THE DECISION TO DROP THE ATOMIC BOMB ON JAPAN: A JOURNEY THROUGH HISTORIOGRAPHICAL CONTROVERSY
SUBMITTED TO THE RALEIGH TAVERN SOCIETY BY TOM LOVELL
I first became aware of the atomic bomb at age eight. “Pokey” Fennin and I were playing catch in his front yard near the corner of Wheeler and San Jacinto when a Houston Chronicle newsboy crossing the Sears’ parking lot nearby began shouting “Extra! Extra! Atom Bomb Dropped on Japs! Thousands Killed!”
We hadn’t a clue as to what “atom” meant but it seemed to us kids that such a terrible weapon was bound to hasten the end of the war and we were all for that. I recall the two of us shouting rapturously and turning somersaults, the equivalent in those days of exuberant high fives.
Since those summery days of childhood I have been taken to school many times on the subject of the bomb and its manifold consequences. In l981 I received a National Endowment for the Humanities summer fellowship to study constitutional law at the University of Virginia. During one of our seminars I heard myself grudgingly defending the Karamatsu decision upholding FDR’s l941 decree removing some l20, 000 Japanese-American residents of California to distant internment camps. As I recall my reasoning had little or nothing to do with matters of rightness or wrongness but with the politics and “felt necessities” of that distant day and the remembered magnitude of anti-Japanese hysteria. In short, my argument amounted to a kind of pragmatic mea culpa.
One of my fellow students, a community college teacher from Massachusetts and the wife of a Japanese-American (she was of European origin), became irate; she found it inconceivable that anyone with any sensitivity could hold a position, which, she implied, was racist in nature. She proceeded to cite the use of the atomic bomb as yet further evidence of American racism.
In my defense, I reminded her of the thousands of German civilians in WW II incinerated in Hamburg, Cologne, and Dresden—not to mention Berlin--by British and American bombers. Was that, I asked, another example of racism? In addition, I noted that Earl Warren, then the attorney general of California, facilitated, if not instigated, the Japanese removal and that Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, later to be celebrated for his pro-civil liberties rulings from the bench, wrote the majority decision in the case. As I recall, she did not appear impressed with my rebuttals!
In April of l995 I felt compelled to revisit the topic of the bomb after reading an op-ed piece in the Chronicle by Thomas Haskell, chairman of the department of history at Rice University. Haskell condemned the strenuous opposition mounted earlier that year by veterans’ organizations and other conservative groups against the proposed exhibition of the Enola Gay--the B-29 that dropped the Hiroshima bomb--by the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
The protestors targeted the depiction of photographs and textual material that accompanied the exhibition held in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II. Critics argued that these items tended to put the onus of the Pacific War on the Western Allies rather than the Japanese, where they felt it rightly belonged.
Haskell, a widely published scholar, spoke with authority. He began his article recounting that in the early l950s, as a precocious pre-teen, he had personally confronted former President Harry Truman, querying him as to why he had felt it necessary to drop the bomb. The incident apparently had taken place on a television show directed at young people in Washington, D.C.
Haskell averred that the aging Truman became flustered and could manage only a dismissive reply. Haskell went on to cite several authorities, like himself, who agreed that dropping the bomb was unnecessary. He wrote that if the Smithsonian display indeed supported his position ipso facto it was McCarthy-like to oppose it. In short, opponents of the proposed exhibit were censorious super patriots.
Having recently returned from a symposium at San Antonio’s Trinity University devoted, among other things, to the linkage between Truman’s decision and its salutary effect on Allied prisoners of war, I deemed a reply to Haskell’s piece imperative. My letter, which apparently ended up in the editor’s waste basket, repeated some of the standard arguments in favor of the bomb’s use (of which more later) and included the assertion that if censorship exasperated the professor he best put his own house in order. I made mention of political correctness and how chairmen of history departments at our major universities do not rise to their positions of eminence by disagreeing with views like those expressed by Haskell.1
THE SMITHSONIAN CONTROVERY
In respect to Truman’s decision, sharp questions, like the following, were raised in l945 and remain on the table to this day:
l) Was the dropping of the atomic bomb necessary to defeat Japan?
2) Or to be more specific, would not the naval blockade and conventional aerial bombing have achieved the desired end ?
3) Was not Japan on the lip of surrender anyway, only waiting a reasonable abatement of the “unconditional surrender” dictate FDR had handed down at Casablanca?
4) Did Truman have an ulterior motive in using the bomb, namely that of intimidating the Soviet Union?
5) Why wasn’t a demonstration arranged so as to convince the Japanese of the bomb’s lethal might?
Proffered answers to these and similar questions tend to divide America’s educated elite pretty much along a fault line demarcating our ongoing cultural war. The Smithsonian exhibition debate mentioned above is redolent of what I mean.
For example, today one would expect most college and university faculty members to agree that questions two through four require an affirmative answer. When the Smithsonian president, under tremendous pressure from Congress and veterans groups, deleted the questionable text and photographs from the incipient Enola Gay exhibition these items did not go into storage but were simply moved across town and placed on display at the more receptive American University.3
The pacifists who traveled to Hiroshima in the summer of l995 to memorialize the long dead victims represented yet another group at odds with the bombing. The journalistic left, meanwhile, pretty much concurred with the peace protestors. The New Yorker, for example, produced a lengthy story replete with children’s paintings of the burned and dismembered Hiroshima populace. 4
A nearby article, moreover, praised the novelist John Hersey who had helped set in motion one of the earliest criticisms of the Truman decision with his understated l946 New Yorker essay later to evolve into the universally popular minimalist book, Hiroshima (l947).5
Television got into the act when ABC’s Peter Jennings narrated a special on the bomb that US News and even the Washington Post took to task for highlighting the “revisionist historians cry of America’s culpability” for engaging in a form of genocidal “ethnic cleansing”?6
The “revisionists,” composed mostly of New Left-oriented historians, have long maintained that Truman’s decision was heavily influenced by a desire to intimidate the Soviet Union. Somewhat surprisingly two articles on the bomb written by revisionists appeared in the summer l995 editions of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy, suggesting a readiness on the part of the liberal establishment to legitimate the revisionist point of view.7
On the other side of the divide, hard-line conservatives like the Air Force Association helped lead the assault on the Smithsonian and, as expected, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page unleashed the acid-dipped pen of Dororthy Rabinowitz upon the revisionist malefactors. In an op-ed piece, Reagan’s UN ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, moreover, saw the controversial exhibition as yet another instance of the left’s proclivity for leaving no stone unturned to “blame America first.” If that wasn’t enough the Journal’s liberal-in-residence, Albert Hunt, surprisingly came to Truman’s defense
Hunt blasted the revisionists for “unsubstantiated attacks” on Truman and Army chief of staff George C. Marshall who headed much of the planning for the American side of the war. Hunt claimed a vested interest in Truman’s decision to drop the bomb. He wrote that his father, a young naval officer, might well have taken part in the planned U.S. invasion of Japan. In short, Truman possibly saved the life of Hunt’s dad!8
The self-preservation motif—employed most often by WW II veterans--surfaces frequently as an emotionally powerful argument in defense of Truman’s action. The most telling example of this genre appeared 20 years ago in a savage essay in The New Republic. The cultural historian Paul Fussell allowed that in l945--only recently recovered from wounds received in France where he had served as an infantry CO--he was aboard a troop ship headed for the invasion of Japan when news arrived of the Hiroshima blast. At that moment, he wrote, he realized he was going to survive after all, hopefully marry and have children. He felt exalted!
Fussell then noted with sardonic relish that the critics of the bomb, then and at the time he wrote his article, were either too old to fight, were in a safe government job*, or else were in diapers on August 6, l945. The passion for opposing the bomb’s use, he sneered, seemed to increase with the distance in time and space the critic stood from ground zero. Fussell was fully prepared to believe that in his particular case the fallacy of “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” made eminently good sense: Truman dropped the bomb ergo Fussell survived to grow old!9
George MacDonald Fraser, a novelist whose characters perambulate the British Raj, made a similar argument in a l992 memoir recounting his role as a combat infantryman with the Cumbrian Borderers in Burma (Quartered Safe Out Here: A Recollection of the War in Burma). In a passage toward the end of the book, Faser wrote:
Some years ago I heard a man denounce the nuclear bombing of Japan as an obscenity; it was monstrous, barbarous, and no civilised people could even have contemplated it; we should all be thoroughly ashamed of it.
I couldn’t argue with him, or deny the obscenity, monstrosity, and barbarism. I could only ask him questions, such as:
“Where were you when the war ended:”
“Will you answer a hypothetical question: if it were possible would you give your life now, to restore one of the lives of Hiroshima?”
He wriggled a good deal, said it wasn’t relevant, or logical, or whatever, but in the end, to do him justice, he admitted that he wouldn’t.
So I asked him: “By what right, then, do you say that Allied lives should have been sacrificed to save the victims of Hiroshima? Because what you’re’ saying is that, while you’re not willing to give your life, Allied soldiers would have given theirs. Mine for one, possibly.”10 (217-8)
But the surviving Allied POWs who, in some cases, endured four years of Japanese prison camps, provide the most plaintive examples of the “I-was-there” kind of argument. The Australian Gavin Daws in his Prisoners of the Japanese (l995) tells a story not recommended for the squeamish. Here the cruelty of the Japanese soldier in World War II is revealed in all its grim detail.
Early in the book, Daws concludes that the l00, 000 European prisoners the Japanese still held in August l945—not to mention the countless thousands more of Asian slave laborers--could not have survived another six months in captivity. The POWs Daws quotes in his book tell of such atrocities inflicted on the prisoners that one comes away convinced that the depiction by Truman--in a letter he wrote to a churchman soon after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki--of the Japanese as “beasts” is not without merit.11
THE “TRUMAN-WAS-RIGHT” SCHOOL
Arguments against dropping the bomb began even before Hiroshima. Many members of the scientific team who put the “gadget” together soon experienced feelings of guilt and trepidation. And once Germany fell to the Allied armies, the motivation for using the bomb rapidly dissipated. Several score Los Alamos’ scientists joined in a petition requesting that Truman desist from dropping the bomb on Japan. Later these and other of their like-minded colleagues launched the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the most famous of the watchdog publications opposed to the use of nuclear weapons.12
Second-guessing the bombing thus began early and, as indicated, remains an ongoing phenomenon. To address the early criticism, Truman’s Secretary of War Henry Stimson wrote a much-noted article in Harper’s Magazine in l947, which, for a time, quieted the critics. The latter remained quiescent during the l950s and in l961 an attempt was made to lay the entire issue to rest.13
Herbert Feis, a former special assistant to Stimson, wrote a book defending the Truman decision. Originally entitled, Japan Subdued (later The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II (l966), Feis addressed many of the arguments later to become part of the anti-bomb canon. If, for example, Truman advisors Admiral William Leahy and Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal had opposed its use, Army commanders, Feis replied, were generally supportive. The latter were increasingly convinced surrender could only be exacted by a land invasion requiring unavoidably high casualties. Hitler’s fanatical defense of Germany, the generals believed, failed only because the Nazis Reich faced massive invasions on two fronts. And the Japanese had already exhibited an even greater propensity to resist than had the Germans. Thus, in Feis’ estimation, use of the bomb irrefutably avoided exorbitantly high casualties by forestalling an invasion.
As to the philosophical “justification” for its use, Feis proclaimed that the fact that it had been built insured that if the U.S. had not used it some other nation in the near future would have done so. In sum, human nature, sooner or later, would dictate its use. Therefore those seeking to saddle the United States with a unique moral opprobrium for Hiroshima need look elsewhere.
The gravamen of his argument, however, centered on the preparations the Japanese had mounted to defend their homeland, including the mass employment of a variety of suicide delivery mechanisms. The Japanese Army’s tenacious commitment to last-ditch defense had, after all, already been demonstrated at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In addition, Feis weighed heavily the greater loss of Japanese life bound to ensue if the war continued much longer.
For lack of a better term, the “momentum” factor also carried considerable merit in Feis’ eyes. The fact that American strategy placed a high priority on a speedy end to the conflict made the decision to drop the bomb all that more logical.
As to the charge of “atomic diplomacy”--which by the second edition of Feis’ book had been ostentatiously raised by Gar Alperovitz—Feis acceded that it had indeed played a role, how could it not? But such a role did not prove pivotal. Churchill, Truman, and the President’s advisors, especially designated Secretary of State James Byrnes, could not help but be cognizant of the bomb’s impact on post-war diplomacy.
But the U.S. monopoly of the bomb, asserted Feis, did not prove Truman indulged in “atomic blackmail.” 14
In l995 an outpouring of books and articles greeted the approach of the fiftieth anniversary of both the end of WW II and the dropping of the a-bomb. And what was so striking about this rush to publish was how the pro-bomb and anti-bomb scholars practically matched each other book for book. As might be expected, military historians wrote a goodly number of the pro-bomb volumes.
John Skates in his The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb (l994) argued that the decision to drop the bomb was political not military. And since his book is more of a history of the proposed military invasion, one can make the argument that it fails to meet the threshold of a “pro-bomb” study. But by emphasizing the invasion rather than the bomb, Skates, by inadvertence, made a convincing argument for the necessity of dropping the bomb.
His book piles on evidence of the seriousness of the invasion plans; first for Operation Olympic, the assault of the southern island of Kyushu, and then later, the proposed landing on the Tokyo plain in Honshu, designated Operation Coronet. One gets a good sense of the inter-service rivalries that reveal why the Navy and air arm portion of the Army confidently assumed that a land invasion was unnecessary. Their representatives claimed that they had inflicted enough damage on the enemy to preclude the need for ground troops.
Skates sheds light also on the role of the controversial l946 Strategic Bombing Survey, a document regularly employed by bomb opponents. The Survey had proclaimed that the Japanese were primed to surrender on the eve of Hiroshima because of the destruction they already had endured at the hands of American air assaults. This being the case no invasion was necessary! But Skates points out that the commission set up to make the study was larded with pro-air advocates who had a vested interest in just such a finding.
The poster child of the anti-bomb lobby, Admiral Leahy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, slips a portion of his halo in this book. Skates reported that although the Admiral was known after the war as the bomb’s most vocal critic, when the opportunity arose to file an eleventh-hour demurral to the planned invasion, Leahy--in Truman’s presence--remained silent.
If there’s one theme that runs through Skates’ volume it is how the “timing” of the invasion dictated its planned consummation. As America began to wear down Japan’s capacity to resist, a window of opportunity slowly closed on the U.S.’ ability to wait out a protracted surrender. The American public, Skates claims, would not have abided a prolonged period of inactivity and if such a delay materialized the result would have led to a serious erosion of morale both at home and among the troops in route to the Pacific. In short, Skates joins Feis in arguing that the proposed invasion acquired a momentum that only the bomb proved capable of derailing.
Finally, Skates concluded with the sweeping proposition that the military really had little input when it came to the bomb. It was not designed to “lessen Japan’s ability to defend the homeland.” It was a psychological weapon used to undermine the Japanese military leadership, which held the whip hand in Tokyo.15
One of the fiercest issues dividing the pro and anti-bomb historians lies in the accounting of casualty rates. Bomb opponents highlight statistics depicting relatively low numbers of casualties the better to compare them with the much higher predictions Truman said he relied on in reaching his decision. At stake here is the charge that the pro-bombers purposely exaggerated casualty figures in order to justify dropping the bombs.
Into this debate rushed Thomas B. Allen and Norman Polmar, two military historians. In a recent book they document that notwithstanding the welter of diverse pre-invasion statistics employed by this service head and that pre-invasion plan, that two U.S. Army agencies, by virtue of their hands on responsibilities, warrant a higher order of veracity when it comes to projecting accurate casualty figures.
For Operation Olympic alone, the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot, whose responsibility it was to provide the Army with everything from skivvies to Jerry cans, conducted an independent study that predicted 370,000 Purple Hearts would likely be needed. On Luzon, the Sixth Army’s medical team in pursuing accurate estimates of the number of doctors, nurses, cots, blood plasma and bandages needed for the invasion of Kyushu, concluded that the initial landing and subsequent occupation of the southern Japanese island would cost 340,000 dead, wounded, and missing. These figures, extrapolated from the heavy casualties taken on Okinawa, assumed that in defending their homeland the Japanese would, at the least, prove just as tenacious.
The co-authors said the Navy employed similar divining rods to predict that, like at Okinawa where kamikazes scored strike after strike on U.S. shipping, Navy wounded and dead off Kyushu could very well reach 49,000. The two made clear that many of the predicted low-ball statistics—later cited by the revisionist historians—originally were submitted for political reasons. President Truman, before signaling his approval of the invasion, for example, became obsessed with casualty rates. According to Allen and Polmar, General Douglas MacArthur, a strong invasion advocate, upon hearing of Truman’s skittishness over the prospect of heavy casualties, purposely scaled back his initial figures replacing them with much lower and thus more palatable numbers.16
Toward the end of a massive work on code-breaking--one of several written to coincide with the commemoration of the War’s last days--Bruce Lee, a longtime editor and researcher of military history, jumped into the middle of the debate over causalities. He cited an October, l994, New York Times op-ed piece written by the revisionist Kai Bird. Lee quoted Bird that “…no scholar of the war has ever found archival evidence to substantiate claims that Truman expected anything close to one million casualties, or even that such huge casualties were conceivable.” Bird concluded that American veterans were “being fooled into believing that the atomic bomb saved them from sacrificing their lives in an invasion of Japan.”
In rebuttal to Bird’s claims, Lee wrote that he contacted Samuel Halpern, a former OSS operative, who in WW II had worked with the War Plans division of the War Department. Halpern shared with Lee lengthy correspondence Halpern had exchanged with one of the leading bomb critics, Barton Bernstein, on the topic of casualties.
According to Bird, Bernstein claimed that the War Plan documents revealed a worst-case scenario of only 46,000 predicted deaths. Halpern, who helped with the plans, told Lee that he had been flown from Ceylon to Washington to work on the plans and that upon arrival he was told repeatedly that the landings would result in 500,000 casualties and that was for only the first 30 days. After 90 days the estimates went up to l.5 million U.S. casualties for both invasion and occupation.
Halpern informed Lee that Bernstein dismissed Halpern’s recollections as clouded by the intervention of time. This prompted Halpern to go to the archival record himself in order to “reconstruct” events with the help of the documents. When he had done so to his satisfaction he wrote Bernstein of his findings, but Bernstein declined a reply.17
From the point of view of the pro-bomb historians, their strongest argument lay not with projected casualties, disputed or otherwise, but in their unshakeable conviction that the Japanese defense capability, by no means as weak and porous as the revisionists claimed, presented a grimly formidable barrier. The pro-bombers figure that if they can prove that in the summer of l945 the Japanese were nowhere near collapse, but, remained capable of fighting at least long enough to wear down the invaders and inflict upon them prohibitive casualties, that they have won the debate. The trump card they invariably play in this historiographical game of gotcha is the documentation acquired from Japanese sources.
In the summer of l945 as American planes roamed freely across the skies over Japan, and the U.S. Navy finished sealing off the island country’s sea lanes, Japan’s military leadership, according to Allen and Polmar, showed scant sign of surrendering. Made more intractable by the vexing allied policy of unconditional surrender, the Japanese generals set out to fight--what they euphemistically called--the “Decisive Battle.”
Eagerly inviting an invasion, they basically conceived of an Armageddon-like showdown, the purpose of which was to inflict casualties sufficient to invite surrender terms more propitious for Japan. Allen and Polmar quoted from a document compiled after the war by MacArthur’s intelligence officers wherein leading Japanese military personnel admitted they had in place just such a last-ditch effort when the atomic bombs were dropped.18
Another bone of contention between the opposing groups of historians involves the Japanese emperor. The anti-bomb canon charges that the U.S. was criminally negligent in not announcing early in the day a willingness to allow Hirohito to remain as a titular force in the post-war Japanese government. They reason that such an overture would have been seized upon by the Japanese so as to strengthen the peace faction allowing it to prevail against the militarists. The end result of such a move, the anti-bomb faction contends, would have been a bombless early peace.
Robert James Maddox, the bete noir of the revisionists, took up this challenge in his Weapons for Victory: The Hiroshima Decision Fifty Years Later (l995). Maddox’s major problem with the “emperor gambit” was that Hirohito’s retention was not, as the revisionist claimed, the only decisive bargaining chip in play. While the Japanese militarists wanted the emperor to remain in place, they also demanded that the victors allow the Japanese to conduct trials of their own alleged war criminals and to continue Japan’s presence in places like Korea and other overseas possessions.
Opposition in America also existed to allowing Hirohito to remain ensconced in the Imperial Palace. Home front propaganda had placed the Emperor on a par with Hitler when it came to villainy, so for Truman to take such a step invited dire political consequences. Furthermore, Maddox held that even to discuss giving a pass to Hirohito would have encouraged the militarists into believing U.S. resolve was weakening and thus end up strengthening Japan’s determination to hold out even longer.
But for Maddox what was decisive was the Japanese Army’s cultural opposition to surrender of any kind, not to mention the “unconditional” variety. Maddox reported that not one time did the Japanese openly indicate—not even in their intercepted and decoded messages--that retention of the Emperor was their only requirement for accepting American surrender terms.19
This matter of the Emperor fell under greater scrutiny five-years later when Herbert P. Bix wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Hirohito thoroughly debunking the conventional portrayal of the Japanese Mikado as a mere figurehead. Instead, Bix placed him at the center of much of the planning and ongoing conduct of the Japanese war effort. But what makes Bix’s study a significant addition to this essay is that it thoroughly rejects the deeply-held conviction that a U.S. offer to retain the Emperor would have ended the war on a dime as maintained by those largely in the revisionist camp. Bix makes clear that such an offer—which was pushed forward by Undersecretary of State Joseph Grew--most certainly would have been thoroughly tweaked and parsed by the Imperial entourage so as to demand in advance that most of the royal prerogatives and governmental powers be retained unchanged. Indeed, in Bix’s view, the Japanese Army’s truculence to face reality was mild compared to that demonstrated by Hirohito. It was Hirohito’s reluctance to face defeat and to “act decisively to end hostilities” that “kept the war going.” Bix pointedly said this by no means justified use of the bomb, but, one would think, it certainly could be so interpreted.20
Maddox, still in high dudgeon, went beyond the “lost opportunity” allegations made by the anti-bomb constituency. Similarly motivated, Maddox alleged, was the charge that the U.S. was uncommonly mean spirited in opting to drop the second bomb after the first had proved so devastating. Maddox cited how the Japanese leadership sought to discount the damage wrought at Hiroshima, even going so far as to deny it was an atomic bomb at all. In short, Maddox placed the responsibility for dropping the second bomb squarely on the Japanese.21
To prove the bomb’s centrality in Japan’s defeat and thus reprove the revisionists’ argument that the bomb was not necessary to induce surrender, Maddox pointed out that the Emperor himself, in his famous radio address to the nation, underscored the weapon as a major reason for accepting the terms of surrender.
Maddox mustered his biggest salvos for Gar Alperovitz who he had attacked in an earlier sally against New Left historiography. Maddox quoted Alperovitz from a 1993 article he had written in the New York Times that proclaimed that “Every new fragment of secret information [relating to the bomb] suggests the Hiroshima decision was totally unnecessary.”22
Maddox claimed the alleged “secret information” amounted to documents available to the public for decades. Maddox said revisionists like Alpervoitz and Kai Bird attracted attention because of a “fondness” the public and many “academics seem to have for tales of conspiracy in high places.”23
The revisionists’ biggest sin, according to Maddox, resided in their deliberate distortion of the words they attributed to Truman and Secretary of State James Byrnes. Maddox said that when the two leaders spoke and wrote of using the bomb as diplomatic leverage they were not referring, as the revisionists have often claimed, to the Soviets, but to the Japanese.
Maddox concluded his jeremiad by reminding the reader that as commander in chief Truman was concerned not only with the Americans under arms, but the fragility of the POWs, nor could he forget the danger posed by the million or so Japanese troops still fighting on the Asian mainland and on the islands of the East Indies. This being the case, if he elected not to use the bomb, the American public, not to mention history, would never have forgiven him. Truman said he dropped the bomb to save American lives. Maddox sees insufficient reason to think otherwise.24
Richard B. Frank joined Maddox in giving the revisionists short shrift. He pointed out that prior to Nagasaki no Japanese document existed indicating that that country’s leadership in any way considered the prospect of surrender, even on less than harsh terms. Frank claimed that even when facing indictments for war crimes the accused refrained from making any such disclosure.
Frank indicated that the June l945 Japanese government’s Ketsu-Go, or final battle plan, contained no role even for negotiations. Frank emphatically notes that
Only on August 9, after withstanding months of blockade and bombardment, obvious preparations for invasion, two atomic bombs, and Soviet intervention, did the Big Six [Japan’s ruling government clique] formulate terms for ending the war. Even then, Army Minister Anami and Chiefs of Staff Umezu and Toyoda insisted on maintaining the old order—a position completely unacceptable to the Allies.25
More evidence linking the importance of the bomb to Japan’s surrender appears in a quote Frank took from a letter Hirohito wrote to the Crown Prince a week after the formal surrender. The Emperor confided in his oldest son that Japan had lost “because ‘our people’ regarded the British and Americans too lightly and exalted fighting spirit while ignoring science.”26
Frank, a former paratrooper and Vietnam vet, addressed yet another key revisionist’s point, this one involving the role the Soviet’s played in the surrender. This argument assumes that since the U.S. knew the Soviets were going to declare war on Japan that such an eventuality should have caused Truman to hold off using the bomb until the impact of the Russian assault had time to sink into the Japanese conscious.
In his book, Frank indicated that in none of the comments the Emperor made, neither in his public speech, nor in the letter to his son, was the Soviet role even mentioned. Frank concluded that the Russian invasion of Manchuria was “significant” but not “decisive” in bringing on the surrender. “It shared,” he wrote, “with the atomic bombs a role in securing the compliance of the Imperial Army and Navy, but the atomic bomb played the more critical role because it undermined the fundamental premise that the United States would have to invade Japan to secure a decision.” (Italics mine)27
Frank also noted that the a-bombs “saved the face” of the Japanese military. Koichu Kido, a major advisor to Hirohito, said after the war that if the military leaders were able to conclude that they “had been defeated by the power of science but not by lack of spiritual power or strategic errors, they could save face to some extent.”28
Frank, whose book is by far the most comprehensive in the pro-bomb literature, addressed still another approach taken by the anti-bomb historians: that involving the reading of Japanese codes. As Frank put it, by the mid-sixties critics of the bomb argued that through breaking the Japanese diplomatic code that the American leadership picked up numerous examples of Japanese embassies trying, through neutral nations, to make contact with the Americans in order to establish an early peace. The U.S. leadership, went the argument, possessed these decrypted dovish messages but failed to follow them up and thus bring the War to a close sufficiently early to avoid use of the atomic bomb.
Frank showed that when these Magic decrypts were originally made public substantial collateral summaries were not included. The reason for not opening the entire file was that decrypts not only had been made of Japanese messages but those of thirty other countries, many of whom had been our allies, thus the summaries were kept under wraps until the whole file was opened in l995.
When opened and closely examined, the Magic files and particularly the decrypts from Ultra, the system employed in cracking the Japanese military code, provided irrefutable evidence that the diplomatic peace feelers paled to insignificance when compared to the many more bellicose messages emanating from the Army high command. Indeed, none of the latter referred to peace making but only to fighting to the last Japanese. The American leadership, moreover, knew well that the Army, not the diplomats, called the tune in Japan.28
Edward J. Drea, yet another military historians, went further than Frank in claiming that the American military’s knowledge of Ultra’s secrets “was a central factor in the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japanese cities….” In his book, Drea argued that while the revisionists were adept at looking at the political and diplomatic side of the equation that they overlooked the forces that shaped military decisions. The biggest example of the latter, Drea claimed, was the mass of information pouring in from the Ultra decrypts which portrayed the Japanese leadership “blind to defeat and …bending all remaining national energy to smash an invasion of their divine islands.”29
Drea, even more so than Frank, detailed the ongoing and incremental buildup of Japanese air and land forces on Kyushu precedent to the proposed U.S. November 1, l945, D–day landing. At one point, Drea wrote that the Japanese military on the southern island reached a ratio of one Japanese defender for every American combatant in the initial invasion party.30 Not a very sanguine prospect for the American invaders!
Drea claimed for Ultra another important end-of-war coup: the decision by the U.S. leadership to keep Hirohito on the throne, it seems, was facilitated by Ultra’s reading of the placid reception Japanese troops stationed overseas accorded their Emperor’s surrender decree. This encouraged the U.S. to employ the Emperor as a force for securing an orderly occupation.31
As mentioned above, the revisionists, by the mid-sixties, had become a major participant in the heightened debate over the decision to drop the atomic bomb, a debate whose responsibility largely rested at their doorstep. The revisionists set about challenging what, with thinly-veiled derision, they came to call “the narrative,” or the widely-accepted interpretation formulated by President Truman, Stimson, and others that the atomic bomb had been used to end the Pacific War and thus save the lives of thousands of American servicemen.
In fairness, however, it was William Appleman Williams, the doyen of radical diplomatic historians, who early on detected what for him were gaping holes in the established “narrative.” In his controversial tour de force, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (l959), Williams inscribed what soon enough became a major leitmotif of U.S. radical historiography: Truman’s motivation for precipitously dropping the bomb, while designed in part to end the war, largely involved giving “[the Soviets] sober pause in eastern Europe.”32
Williams argued that the bomb could easily have been set aside for a month or more before being used. But Truman, to vulgarly mix metaphors, hurriedly uncorked it to head the Soviets off at the pass.33 This alleged design to intimidate the Russians in order to keep Eastern Europe open for American trade fit snugly into Williams’ famed “Open Door” analysis of American foreign policy.34
Noam Chomsky, the widely-regarded linguistic scholar and anarchical provocateur without portfolio, opted not to poke holes in the hortatory narrative but to attack it outright. In a l966 speech designed to rally intellectuals against the Vietnam War, Chomsky—in a speech delivered at Harvard--quoted favorably from a Dwight Macdonald essay that blamed the Americans and British for the “vicious terror bombing of civilians during World War II.” Still quoting the aging radical literary critic, Chomsky added that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were “among the most unspeakable crimes in history.”35
Another toiler in the vineyards of New Left historiography, Gabriel Kolko, perhaps the more openly Marxist of his colleagues, shared Chomsky’s sense of the bomb’s immorality. But Kolko dispassionately represented Truman’s decision as the inevitable product of a conservative capitalist system--whose tenets were ironically shared by Japan—which, long before Hiroshima, had accepted a “mechanistic” approach to warfare. The Americans, wrote Kolko, “decided to use the bomb as a known and new predicable factor of war, an economical means of destroying vast numbers of men, women, and children, soldiers and civilians.” Kolko concluded that “well before August l945” this bloody mayhem had been “reduced to a routine.”36
Surprisingly, Kolko took a more benign view when it came to linking the U.S.’ decision on the bomb to any Machiavellian intentions vis-a-vis the Soviets. If Williams and, at least, some of his acolytes viewed Truman and other American leaders as eagerly anticipating using the bomb as a means of checkmating the Soviets via “atomic diplomacy,” Kolko maintained that only Churchill explicitly saw things in such a light. The U.S. decision-makers, it seems, were all over the lot in how they viewed the Russians. Many among the U.S. leadership believed Stalin was bound to enter the war, bomb or not, and that the Soviets still had a key role to play in handling the remaining Japanese troops in Manchuria.37
While writers such as Williams and Kolko eagerly took issue with the traditional “narrative,” the central avatar of the debunking collective was and remains, Gar Alperovitz. It had after all been Alperovitz’s Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam (l965) which initiated the formal assault on the sanctified portrayal of Truman’s decision: recall that the second edition of Feis’ book had been rushed into print for the very purpose of disputing Alperovitz’s findings.
Recognized from the beginning as revisionist history, Alperovitz’s book argued that Truman had essentially launched the Cold War by overturning FDR’s more accommodating approach to the Russians, that the bomb had played a role in this move, that Truman had delayed meeting with Stalin until the bomb was all but ready, and that the weapon highly influenced how the American president dealt with Stalin at Potsdam. After the bomb was dropped, moreover, Alperovitz insisted that Truman commenced playing “atomic diplomacy” with the Soviets by holding the weapon over Stalin’s head like a political sword of Damocles.38
What really caught the attention of historians and eventually the public at large, however, was Alperovitz’s assertion that the bomb had not been militarily necessary to end the war but had been used primarily to intimidate the Soviets for political reasons. One major piece of his evidence was an account by a key early promoter of the bomb, Leo Szilard, who, in his quest to prevent the bomb from being used against the Japanese, had gone directly to Truman’s new Secretary of State James Byrnes to plead his case. According to Szilard’s notes of their meeting, the Secretary had told him that “it was not necessary to use the bomb against the cities of Japan in order to win the war [but] our possessing of the bomb would make Russia more manageable in Europe.”39
As indicated earlier, this line of attack on “the narrative” had begun with The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, but the reclusive Williams was open to criticism for an unwillingness to assiduously document his work. Alperovitz’s book, on the other hand, included not only an abundance of citations gleaned from Szilard’s records but a plenitude of nuggets mined in Secretary of War Stimsons’ papers, the latter soon to be opened fully to historical inquiry.
Barton Bernstein in l995 offered that Atomic Diplomacy initially gained currency not only as a result of its documentation but because its bitter pill qualities--as far as its receptivity by the establishment was concerned--had been ameliorated due to its being dedicated to the conservative Stimson.40 (It’s worth pointing out that this dramatically changed in l985 when Alperovitz dedicated an expanded version of Atomic to his son and daughter.)41
Alperovitz surpassed all these efforts, however, in a massive 900-page, five-pound tome, put out in 1995 in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the war. His The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth is the ultimate revisionist study. Its comprehensiveness is both a plus and a liability. Basically it is two books in one: a lengthy restructuring of many of the arguments first made in his early work regarding “atomic diplomacy” linked with both fresh and stale reiterations of why the bombings were unnecessary, combined with a lengthy recitation of the efforts made over the years to defend Truman’s decision. Much of the length is simply due to the inclusion of verbatim documentation.
Alperovitz basically makes the following points: Japan, because of shortages, blockade, aerial destruction, lack of allies, etc., was ready to quit on the eve of Hiroshima--these findings were buttressed both by the Strategic Air Survey and the findings of a private study done by a political scientist in 1993; the Soviet invasion would have been sufficient to have tipped the balance for surrender, particularly because of Russia’s early success against the Japanese Army in Manchuria; intercepted cables indicated the Emperor was avidly seeking a surrender; Truman and James Byrnes (the latter is demonized in this work) unconscionably walked away from making a pre-bomb deal with the Japanese over saving the Emperor and thus lost an opportunity to end the war; Truman originally felt Soviet entrance would prove decisive but was pulled back by Byrnes from waiting to see what effect it might have on the Japanese.42
Alperovitz also notes the number of after-the-fact key figures who felt the bomb unnecessary: Admiral Leahy, Generals Eisenhower and Hap Arnold, etc. But his best suit, as always, is his revisitation of “atomic diplomacy” wherein he shows through the documentation how time and again the bomb was envisioned as a “hammer” to be used against the Soviets.43
Maddox, as mentioned earlier, had pinned a bulls eye to Alperovitz’s chest for alleged deliberate misleading and misreading of sources,44 which Alperovtiz explained away in l995 as “graduate student errors.”45 But Maddox was not alone; Bernstein, a professor of history at Stanford, while condoning Alperovitz’s chutzpah in assailing the establishment’s “narrative,” took issue with much of the latter’s findings in Atomic. He faulted Alperovitz for omitting that the assumption the bomb sooner or later would be dropped originated not with Truman but with FDR. Indeed, Bernstein averred, it went back to FDR’s early commitment to the Manhattan Project and continued to be nourished by the cumulative deadening effect the area bombing of cities, both in Europe and Japan, had had on the collective conscience of the American leadership.46
Martin J. Sherwin, another one of the early revisionists, joined Bernstein in claiming that Truman’s decision ultimately followed from events placed in train by his illustrious predecessor. But Sherwin took this argument one step farther claiming that not only had the decision to use the bomb began with FDR but so too had “atomic diplomacy.” Prior to Roosevelt’s death, Sherwin stated that the President planned to oppose the international control of atomic energy. Increasingly fearful that the Grand Alliance would fall apart at the end of the War, FDR, to stay on the safe side, decided to keep the bomb handy in case of such an eventuality. In other words, Roosevelt was much more a tuned to Churchill’s realpolitik vision of “atomic diplomacy” than was either Truman or Byrnes.47
Following up on this argument, Sherwin concluded the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, rather than first demonstrated in an uninhabited area, to enhance its impression (Sherwin’s emphasis), or the psychological impact, it undoubtedly would have had not only on the Japanese but upon the Soviet leadership as well. Sherwin wrote in l973 that Stimson and Byrnes felt that “the greater ‘shock’ effect in Tokyo, the more quickly the war would be concluded, and the greater the ‘shock effect’ in Moscow, the more interested the Soviets would be in reaching an accommodation with the United States.”48 Edward Teller, the “father of the hydrogen bomb” shared in this optimism.
Sherwin ruefully pointed out that it was that very “impact” on the Russians that frightened the critics among the atomic scientists; they feared that the “shock,” instead of cowing the Soviets, would trigger an arms race, a prophecy, of course, which sadly came to pass.49
Over the years Sherwin became a more pronounced critic of the bomb. In a l981 essay, he embellished a point he had originally made in World Destroyed, namely that the bomb in point of fact had delayed the war’s end because it had preempted any overture of amnesty to the Emperor.50 Later, as one of the consultants assembled to review the proposed original text of the Smithsonian exhibition, he alone among the scholars objected to any revision of the script. Others, such as Bernstein, bowed to the inevitable and accepted a handful of suggestions, designed to “balance” the text.
As mentioned, the fiftieth anniversary of the war’s end and the ensuing debate over the atomic bomb generated a flood of new argumentative books and articles. And one of the most contentious of the revisionists’ entries was that written jointly by a historian of nuclear weapons, Greg Mitchell, and the noted psycho-historian, Robert Jay Lifton. Their Hiroshima in America: Fifty Years of Denial (l995) took the lead in condemning the bomb on moral grounds.
They opined that unless the American people fessed up to the evil deed and quit trying to defend it, there existed the possibility that such a “crime” would be repeated. They later raised the moral ante by claiming that Hiroshima “casts a shadow on every aspect of our personal and collective existence.”51
Of all the books pro and con on the bomb, theirs is the most suigeneris. It basically accomplishes two things: as with at least part of Alperovitz’s Decision, it traces the evolutionary path taken over the years by “the narrative,” and in so doing, undertakes to thoroughly discredit it; and it probes the psychological underpinnings of Truman’s personality searching for evidence of significant character flaws.
Truman’s every utterance regarding the bomb is scrutinized (one assumes by Lifton) for evidence of some psychological tick which “distanced” him from, or, caused a “numbing” which allowed him to avoid, culpability for his baneful decision. Indeed, such psychoanalyzing becomes so pervasive, and Truman, as well as Groves and Stimson, looms up so often in Lifton’s Freudian-like cross hairs that it begins to take on the appearance of a posthumous kangaroo court.52
One has to acknowledge, however, that the book’s value--other than the fact that it catalogues every known reason and argument raised against the bomb and conveniently puts them between two covers—lies in how the authors deftly portray the crafting of the “narrative.” The reader learns of the concerted effort made by James Conant, to induce the elderly Stimson to write his famous Harper’s rejoinder to the mildly annoying criticisms implied by Hersey’s article and book. The authors detail the concerted and protracted effort mounted by the President’s defenders to cover-up many facts that tended to cast doubt on his fateful decision. This is important stuff and does indeed strengthen the revisionist argument.
One of America’s moral failings mentioned by Messrs. Lifton and Mitchell, as revealed by the use of the bomb, was the racism mostly white America then expressed toward the Japanese. In this writer’s early musings, I illuminated the degree to which, by the early eighties, race consciousness had been substantially raised in the U.S. With the growing popularity in the nineties of multiculturalism, it should not surprise that race attracted renewed attention during the commemoration of the end of the World War II.
As early as l986 John Dower had gone down this road with a powerful look at how both the United States and Japan warred upon the other using racial stereotypes to ratchet up mutual hatreds. The Japanese during WW II, for example, were commonly viewed in the U.S. as cunning, subhuman, buck toothed, fanatical, monkey-like brutes.53
Ronald Takaki picked up on this theme nine years later and carried it over into the decision taken by the U.S. to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. A professor of ethnic studies at Cal-Berkeley, Takaki retraced the history of racism in America and found that the Truman decision fit nicely into that traditional paradigm. Like Mitchell and Lifton, Takaki too found Truman personally responsible and determined that he suffered from an inferiority complex, a propensity for engaging in racial stereotyping and a neurotic need to express his masculinity.
Takaki highlighted stories of U.S. Marines extracting gold from the teeth of dead Japanese and collecting their ears, redolent of whites in the American West taking Indian scalps. Nothing subtle here!54
Much of Takaki’s book is a rehash of charges brought against those who approved the bomb; it basically is a brief recitation of ground long plowed--with a better result--by the substantive revisionists. Lifton and Mitchell, not to mention Alperovitz, are much more valuable if one is seeking the more meaty challenges to the pro-bomb “narrative.”
The most surprising part of the book is the concluding moments where, after a hundred or more pages devoted to skewering Truman, Takaki, suddenly discovers the President’s humanity. He quotes lines from Truman’s diary recorded at Potsdam in which the President ruminates over the history of warfare. Takaki has him conclude his morose reverie with the following lines: “I hope for some sort of peace—but I fear that machines are ahead of morals by some centuries and when morals catch up perhaps there’ll be no reason for any of it. I hope not. But we are only termites on a planet and maybe when we bore too deeply…there’ll [be] a reckoning.”55
The best summary rendering of the revisionist case, at least covered in preparation for this paper, was provided by an essay written by Bernstein that appears as the l00-page “afterward” in Judgment at the Smithsonian (l995), edited by Philip Nobile. Much condemned by conservatives as a polemical screed, it proved invaluable in writing this essay. The first part is a “polemical screed”—basically a bitter lampoon of the Smithsonian’s conservative critics—while the second section contains the unabridged text of the original exhibition’s script (which eventually underwent several redrafts); and the third part, or the so-called “afterward,” a polished historiographical essay by Bernstein, woven into a description of the debate on the exhibition.
After reading what can only be described as a brilliant essay, this writer came away convinced I had been wrong about a lot of things having to do with the bomb. Referring to himself in the third person, Bernstein revisited his obsession with casualties by demonstrating how the official War Plans’ predictions were decidedly lower by at least a factor of four than the half million and million numbers employed, after the fact, by Stimson and Truman. Bruce Lee, recall, challenged Bernstein’s numbers but the Stanford historian stands his ground in this essay. He justified his passion for chasing after numbers on the grounds that those high casualties were the most frequently cited justification employed by the pro-bomb lobby.56
In the more interesting part of the essay, Bernstein divides a selected few of the bomb historians into two groups: the definite and the probably. The former are those like Alperovitz, committed to believing that the war would definitely have ended without using the bomb, conceivably within days or weeks after the August 6 drop date. The probably faction includes Bernstein who thinks that if the bomb had not been dropped the war probably would have ended soon and for sure before the proposed November l invasion date.
Bernstein admits that the “probablies” can’t be certain and must be willingly to admit that a number of Americans and Japanese would have died if they were wrong, but that the casualties, more often than not, would have been combatants not the innocents slain at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Bernstein comes across in this essay as a historical moralist.57
Reading the literature on the decision to drop the atomic bombs, I am reminded of the effect one experiences watching a tennis match, turning from side to side anticipating the skills or lack thereof of each participant. I began this essay prepared to think the worst of the revisionists. As mentioned earlier, I had attended a symposium in San Antonio on the bomb in April l995 where the journalist-historian Kai Bird and Bernstein were among the panelists. Bird, who appeared to be in his late thirties, struck me as impudent and condescending to the audience, composed as it was of aging veterans. Bernstein, exactly my age (both of us were 60), came across as a polished, levelheaded gentleman-scholar. His formal presentation, as I remember it, touched the bases he adumbrated in his writings.
During the symposium’s discussion segment, I submitted in writing, as required by the moderator Hodding Carter Jr., a question in response to what Bernstein and others had referred to as “historical cleansing.” This amounted to a criticism of conservatives for pressuring the Smithsonian to drastically alter the controversial exhibition. In my note I asked Bernstein why he was not equally outraged at the pressures exerted on campuses, like that of Stanford, to drown out the voices of conservatives.
Bernstein became agitated, vigorously denying anything of the sort went on at Stanford. I left my seat in anger and of all people, Edward Teller, bushy eyebrows and all, rose, arthritically, to denounce me for threatening Bernstein. He said he was regularly shouted down on college campuses for his conservative views and he didn’t want to see the same thing happen to Bernstein. I sat back down as the C-Span cameras began to hover about.
I admit part of my anger at Bernstein stemmed from the fact that he was an icon at Stanford while I was dwelling among the academic bottom feeders. I also was mad at Bird and the handful of Trinity professors in the audience, conspicuous by their frequent applause of Bird and Bernstein. And the presence of the surviving POWs didn’t help. After reading Bernstein’s writing, however, I’m inclined to cut him some slack as he tends to come across more as an honest broker in this whole business.
What is clear in much of this historiography is the enormous chasm that yawns between the military historians and their more academic brethren.63 If one can assume no bomb was available, much then rides--for both sides--on whether or not the invasion was a certainty. It’s simply hard to buy into the notion that it only was a mere chimera. The Japanese thought it was real and they welcomed it. American service personnel in those troop ships thought it was inevitable.
As to the casualty debate, after a while it becomes rather numbing and mindful of angels dancing on heads of pins. Would Americans have died in the interim waiting out the Japanese decision to quit? Would many Japanese have died? Surely the answer is yes in both cases! I am equally unimpressed by the testimonials set forth by the revisionists regarding members of the American military who spoke derogatorily about the use of the bomb. For every Leahy or Eisenhower, who, after the fact, viewed it as both unnecessary and abominable, there was a Halsey or a Kruegar who thought it was a gift from the gods!
Was unconditional surrender a major problem? Surely, it was! But one is invited to recall the l9l8 armistice that allowed the Germans to construct their famed “stab-in-the-back” mythology, eventually opening Germany to the strident demagoguery of Hitler and company. Could not such a thing have occurred in post-war Japan? And does not Bix’s revelations regarding Hirohito trump the opinions of Alperovitz and Sherwin when it comes to an early peace?
In reading the revisionists, except for cryptic peace overtures emanating from a handful of neutral embassies, one struggles to find Japanese documents that support their position. And sad to say, absent the bomb, they remain mute when it comes to predicting the fate of European and American POWs, not to mention the countless Asian slave laborers. Revisionists’ moral feelings for the innocent and defenseless seem sadly selective.
Other than disclosing, and properly so, the extreme efforts made to defend Truman’s decision, the revisionists are most definitely on the mark when raising the issue of “atomic diplomacy.” Not in toto as the only reason for dropping the bomb but surely it played a considerably significant role in nudging Truman’s mind. Gregg Herkin in a book dedicated to the impact the bomb eventually had on the Cold War perhaps said it best:
Responsible traditional as well as revisionist accounts of the decision…now recognize that the act had behind it both an immediate military rational regarding Japan and a possible diplomatic advantage concerning Russia. Apart, these two considerations reinforced the already existing inclination of Truman and most of his advisors to use the weapon. Together, their effect was compelling to that decision.64
1 Unhappily, I have lost the Chronicle clipping and copy of my letter!
3 Most of my knowledge regarding the Smithsonian confrontation came from some six bound volumes of newspapers and magazines clippings gathered by the Air Force Association. The citations I make from this material do not include page numbers because the volumes did not do so.
4 Murray Sayle, “Did the Bomb End the War?” The New Yorker (July 31, l995), 40-65.
5 John Hersey, Hiroshima (New York, 1947). Hersey’s slender volume profiled the observations of some six survivors including an aging German priest and a Japanese physician.
6 Ken Ringle, “History Through a Mushroom Cloud,” (The Washiington Post, July 27, 1995); John Leo, “The National Museums of PC” (U.S. News & World Report, October 10, 1994), 21, as provided by the 1994 and 1995 Air Force Association volumes.
7 Barton F. Bernstein “The Atomic Bombings Reconsidered,” (Foreign Affairs, Jan.Feb, 1995), 135-153; Gar Alperovitz “Hiroshima: Historians Reassess,” (Foreign Policy, Summer, 1995), 15-35.
8 From author’s personal files.
9 Paul Fussell, Thank God For The Atom Bomb And Other Essays (New York, 1988), 13-37.
10 George MacDonald Fraser, Quartered Safe Out Here: A Recollection of the War in Burma (London, 1992), 218-220.
11 Gavan Daws Prisoners of the Japanese: POWs of World War II in the Pacific (New York, 1994) 301-360.
12 Rhodes, Making, 635-637; 765-766.
13 Henry Stimson, “Why We Used the Atomic Bomb,” Harpers (February, 1947).
14 Herbert Feis, The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II (Princeton, 1966), 190-202.
15 John Skates, The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb (Columbia, 1994), 48, 56, 234-257.
16 Thomas B. Allen & Norman Polmar, Code Name: Downfall: The Secret Plan to Invade Japan—And Why Truman Dropped the Bomb (New York, 1995), 194, 216, 291-294.
17 Bruce Lee, Marching Orders: The Untold Story of World War II (New York, 1995), 488-491.
18 Allen & Polmar, Code Name, 292.
19 Robert James Maddox Weapons for Victory: The Hiroshima Decision Fifty Years Later ( Columbia, 1995), 6-8; l4-19; 49-53.
20 Herbert P. Bix, Hirohito And The Making of Modern Japan (New York, 2000), 520.
21 Maddox, Weapons, 146-164.
22 Ibid., 49.
23 Ibid., 154.
25 Richard B. Frank, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire (New York, 1999), 344.
26 Ibid., 346.
27 Ibid., 347.
28 Ibid., 106-107.
29 Edward J. Drea, MacArthur’s ULTRA: Codebreaking and the War against Japan, 1942-1945 (Lawrence, 1992), 204.
30 Ibid., 210-211.
31 Ibid., 225.
32 William Appelman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (New York, 1962), 254.
34 Maddox famously challenged much of Tragedy’s interpretations of U.S. aims vis a vis Eastern Europe for playing fast and loose with his quotations of the documents. See Maddox, The New Left and the Origiins of the Cold War (Princeton, 1973), 13-37.
35 Noam Chomsky, “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” in Chomsky, American Power and the New Mandarins: Historical and Political Essays (New York, 1969), 323-324.
36 Gabriel Kolko, The Politics of War: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1943-1945 (New York, 1968), 566-567.
37 Ibid., 560-565.
38 Gar Alperovitz, Atomic Diplomacy, Hiroshima & Potsdam: The Use of the Atomic Bomb & the American Confrontation with Soviet Power (New York, 1985), 274-290.
39 Ibid., 251.
40 Barton J. Bernstein in Philip Nobile (ed.) Judgment at the Smithsonian: The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (New York, 1995), 162.
41 See Alperovitz’s Atomic above.
42 Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth (New York, 1995), 4-14; 18-30.
43 Ibid., 205-219.
44 Maddox, The New Left, 63-78.
45 Alperovitz, Decision, 6.
46 Bernstein, Judgment, 164-165.
47 Martin J. Sherwin, A World Destroyed: The Atomic Bomb and the Grand Alliance (New York, 1975), 7-9; 84.
48 Ibid., 212, 218.
49 Ibid., 212.
50 Bernstein, 173.
51 Robert Jay Lifton and Greg Mitchell, Hiroshima in America: Fifty Years of Denial (New York, 1995), xvi.
52 Ibid., 26, 117-167.
53 John W. Dower, War Without Mercy (New York, 1986), 118-146.
54 Ronald Takaki, Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb (Boston, 1995), 10, 71-80.
55 Ibid., 151.
56 Bernstein, Judgment, 178-185.
57 Ibid., 195-197.
63 Alperovitz in his piece in the Summer, 1995, edition of Foreign Policy had sweepingly proclaimed that the new “consensus among scholars” was that the bomb was unnecessary. Obviously it depends on whose “consensus” one is talking about. This reminds me of an archconservative who once told me she couldn’t understand why LBJ had won in 1964 because all her friends were voting for Goldwater!
64 Gregg Herken, The Winning Weapon: The Atomic Bomb in the Cold War, 1945-1950 (New York, 1980), 4.