Truman grandson to interview hibakusha for book

Kyodo

Clifton Truman Daniel, U.S. President Harry Truman’s grandson, and his son plan to travel to Japan in June to interview and record atomic bomb survivors’ stories in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As a former journalist, the senior Daniel described in an interview Thursday how the stories of survivors, called hibakusha, have captivated him, especially after visiting Japan with his family for the first time last year.

His son Wesley plans to work alongside him capturing the interviews on film.

The father-and-son team plan to spend a week in each of the cities hit with atom bombs on President Truman’s orders.

They visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the first time last August for the 67th anniversaries of the bombings. It was the first time any member of the Truman family had been in Japan.

While the elder Truman, 55, has mulled over the idea of writing a book for the last year, he has homed in on his desire to speak further with more hibakusha.

He said he is also intrigued by the “honorable behavior” that was exhibited by the Japanese, as well as some Americans.

“It is sort of how people on both sides have lived with or not lived with the atomic bombings, the human story of it, not the debate over whether we needed it or whether it was moral or not,” he explained.

“It is the human dimension, which as a journalist I was always attracted to.”

The interviews will be a crucial component in his book.

The pair hope they will be able to capture the interviews and relevant sights in the cities on film for archival materials that could ultimately be used by the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri.

Last year the junior Daniel, 24, filmed parts of their trip. The footage was used by CSPAN for a two-hour special.

While they met dozens of hibakusha last year, they mostly listened to their stories. This year, they hope to be “more participants, asking questions” to better understand a “more complete picture” of what people went through.

“You certainly understand the loss and the tragedy, but not as much if you knew their parents’ names, what they did for a living, if you knew what their life was like,” Daniel said.

  • Joseph Gerson

    I began reading the Japan Times article, below, about Truman’s grandson’s return to Hiroshima and Nagasaki with a sense of intrigue, wondering what he had learned where his reflections from last year’s visit had taken him. I was encouraged until I read that “he is also intrigued by the ‘honorable behavior’ that was exhibited by the Japanese, as well as some Americans. ‘It is sort of how people on both sides have lived with or not lived with the atomic bombings, the human story of it, not the debate over whether we needed it or whether it was moral or not,’ he explained.”

    While his research may eventually take him into the realms of moral responsibility, actually the criminal behavior of his grandfather and others, I believe that those who want to prevent another nuclear cataclysm and achieve nuclear weapons abolition have to be clear that refusing moral judgment about the atomic bombings is immoral. I’m not aware of European Holocaust survivors who have withheld more judgment about the morality of Hitler’s genocide, and it is those Germans who condemned it that we honor.
    In addition to the indiscriminate murder and suffering – over generations – inflicted by the A-bombings, as we now know Secretary of War Stimson advised Truman Davis’ grandfather that Japanese surrender on terms acceptable to the
    Untied States could be negotiated without the A-bombings, and the leading military officers of that time: Leahy, Eisenhower and LeMay all believed the A-bombings unnecessary to ensure Japan’s surrender.

    We need to ensure that Truman Davis’s approach to Hibakusha and the ways the media has begun to spin it from serving does not obscure the most fundamental lessons of
    Truman’s war crime; The need to teach this and future generations that the A-bombs were crimes against humanity, and that they must never be repeated.

    If this makes me dishonorable, so be it.

    For truth, the foundation of peace and justice,

    Joseph Gerson