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Oliver Stone on the Untold U.S. History from the Atomic Age to Vietnam to Obama’s Drone Wars

In a new series, Stone explores the disconnect in U.S. history between what's officially reported and what actually happened.

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AMY GOODMAN: Professor Kuznick, why?

PETER KUZNICK: It made no sense because the Japanese were already defeated. They were looking for a way out of the war. United States knew they were defeated. Truman refers to the intercepted July 18th telegram as "the telegram from the Jap emperor asking for peace." The United States—

AMY GOODMAN: From the Japanese emperor asking for peace.

PETER KUZNICK: The Japanese, yeah, but that was called—he says "the Jap emperor asking for peace," is Truman’s exact words on that. Everybody else knew that they were militarily defeated and looking for a way out. But the people who knew that the best were the Russians, because they were trying to get the Russians to intervene on their behalf to get them better surrender terms, and also because—their strategy was to welcome American invasion and then to conflict heavy damages and then force better surrender terms. But once the Russians invaded, then that undermined both their diplomatic strategy and their military strategy. So that was what really ended the war. It was not the bombing. We had already been bombing Japanese cities. We had firebombed over a hundred cities. Destruction reached 99.5 percent of the city of Toyama. From the Japanese standpoint, whether it was 200 bombs—200 planes and a thousand bombs or one plane and one bomb didn’t change the equation. But the Soviet invasion fundamentally changed it, and that’s what forced the final surrender.

OLIVER STONE: In Manchuria on August 9.

PETER KUZNICK: August 9th, yeah.

OLIVER STONE: It’s a huge—a huge—Stalin moved a huge army to the East off the German—from the German frontier to the—and wiped out the Kwantung Army in about, I think two days or one day.

PETER KUZNICK: Very, very quickly.

OLIVER STONE: And it was moving towards Japan. So, if you let a month go by, you know, if we really are interested in ending this war and using Russian troops, it’s perfect. We can do it.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, let’s turn to a clip from the series. This one challenges the prevailing logic of World War II being the United States’ so-called "Good" War.

OLIVER STONE: Generations of Americans have been taught that the United States reluctantly dropped atomic bombs at the end of World War II to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of young men poised to die in an invasion of Japan. But the story is really more complicated, more interesting, and much more disturbing. Many Americans view World War II nostalgically as the "Good" War in which the United States and its allies triumphed over German Nazis and Italian fascism and Japanese militarism. Others, not so blessed. Remember, World War II is the bloodiest war in human history. By the time it was over, 60 to 65 million people lay dead, including an estimated 27 million Soviets, between 10 and 20 million Chinese, six million Jews, over six million Germans, three million non-Jewish Poles, two-and-a-half million Japanese, and one-and-a-half million Yugoslavs. Austria, Britain, France, Italy, Hungary, Romania and the United States each counted between a quarter-million and a half-million dead.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Oliver Stone, the "Good" War, and of course the war with the most carnage in the history of the world, right?

OLIVER STONE: It’s a huge story. So that’s—it’s where we begin. But we deal with the three empires, Britain and the U.S. and the rivalry between the U.S. and Britain. And a lot of school kids don’t know that the British Empire is a dominant empire and has so many resources around the world. And Churchill is fighting, among other things, for the retention of the colonies and, all through the Middle East, the oil supplies, Greece, very important, North Africa, Egypt, Suez, India, Singapore. And that’s what he’s trying to get back. And he never—he never starts the Second Front for about two years. It’s been promised in '42 to Stalin. Stalin is, meanwhile, rolling the Germans back and winning the war, as the British and the Americans are "periphery pecking" in retaining the British colonies for Britain. So, interesting story, the British, for example, go into Athens in 1944, after they've liberated it, so to speak, but they end up fighting in street battles with the communist resistance fighters who fought very heroically against the Nazis. We put in a—we put in a Nazi—a Greek who was working with the Nazis. Right away, we put him into the premiership. It’s a dirty story, dirty story.