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small ships, sailing to fulfill the ancient prophecy of breaking the chains of oceanic ignorance, were, in a word, superb. They make as enlightening reading today as when they were first published. Samuel Eliot Morison's last volume of the official naval history was released in 1962. These fifteen volumes were then reprised in one volume, The Two-Ocean Ular. Fortunately for history, in this tome, Morison gave a fuller picture of the pre-war naval situation, as seen in a world char believed in what Morison called "peace by incantation ." He summarized Japanese superiority at the war's outbreak by noting chat rhey had developed a "dose-range nocturnal 'hugger-mugger' clinch, making abundant use of torpedoes"-an elegant summary of a complex series of technical and doctrinal developments. He authoritatively dismissed revisionist theories of a conspiracy by Roosevelt to provoke the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On one of rhe most controversial decisions in American and world history, he asserted that at the end of the war, without the use of the rwo atomic bombs the US dropped on Japan, "they would have fought to the last man, inflicting far, far greater losses and injuries than chose inflicted by the atomic bombs." After Morison's death, a Smithsonian exhibition asserted that Japan was genuinely seeking peace when the bombs fell. 1his claim was supported by Peter Jennings in a broadcast with complaisant PhDs and in ads signed by leading historians. Among other gross errors in this effort was the claim that General Marshall opposed using the bombs . His biographer had to write the newspapers saying the obvious: Marshall questioned dropping the bomb, bur he concluded it must be used to avoid horrendous American and Japanese casualti es. Speaking in Morison's absence, let m e point our char the "peace" that Japan offered was a warrior's truce, telling the US and its British allies, in effect: "OK, you've won this round. We'll give you back Inda-China, the Philippines, and the Durch East Indies," bur, there was never any idea of with-

SEA HISTORY 113, WINTER 2005-2006

In 1942, Samuel Eliot Morison was made a Lieutenant Commander in the US Naval Reserve as he embarked on a mission to research naval operations in WWII. H e retired as a Rear Admiral.

drawing from occupied China or restoring freedom to Manchuria, Korea, or Formosa (today's Taiwan). The Japanese offer was clearly part of a strategy in which invading Japan would be made so costly to the US through kamikaze planes and torpedo boats, backed by trained soldiers ready to die for their emperor, that the Americans wo uld turn from the war in revulsion, take what they had left and go home. 1he samurai logic is impeccable, bur the underlying assumptions were dead wrong. The US would never have abandoned the war before liberating Japanese conquests, therefore, it wo uld have co ntinued with the dire effects General Marshall foresaw. Use of atomic bombs wi ll and should be debated so long as these weapons exist; but in the historical community at least, one would hope rhe debate would be based on facts, rather than fantasies bred by ideological concerns. We can find agreed facts to work with by following the genero us outlook Morison espoused, one which recognizes opposing views-what we might call an oceanic perspective. In this perspective, quarrels ashore are seen in an embracing overview. Under char regimen, the history professors who bought into the Japanese "peace" offer would have felt obliged to dig beyond the irenic label and relate the words of the offer to Bushido principles and the demonstrated behavior of those who made the offer-can char be too much to ask of historiography today? Morison produced other works while the grand panorama of the war at sea was streaming from his pen (he wrote in

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Sea History 113 - Winter 2005-2006  

10 Dangerous Voyage, by Roger Tilton • 16A French Spoliation Case: Not-Quite Justice after Never-Was War, by Jock Yellott • 26 Samuel Elio...

Sea History 113 - Winter 2005-2006  

10 Dangerous Voyage, by Roger Tilton • 16A French Spoliation Case: Not-Quite Justice after Never-Was War, by Jock Yellott • 26 Samuel Elio...