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The Journal of Military History 68.1 (2004) 334-341

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Letters to the Editor

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To the Editor:

In his essay "Reconsidering the 'Atomic General': Leslie R. Groves" (Journal of Military History, July 2003) Barton J. Bernstein writes: "For a deeply flawed recent article which strains in interpreting sources, makes dubious connections, uncritically and self-servingly uses post-Hiroshima recollections, briefly makes a factually incorrect claim for newness, and avoids some earlier contrary scholarship see D. M. Giangreco "'A Score of Bloody Okinawas and Iwo Jimas': President Truman and Casualty Estimates for the Invasion of Japan," Pacific Historical Review 72 (February 2003): 93-132."

Yes, by all means do see it. The peer-reviewed article in this American Historical Association publication is available online through University of California Press at ucp&reqidx=/catchword/ucp/00308684/v72n1/s4/p93. Of this article, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., opined: "The Pacific Historical Review paper is a masterful job of historical research and argument. . . . You have demolished the claim that President Truman's high casualty estimates were a postwar invention."

Readers with a long memory will recall that Bernstein said much the same things on these pages (July 1998, 552-54) to describe my "Casualty Projections for the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1946: Planning and Policy Implications" (July 1997), which was awarded a Moncado Prize by the Society for Military History in 1998. Bernstein also expands on his statement that I make "a factually incorrect claim for newness" of the documents that I discovered at the Harry S. Truman Library and which form the core of my article in the February 2003 Pacific Historical Review. Bernstein says that "Among items that Giangreco cites as rather newly discovered (he says 'recently discovered') are two May 1945 memos by Herbert Hoover, though Giangreco later acknowledges that those Hoover memos are 'well known' and have been used and cited for some time."

This is a most interesting assertion in light of the fact that the Pacific Historical Review article explicitly states the opposite: "The existence of Hoover's May 15 and May 30 memos, as well as the subsequent Pentagon analysis requested by Stimson, is well known; all have been noted in a variety of venues. What has virtually never been discussed, however, is Truman's reaction to the memos. Recently discovered documents at the Harry S. Truman Library shed light on this question." The much shorter companion piece [End Page 334] in the April-May 2003 American Heritage is equally specific: "The Hoover memorandum is well known to students of the era, but they have generally assumed that Truman solicited it purely as a courtesy to Hoover and Secretary of War Henry Stimson, who had been Hoover's Secretary of State. . . . 'What we now know,' says Robert Ferrell, the editor of Truman's private papers, "is that Truman seized upon this memo and sent memoranda to his senior advisors asking for written judgments from each."

Media as diverse as the Wilson Quarterly (Spring 2003, p. 92) and History News Network (posted 17 April 2003) grasped the plain meaning of these words and accurately reported them, but apparently Dr. Bernstein cannot or will not. The post-Hoover memorandum exchange between Truman's manpower czar, Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion director, Fred M. Vinson; Acting Secretary of State Joseph C. Grew; former Secretary of State Cordell Hull; and Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson is clearly not the same as the well-known memo of 30 May 1945 that precipitated it. As Robert Ferrell informed attendees at the 1999 SMH conference, I discovered the Truman-Grew-Hull-Stimson-Vinson exchange while engaged in military government studies at the Harry S. Truman Library in the mid 1980s. The exchange was first noted publicly in the July 1997 JMH article and is the centerpiece of my...