A number of journalists covering the Enola Gay exhibit debate suggested the "politically correct," "revisionist" critique of President Truman's decision resulted from a generational and ideological gap. And at least two of them, Washington Post reporter Ken Ringle and columnist Edwin Yoder, specifically cited divisions over the Vietnam War as a major reason for questioning the decision to drop the bomb.
Such observations, however, ignore history. From the mid-1940s through the mid-1960s a number of prominent military officers and civilians questioned the necessity of the bomb. Military critics included Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, Adm. William Leahy, Truman's chief of staff, and Gen. "Hap" Arnold, commander of the Army Air Force. Among the civilian critics were Time magazine founder Henry Luce; David Lawrence, the staunchly conservative editor of United States News, now U.S. News & World Report; and Hanson Baldwin, the New York Times' leading military affairs analyst.
For example, in a 1948 speech Luce stated, "If, instead of our doctrine of 'unconditional surrender,' we had all along made our conditions clear, I have little doubt that the war with Japan would have ended no later than it did - without the bomb explosion which so jarred the Christian conscience."
In his 1950 book, "Great Mistakes of the War," Baldwin also suggested the bomb had been unnecessary. In 1958, William F. Buckley Jr.'s National Review twice questioned Truman's decision.
In 1965, Life magazine ran a highly positive review of historian Gar Alperovitz's "Atomic Diplomacy." The book, which has been called the first serious challenge to the idea that the only reason for dropping the atomic bomb was to quickly end the war, suggested that concern about postwar relations with the Soviet Union was the key factor.
Ten years later U.S. News & World Report ran one of the last examples of a critique by the news media. The magazine reprinted …