What do each of the historians Gar Alperovitz and Martin Sherwin see as American officials’ thinking about the relationship between the bomb and the ending of the war against Japan? What does each regard as the primary reason for the use of the bomb?

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In his hugely controversial, provocative piece of historical revisionism Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam Gar Alperovitz argues that the Japanese were prepared to surrender to the United States if they had been granted terms that would've enabled them to keep their Emperor. The Truman Administration knew this, yet still went...

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In his hugely controversial, provocative piece of historical revisionism Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam Gar Alperovitz argues that the Japanese were prepared to surrender to the United States if they had been granted terms that would've enabled them to keep their Emperor. The Truman Administration knew this, yet still went ahead and unleashed the atomic bomb on Japan as a way of intimidating the Soviet Union, thus gaining the upper hand in its post-war dealings with the USSR.

In Alperovitz's reading, therefore, the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Japan not to end World War II, as the official version of events has it, but to strengthen America's hand in future negotiations with the Soviets.

Though Martin Sherwin doesn't accept Alperovitz's thesis in its entirety—he grudgingly concedes that the primary motive for dropping the bomb was to end the war quickly—he nonetheless expands on many of Alperovitz's key points in putting forward his own analysis.

In A World Destroyed: The Atomic Bomb and the Grand Alliance, Sherwin extends Alperovitz's "atomic diplomacy" theory to the actions of the Roosevelt administration. He argues that as early as 1943, the diplomatic value of the atomic bomb began to shape the Administration's atomic energy policies.

Sherwin places greater emphasis than Alperovitz on the continuity between the Roosevelt and Truman administrations concerning the diplomatic value of the atomic bomb. According to Sherwin, Roosevelt had already made the fateful decision to use the bomb, mindful of the diplomatic advantage that would redound to the United States. All that was left for his successor, President Truman, were the technical questions concerning precisely how and when the bomb would be used.

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