Japanese women walk past the gutted A-bomb dome in Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan August 6, 2003. REUTERS/Toshiyuki Aizawa/File Photo
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Barack Obama's visit to Hiroshima next week has reignited an emotive debate over former U.S. president Harry Truman's epoch-making decision to drop the first atomic bomb.On April 25, 1945, thirteen days after Franklin Roosevelt's death thrust Truman into the White House, the strained new commander-in-chief got a startling top secret briefing.Until that moment, Truman had no idea about the Manhattan Project to build the world's first atomic bomb -- despite being Roosevelt's vice president and a former senator who made his name investigating wartime defense contracts."Operation Downfall," as the mainland invasion was dubbed, could have involved at least one million U.S. troops and as many as 2.5 million Japanese troops.At the end of July, with the bomb now successfully tested, Truman gave Japan one last chance.Within Truman's inner circle there were voices against using the bomb, including Dwight Eisenhower, the future president who was then a wartime general.There is little evidence that Truman ever seriously considered forgoing the fruits of a $2 billion program that Roosevelt had nurtured in secret for years.The White House is quick to scotch suggestions that Obama will revisit the broader issue of whether the bomb should have been dropped at all.
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