It is pretty terrifying to see someone as basically good and competent as Harry S. Truman commit war crimes, but that is what I've just watched, so to speak by reading some more of Harry's Memoirs. My first installment on the memoirs was in the September 21 posting to this blog. If you want to see what Harry wrote for yourself, his Memoirs are not to hard to find in used bookstores or new or used at Amazon (Memoirs of Harry S. Truman: 1945 Year of Decisions).
But other interesting issues are there as well. On many issues Truman points out unethical behavior by the Soviets or Japanese, but has no problem overlooking it for British or American interests. For instance Joseph Stalin imposed regimes favorable to him in Eastern Europe, which Truman did not like, even though the U.S. was imposing regimes favorable to us in Western Europe, China, and elsewhere. Apparently, pointing out his opponents' hypocrisy, Stalin criticized Britain for unilaterally seizing the ex-Italian colonies of Libya, Cryneaica, and Tripoli. Churchill basically said, well, we conquered them. Stalin said (my paraphrase), exactly as we conquered Eastern Europe.
Another our puppets v. your puppets argument occurred over Italy. Since the Italians attacked Russia with the Germans, as did several Eastern European fascist allies of Hitler, the soviets thought they should have some say about the post-war governance of Italy. Truman's answer: well, we set up a government and now they are our allies.
I already knew that Japan went to great lengths to try to secure a peace treaty with the U.S. and its allies before Pearl Harbor. Truman repeatedly makes it clear that Tokyo offered to negotiate a peace after Truman became President. But the U.S.'s war aims had always been to control Japan, China, and Korea, so we simply refused to negotiate and instead demanded that the Japanese just surrender and let the U.S. take their colonies and their homeland. That is called the Potsdam Declaration, the text of which is included in the book. After the declaration on July 13 the Japanese again offered to negotiate a peace. But our atomic bomb had its first successful test on July 16.
There is a list of the other war criminals who advised Truman on the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan. He makes it clear that civilian casualties were not an accident. There were purely military targets the U.S. could have dropped the bombs on; they chose to drop it on cities. The other war criminals were War Secretary Henry L. Stimson, George L. Harrison, James F. Byrnes, Ralph A. Bard, William L. Clayton, Vannevar Bush, Karl T. Compton, Arthur H. Compton, Dr. Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, E.O. Lawrence and James B. Conant
Don't think it was a war crime? Suppose Germany had made an atomic bomb and had it ready just before it collapsed militarily. Suppose Hitler had dropped it on a city in England in an attempt to get the British to surrender. Do you think this would not have been treated as a warm crime at the Nuremberg trials? Of course it would have. Dropping an atomic bomb on a city is a war crime. No matter who drops it. (And don't forget Truman was a Democrat; the Democrat Party is a war crimes organization).
We also find more about the process leading to the U.S. invasion of Korea. China, Russia, the U.S. and Japan all wanted Korea. The Koreans wanted independence. The U.S. invasion of Korea was planned before the Russians had a chance to invade Korea. We set the 38th parallel as a line south of which the Japanese troops would surrender to the U.S. North of that they were to surrender to the Soviets.
Chiang Kai-Shek's role as a U.S. puppet is also colored in at points. The U.S. demanded that Japanese troops surrender to Chiang's war lord regime, and not to the communist government. Truman did not want the communists to get Japanese weapons. The claims of Chiang's nationalists to be fighting the Japanese during the war, against the counterclaims by the Communists that the fought the Japanese while the nationalists cowered, need to be examined in the light of a statement by Truman. "The Chinese Communists had the advantage of having their military forces located where Japanese troops could be reached." [page 445] Well if Chiang Kai-Shek could not reach them for surrender, how could he reach them to fight them?
Chiang was enough of a nationalist to demand that Hong Kong become Chinese territory. He was enough of a puppet that the U.S. backed him on this demand. For a moment, until the British made it clear they would not give up Hong Kong. Giving up colonies was for those war-mongering Japanese, Germans, and Italians. Britain's colonies empire was all about peace. Right.
As you doubtless know, Japan was at peace with the world when Commander Perry sailed up to Tokyo and played gangster diplomacy in the 1850's. Symbolizing the triumph of gangster ethics, Truman made the Japanese surrender their homeland to the U.S. on the battleship U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay.