Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism

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Robert James Maddox
University of Missouri Press, 2007 - History - 213 pages

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 agenda-driven scholars have manipulated the historical record to support their contentions. They show that, although some Japanese businessmen and minor officials indicated a willingness to negotiate peace, no one in a governmental decision-making capacity even suggested surrender. And although casualty estimates for an invasion vary considerably, the more authoritative approximations point to the very bloodbath that Truman sought to avoid.

Volume editor Robert Maddox first examines the writings of revisionist Gar Alperovitz to expose the unscholarly methods Alperovitz employed to support his claims, then distinguished Japanese historian Sadao Asada reveals how difficult it was for his country's peace faction to prevail even after the bombs had been dropped. Other contributors point to continuing Japanese military buildups, analyze the revisionists' low casualty estimates for an invasion, reveal manipulations of the Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946, and show how even the exhibit commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum hewed to the revisionist line. And a close reading of Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's acclaimed Racing the Enemy exposes many grave discrepancies between that recent revisionist text and its sources.

The use of atomic bombs against Japan remains one of the most controversial issues in American history. Gathered in a single volume for the first time, these insightful readings take a major step toward settling that controversy by showing how insubstantial Hiroshima revisionism really is--and that sometimes history cannot proceed without decisive action, however regrettable.


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The review below does not do justice to this book. It contains numerous articles -- published previously in peer-reviewed journal -- that engage with revisionist accounts of the atomic bomb and do so on strong empirical grounds. The articles by Asada and Giangreco are particularly important contributions to this most contentious of debates. Five stars and full marks.  


ROBERT JAMES MADDOX Gar Alperovitz Godfather of Hiroshima Revisionism
SADAO ASADA The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan s Decision to Surrender A Reconsideration
EDWARD JDREA Intelligence Forecasting for the Invasion of Japan Previews of Hell
DMGIANGRECO A Score of Bloody Okinawas and Iwo Jimas President Truman and Casualty Estimates for the Invasion of Japan
GIAN PERI GENTILE Advocacy or Assessment? The United States Strategic Bombing Survey of Germany and Japan
ROBERT PNEWMAN Hiroshima and the Trashing of Henry Stimson
ROBERT PNEWMAN Enola Gay at Air and Space AnonymityHypocrisyIgnorance
MICHAEL KORT Racing the Enemy A Critical Look
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Page 15 - It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons....

About the author (2007)

Robert James Maddox is Professor Emeritus of History at PennsylvaniaStateUniversity. His other books include Weapons for Victory: The Hiroshima Decision (University of Missouri Press) and The United States and World War II. He lives in State College, Pennsylvania.

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