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“The World Will Note”: President Truman Announces the Atom Bomb

The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945 stand out not just for the number of people killed—as many, or more, died in “firebombings” in Germany during the war—but for the strange, alien quality of the atom bomb’s effects. The atomic bomb’s immense destructive capacity staggered observers, and its effects have haunted the world’s imagination ever since. By the time the United States had a usable atomic bomb, the war in Europe was over, but thousands of American soldiers remained in the Pacific fighting the Japanese. Although some historians argue that the war could have been ended without the dropping of the bomb, in the summer of 1945 President Harry Truman made the fateful decision to proceed. In this dramatic radio address, Truman told the nation that a bomb had been dropped on the city of Hiroshima on August 6. Truman inaccurately described Hiroshima as a “military base.” It was the base of the Second General Headquarters of the Imperial Army, but civilians outnumbered army personnel by about six to one.

Listen to Audio:

Announcer: Good evening from the White House in Washington. Ladies and gentlemen the President of the United States.

Harry S. Truman: My fellow Americans, the British, Chinese and United States governments have given the Japanese people adequate warning of what is in store for them. The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. If Japan does not surrender, bombs will have to be dropped on her war industries and unfortunately thousands of civilian lives will be lost. I urge Japanese civilians to leave industrial cities immediately and save themselves.

Source: Courtesy of the Harry S. Truman Library.