Apparently, Gregg Herken (“Five Myths About the Atomic Bomb,” CDT Thursday) has read only one book (a very bad one) in the past 20 years.
How else to account for his total ignorance of modern scholarship in his pathetic effort to “set the record straight” with regard to using atomic bombs against Japan at the end of WWII.
Here are four myths he seeks to fob off on his readers:
1. That Soviet entry into the war rather than atomic bombs caused Japan to surrender. He relies here on Tsuyosha Hasegawa’s error-ridden “Racing the Enemy.” The leading scholar on this subject, Sadao Asada, has shown conclusively that the bombs shocked Japan into surrender. The Japanese had been aware for months that Soviets were amassing troops and tanks along the Manchurian border. Their declaration of war was dismaying but came as no shock.
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2. That President Harry Truman’s claim that the bombs saved 500,000 lives was no more than a postwar creation designed to justify using them. Actual estimates, according to Herken, amounted to only 40,000 deaths. D. M. Giangreco, in “Hell to Pay” and elsewhere, has shown that the 500,000 figure and even higher ones were commonly used by military planners during the war. And Edward J. Drea’s “MacArthur’s Ultra” discredits the mid-June 1945 estimate of 40,000 deaths. Since that time the Japanese had poured tens of thousands of troops into Kyushu where they had correctly guessed the initial landings would take place. Herken seems blissfully unaware that his figure has been discredited for years.
3. Herken states that one alternative Truman had but ignored was to stage a demonstration rather than use the bombs against cities. He contradicts himself. First he writes that Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not cause the Japanese to surrender but then claims that a demonstration would have done so.
4. He suggests that the Japanese might have surrendered if only Truman had informed them that they could retain their sacred emperor. Actually, such a gesture would have played directly into the hands of the hardliners who argued that the longer Japan held out the more concessions the Americans would offer. These hardliners professed to welcome an invasion of the home islands.