Get ready to uncover the unexpected allure of the Barbie movie, and see how it surprisingly intertwines with Countdown 1945, a riveting narrative by Chris Wallace and Mitch Weiss about the final days of World War II. This episode promises a captivating blend of fun, introspection, and historical insight, as Mike shares with you his thoughts about the Barbie movie and also reflects on the high-stakes period leading to the creation of the atomic bomb.
Mike delves into the era of President Harry Truman, thrust into leadership after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death, the secrecy surrounding the Manhattan Project, and the 125,000 individuals working on it. It’s a tale of intrigue, historical fact, and unexpected leadership that you wouldn’t want to miss.
Check out the video version of this episode below:
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Episode transcript below:
0:00:02 – Mike Malatesta
Hey everybody, welcome back to this Friday free thinking solo episode of the how to Happen podcast. Thank you so much for joining me. If it’s your first time here, I hope you enjoy it and, if you do, I would very much appreciate it. If you would like it, subscribe to it, follow it, do whatever you have to in order for this podcast to come to you automatically each and every week, and if you are returning to listen again or one of my longtime listeners. Thank you so much for making time for me and for supporting this podcast, which I love doing.
If you’re new again, fridays I usually do a solo episode, just me, and I’m talking about something that interests me, something that’s come to my attention, something that I’ve read, something that I think well, has made me think and hopefully will make you think as well. And on Mondays I do a longer form episode where I have a guest and we have a very thoughtful, deep conversation about their success and try to get to not only the roots of how it happened for them but ultimately why it matters to you and to the rest of the world. I get really good feedback on those conversations and the quality of the people that I have on the show and I would very much like you to check those out as well. I think there’s some really great value there. So today I’m talking about Barbenheimer.
So the Barbie movie let’s start with that first. And this is going somewhere, so don’t leave me now if you’re not a Barbie fan. But I went to the Barbie movie with my whole family, my wife, my two girls who are adults and my wife’s parents, franny and Bucky, and I really didn’t want to go. I just thought it would be a silly, silly movie, and I wasn’t. You know, I never played with Barbie, so I wasn’t a Barbie person. But I went sort of with an open mind. And I have to tell you, at the beginning of the movie I was a little bit not so interested in it. But as it gave it some time, I have to tell you I think that movie is very clever and actually kind of funny. In particular, I thought Ryan Gosling’s character he played Ken was extremely cool and funny. He did a great job playing that character, as did Margot Robbie playing Barbie, and it was a very interesting tale.
I won’t give it away if you haven’t seen it, if you’re one of the few people probably that hasn’t seen it. It’s grossed over a billion dollars, I believe. So a lot of people have seen it. But Ken is an accessory to Barbie and it’s very funny how they play off of that. You know, the man being the accessory it’s, it’s. It’s very funny. The only thing Ken knows how to do is beach, which I called. So after that I was like well, how am I Ken? So I am.
We decided in my family I’m takeout Ken and takeout Ken is the guy who goes to get takeout and bring it home. And takeout Ken is a very precarious job and if you are takeout whoever, if you’re the takeout Ken Ken in your family, you’ll appreciate this, because it’s very difficult to be a great takeout Ken Like you don’t get a lot of kudos when everything goes exactly like you ordered. That’s kind of the expectation. But when things aren’t exactly right which happens a lot, unfortunately you kind of like you’re the, you’re the goat, you’re the kind of everybody’s a little disappointed, and especially the people who didn’t get what they wanted are a little disappointed. And so that’s who I am. I am used to it and I continue to do it and probably will continue to do it for the rest of my life, because nobody else wants to do it, but and I will do my best to do my great job, but I am takeout, ken.
Anyway, if you haven’t seen Barbie, go see it Oppenheimer and that’s where the barbenheimer comes in Oppenheimer movie came out just around the same time. I have not seen Oppenheimer, and so I, so I can’t speak directly about the Oppenheimer movie, but what I am going to talk to you today is a story that Oppenheimer is, of course, plays a prominent role in, and it’s this book that I read, and it’s called Countdown 1945. It’s by Chris Wallace and Mitch Weiss. The subtitle is the extraordinary story of the atomic bomb and the 116 days that changed the world, and I’m going to talk a little bit about this from a leadership perspective. So on April 12, 1945, the book starts out saying that Harry Truman needed a drink.
And the reason Harry Truman, truman needed a drink? Because April 12, 1945, was the day that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president, died after 12 years in office, and it’s the 82nd day that Truman had been his vice president. And what was interesting about this is that Truman and FDR didn’t know each other very well. So he wasn’t his vice president for his previous presidencies, he was sort of hand selected by the party to be the vice president for the reasons that they hand select people to be vice presidents, and he had only met I believe my recollection is correct twice with FDR during the 82 days that he was vice president. So he didn’t know him at all. He met him twice and 82 days after becoming vice president he is the president of the United States.
Shortly after that, this secretary, fdr secretary of war, who continued as Truman’s secretary of war, harry Stimson, said that I have an urgent matter that I need to talk to you about, and this urgent matter was what’s now known as the Manhattan Project, which was the project that FDR had started to create a nuclear bomb capability in the United States. And here’s some weird thing. Think about this 125,000 people were working on that project in multiple areas around the country Los Alamos, new Mexico, is probably the best known, but they were in Oak Ridge, tennessee and some other areas. 125,000 people and Truman knew nothing about it nothing, you imagine. So now he’s got this decision to make, what is this? Should I keep this project going? What are the ramifications? What’s the goal? He had to get up to speed on all of this stuff. So imagine that being dropped on you, by the way, we’re in the middle of well turns out near the end but of World War II as well. So that’s like shortly after April 12th when he becomes president, on May 7th, germany surrenders and everybody’s thinking this is awesome because the war is going to be over.
The only problem was that the Japanese Japan was not going to surrender. So you’ve got this decision that Truman needs to make in conjunction with Churchill and Stalin Stalin running the USSR at the time and Churchill the UK, because they were the main allies with the United States against Germany and now against Japan. So they had to determine well, what are we gonna do now? Because Japan does not, will not, surrender. So they had this summit in May in Germany and these leaders got together and it was over a week long. It was a very, very long summit about what to do, and there was the books, great about all of the different things that went into this.
But Truman, he’s a brand new president. He’s intimidated by this right, so he’s got to get his feet underneath him. He’s got to try to figure out who’s who and what’s what and ultimately he needs to get Stalin to commit Russia or the USSR to fighting or Soviet Union to fighting against the Japanese to end the war, and he was not convinced that they would do it, even though Stalin promised to do it. So he’s got that all going on and then that’s in July, right? So they’re back and forth, back and forth, back and forth all the time. The Manhattan Project is still going on and they’re getting very, very close to being able to test the nuclear bomb, which they end up doing sometime in July. I believe it was and it works. So Truman is like okay, who can I trust? And when, by the way, the Japanese were very, they were proving themselves to be excellent fighters, like, as you know, the no kamikaze and all that. But they, they were excellent fighters and they were not afraid to die and they were very good at killing Soldiers, particularly US soldiers. And he was trying to do the math and it was like 250,000 US soldiers he felt, or his experts felt, could be, could die if this war continued with Japan. And so, with all of this going on, he’s meeting with advisors, he’s meeting with other world leaders, he’s he’s kind of going through. Would it work, you know, should we tell the Japanese what we’re going to do. And they ended up having a sort of a modified thing about how they would tell them and, ultimately, should we do it.
And the book weaves through a lot of really interesting stories as it makes the case it, as it makes its way through these 116 days. So there’s perspective from a Japanese girl whose family ultimately Was was in Hiroshima when the first bomb was dropped on on August, the 6th 1945. So you got her story. You’ve got, of course, the Los Alamos people, oppenheimer, stimson and a whole bunch of others, their story. A woman who was working One of the nuclear fuel, the uranium enrichment devices that they had, who had no idea what she was doing. In fact nobody knew what they were doing. Well, very few. Most of the 125,000 people knew they were working on something important, but they did not know they were and anyone that did know was sworn to secrecy. So no one was talking about this.
And After the bomb was dropped, as you can imagine, there were a lot of well, there were a lot of questions of of Truman, and you know he had to, you know, from leadership’s perspective, coming in April 12th, not knowing anything, and FDR it set this whole thing in motion and by July or August 6th 1945, the first bomb had been dropped. And there’s a part in the book where Oppenheimer comes into his office Shortly thereafter and says mr President, I feel I may have blood on my hands. And Truman said I told him the blood was on my hands to let me worry about it. And Then this is him, I think, talking to his wife. He said it was a terrible decision, but I made it to save 250,000 boys from the United States and I would make it again under similar circumstances.
And so here’s the thing I don’t know what to make of the decision to use nuclear bombs on Japan. There are only a handful of people on the planet today who have had to consider such a decision, and the only one who’s actually made it, truman, is dead. He’s gone. So what I do know is that I can’t find fault with the way he deliberated the decision. He didn’t make it in a vacuum. It wasn’t good. He listened to the experts, then he considered it very carefully and then he made it. And more than that, he didn’t just make it, he owned it. And that’s a quality that’s very rare in leadership today, especially when the cost or the outcome is so hotly Debated, contested, challenged, particularly by those who never had to make it, and so, as leaders, we’re never gonna have to make a decision like that, hopefully. But you’re gonna have to make a lot of consequential decisions and, to me, the best leaders make decisions based on the best possible Information they have. They have to take ownership and accountability for that decision, no matter what, and they have to live with it forever, and that ain’t easy.
I’ll leave you with this. I believe that you would get a lot of value out of reading this book, countdown 1945, and I’m sure you would get a lot of value out of seeing Oppenheimer the movie. I do plan to see the movie, and I think you get a lot of value out of seeing Barbie as well. But when you’re thinking about making a decision, I guess the number one thing I want to leave with you is Make a decision. I can’t Tell you the number of times when I’ve seen leaders need to make a decision and Fail to do it. Fail to do it out of uncertainty, fail to do it out of fear, fail to do it because they think that maybe if they don’t do it, it’ll just go away or people will forget about it or whatever, and it never happens. So, yeah, when you have to make a decision, make a decision. That’s what leaders do.
Thank you so much for joining me for this solo episode. I am very, very proud of the work that I do here and I am very, very grateful to you for investing your time with it. I hope you got a return on that investment today. Join me for the very next episode. Subscribe, follow, do all the things, watch it on YouTube however you like to get it. And until next time, please Maximize the greatness that’s inside of you today and own your future. Make it your property, something that you are super proud to own. Until next time, see ya.
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