Oliver Stone. (Courtesy of Showtime)
Famed film director (and history buff) Oliver Stone’s long-awaited The Untold History of the United States series debuted on Showtime last November 12. The series focused on the period just before and after World War II, and then carried the themes forward through various US wars (cold and hot) and other issues. It's now available on DVD and has also spawned a companion book with the same title, by Stone and historian Peter Kuznick.
The Hiroshima chapter makes a strong case against the use of the bomb. Stone and Kuznick focus on Russia’s entry into the war, as the U.S. had insisted, two days after we dropped the bomb. That shocking and cataclysmic event would have (likely) forced a speedy Japanese surrender without the use of the atomic weapon, which killed over 200,000—the vast majority civilians, mainly women and children—in the two cities. (See one of my books on the subject here on two US soldiers who shot historic footage in Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and then saw it suppressed for decades.)
Stone and Kuznick title the forty-eight-page Hiroshima chapter in their book "The Bomb: Tragedy of a Small Man." That man, of course, is President Truman. The book, and the TV series, make the claim that if progressive hero Henry Wallace had not been booted off the Roosevelt ticket in 1944 in favor of hack politician Truman, history would have been much different (concerning both the use of the bomb and the coming of the cold war). But how did Stone reach his conclusions on Truman’s misuse of the bomb? I opened my interview with him on this subject with that query.
Greg Mitchell: Most Americans never change their views about the atomic bombings. Did you support the use of the bomb for most of your life?
Oliver Stone: I think my views changed fairly recently after Peter delivered to me a lot of research. Frankly, my views have changed on many issues since I was raised as a Republican during the Eisenhower era. But you have to realize that I was coming from a very different planet than Peter. For instance, I was in Vietnam and he was protesting Vietnam, and it took me years to change my perspective on that war.
Feature films allowed me to research many issues separately—JFK, Nixon, Salvador, Cuba and other issues. But there were also various issues that I was interested in that could not be a feature film. So Peter had this story of the bomb. And frankly, the bomb as a feature movie is a bore. I have to say that because I’ve seen so many of the films—love stories, all sorts of angles, including the French film Hiroshima, Mon Amour, which was impressionistic. I haven’t seen any momentum in Hollywood to make a feature film about Hiroshima.