Letters to a Lost Soldier: The atomic bomb, Potsdam and hope for ending war

Dear Daddy,
(I originally wrote in July, 1945) President Truman drove through Berlin on his way to Potsdam. He noted the destruction and ruin that Hitler brought upon his own people. “Hitler’s folly,” the President said. “Hitler had no morals and his people backed him up. I never saw a more sorrowful sight, nor witnessed retribution to the nth degree. What a pity the human animal is not able to put moral thinking into practice.”
President Truman, Prime Minister Churchill and Soviet Premier Stalin met at the Potsdam Conference to issue a new public demand for Japan’s unconditional surrender. Stalin agreed to enter the war against Japan on August 15th. Mr. Truman learned that an atomic bomb had successfully exploded in the New Mexico desert. Pictures in Life Magazine showed the mushroom cloud.
“Thirteen pounds of the explosive vaporized a steel tower, created a crater 6 feet deep and 1,200 feet wide, and knocked men down 10,000 yards away. The explosion was visible for more than 200 miles and audible for 40 miles and more.”
“We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world,” wrote Mr. Truman. He is aware of the destruction it can cause and must decide where and when to drop it. Some scientists who developed the atomic bomb signed a petition asking President Truman to avoid dropping the bomb on people for moral reasons.
Mr. Truman said the bomb will be used if Japan does not surrender unconditionally. He told Secretary of War, Mr. Stimson, to target military objectives and not women and children. “First, warn Japan to surrender.” I’m addressing this letter to you at Fort Lee, Virginia.
I don’t know how much information you get. I pray to God the war ends before August 18th when you are reassigned to finish your military service. Please, I ask God, don’t let the US Army send my father to fight in Japan. I hope we won’t have more air raid drills to prepare ourselves for bombs falling on Chicago.
When President Truman talks about retribution, I think about what may be in store for us. People have been talking about war as far back as I can remember – for my whole life. In our own home, I can’t think of a time when my sister and I have not been at war with each other.
Do we fight because we learn that from adults, or do adults fight because that’s what they did as children? How can we have peace when people enjoy hurting others?
I know how peace feels when I go to Brownies’ meetings. We are told to treat each other kindly, and we do. At school we all try to get along and bullying is not allowed, like in our home.
I don’t understand why you are in the Army, which is about killing, unless you didn’t have a choice. Selective Service called you and classified you 1-A when you passed the tests. You weren’t a fighting man before you went to war. My memories were of you as a kind father.
Did we have a happy home before you joined the Army? I want it to be happy now. I enjoy being at my cousins’ homes more than I like being in mine. I want to visit the neighbors’ to get away from my sister and Mommy. I hope when you return home once and for all, you can teach us how to love one another. That is, if you ever did and you remember how.
Can people be taught to love instead of hating? Can people be taught to be good instead of harming? Where does the hatred begin? Do babies hate? I have many questions that cannot be answered by reading the Encyclopedia Britannica. Mommy tells me not to pester her and you are away most of the time at one Army camp or another. When you are here, we have so many guests that I am not able to talk with you. I hope and pray things will change when the war is finally over.