Keeping Secrets

Friday, August 10, 2007


New York Times reporter William L. Laurence was a firsthand witness to the development of the atomic bomb, which he agreed to keep secret until Fat Man was deployed over Nagasaki (which he also saw firsthand). Author David Goodman explains that that wasn’t the only secret Laurence kept.

Comments [9]

James Red from Austin, TX

I guess I'm very late to this thread. That gives me the advantage of reading all of the comments and the disadvantage of nobody paying much attention anymore. But as I listened to the piece and then read the comments, I was reminded why I enjoy and truly appreciate OTM. There is neither a ceiling nor absolute zero on asking questions. Whether it's questioning a reporter's questions or trying to bring to the surface the way he or she reported significant events in the past, whatever truth or relevant information to be gleaned should be purposefully contemplated by writers, editors and readers.
I think this is a perfect example of how On The Media really expresses how important the media are. The issue of attacking Japan with atomic bombs is still very open. We look for foundations of our judgments in the relevance of perspectives of the day. So the perspectives of then (and now) are very important. Looking at the way those perspectives were formed and reported is critical even as time passes and the events blur beyond generational memory.
I thank On The Media for addressing those questions I think when I hear any story, reminding me of why those questions are okay and for edifying me weekly with interesting, provoking and satisfying pieces.
(Now I just need to figure out whether to spell the name of the program with a capital "T" or not.)

Jan. 24 2010 12:14 AM
Mark P from San Mateo, CA

Many of these commenters seem to have missed the point of the piece. It's not about whether the bomb should have been dropped; it's about journalistic ethics and integrity. I hope the comments aren't representative of how the listening audience as a whole took the piece. Listening to it again, I can understand where the commenters were mislead -- there's a minute about the bomb, setting the scene, before journalism is even mentioned. If people latched onto that first minute, they may not have paid enough attention to body of the story.

Comment [6] (Daniel Bennett) also expresses my sentiment.

Aug. 18 2007 12:55 PM
Pedro Henrique Abreu Santos from Muzambinho (brazil)

I guess the atomic bomb was a bad page in the history of the world, and now we have to do everything to forget it. I also think we have to fight for the peace. I know everybady is in the mood for peace.

Aug. 14 2007 04:40 PM
Daniel Bennett from DC

It is amazing that when people hear, but do not listen to a report that is clearly not a rehash of a controversial subject. Hagaman and Thulman reacted to this piece, as I suspect many did, as being an attack on the decision to drop the bombs on Japan. Whether conflicts of interest and suppressing facts should be rewarded or punished was the actual topic of the piece. For journalism to be good, it requires attentive and open minds of readers. Perhaps we should blame the readers of yesterday and today who probably preferred to hear only of patriotism and success, and rarely the doubts and errors of reality.

Aug. 13 2007 02:46 AM
momos from New York

Similar to post #3 (Dana Franchitto), my response to this segment was pleasant surprise. Goodman's reporting on this issue is grounded in solid historical facts and supporting documents. But he is also an unapologetic critic -- not on tactical grounds, but theoretical -- of current US foreign policy. For this reason I was I was shocked to hear him on NPR, and then I was dismayed that I was shocked. It underscores how "establishment" debate dominates much of NPR.

At least for its part OTM really is committed to airing the full left-right spectrum.

Aug. 12 2007 11:44 PM
Ed Nelson from Chicago suburbs (Orland Park)

The very first comment above -- Mr. "Hagaman"(?) -- is overstated in our traditional, self-justifying American way. Indeed it was NOT "all" the authorities with the reaction described, especially after the end of the war. And the projected deaths from a U.S. invasion of Japan was by no means the universal horror he projects.

Of course Truman's decision was understandable. He was, after all, no more immune to the urge for self-justificastionthan anyone else. By now, however, we ought to be able to think more clearly.

Aug. 12 2007 01:44 PM
Dana Franchitto from S.Wellfleet, Mass.

AS the Manhattan Project had its shill in the media embodied in the remorseless William L. Laurence, so too does the U.S. occupation of Iraq HAVE ITS SHILL IN NATIONAL "PUBLIC" Radio(oops pardon the caps)
Not once in three years has NPR had a voice critical of Bush's war on principle but merely tactics. Whereare the left wing voices who claim that Bush's war was based on a system of lies or who question the latetst alibi about "bringing democracy to Iraq"?of course with today's interview of David Goodman, OTM proved to be the exception to the rule. otherwise, publicly criticzing the Iraq war on NPR seems equivalent to discussing feces at a cocktail party.

Aug. 11 2007 04:58 PM
Robert Thulman from Clarksville, MD

I could hardly have improved on the comments of Robert Hagaman. It would be most interesting to me to wonder what the feelings of those opposing the Bomb would be if THEY had lived through those years and had suffered through Corregidor and other horrible events of the time.

I'm just a little tired of post-war critics of what was to Americans at the time a fully justified final event of the war.

My only criticism of Truman's decisions was that a demonstration of the bomb off the shores of Japan may have at least warned them of the coming events.

Aug. 11 2007 04:54 PM
Robert Hagaman from Asheville,NC

This segment ignores some basic facts of the time. There were an estimated four million Japanese troops still active in Southeast Asia and China, plus another four million in Japan. We saw firsthand the willingness of even civilians to fight and die for the emperor when they threw themselves from cliffs in Okinawa rather than surrender to us. All the military and civilian experts expected the death toll of US troops in an invasion to at least equal the toll from the entire war! The civilian toll from the house-to-house fighting would be in the millions. Compared to that, 350,000 dead in both bombings, while tragic, was the only way to sway the Japanese into surrender.

It would have helped Goodman to do some real research on the facts of the times instead of using such a myopic view of the facts to slander someone for doing something that helped save more lives than Goodman would ever have the courage to do.

Aug. 11 2007 04:27 PM

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