678 RhetoRic & Public AffAiRs
Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism. Edited by Robert James
Maddox. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2007; pp.vi + 215. $34.95.
Recent obituaries have marked the passing of two figures prominent in nuclear
history. One was General Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay that delivered
the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. The other was Dr.
Randall Forsberg, the political scientist and activist who championed a move-
ment during the early 1980s to “Freeze” nuclear weapons production by the
U.S. and Soviet governments. It is one sign of our nuclear culture that Tibbets’s
death was prominently covered by the news media, whereas Forsberg’s death
received less attention.
It is worth remembering these two figures, and that discrepancy, as one reads
this volume, which advances a long and bitter conflict surrounding the atomic
bombing decisions. This conflict commenced shortly after the bombings and
involves disagreements about the accuracy of accounts about that decision, and
the rhetoric of this conflict typically pivots around two narratives of this his-
tory. In its base form, the official account holds that the bombings were neces-
sary to end the war, and “saved” both American and Japanese lives that would
otherwise have been lost in an invasion of the Japanese mainland (code-named
“Olympic”). Alternately, the revisionist narrative holds that the bombings were
not militarily necessary to end the war, and that they were motivated by the
goals of inhibiting Soviet entry into the Pacific campaign and of influencing
postwar foreign policy.
This volume depicts the conflict about the decisions to drop the atomic
bomb within the genre of historiography. Its authors demonstrate how revi-
sionist influence has waned following recent release of studies using interna-
tional archives and declassified military intelligence.
Editor Maddox’s “Introduction” sets the volume’s pugnacious tone: “Never
before has such a monstrous charge—that tens of thousands of people were
callously incinerated for no better reason than to gain diplomatic advantage—
been supported by such flimsy evidence” (1). Revisionists have been unable to
produce, he argues, sufficient contemporary evidence demonstrating that the
Japanese government was prepared to surrender before the atomic bombings.
He dismisses claims of failed negotiation opportunities and cites recent Japanese
historians who have demonstrated how difficult it was for the Japanese peace
faction to prevail over the m