News Release

60 Years After the Decision to Use the Atom Bomb


Alperovitz is the author of The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb. He said today: “New research into Japanese decision-making now suggests that the atomic bomb played only a secondary role in Japan’s surrender. … Studies by historians Tsuyoshi Hasegawa and Pulitzer Prize winner Herbert Bix tie in with long-established evidence suggesting that months before the bombings, top American and British policy makers were aware that a declaration of war by the Soviet Union combined with assurances for the Japanese emperor would likely end the war. However, they preferred to use the atomic bomb for political reasons, many scholars believe. Most American military leaders criticized the bombing publicly after the war — including General (later President) Dwight D. Eisenhower, President Truman’s chief of staff Admiral William D. Leahy, and even the well-known ‘hawk,’ General Curtis LeMay.”
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Author of the book Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan, Hasegawa said today: “Contrary to the conventional American thought, the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not have the most decisive impact on Japan’s decision to surrender. Truman and Stalin were in intense competition. Truman wanted to force Japan to surrender by dropping the atomic bombs before the Soviets entered the war [against Japan]. Stalin wanted to join the war before Japan surrendered. Prior to the atomic bombing on Hiroshima, in order to avoid unconditional surrender, Japan was trying to terminate the war through Moscow’s mediation. The Hiroshima bomb did not change this policy. To Truman’s disappointment, however, taking advantage of Japan’s reliance on Moscow, after the Hiroshima bomb, Stalin advanced the date of attack on Japan, and managed to join the war in the nick of time. Only when the Soviets entered the war, did the Japanese Emperor decide to surrender by accepting the Potsdam Declaration.”
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Director of the Los Alamos Study Group, Mello said today: “No matter what one’s issue may be — health care, poverty, education, or whatever — no serious progress can be made while we as a society embrace weapons of mass destruction. … We, especially those of us in New Mexico, must embrace nuclear disarmament or we will remain trapped in a spiral of violence to which we ourselves are a primary contributor.”
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Krieger is the president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He said today: “The obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki six decades ago provided the world with its first look at a technology that could destroy countries, end civilization, and foreclose a human future. The U.S. and Russia each continue to maintain more than 2,000 nuclear warheads on hair-trigger alert, ready to be fired in moments. It is certain that nuclear weapons cannot defend against nuclear weapons; nor can missile defenses.”
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[For more background, see the Aug. 1 edition of Time magazine featuring an article titled “Crossing the Moral Threshold” by David M. Kennedy, professor of history at Stanford University. Kennedy wrote: “[Secretary of War Henry] Stimson appointed the so-called Interim Committee on May 1, 1945, to give advice on the [atom] bomb’s use against Japan. Scholars have probed the record of the committee’s month-long existence in vain for evidence of the kind of deliberative decision-making process that the resort to nuclear weaponry might seem to have warranted. Stimson asked the committee primarily for recommendations about how, not whether, to use the new weapon. Members spent only about 10 minutes of a lunch break discussing a possible demonstration of the bomb’s effect in an unpopulated area. No other alternatives were brought forward. Without qualifications, the committee recommended ‘that the bomb should be used against Japan as soon as possible.'”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167