Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Hiroshima Revisited. (Foreign Policy & Defense)

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Hiroshima Revisited. (Foreign Policy & Defense)

Article excerpt

"'A Score of Bloody Okinawas and Iwo Jimas': President Truman and Casualty Estimates for the Invasion of Japan" by D. M. Giangreco, in Pacific Historical Review (Feb. 2003), 487 Cramer Hall, Portland State Univ., Portland, Ore. 97207-0751.

Is an end finally in sight to the controversy over the motivation behind President Harry Truman's decision to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in August 1945?

Looking back on that fateful decision, Truman said he had been advised that an invasion of Japan might mean up to one million Americans dead or wounded. Revisionist historians have scornfully dismissed that and similar statements as ex post facto rationalizations, unsupported by archival evidence. They charge that Truman's decision was based on a combination of racism and crass strategic calculation--an assertion that caused a national controversy in 1995 when curators at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum planned to incorporate it into a special exhibit on the Enola Gay. But a wealth of documentary evidence supporting Truman's assertion has recently been discovered at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, reports Giangreco, an editor at Military Review.

It's long been known that former president Herbert Hoover wrote a memo for Truman in May 1945, based on secret Pentagon briefings, warning that an invasion could result in 500,000 to one million American deaths. Those figures implied total casualties of two to five million. Historian Barton J. Bernstein has maintained that there's no proof Truman ever saw the memo. …

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