Racing Towards The Abyss: The U.S. Atomic Bombing of Japan

By: David Cromwell


One of the major events of the twentieth century, with reverberations that reach today, is the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan in 1945. Before the bomb was used, the top officials who led the Manhattan Project told U.S. president Harry S. Truman:

“The world in its present state of moral advancement compared with its technical development would be eventually at the mercy of such a weapon. In other words, modern civilization might be completely destroyed.”[1]

Many people, and I concur, believe that the moral ‘justification’ of using the atomic bomb in World War II, and the threatened use of nuclear weapons in succeeding decades, has no basis in civilised society. But what about the conventional argument that the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan did, nonetheless, bring about the end of the war? This essay examines critically that view.

The first of the bombs was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and the second on Nagasaki three days later. Soviet armed forces invaded Japanese-occupied Manchuria on August 8. On August 15, Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender of Japan in a radio address to the nation.

Broadly speaking, there are three different schools of thought as to why the U.S. government used the bomb. We may refer to these as the orthodox, the revisionist, and the neo-orthodox or anti-revisionist schools.

Orthodox historians argue that dropping the atomic bombs was necessary and justified because this led directly to Japan’s surrender, thus saving millions of American and Japanese lives that would have been otherwise lost during the U.S. invasion of Japan, planned to begin on November 1, 1945. Revisionists disagree: the bombing was neither necessary nor justified, they say; Japan had already been comprehensively defeated. Some revisionists even argue that the United States used the bombs to intimidate the Soviet Union.

In recent years, anti-revisionists have challenged the revisionist view and argued, as did the original orthodox historians, that the bomb was used to end the Pacific War by directly prompting Japan’s surrender. They contend that the Soviet entry into the war against Japan played a minor role in surrender, and certainly less than the decisive ‘shock’ factor of the bombs.

The above is necessarily a sketchy summary but captures the essence of divergent views on the end of the Pacific War. In what follows I intend to show that while there continues to be vibrant, sometimes heated, debate among historians, the revisionist view most closely accords with the evidence.

Racing The Enemy

Western historians debating the reasons for the end of the war have focused heavily on the U.S. ‘decision’ to drop the atomic bomb.[2] But there has been relatively little attention devoted to the deliberations among the Japanese wartime ruling elite which led to surrender. Even less has been known about Soviet decision-making and the Soviet entry into the Pacific War against Japan.

A stumbling block until recently has been that no historian has been sufficiently fluent in English, Japanese and Russian to investigate the primary archival material – including internal government documents, military reports and intelligence intercepts – in all three languages. This partly explains why historical debate in the West has been so focused on the Truman administration’s motives and policy-making: this, after all, could be pursued on the basis of English-language material. For example, in 1965, ‘revisionist’ historian Gar Alperovitz published an influential book, ‘Atomic Diplomacy’, in which he argued that use of the atomic bombs was militarily unnecessary and was intended as a show of U.S. strength against Soviet power. There has been furious debate about this for several decades.[3]

In 2005, Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, professor of history at the University of California at Santa Barbara, published a landmark study, ‘Racing The Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan.’[4] Hasegawa, born and raised in Japan but now a U.S. citizen, appraised seriously the trilateral wartime relationships between the United States, the Soviet Union and Japan. His study has been critically acclaimed and has generated considerable scholarly, as well as journalistic, debate. Barton Bernstein, professor of history at Stanford University and one of the world’s foremost commentators on A-bomb issues, warmly praised the book as “formidable”, “a major volume in international history” and “a truly impressive accomplishment, meriting prizes and accolades.”[5] The book has also delivered a huge jolt to anti-revisionists.

So why the title, ‘Racing the Enemy’? At Potsdam, the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had given Truman a date for the Soviet attack on Japan – August 15, 1945. If the U.S. was to force Japan to surrender without Soviet help, and thus avoid making any geostrategic concessions to its ostensible ally, it would have to do so before that date. Hasegawa takes up the story:

“The only remaining factor was the atomic bomb. Contrary to historians’ claim that Truman had no intention to use the atomic bomb as a diplomatic weapon against the Soviet Union, it is hard to ignore the fact that the Soviets figured into Truman’s calculations. The date for the Soviet attack made it all the more imperative for the United States to drop the bomb in the beginning of August, before the Soviets entered the war. The race between Soviet entry into the war and the atomic bomb now reached its climax.”[6]

Hasegawa’s diligent research has strengthened the revisionist challenge to the orthodox view that the atomic bombs delivered decisive blows to Japan’s will to fight, and resulted in surrender. He cautions:

“Americans still cling to the myth that the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki provided the knockout punch to the Japanese government. The decision to use the bomb saved not only American soldiers but also the Japanese, according to this narrative. The myth serves to justify Truman’s decision and ease the collective American conscience.”

Hasegawa shows that “this myth cannot be supported by historical facts. Evidence makes clear that there were alternatives to the use of the bomb, alternatives that the Truman administration for reasons of its own declined to pursue.”[7]

The Potsdam Proclamation

In order to more fully understand the nature of the ‘race’[8] between the Soviet Union to enter the Pacific war and the American use of the atomic bomb, we need to go back to the Potsdam Proclamation issued by the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom and China [9] on July 26, 1945. This set out the terms for “the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces.” If the terms were not met, Japan would be faced with “prompt and utter destruction.”

Hasegawa, and other historians, argue that Truman was deeply worried that Stalin would shortly enter the war in the Pacific region against Japan and make important strategic gains in Asia, thus posing a threat to U.S. interests. How could the U.S. force Japan’s surrender before the Soviets made such gains? The atomic bomb provided a solution to the dilemma that confronted Truman. To trigger Japan’s unconditional surrender before the Soviet Union could enter the Pacific war, argues Hasegawa, Truman issued the Potsdam Proclamation. This was intended not as a warning to Japan, but to justify the use of the atomic bomb.

The standard history, believed widely in the West, is that Japan’s rejection of the Potsdam Proclamation led to the U.S. decision to drop the bomb. Hasegawa notes bluntly that this myth, too, “cannot be supported by the facts.”[10] Truman wrote that he issued the order to drop the bomb after Japan rejected the Proclamation. The truth is quite the opposite, however: the order to drop the atomic bomb was given to General Carl Spaatz, commander of the U.S. Army Strategic Air Forces, on the morning of July 25. The Proclamation was not issued until the evening of July 26. Japan’s supposed rejection of the Potsdam Proclamation was required to justify the dropping of the bomb.[11]

Although Japan had not yet agreed to surrender, its rulers had already seen defeat staring it in the face as early as February 1945. In a careful account of events leading up to the atomic bombing, historian Peter Kuznick cites the Pacific Strategic Intelligence Summary for the week of the Potsdam meeting:

“[I]t may be said that Japan now, officially if not publicly, recognizes her defeat. Abandoning as unobtainable the long-cherished goal of victory, she has turned to the twin aims of (a) reconciling national pride with defeat, and (b) finding the best means of salvaging the wreckage of her ambitions.” [12]

Colonel Charles Bonesteel, chief of the War Department Operations Division Policy Section, recalled: “the poor damn Japanese were putting feelers out by the ton so to speak, through Russia.”[13] Allen Dulles of the Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the CIA) briefed Henry Stimson, the U.S. Secretary of War, at Potsdam. He wrote:

“On July 20, 1945, under instructions from Washington, I went to the Potsdam Conference and reported there to Secretary Stimson on what I had learned from Tokyo–they desired to surrender if they could retain the Emperor and the constitution as a basis for maintaining discipline and order in Japan after the devastating news of surrender became known to the Japanese people.”[14]

It is important to recall that the Japanese people revered the Emperor as a living god. He stood at the pinnacle of power: political, legislative, executive, cultural, religious and military. Indeed, the Emperor embodied the very essence of Japan. Hence his fundamental importance, for the Japanese, to the surrender terms.

President Truman and Secretary of State James Byrnes, one of Truman’s most trusted advisors, must have known that Japan was putting out feelers to end the war. This can be seen in Truman’s July 18, 1945 diary entry referring to “the telegram from the Jap Emperor asking [the Soviets to mediate] for peace.” There is also the August 3 diary entry by Walter Brown, Byrnes’s assistant, who noted, “Aboard Augusta/ President, Leahy, JFB [Byrnes] agrred [sic] Japas [sic] looking for peace.”[15]

Byrnes publicly admitted this when he spoke to the press shortly after the end of the war. The New York Times reported on August 29, 1945 that Byrnes “cited what he called Russian proof that the Japanese knew that they were beaten before the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.”[16] Kuznick notes that similar comments were made by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy and Secretary of War Stimson, showing how widespread was this realization. Kuznick adds:

“But, at Potsdam, when Stimson tried to persuade Truman to alter his approach and provide assurances on the emperor in the Potsdam Proclamation, Truman told his elderly Secretary of War that, if he did not like the way things were going, he could pack his bags and return home.”[17]

In short, as Hasegawa says:

“Justifying Hiroshima and Nagasaki by making a historically unsustainable argument that the atomic bombs ended the war is no longer tenable.”[18]

Crucial Questions Left Unanswered

Here in the UK, Oliver Kamm, a blogger and occasional newspaper columnist, has written about the above issues from an anti-revisionist perspective. In a Guardian comment piece on the 62nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, he claimed that “New historical research […] lends powerful support to the traditionalist interpretation of the decision to drop the bomb.” While acknowledging the terrible nature of the bombing, he claimed that there is “a high degree of probability that abjuring the bomb would have caused greater suffering still.”[19] This, to say the least, is a highly contentious assertion.[20]

Kamm has written at length about the end of the Pacific war in his blog, citing anti-revisionist historians such as Robert Maddox, Robert Newman, Sadao Asada and D. M. Giangreco.[21] Giangreco is a military historian based at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He is an advocate of the “high-estimate casualties” thesis: the argument that hundreds of thousands, perhaps more than a million, U.S. lives would have been lost in Operation Olympic, the invasion of Japan that was scheduled for November 1, 1945. Kamm adheres to the orthodox/anti-revisionist script that the two atomic bombs were necessary to bring about Japan’s surrender, citing a Japanese historian at Doshisho University in Kyoto:

“Sadao Asada has shown from primary sources that the dropping of both bombs was crucial in strengthening the position of those within the Japanese Government who wished to sue for peace.”

I contacted Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, author of ‘Racing the Enemy’, and pointed out the above arguments. Referring to several anti-revisionist historians, and to Kamm, Hasegawa responded:

“I am familiar with the criticisms raised by Giangreco, Asada, Newman, and Kamm. I would also add Michael Kort in the same category. Their line of arguments are very similar.”

Not only are they similar, but they have been refuted by serious historians including Bernstein, Alperovitz and Hasegawa himself. Significantly, Hasegawa notes that Giangreco, Newman, Kamm and Kort do not read Japanese, and therefore have to “rely exclusively on Asada to make their judgement on the crucial question: how the atomic bombings and the Soviet entry influence[d] the Japanese decision to surrender.”[22]

As we have seen, Hasegawa addressed this question rigorously in ‘Racing the Enemy’ and demonstrated from archival sources that the Soviet entry had the larger, indeed, decisive shock impact on Japan’s leaders. In ‘The End of the Pacific War: Reappraisals’, published in 2007 and edited by Hasegawa, he marshals further evidence for his argument in an incisive chapter that includes further powerful analysis of Japanese-language documents, and rebuts Sadao Asada comprehensively.

Hasegawa notes, for example, that telegrams between Foreign Minister Togo and the Japanese ambassador Sato in the Soviet Union show that Japan was clinging to the hope that the termination of the war was possible and desirable through Moscow’s mediation. The Soviet Union and Japan had signed a Neutrality Pact in 1941 which Japan hoped to utilise to bring about favourable terms to end the war. This was the position that Togo had adhered to since the Allies had issued the Potsdam Proclamation on July 26, 1945. The Hiroshima bomb on August 6 did not change this policy, as is clear from Japanese archival documents. Indeed, from these primary sources, Hasegawa has shown that the Japanese ruling elite pinned their hopes even more desperately on Moscow’s mediation after the Hiroshima bomb.

Hasegawa has studied closely the original-language testimony of Japan’s military leaders, in particular, and presented numerous examples which reinforce the view that their shock at Soviet entry into the Pacific War was significantly more than when the atomic bombs were dropped. As the Japanese Army Ministry stated categorically shortly after the war:

“The Soviet participation in the war had the most direct impact on Japan’s decision to surrender.”[23]

Hasegawa notes that:

“Asada ignores all this overwhelming evidence that stresses the importance of the Soviet entry into the war.”[24]

Hasegawa concludes reasonably:

“My major criticisms to those who claim that Truman had no choice but to use the A-bomb in order to save lives is: If that is so, why did he consciously avoid two alternatives available to him that might have hastened Japan’s surrender: (1) to assure Soviet entry into the war; and (2) to revise the unconditional surrender demand in such a way to assure the retention of the emperor system? My critics do not answer these crucial questions.”[25]

“Deeply Flawed” Casualty Claims

The likely number of Allied, and Japanese, lives that would have been lost in the planned invasion of Japan can, of course, never be known with certainty. Moreover, any number would arguably be ‘too high’ and wholly regrettable. However, it is known that the predicted number of U.S. combat deaths in the planned invasion escalated enormously among pro-bomb commentators from the U.S. War Department’s 1945 prediction of 46,000 dead. In 1955, Truman insisted that General George Marshall feared losing a half million American lives. Secretary of War Stimson made a claim of over 1,000,000 casualties (dead, wounded and missing) in 1947. And, in 1991, President George H.W. Bush defended Truman’s “tough calculating decision, [which] spared millions of American lives.” In 1995, a crew member on Bock’s Car, the plane that bombed Nagasaki, asserted that the bombing saved six million lives – one million Americans and five million Japanese.[26]

Michael Kort, like D. M. Giangreco, is an advocate of the “high-estimate casualties” thesis. In 2003, Kort published a piece titled ‘Casualty Projections for the Invasion of Japan, Phantom Estimates, and the Math of Barton Bernstein’.[27] This was an attempted rebuttal of the work of Bernstein, mentioned above, whose careful study of the evidence had led him to reject projections of casualties at the high end of the scale favoured by orthodox and anti-revisionist historians. Bernstein responded [28] to Kort in a piece that, to quote Hasegawa, “completely demolishes” [29] the high-estimate claims of a million casualties or more.

Bernstein argued, with numerous examples, that anti-revisionist Kort: “relies upon strained readings, omission of crucial material, severely limited research, unfair and facile resolution of complicated matters, and invidious language and interpretations. He also mixes large issues with trivial ones and neglects relevant archival sources and much of the published work upon the casualty issue. Finally, he has serious problems with quoting accurately, revealing fundamental problems as a craftsman.”

Bernstein showed that Kort “often fails to delve deeply enough into issues”, displays “remarkable carelessness” and, in summary, has produced a “deeply flawed essay [that] seldom, if ever, meets the standards for serious, responsible academic discourse.”

In a separate article, Bernstein turned to Giangreco, the military historian already mentioned:

“For a deeply flawed recent article which strains in interpreting sources, makes dubious connections, uncritically and self-servingly uses post-Hiroshima recollections, briefly makes a factually incorrect claim for newness, and avoids some earlier contrary scholarship, see D. M. Giangreco, ‘ “A Score of Bloody Okinawas and Iwo Jimas”: President Truman and Casualty Estimates for the Invasion of Japan,’ Pacific Historical Review 72 (February 2003): 93-132.”[30]

This “deeply flawed” analysis by Giangreco is the very article upon which Kamm’s repeated assertion of projected high casualties relies so heavily.

Careful historians do not deny that Truman was concerned at the prospect of many U.S. lives being lost in an invasion of Japan, but the predicted numbers were far less than the inflated figures provided postwar to ‘justify’ the atomic bombings. Such figures, along with Japan’s “rejection” of the Potsdam Proclamation, form part of the conventional narrative that the atomic bombs were sadly necessary. But as Hasegawa observes astutely:

“Evidence makes clear that there were alternatives to the use of the bomb, alternatives that the Truman administration for reasons of its own declined to pursue. And it is here, in the evidence of roads not taken, that the question of moral responsibility comes to the fore. Until his death, Truman continually came back to this question and repeatedly justified his decision, inventing a fiction that he himself came to believe. That he spoke so often to justify his actions shows how much his decision to use the bomb haunted him.”[31]

What Compelled The Japanese Surrender?

The ‘United States Strategic Bombing Survey’, based on postwar interviews with hundreds of Japanese military and civilian leaders, concluded that Japan would have surrendered before November 1 – the date set for the U.S. invasion of Japan – without the atomic bombs and without Soviet entry into the war. For years, this conclusion underpinned the arguments of revisionist historians who stated that the atomic bombs were not necessary for Japan’s surrender.

However, some historians, notably Bart Bernstein, have argued that the survey’s conclusion is not supported by its own evidence. Bernstein has shown that the evidence is, in places, contradictory and cautions that the ‘Survey’ is “an unreliable guide.”[32] For example, Prince Konoe Fumimaro, Hirohito’s envoy to Moscow, had stated in his postwar interrogation that the war would probably have gone on throughout 1945 (i.e. beyond the anticipated U.S. invasion date of November 1) if the atomic bomb had not been dropped on Japan.

Although Bernstein concluded that Paul Nitze, author of the ‘Survey’, had been “far too optimistic about a pre-November surrender,” Bernstein sought to address Nitze’s counterfactual assertion that Japan would “certainly” have surrendered without the A-bombing, Soviet entrance into the war, or modified surrender terms allowing an emperor-as-figurehead system. The use of “certainly”, concluded Bernstein, was an exaggerated judgment. However, as Hasegawa has demonstrated, the Soviet entry into the Pacific war was a massive shock to Japanese leaders – Japan was still strenuously seeking Moscow’s help to bring about an end to the war.[33]

Given the huge impact of Soviet entry into the war, Bernstein’s view is that under heavy U.S. bombing and the Allied air-naval blockade that was strangling the country, it was “far more likely than not” that Japan would have surrendered before any invasion. Bernstein rues the serious “missed opportunity” to avoid the costly invasion of Japan without dropping the atomic bomb by awaiting Soviet entry into the war. [34]

Gar Alperovitz notes that “the issue of the accuracy of the Strategic Bombing Survey is quite secondary” to the decisive impact of the Soviet entry into the war.[35] Alperovitz, whose 1995 book, ‘The Decision to Use the Bomb’, extensively updated the revisionist arguments of his classic book thirty years earlier has, like Bernstein, welcomed Hasegawa’s groundbreaking research.

Asperovitz, in common with many other historians, is impressed by Hasegawa’s ability to draw diligently and exhaustively from primary archival sources in English, Japanese and Russian. For instance, one of the important subjects dealt with by Hasegawa is the Japanese intelligence communications which were intercepted and decoded by the Americans. As mentioned above, these so-called Magic intercepts revealed that leading Japanese figures, including Foreign Minister Togo, were contemplating the Potsdam Proclamation as the basis of surrender terms. Truman, Byrnes, and Stimson were likely “paying close attention to the Magic intercepts to see Japan’s reaction to the Proclamation.”

As Hasegawa observes of U.S. leaders:

“If they wanted Japan’s surrender at a minimal cost in American lives, if they wished to prevent Soviet entry into the war, and if they wanted to avoid the use of the atomic bomb, as they claimed in their postwar memoirs, why did they ignore the information obtained by the Magic intercepts? […] one cannot escape the conclusion that the United States rushed to drop the bomb without any attempt to explore the readiness of some Japanese policymakers to seek peace through the ultimatum.”[36] Truman, argues Hasegawa, “was bent on avenging the humiliation of Pearl Harbor by imposing on the enemy unconditional surrender.”[37]

Peter Kuznick notes that: “highlighting the decisive role of atomic bombs in the final victory […] served American propaganda needs by diminishing the significance of Soviet entry into the Pacific War, discounting the Soviet contribution to defeating Japan, and showcasing the super weapon that the United States alone possessed.”[38]

Based on careful analysis of Japanese archives, Hasegawa emphasises that although the Hiroshima bomb “heightened the sense of urgency to seek the termination of the war, [it] did not prompt the Japanese government to take any immediate action that repudiated the previous policy of seeking Moscow’s mediation.” Moreover, Hasegawa has found no evidence to show that the Hiroshima bomb led either Foreign Minister Togo or Emperor Hirohito to accept the Potsdam terms. In this respect, the effect of the second bomb on Nagasaki was “negligible.” Even the scarcely credible suggestion by Japan’s Army Minister Anami Korechika that “the United States had more than 100 atomic bombs and planned to bomb Tokyo next did not change the opinions of either the peace party or the war party at all.”[39]

The decisive event that changed the views of the Japanese ruling elite was the Soviet entry into the war. This “catapulted the Japanese government into taking immediate action. For the first time, it forced the government squarely to confront the issue of whether it should accept the Potsdam terms.”[40]

Hasegawa does not deny completely the effect of the atomic bomb on Japan’s policymakers. Koichi Kido, emperor Hirohito’s most trusted advisor, stated after the war that the atomic bomb helped to tip the balance in favour of those referred to as “the peace party” within the Japanese ruling elite. However, on the basis of the extensive archival evidence he has gathered and critically appraised, Hasegawa concludes that:

“It would be more accurate to say that the Soviet entry into the war, adding to that tipped scale, then completely toppled the scale itself.”[41]

The dropping of the atomic bombs, the Soviet entry into the Pacific War, and the ending of World War II, will doubtless generate endless historical research and debate. But the available evidence – in particular, the thoroughly scrutinised archival collections in English, Russian and Japanese – strongly suggests that the analysis of revisionist historians is the one best supported by the facts.

Finally, what really matters is the moral argument that there can be no justification for the use, or threatened use, of nuclear arms. Despite the topic’s near-disappearance from news agendas and contemporary debate, the threat of nuclear annihilation sadly remains. Humanity still stands at the edge of the abyss.


I would like to thank Gar Alperovitz, Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Peter Kuznick and Uday Mohan for their helpful comments.

References and Notes
[1] Memo to President Truman from Secretary of War Henry Stimson and Brigadier General Leslie Groves, April 25, 1945; cited in Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, ‘Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan’, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2005, p. 66.

[2] There is significant doubt as to whether a single identifiable formal U.S. ‘decision’ to use the atomic bomb was taken, rather than the momentum of the Manhattan Project and war itself leading almost inexorably towards the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Brigadier General Groves, the head of the Manhattan Project, described Truman as “a little boy on a toboggan,” the headlong rush carrying the president along until the bomb was dropped. (Cited in Peter J. Kuznick, ‘The decision to risk the future: Harry Truman, the Atomic Bomb and the Apocalyptic Narrative’, Japan Focus, July 23, 2007;

Historian Barton J. Bernstein writes that: “The reason careful historians cannot find records of a top-level A-bomb ‘decision’ is not because there was a fear by US policymakers and advisers of keeping records or mentioning the bomb (quite a few diaries of the time mention it, usually in now-easy-to decipher code), but, rather, because there was no need for an actual ‘decision’ meeting. Such a meeting would have been required if there had been a serious question about whether or not to use the bomb on Japan. No one at or near the top in the US government raised such a question; no one at the top objected before Hiroshima and Nagasaki to use of the weapon on the enemy.” (Bernstein, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews, Volume VII, No. 2 (2006), Tsuyoshi Hasegawa. ‘Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan,’ Review (Barton J. Bernstein, Stanford University), p. 15; roundtables/PDF/Bernstein-HasegawaRoundtable.pdf).

[3] For a careful review of the relevant historical literature, see Barton J. Bernstein, Chapter 1: ‘Introducing the Interpretative Problems of Japan’s 1945 Surrender’, in ‘The End of the Pacific War: Reappraisals’, edited by Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Stanford University Press, 2007.

[4] For a summary of the book and further details, see: The most comprehensive discussion to date on the issues raised by Hasegawa’s book, featuring exchanges with several critics, are to be found in the H-Diplo Book Roundtable Reviews session at

[5] Bernstein, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews, op. cit., pp. 1-2.

[6] Hasegawa, ‘Racing the Enemy’, p. 140.

[7] Ibid., pp. 298-299.

[8] Not all A-bomb historians, or even revisionist historians, subscribe to the ‘race’ framework for interpreting the evidence. Bernstein, notably, dissents from this view, at least as expressed in the H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews. See note 2 above for full reference.

[9] China was not invited to Potsdam, which was a meeting between the Big Three of the United States, the Soviet Union and the UK. However, the approval of Chiang Kai-shek, China’s Nationalist leader, was sought for the Potsdam Proclamation and his name, unlike Stalin’s, appears on the Proclamation. Truman flatly rejected Stalin’s request to add the Soviet leader’s name to the Proclamation after it had been issued. See Chapter 4 of ‘Racing the Enemy’ for further details.

[10] Hasegawa, ‘Racing the Enemy’, p. 152.

[11] I note “supposed” because there is an argument, given at greater length in ‘Racing the Enemy’, that Japan did not, in fact, reject the Proclamation. See, in particular, p. 211 of ‘Racing the Enemy’, where Hasegawa writes: “He [Kiichiro Hiranuma, chairman of the Privy Council], asked [Foreign Minister] Togo whether it was true as the Soviet declaration stated, that the Japanese government had formally rejected the Potsdam Proclamation. Togo said that it was not true. Baron Hiranuma asked: ‘What, then, is the basis for their claim that we rejected the Potsdam Proclamation?’ Togo simply replied: ‘They must have imagined that we did.’ ”, p. 211.

[12] Peter J. Kuznick, ‘The decision to risk the future: Harry Truman, the Atomic Bomb and the Apocalyptic Narrative’, Japan Focus, July 23, 2007;

[13] Ibid., cited.

[14] Ibid., cited.

[15] Ibid., cited.

[16] Ibid., cited.

[17] Ibid., cited.

[18] Hasegawa, ‘Racing the Enemy’, pp. 299-300.

[19] Oliver Kamm, ‘Terrible, but not a crime’, Guardian, August 6, 2007;,,2142224,00.html

[20] For a more careful and authoritative discussion, see Barton J. Bernstein, Chapter 1: ‘Introducing the Interpretative Problems of Japan’s 1945 Surrender’, p. 15, who argues that the likelihood goes the other way.

[21] ‘Media Lens once more’, October 17, 2007; blog/2006/10/media_lens_once.html; ‘Media Lens vs. historical understanding’, December 13, 2006; blog/2006/12/media_lens_vs_h.html.

[22] Email from Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, December 5, 2007.

[23] Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, ‘The End of the Pacific War: Reappraisals’, Stanford University Press, 2007, p. 129. Chapter 4 of this book is a contribution by Hasegawa which is a comprehensive critique of anti-revisionist arguments made by Sadao Asada and Richard Frank, author of ‘Downfall’ (1999).

[24] Op. cit., p. 131.

[25] Email from Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, December 5, 2007.

[26] Kuznick, op. cit.

[27] Passport, Newsletter of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, December 2003;

[28] Barton Bernstein, ‘Marshall, Leahy, and Casualty Issues – A Reply to Kort’s Flawed Critique,’ Passport, SHAFR newsletter, August 2004,

[29] Email from Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, December 5, 2007.

[30] Barton Bernstein, ‘Reconsidering the “Atomic General”: Leslie R. Groves’, Journal of Military History 67 (July 2003): 883-920; footnote 46 on page 910.

[31] Hasegawa, ‘Racing the Enemy’, p. 299.

[32] Barton Bernstein, ‘Compelling Japan’s Surrender without the A-Bomb, Soviet Entry, or Invasion: Reconsidering the U.S. Bombing Survey’s Early-Surrender Conclusion,’ Journal of Strategic Studies, vol. 18, no. 2 (June 1995), pp. 101-148.

[33] Japan’s top military and civil leaders, the so-called ‘Big Six’, gambled heavily, and disastrously, on maintaining neutrality with the Soviet Union. Their reason for this policy was that Japan was “waging a life-or-death struggle against the United States and Britain.” Should the Soviets enter the war, it would “deal a death blow to the Empire.” (‘Racing the Enemy’, Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, pp. 71-72).

[34] Bernstein, cited in Hasegawa, ‘Racing the Enemy’, p. 295.

[35] Email from Gar Alperovitz, December 5, 2007.

[36] Hasegawa, ‘Racing the Enemy’, pp. 172- 173.

[37] Ibid., p. 99.

[38] Kuznick, op. cit.

[39] Hasegawa, in ‘The End of the Pacific War: Reappraisals’, p. 144.

[40] Ibid., p. 144.

[41] Ibid. p. 144.