The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb [NOOK Book]


Controversial in nature, this book demonstrates that the United States did not need to use the atomic bomb against Japan. Alperovitz criticizes one of the most hotly debated precursory events to the Cold War, an event that was largely responsible for the evolution of post-World War II American politics and culture.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb

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Controversial in nature, this book demonstrates that the United States did not need to use the atomic bomb against Japan. Alperovitz criticizes one of the most hotly debated precursory events to the Cold War, an event that was largely responsible for the evolution of post-World War II American politics and culture.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

The culmination of Alperovitz's longtime study of how the atomic bomb was used in war and diplomacy in the 1940s and '50s, this controversial book forcefully demonstrates that the United States did not need to use the atomic bomb against Japan. A major source for an ABC-TV documentary, hosted by Peter Jennings, scheduled to air in July 1995.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Historian Alperovitz argues that America's use of the atomic bomb on Japan was motivated by politics rather than by military necessity. (Aug.)
Library Journal
The president of the National Center for Economic Alternatives argues that against all advice President Truman was persuaded to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima by incoming Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, who saw the bomb as an important tool for dealing with the Soviets after the war.
Gilbert Taylor
lperovitz is the dean of revisionist scholars who argue that the nuclear bombing of Japan was unnecessary and that America bears a hefty responsibility for the cold war. Since he established his reputation in the mid-1960s, secret documents regarding the run-up to "Enola Gay"'s takeoff have come to light, which Alperovitz believes strengthen his case. His main and probably most controversial contention is that certain documents pertaining to the decision were doctored, some by none other than Truman himself. Further, Alperovitz sees James Byrnes, Truman's Mephistophelian secretary of state, as a furtive player who nixed such alternative plans as modifying the unconditional-surrender demand and encouraging a Russian declaration of war. What about the military leaders, many of whom expressed regrets about the wisdom of the decision, albeit post facto? Alperovitz presents documents that suggest their invasion plans were notional exercises, not realistic probabilities. But his point about their regrets opens the way to his major thesis: deceit by ex-officials, over the decades, has convinced the public that the bombings were justified. Formidably researched, this challenging landmark history may not automatically convert Alperovitz's revisionist views into the new orthodoxy, but they will be referred to for proof or refutation for years to come.
Alperovitz (president, Center for Economic Alternatives) examines the fateful decision of August 1945 and concludes that the US did not need to deploy the atomic bomb to win the war. He shows that Japan was close to surrender and reveals that Truman was advised of alternatives to the bomb by civilian and military advisors, pinning partial blame on incoming secretary of state James F. Byrnes, who was convinced the bomb would be an important diplomatic instrument in dealing with the Soviets. For general readers. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From Barnes & Noble
This comprehensive history argues that the bombing of Hiroshima was unnecessary, even as it probes the true intentions of the men who authorized it. "A massively detailed yet fascinating and readable work of scholarship."-- S.F. Chronicle.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307773128
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/29/2010
  • Series: Vintage
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 864
  • Sales rank: 481,410
  • File size: 3 MB

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2004

    The definative account of the decision to drop the bomb

    This sober account written by UMD professor Alperovitz is based on his life-long research on this topic and owes a great deal to some recently de-classified documents. The book proves beyond almost any doubt that President Truman (and especially Secretary of State Burns) dropped the atomic bomb mainly to intimidate the USSR and to show the world who the undisputed power was. Truman was concerned with the situation in Europe, post - WW2. The polemic offered as a reivew on this page was obviously offered by a writer who did not read the book. Had the previous reviewer read the book he would have known that Alperovitz does not offer any 'moral judgements' in fact he is overly restrained and does not condemn or otherwise judge Truman's decision, he simply lays out the facts (the book is heavy with quotations and the notes take up nearly 200 pages). Neither is it obvious that the, 'Japanese were putting up fanatical resistance' - Japan's food ration had been reduced to 1200 calories (LESS THAN IS NEEDED TO KEEP AN ADULT HUMAN BEING ALIVE) weeks before the bombing. The book is excruciatinglty researched, in fact it is the most thoroughly researched book that I have ever read. If you buy this book, there will be no need to ever read another book on the atomic bomb.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2003

    The Architecture of an American Myth, Indeed

    Even if this book were the only source of information available on the decision to drop the atomic bomb it would be hard to take seriously. By itself, pronouncing moral judgments on decisions made during the most destructive war in world history places one on shakey ground. Since these judgments are based on extreme distortions of fact and conjecture about what might have taken place if different decisions had been made, the shakey ground is akin to sitting on top of the San Andreas Fault. This book shockingly asks the reader to assume that World War II was in fact not taking place when the atomic bombs were dropped. The warped reasoning behind this assumption is that the Allies knew they had wond the war by this time and that the Japanese were attemting to negotiate a peace. This assumption might sound plausible, until you learn that the Japanese were putting up fanatical resistance that included, among other horrors, the use of kamikazes and an almost universal desire among Japanese troops to die rather than face the humiliation of surrender. Japanese peace feelers were in reality tentative attempts to enlist the Soviet Union's help in securing peace terms that could never be accepted by even the most eager American leader. True, the bombings might have been avoided if we had placed peace and the preservation of Japanese lives as our top war aims. But this speculation is no more plausible than assuming visitors from outer space are the original source of human civilization. Fear of Soviet expansion was the real reason the bombs were dropped, Alperovitz suggests. He certainly demonstrates that this concern figured into the decision, and possibly to an even greater degree than was admitted to by the officials involved. Looking at the state of affairs in North Korea today, which is a direct result of Soviet occupation at the end of the war, it's easy to see the foresight these leaders had in trying to prevent Soviet involvement in Asia. The list of distoritions and half-truths on display in this book is a long one. The following are just a few: MAGIC intercepts of Japanese peace feelers are detailed at length while highly contradictory ULTRA intercepts of the Japanese military's desire for a fight to the finish are never mentioned...the debate over assurances to the emperor is explained from the viewpoint of those who wanted this figurehead preserved while the pressure to have him removed or even executed is strangely ignored...Truman is portrayed as somehow being in control of the Japanese government - for example by keeping paragraph 12 of the Potsdam Proclamation he could have caused them to sue for peace - it's assumed that he mysteriously knew which overtures would produce an end to the war and which wouldn't endless number of quotes from those who had second thoughts about the bombings after the fact are given, which leaves one with the false impression that these people opposed the bomb before it was dropped...and looming largest of all, speculation about what might have happened is presented as fact. This book is a grab bag of rhetorical tricks that attempts to revise how we see the end of World War II. Perhaps the author thinks he's doing humanity a favor by de-legitimizing the only use of atomic weapons the world has known. Certainly anyone in their right mind would never want to see them used again. The problem is that twisting facts to such a ridiculous extent only results in a dismal 800-page joke

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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