Monday, May 02, 2011

May 2, 1945: Harry Truman Confirms Adolf Hitler's Death

Last night, as anyone not living under one of Geico's rocks knows, President Barack Obama announced the killing of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he had been living in a luxurious villa belying his claimed ascetic lifestyle.

Bin Laden was actually killed on May 2, Pakistani time, even though the official announcement was made late in the evening of May 1, Washington time.

As it happens, 66 years ago today, President Harry Truman held a press conference in the White House, in which he talked about a number of matters related to the end of World War II -- among others, he announced that Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson had accepted the position as chief prosecutor in what became known as the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals.

Almost as an afterthought, Truman told the gathered reporters that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler was dead. He had committed suicide on April 30 and rumors of his death had circulated since then, but there had been no confirmation up to that point.

Here is the relevant section of the transcript of Truman's news conference that day:
[20.] Q. The State Department recapitulation of the peace negotiations ends on the note that the
Swedish Count Bernadotte came back from Germany yesterday, after having delivered the last
message to Himmler and had no reply. Has there been a reply since yesterday ?

THE PRESIDENT. There has not been a reply. The release of the State Department
stands just as it is.

[21.] Q. Mr. President, would you care to comment on the death of Adolf Hitler reported, or

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, the two principal war criminals will not have to
come to trial; and I am very happy they are out of the way.

Q. Well, does that mean, sir, that we know officially that Hitler is dead?


Q. Do we know how he died, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. No, we do not.

Q. Mr. President, I didn't quite get that. Is it official? This is confirmation that Hitler is dead?

THE PRESIDENT. We have the best--on the best authority possible to obtain at this
time that Hitler is dead. But how he died we are not-we are not familiar with the details as yet.

Q. Could you name the authority, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. I would rather not.

Q. Mr. President, do you mean that the--you are convinced that authority you give is the best
possible, but it is--but that it is true?


[22.] Q. Mr. President, do you care to comment at all on the situation in Germany today; that is,
would you care to make any extension of your remarks on the surrender of the German army in

THE PRESIDENT. No, I would not.

Q. Mr. President, do you contemplate a radio broadcast imminently?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I do not.

Q. Mr. President, there have been reports late--later today, following the Italian announcement,
that other groups of Germans are on the point of surrendering in the Dutch pockets?

THE PRESIDENT. I hope that is true. I don't know that it is.

[23.] Q. Mr. President, is there anything you can give us in the way of background, regarding
last Saturday's situation and announcement?

THE PRESIDENT. What was that? [Laughter]

Q. I think that was the one

THE PRESIDENT. I can't give you anything further on it, I am sorry to say.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

NOTE: President Truman's fifth news conference was held in his office at the White House at
4:02 p.m. on Wednesday, May 2, 1945.
Over at, I have posted three articles about reactions to the death of Osama bin Laden after nearly ten years of searching for him by U.S. and allied forces:

Virginia political leaders react to news of Osama bin Laden’s death
Libertarian reactions to the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces

More Virginia political leaders react to news of Osama bin Laden’s death
Additional coverage of political issues, from a classical liberal and Virginia point of view, can be found at the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner. The previous article, before the kerfuffle of the weekend, was based on an interview with Swedish classical liberal scholar Johan Norberg about his new documentary, "Free or Equal," which is a follow up to Milton Friedman's 1980 TV series, "Free to Choose." Norberg's film will be shown on PBS stations around the country starting in August 2011.

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