Mr Prime Minister, distinguished guests. It is an honor to speak to you here today. This history of our two nations is long and at times painful, and I believe the time has come for me, the president of the United States to apologize to you the Japanese people for the actions of my predecessor over 70 years ago.
On August 6, 1945 he made what he believed at the time was the best decision for my nation and yours. History has proven him wrong, and for that I stand before you as his direct successor to offer you my deepest personal condolences as well as those of my office and my nation. So, to the people of Japan, please accept this apology as I bow deeply in complete humility to you.
I do so knowing that my actions are controversial. There are many Americans who believe that the President’s action that day do not warrant an apology from our nation to yours. But the horror that the world witnessed starting that day cannot be dismissed by any human being. And as the last survivors of those terrible events are silenced one by one, Time becomes pressing for an adequate accounting by my office and my people. Here it is.
As every Japanese and American school child knows, on August 6, 1945 President Truman rescinded the order to use the atomic bomb against Hiroshima. During his impeachment proceedings in 1948 he stated that he could not in good conscience authorize the destruction of tens of thousands of innocent Japanese men, women and children even if it meant millions would die during the invasion that followed. President Truman followed his conscience and in doing so changed History forever, levying a high price on you, the Japanese people as well as on the countless Americans who husbands, sons, and brothers left the shores of our nation never to return.
His biographers have argued that he could have achieved complete victory without loss of any more lives had the first atomic bomb exploded on Bikini Atoll in front of the Japanese contingent invited by the Swiss ambassador as planned, but the failure of the bomb to detonate properly only hardened the resolve of the Japanese junta running your country. After the incident the second bomb was sent back to New Mexico for further testing even though it was of a completely different design and would never be used. The controversial shelving of the Manhattan Project rages to this day.
Instead the final stages of Operation Downfall to attack the island of Kyushu were put in place, even though the US lost one third of its invading forces in Okinawa, an island that wasn’t even viewed by most Japanese as a part of Japan. The civilian death toll there was even worse, with between 100,000 and 150,000 civilians killed during the 82 days of fighting. Extrapolating from that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had predicted upwards of 300,000 American casualties and at least a million civilian deaths from the invasion. It’s hard to believe that these were on the high end of the estimates given what we now know, but we must not dishonor the additional million American dead and the five million Japanese lost in the years that followed, for their sacrifices were not in vain. Victory was purchased with a terribly high price and Japan now is free and prosperous, at least the half below the 38th parallel. For those of you whose relatives still reside above that line, rest assured that America has not forgotten them.
It is my dream, as I know it is your dream, for Japan to emerge from decades of occupation as a united, independent and peaceful nation, ready to take its place on the world stage. In the remaining months of my presidency I will do whatever I can to make this dream a reality. The destinies of our peoples have been intertwined, forged in the fire of a long and debilitating war, and it our duty to make this bond endure for decades to come.
Thank you, and may God bless the peoples of Japan and the United States of America.
Thanks to The Glittering Eye for inspiring this post.