33rd President. Typed letter signed (TLS) “Harry S. Truman” AS PRESIDENT, August 24, 1945, The White House Washington stationery, to Lucy Taggart in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in full:
I am indeed glad to have your kind letter. Your word of approval and your congratulations are especially pleasing to me.
Just over 2 weeks earlier, Truman had ordered the dropping of two atomic bombings over Japan, effectively ending World War II. On August 14, 1945, after the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, the Japanese surrendered. World War II, the deadliest conflict in human history, with between 50 and 85 million fatalities, was finally over. President Harry S. Truman announced news of Japan’s surrender in a press conference at the White House: “This is the day we have been waiting for since Pearl Harbor. This is the day when Fascism finally dies, as we always knew it would.” Jubilant Americans declared August 14 “Victory over Japan Day,” or “V-J Day.” (May 8, 1945 – when the Allies accepted Nazi Germany’s official surrender – had previously been dubbed “Victory in Europe Day,” or “V-E Day.”)
Lucy Taggart was married to Tom Taggart – the son of the former Mayor of Indianapolis. They were a prominent Indiana family and longtime friends of Truman. Lucy had been the sponsor of the USS Indianapolis.
Given the date of this letter and the connection to Taggart, we contacted the Truman Library seeking a copy of the original letter which prompted Truman’s response. The original 3-page handwritten letter is undated but it is noted at top right that it was acknowledged on 8/24/45 (the date of the TLS.)
The Taggart letter helps demonstrate the importance of Truman’s letter offered here. She clearly is congratulating Truman on ending the conflict, but most importantly, specifically references the Atomic Bomb. She also notes the significance of the USS Indianapolis.
In July 1945, the Indianapolis completed a top-secret high-speed trip to deliver parts of Little Boy, the first nuclear weapon ever used in combat, to the United States Army Air Force Base on the island of Tinian, and subsequently departed for the Philippines on training duty. At 0015 on 30 July, the ship was torpedoed by the Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-58, and sank in 12 minutes. Of 1,195 crewmen aboard, approximately 300 went down with the ship. The remaining 890 faced exposure, dehydration, saltwater poisoning, and shark attacks while stranded in the open ocean with few lifeboats and almost no food or water. The Navy only learned of the sinking four days later, when survivors were spotted by the crew of a PV-1 Ventura on routine patrol. Only 316 survived. The sinking of Indianapolis resulted in the greatest single loss of life at sea from a single ship in the history of the US Navy.
Letters of Truman directly referencing the Atomic Bomb are exceedingly rare – and most of those few that exist are from years later. Letters from August 1945 are seldom seen, especially with the evidence that Truman is acknowledging congratulations on his use of the weapons to end the war.
Fresh to the market.