Historian Peter Kuznick highlights the mythology of Hiroshima

Historians in the News
tags: Hiroshima, Peter Kuznick

A widely accepted notion in the United States is that the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to accelerate Japan’s surrender in World War II. The “winning weapons” are believed to have saved hundreds of thousands of American and Japanese lives that would have been lost if the United States had invaded mainland Japan.

But one prominent U.S. scholar says this logic is sheer “mythology.”

“If you know that the Japanese are trying to surrender and looking for better surrender terms, why would you drop the atomic bomb if the invasion is not going to start for another three months?” Peter Kuznick, a professor of history at American University, said in a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun.

Challenging American “exceptionalism,” the professor and filmmaker Oliver Stone co-authored a book and a 10-part Showtime documentary series, both titled “The Untold History of the United States (2012-2013).”

Kuznick also plans to hold an atomic bomb exhibition starting on June 13 at the university to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the bombs.

On the 50th anniversary, American University, in cooperation with the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, co-hosted a similar event that displayed many artifacts that were originally supposed to be part of the "denied" Smithsonian’s Enola Gay exhibit.

Excerpts of the interview follow:


Question: First of all, I would like to ask about the American reaction toward your documentary and book, “The Untold History of the United States,” with Mr. Oliver Stone.

Peter Kuznick: I would say that 85 percent of the reviews and comments have been extremely positive. We have had scholars say this is the most important work of history in the 21st century.

Then we have some people who hate it. You’ve got the conservatives, the right-wingers, and you’ve got a group that we call “Cold War liberals.” These are the people who brought us the war in Vietnam. It’s important to remember that the Vietnam War was much more a Democratic war than a Republican war.

“Cold War liberals” are people like Hillary Clinton. She would be a good example, somebody who is a Democrat and liberal on some policies, but supports every war there is.

But, the overall majority of reviews and commentaries have been very, very positive. ...

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