicago Tribune commented: "Being merciless, they were merciful." A drawing in the same newspaper pictured a dove of peace flying over Japan, an atomic bomb in its beak.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

71 Years Ago: Truman Began the Story of Hiroshima With a Lie

I have posted or linked to a number of my pieces related to the atomic bombings here at this blog over the past two weeks (having covered it for three decades and written two books about it).   For now I will direct you to one particular piece  on how President Truman's announcement of the bombing of Hiroshima, 71 years ago today, launched the nuclear age with several lies, including describing the large city, filled mainly with women and children, as only a "military base."  Also: the bomb was merely a much bigger version of conventional explosives, with radiation effects not mentioned. See more here for the fascinating story of how the statement was written and edited.

For a long list of pieces I wrote about the atomic bombings for Huff Post, go here.

The Hiroshima Tile

Seventy-one years ago, atomic scientist Leo Szilard wrote a petition that served as the final real effort to halt the momentum for the use of horrible new weapons against Japanese cities.  It would fail, of  course.  A month later, the U.S. would drop two atomic bombs over two large Japanese cities, killing about 200,000 civilians (mainly women and children) and a few thousand troops.

After I visited Hiroshima for more than two weeks in 1984 (and also Nagasaki) on a journalism grant I returned home with enough material, and inspiration, to write dozens of articles, and two books, over the following decades.  I also came home with a very tangible, haunting, artifact, given to me by one of my hosts:  a piece of a stone tile that once lined one of several branches of the Ota River that cuts through Hiroshima.  It had been in place there on August 6, 1945, and survived the atomic bombing--but was burned black on most of one side (indeed, the other side is unmarked).

That's a photo of it, still in my possession, at left.  Imagine the level of heat required to burn stone in this way. Then imagine deliberately exploding a new weapon, which also emitted deadly rays of radiation, directly over the center of a large city populated largely by women and children.

It's particularly haunting if you know that the rivers played a key role in the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombing, as tens of thousands staggered there seeking comfort, only to end up boiled to death or simply succumbing to their wounds or radiation.  Thousands of bodies would bob on the river for days.  The tile, like so many of the victims, was burned black, an anonymous object like all the rest, only it cannot feel pain, and recall it.

Greg Mitchell's book Atomic Cover-up on the U.S. probes the suppression for decades film footage shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by our military film crew. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 1 Day

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 been doing it here for more than two weeks now.    I've written  three books and ebooks 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 epic was censored by the military and Truman himself).

August 5, 1945:

—Pilot Paul Tibbets formally named the lead plane in the mission, #82, after his mother, Enola Gay. A B-29 that would take photos on the mission would be named Necessary Evil.

—Also on Tinian, Little Boy is ready to go, awaiting word on weather, with General Curtis LeMay to make the call. At 3:30 p.m., in an air-conditioned bomb assembly hut, the five-ton bomb as loaded (gently) on to a trailer. Crew members scribbled words onto the bomb in crayon, including off-color greetings for the Japanese. Pulled by a tractor, accompanied by a convoy of jeeps and other vehicles, the new weapon arrives at the North Field and is lowered into the bomb pit.

--The bomb is still not armed. The man who would do, before takeoff, according to plan, was Parsons. But he had other ideas, fearing that the extra-heavy B-29 might crash on takeoff and taking with it “half the island.” He asked if he could arm the bomb in flight, and spent a few hours—on a hot and muggy August day—practicing before getting the okay.

—Pilot Tibbets tries to nap, without much success. Then, in the assembly hall just before midnight, he tells the crew, that the new bomb was “very powerful” but he did not mention the words “nuclear,” “atomic’ or “radiation.” He calls forward a Protestant chaplain who delivers a prayer he’d written for this occasion on the back of an envelope. It asks God to “to be with those who brave the heights of Thy heaven and who carry the battle to our enemies.”

 —Hiroshima remains the primary target, with Kokura #2 and Nagasaki third. The aiming point was directly over the city, not the military base or industrial quarter, guaranteeing the deaths of tens of thousands of women and children.

— The Soviets are two days from declaring war on Japan and marching across Manchuria. Recall that Truman had just written in diary "Fini Japs" when the Soviets would declare war, even without the Bomb.  (See new evidence that it was the Soviet declaration of war, more than the atomic bombing, that was the decisive factor in Japan's surrender.)

 —Halfway around the world from Tinian, on board the ship Augusta steaming home for the USA after the Potsdam meeting, President Truman relaxes. Truman’s order to use the bomb had simply stated that it could be used any time after August 1 so he had nothing to do but watch and wait. The order included the directive to use a second bomb, as well, without a built-in pause to gauge the results of the first and the Japanese response—even though the Japanese were expected, by Truman and others, to push surrender feelers, even without the bomb, with Russia’s entry into the war on August 7.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 2 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 been doing it here for more than two weeks now.   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). 

August 4, 1945:

—On Tinian, Little Boy is ready to go, awaiting word on weather, with General LeMay to make the call. With the weather clearing near Hiroshima, still the primary target, taking off the night of August 5 appears the most likely scenario. Secretary of War Stimson writes of a “troubled” day due to the uncertain weather, adding: “The S-1 operation was postponed from Friday night [August 3] until Saturday night and then again Saturday night until Sunday.”

—Hiroshima remains the primary target, with Kokura #2 and Nagasaki third.

—Paul Tibbets, pilot of the lead plane, the Enola Gay, finally briefs others in the 509th Composite Group who will take part in the mission at 3 pm. Military police seal the building. Tibbets reveals that they will drop immensely powerful bombs, but the nature of the weapons are not revealed, only that it is “something new in the history of warfare.” When weaponeer Deke Parsons says, “We think it will knock out almost everything within a three-mile radius,” the audience gasps.

Then he tries to show a film clip of the recent Trinity test—but the projector starts shredding the film. Parsons adds, “No one knows exactly what will happen when the bomb is dropped from the air,” and he distributes welder’s glasses for the men to wear. But he does not relate any warnings about radioactivity or order them not to fly through the mushroom cloud.

 —On board the ship Augusta steaming home for the USA after the Potsdam meeting, President Truman relaxes and plays poker with one of the bomb drop’s biggest booster, Secretary of State Jimmy Byrnes. Truman’s order to use the bomb had simply stated that it could be used any time after August 1 so he had nothing to do but watch and wait. The order included the directive to use a second bomb, as well, without a built-in pause to gauge the results of the first and the Japanese response—even though the Japanese were expected, by Truman and others, to push surrender feelers, even without the bomb, with Russia’s entry into the war on August 7.  Hence: assembly-line massacre in Nagasaki.

--Gen. Douglas MacArthur,  who directed the U.S. war in the Pacific, and would soon become the head of our occupation of Japan, had still not been told of the existence and planned use of the new bomb.  Norman Cousins, the famed author and magazine editor, who was an aide to MacArthur, would later reveal:  "MacArthur's views about the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were starkly different from what the general public supposed....When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor."  As we noted earlier, both General Eisenhower and Truman's top aide, Admiral Leahy, both protested the use of the bomb against Japan in advance.