Like the revisionist position, the traditional view suffered from major falla-cies. In contrast to Truman’s critics, who gave little attention to the difficultiesand drawbacks of ending the war by pursuing approaches other than the atomicbomb, traditionalists underestimated the possibility that the alternatives couldhave forced a Japanese surrender before the invasion began. By failing to con-sider seriously evidence that suggested that an invasion was not inevitable andthat the war could have ended without either the bomb or an invasion, theyoversimplified a complex and crucial issue. In light of the documentary evi-dence, their insistence that Truman faced a stark choice between dropping thebomb and authorizing an enormously costly invasion is superficial, reduction-ist, and unpersuasive. In the summer of 1945, the president and his chief advis-ers never weighed a decision between the bomb and an invasion as an either/orproposition. This was a postwar construct that followed the dichotomy drawnby Stimson, Truman, and other policymakers in their explanations for using thebomb. During the last weeks of the war, they were keenly aware of alternativesto an invasion other than the bomb. Traditionalists generally disregarded thecritical question of why the use of the bomb seemed to be the best of the avail-able options.Recent Literature on Truman’s Atomic Bomb Decision:32120.Gar Alperovitz and Robert L. Messer, “Correspondence: Marshall, Truman, and theDecision to Drop the Bomb,” International Security16(Winter 1991/1992): 204–14.
Traditionalists dismissed too lightly the possibility that the war could haveended before the invasion was launched on 1November 1945. The conclusionthat neither the bomb nor an invasion was necessary for a U.S. victory is, ofcourse, unavoidably counterfactual. But so is the traditional interpretation’sheavy reliance on unprovable assertions about the need for an invasion and thenumber of casualties it would have caused. Much could have happened in thetwelve weeks between the bombing of Hiroshima and the launching of an attackon Kyushu to bring about a Japanese surrender. In that period, the combina-tion of Soviet participation in the war, the continued bombing of Japanese citieswith massive B-29raids, the critical shortage of war supplies, the increasingscarcity of food and other staples required for the sustenance of the Japanesepeople, and diminishing public morale could well have convinced the emperorto seek peace. The peace faction in his government was gradually gainingstrength, and the emperor’s closest adviser, Lord Keeper of the Privy SealKoichi Kido, was increasingly concerned that the greatest threat to theemperor’s position was not American troops but the loss of domestic support.