The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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HYDE PARK , N.Y—I was surprised to see an article from The Pilot, an official publication of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, reprinted in large quantities and sent out by the American Friends Service Committee of Cambridge, Mass., entitled "I Confess."

The article was reprinted with the permission of the editor of The Pilot, America's oldest Catholic weekly newspaper, and, therefore, editorial boards of both the newspaper and the Friends Service committee seem to have approved it.

It was written some time ago marking the anniversary, August 6, of the day ten years before when we dropped the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan.

The purpose of the article is to say that the American people and their leaders who were responsible for dropping the bomb on Hiroshima, and on Nagasaki the following day, should have confessed their "guilt" long ago.

It goes on to say that the people of Asia feel that much of the aid we have given them since that time came from a feeling of guilt, but that until we confessed this guilt, nothing would be of any avail.

I would like to review the circumstances which led up to this first use of the atomic bomb.

Our military people were almost ready for the last stage of the war, which was the actual attack on Japan. They had counted the costs such an attack would have involved—at least a million lives of American soldiers in addition to complete destruction of as much of Japan as would have been defended. This would have meant cities, towns, villages, men, women and children, for modern war is no longer a war between soldiers; it is a war between peoples.

Because of the plea of one of our American art lovers, we never had bombed two of the historically beautiful cities in Japan, Kyoto and Nara. These, of course, would have had to be destroyed.

All of these facts were presented to the President. In addition, he was told that one bomb would not be sufficient. Two, in quick succession, were our only hope of bringing about complete and rapid surrender. The reason for this was that we had people who had seen the defenses in Japan and they reported that these were so strong it was not believed possible for any army to penetrate to the interior.

So the only possible chance was to deal the Japanese such tremendous blows that they would realize that if they wanted to save themselves from complete destruction, they must surrender at once.

I think everyone in this country should have a horror of the conditions which brought about the need for using the atomic bomb. They should have grief and pity for the people affected and do all in their power to help the innocent who suffer.

But if you had to make this decision, I do not think any decision could have been made other than the one that was made. Leaflets were dropped over Hiroshima before the attack, warning the people to leave the city, and the same thing was done at Nagasaki. But it is human nature to stay where you are and not believe the worst until it happens.

I would not confess guilt for the American people or their leaders, only pity and a deep desire to aid those who suffered through no fault of their own and certainly through no fault of the American people and their leaders.


(Copyright, 1956, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 31, 1956

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.