Blogs > Cliopatria > Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism, edited by Robert James Maddox

Jul 10, 2007 2:57 pm

Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism, edited by Robert James Maddox

[From the Publisher]

When President Harry Truman authorized the use of atomic weapons against Japan, he did so to end a bloody war that would have been bloodier still had the planned invasion of Japan proved necessary. Revisionists claim that Truman’s real interest was a power play with the Soviet Union and that the Japanese would have surrendered even earlier had the retention of their imperial system been assured. Truman wanted the war to continue, they insist, in order to show off America’s powerful new weapon. This anthology exposes revisionist fallacies about Truman’s motives, the cost of an invasion, and the question of Japan’s surrender. Essays by prominent military and diplomatic historians reveal the hollowness of revisionist claims, exposing the degree to which these agendadriven scholars have manipulated the historical record to support their contentions.

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Patrick Murray - 2/8/2008

Magic sources drawn from Japanese diplomatic codes were made public immediately after World War II and reveal low level Japanese messages regarding Moscow as a possible intermediary vis-a-vis the US. Ultra sources, drawn from Japanese military decrypts, were not released until the 1990's and first used by Ed Drea in his MacArthur's Ultra. Ultra decrypts make all Magic decrypts obsolete, showing that the Japanese military and emperor had no intention of surrendering until the second week of August 1945 following Soviet declaration of war and two American atomic bombs. Students of the controversy must read Richard Frank's Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire.

Donald E. Staringer - 7/25/2007

In your previous review of this book you ask: Why another book on Hiroshima? Well, for one, the traditionalists find it unacceptable than many younger people do not accept the orthodox explanation of the events. Recent Gallup Polls have found that the general public approved the dropping of the bombs by 57% and disapproved by 38%,whereas 18to 44 year olds approve at 48% and disapprove by 46%.
The reviewer of RobertJames Maddox's
book notes five issues that have been used by the revisionists to undermine the traditional interpretation.
1.Intercepted diplomatic messages showed the Truman administration that the Japanese were sending out peace feelers that the revisionists believed could have facilitated surrender. At Potsdam, evidently Truman and Byrnes were the only ones in the inner circle who opposed warning the Japanese that we had the bomb and or that we were willing to allow them to keep their emperor. The Potsdam Declaration demanded unconditional surrender even though some advisors felt the emperor was the only figure in Japan whose word would guarantee a complete surrender. Evidently, Maddox chose not to examine these complexities.
2.Traditionalists refuse to accept arguments that Truman may have hoped to delay Soviet entry in the Pacific War. He delayed the opening of the Potsdam Conference to give the bomb makers more time. He told Stalin he had economic and budget problems of great import. At Potsdam he learned Stalin needed until August 15th to begin his Pacific War and that Trinity had been successful. With the bomb on his hip, as Stimson said, Truman gained the time, he thought, to use the bomb to end the war without Soviet help. If he welcomed the Soviet entrance, as Kimball suggests, why didn't he wait until after August 15th to see the Japanese response? The invasion date had been set for November 1st so he had plenty of time. As we learned in Korea, Vietnam and now Iraq, we can wait out the enemy for a propitous time to end a conflict, protracted as it might be.
3.The arugument over the number of casualties as the result of a possible invasion evidently is settled since the military had 500,000 medals struck???? Traditionalists rarely relate that Marshall had ordered 7 to 9 atomic bombs to be ready for the invasion.
4. The brouhaha over the Smithsonian exhibition of the Enola Gay was an example of "unqualified inhouse" staffers making a poor exhibit. This despite an Exhibition Advisory Board that included A-bomb scholars such as Barton Bernstein, Martin Sherwin, Richard Rhodes and others. Maybe traditionalists did not want the general public to view scenes and interpretations that contradicted their view of truth.
5.Lastly, Kimball attacks the analysis of the US Strategic Bombing Survey that questioned the necessity of dropping the bomb. He believes that Paul Nitze "cooked" the survey to support his preconcieved views but disregards work of the Survey in analyzing the effect of bombing in Germany.
In any event, the interpretation of the facts surrounding Hiroshima will always be illusive and the controversies will continue, but, of course, the reviewing and revision of accepted truths will always be challenged.

Donald E. Staringer - 7/17/2007

what happened to my comment sent in yesterday?