Tsuyoshi Hasegawa: Historians riled by book award on the A-bombing decision

Historians in the News

Three weeks ago, Robert J. Maddox outlined for American Thinker readers the “contentious debate” swirling around the awarding of the Ferrell Book Prize by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) to Tsuyoshi Hasegawa for Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan—- and the bullets are still flying. Robert P. Newman’s “Has the History Profession Awarded a Prize to Another Flawed Book?’” on the History News Network is paired with a response by Hasegawa and was the site’s hottest topic last week. It also carries links to a critical essay by Michael Kort in Historically Speaking, and praise by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin who recently won a Pulitzer Prize.

Newman, whose own works such as Owen Lattimore and the Loss of China and the recent Enola Gay and Court of History have received critical acclaim, states that Hasegawa has succeeded in posing as

“the only student of the Pacific War to incorporate documents from U.S., Soviet, and Japanese sources,”

and maintains that “Hasegawa is not only highly selective, he distorts and misrepresents consistently” throughout the work which puts “all the participants in the Pacific War on the same moral plane.”

Hasegawa’s response largely lays out a string of non sequiturs to counter Newman’s charges, lists the eminent historians who graced his dust jacket with their praise, and bemoans the lack of civility directed toward him. “I do not have any ideological axe to grind” maintains Hasegawa, and he points out that “If I am critical of Truman, I am equally critical of Stalin.” This prompted one quizzical reader to respond

”[It is] interesting that Hasegawa believes that his positing a moral equivalence between Truman and Stalin proves that he has no ‘ideological axe to grind’.”

Perhaps the most curious aspect of Hasewawa’s response, though, is that he manages to say literally nothing at all about the stinging assessment of his Racing the Enemy by the namesake of the Ferrell Book Prize, Robert H. Ferrell, in his own new book, Harry S. Truman and the Cold War Revisionists. While other fine Truman historians like David McCullough or Alonzo Hamby are better known to the public at large, Ferrell is almost uniformly regarded within the academy as the premier Truman scholar. Over the past 30 years, Ferrell has authored, co-authored or edited innumerable books and articles on Truman, his contemporaries and the times in which they lived, including the best seller Dear Bess.

After decades pouring over Truman’s papers, Ferrell has absorbed more of his words and thoughts than any living American. The man knows Truman preeminently, and Hasegawa’s glaring omission of Ferrell’s analysis—- while simply characterizing criticism of his book as being generated by ideologues “not happy with the fact that my book received SHAFR’s Robert Ferrell award”—- seems to be made in the hope that if he does not mention Ferrell, what Ferrell wrote might just slip by with little notice.

On pages 114-115 of his book, Ferrell acknowledges that

“The literature in English regarding the effect of Soviet entry upon [Japan’s World War II] surrender is slight”

and adds that Hasegawa maintains the surrender came “because of the shock of the Russian entry.” After examining Hasegawa’s material closely, however, he gently suggested that “Hasegawa may have speculated in this regard.”

Ferrell goes on to say:

“The Hasegawa book seems an unfortunate contribution in another way, for it places the responsibility for use of nuclear weapons evenly on Japan, Russia, and the United States. The author ignores the behavior of the Japanese Army in its conquests beginning with the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, in which the death toll of prisoners and civilians alike ran into the millions; the United Nations figure is seventeen million, the Chinese thirty. For the Americans this meant the Bataan death march, among many other hostilities. In 1945, with the imminence of the attack on Kyushu, the vice minister of war sent out an order that when the first American landed on one of the home islands there should be the immediate execution, by any means, of all Allied prisoners held within the empire, whose numbers were estimated at one hundred thousand.”

Ferrell’s view is cited by Newman in his closing, but completely ignored by Hasegawa who seems to have decided that his interests are best served by not incriminating himself further.

Read entire article at D.M. Giangreco at AmericanThinker.com

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Christopher James Scott - 5/16/2006

This article doesn't offer one shred of evidence that all three nations aren't equally to blame for the use of the atom bomb. All it does it ridicule Hasegawa for his supposed moral equivalence.

The only attempt to contradict comes at the end when the author reproduced Ferrell's quote against Hasegawa's contention of equal blame. Yet this quote doesn't contradict anything Hasegawa said. Instead, it recounts the Japanese's legacy of brutality. But what does this have to do with the use of the bomb? It basically asserts that the Japanese deserved the bomb. That's not a professional use of evidence.