The literature on the use of the atomic bomb is enormous, and overa period of four decades it has produced bitter and highly polarized controversy. For historiographical surveys of scholarly writing on the subject, see Barton J. Bernstein, “The Atomic Bomb and American Foreign Policy, 1941–1945: An Historiographical Controversy,” Peace and Change 2 (Spring 1974): 1–16; Barton J. Bernstein, “The Struggle over History: Defining the Hiroshima Narrative,” in Judgment at the Smithsonian: The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ed. Philip Nobile (New York: Marlowe, 1995), 127–256; J. Samuel Walker, “The Decision to Use the Bomb: A Historiographical Update,” in Hiroshima in History and Memory, ed. Michael J. Hogan (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 11–37 [the original version of this article appeared in Diplomatic History 14 (Winter 1990): 97–114]; and J. Samuel Walker, “Recent Literature on Truman’s Atomic Bomb Decision: A Search for Middle Ground,” Diplomatic History, forthcoming 2005.
The traditional view of Truman’s decision argues that he faced a choice between using the bomb and ordering an invasion of Japan that would have cost hundreds of thousands of American lives. For recent examples of this interpretation, see Robert H. Ferrell, Harry S. Truman: A Life (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1994); Robert James Maddox, Weapons for Victory: The Hiroshima Decision Fifty Years Later (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1995); Robert P. Newman, Truman and the Hiroshima Cult (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1995); Thomas B. Allen and Norman Polmar, CodeName Downfall: The Secret Plan to Invade Japan and Why Truman Dropped the Bomb