Skip to main content

Overrated & Underrated

July 2024
1min read

I was dismayed to read the poor ratings given to President Harry S. Truman. These criticisms were based on his alleged encouragement of the Cold War and the use of the atomic bomb on the Japanese people. To blame Truman for the Cold War is like blaming a homeowner for defending his family against armed intruders. To offset brazen Soviet threats against the badly weakened free nations of southern and western Europe, Truman fashioned the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the Berlin airlift, and the creation of NATO, actions that stopped Stalin’s master plan of aggrandizement in its tracks. This is why the world statesman Sir Winston Churchill paid Truman this massive compliment: “You, more than any other man, have saved Western civilization.”

Regarding the use of the A-bombs, author Richard Rhodes, in his widely acclaimed book The Making of the Atomic Bomb , shows us a far more ambivalent Truman than we have known, less certain than many of the scientists about the wisdom of using the bombs.

There is no evidence that any of the other great leaders of the Allied powers of that era—Roosevelt, Churchill, or Attlee—would not have made the same decisions on the use of the bombs, and there is no evidence at all that Japan was prepared to surrender otherwise.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.