Peter Kirstein is a professor of history at Saint Xavier University, Chicago. He is known for his research on the atomic bomb and studied under Howard Zinn – the author of my textbook in history 2014 (The Twentieth Century). With Kirstein’s knowledge, I felt that his review of Alperovitz’s The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth (I’ll refer to it from herein as “Decision“) would be fair for the both the academic significance and historiography of the material.
Kerstein avoids rehashing the narratives of the book, instead he provides succinct condensations of the major “revelations” that Alperovitz first explored in his first book (Atomic Diplomacy) and then again in Decision. He also provides some corroborating stories from other sources that place in question the moral aspects of the bombings (referencing Terkel) and also the the realist perspective (reference to Haas). He places emphasis on morals in his review, bringing in some of his own works; questioning the morality of dropping the bomb is central to Alperovitz and Kerstein does well to bring in more sources (or at least embedding them in his own review) to bolster the arguments in Decision.
On Russia, Kirstein pares down the rhetoric surrounding the Soviet Union and it’s entrance into the Japanese campaign. It boils down to the Allied desire for Russia to enter the conflict earlier in the war, but then after the Trinity Shot the need for a second front from Russia was seen as unnecessary, owing to Truman’s belief in the power of the bomb. What Alperovitz argues, and Kerstein defends, is that the bomb was meant to be mostly a political weapon. Indeed, Kerstein quotes P.M.S. Blackett in saying that,