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The First Narrative History Of The Nuclear Attack Told From Both The Japanese And American ViewpointsJapan In One Of The Defining Moments Of The Twentieth Century, Than , People Were Killed Instantly By Two Atomic Bombs Dropped On Hiroshima And Nagasaki By US Air Force Bs Hundreds Of Thousands Succumbed To Their Horrific Injuries, Or Slowly Perished Of Radiation Related Sickness Hiroshima Nagasaki Tells The Story Of The Tragedy Through The Eyes Of The Survivors, From The Twelve Year Olds Forced To Work In War Factories To The Wives And Children Who Faced It Alone Through Their Harrowing Personal Testimonies, We Are Reminded That These Were Ordinary People, Given No Warning And No Chance To Escape The HorrorAmerican Leaders Claimed That The Bombings Were Our Least Abhorrent Choice And Fell Strictly On Military Targets Even Today, Most People Believe They Ended The Pacific War And Saved Millions Of American And Japanese Lives Hiroshima Nagasaki Challenges This Deep Set Perception, Revealing That The Atomic Bombings Were The Final Crippling Blow To The Japanese In A Stratgic Air War Waged Primarily Against Civilians This is a fascinating book with a powerful premise Americans are brought up believing we dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki only because we felt forced to, and that Japan would never have surrendered otherwise After absorbing this controversial book, I still think that s partially true, but not the whole truth.Paul Ham meticulously presents a different view that makes the chaotic end of the war and the race for the bomb feel much nuanced than that standard history Some of the things I learned were surprising and upsetting According to Ham, we were eager to test the bombs, and actually in a bit of a hurry to do so before the war ended There were military targets we could have chosen, but we deliberately targeted city centers full of civilians Mistakenly, we thought that would send a stronger message to Japan, but Japan s military and political leaders were so far removed from reality at that point, and so generally unconcerned with civilian casualties, that Hiroshima and Nagasaki barely registered in their discussions near the end of the war We also failed to understand that Japan wasn t a democracy and no amount of harming civilians could cause them to rise up and demand an end to the war they were truly helpless targets And no one in Japan knew what an atomic bomb was or how it was different than the firestorms that had been raging through its other cities Japan s leaders never got the message of shock and awe of the bombs were supposed to deliver.More surprises for me anyway Russia invading Japan was really the catalyst that pushed Japan to surrender That happened after Hiroshima but before Nagasaki, making a good argument that the second bomb was really extraneous The people of Hiroshima may have suffered for little reason, but the people of Nagasaki suffered for no reason I thought it was interesting how removed Truman was from the creation and delivery of the bombs He was gung ho about doing it, but very hands off He didn t even know about Nagasaki until afterwards Imagine in this day and age, dropping a bomb on civilians in another country and the President not being directly involved The randomness of the cities chosen was chilling to read about Kyoto was spared from the list of targets because someone in the military group who was choosing the cities had been there and had fond memories of it The weather dictated where the bombs were dropped Nagasaki was literally a last minute choice when the actual target city nearby was too obscured by clouds.After the war, we sent American doctors to study the horrendous effects of radiation on the survivors They examined countless suffering patients, but they were not permitted to help them in any way, or even share their knowledge with the Japanese doctors, who were mystified and utterly helpless in the face of this strange new illness The suffering of the Japanese people was extended long after the war by this heartless US policy.Ham s work has been castigated as revisionist, by those saying he s applying liberal modern thinking to a very different time and place I can see threads of that in the book, and obviously he s presenting a very uncomfortable look at US behavior at the end of the war so people will react to that I think both viewpoints can be true, however Ham is convincing in his argument that the bombs weren t the major reason that Japan finally surrendered, and therefore we have to accept that it s possible we did not need to do what we did But while Japan s leaders could live with civilian defeat, their death before loss of honor culture would never permit them to accept military defeat Faced with the invasion by Russia and out of options, Japan used the bombings as a convenient excuse in their view to surrender That means the bombings served a purpose in ending the war, even if it wasn t quite the way we intended.What a powerful book about a terrible time in world history. I can see that Paul Ham s examination of the Manhattan Project, the atomic attacks on the two titular cities and the grim aftermath of the bombings would likely polarize opinion.The central argument of the book is that the justification for the dropping of the atomic bombs, that they brought the war to an end, is a fallacy Indeed, even the expected capitulation of the Japanese government under the threat of a rain of atomic munitions was fatally flawed.Ham argues, with some authority, that a national government which expected its soldiers to take on tanks with pole mines, whose trainee pilots were intended to finish their careers as guided missiles, and who failed to bat an eyelid at the incineration of thousands of its citizens every night, would hardly be likely to surrender just because cities were being annihilated in atomic blasts.Indeed Mr Ham has very little positive to say about the USAAF s efforts over the Japanese Home Islands in particular Curtis LeMay s firebombing policy, it s argued, for all it s fire and fury, had no great effect on the Japanese will or ability to resist because the Japanese war economy by this point simply didn t exist All the raids did was cause human misery and prolong the racist nature of the Pacific war LeMay s concentration on civilian destruction preserved much of the nation s war infrastructure the visible rail network, the Kokura arsenal and vital coal ferry between Hokkaido and Honshu were still operating in mid 1945 So too were several major industrial centres Their strangulation would have defeated Japan efficiently than individually destroying Japan s cities , according to the US Strategic Bombing Survey LeMay was ordered not to do so, in line with his personal mission to destroy Japanese civilian morale In the broader picture, the US naval blockade as well as Fleet Admiral William Bull Halsey s carrier aircraft which attacked Japanese military targets with withering accuracy in July 1945 destroyed Japan s capacity to wage war effectively than LeMay s indiscriminate air offensive That offensive may be judged a moral and military failure. In the aftermath of the bombings, Ham further expands on this theme as he describes American medical and scientific teams fail to provide any medical relief for the survivors of the bombings, and in fact cause further harm by stealing any material gathered by Japanese doctors on the emerging radiation poisoning cases There was never any pretence that the foreign medical teams entering Hiroshima and Nagasaki were there to ease the people s suffering Navy Secretary James Forrestal outlined their experimental role with crystalline clarity in a note to Truman on 18 November 1945 The study of the effect of radiation on personnel that is, Japanese civilians he wrote, had started as soon as possible after Japan s capitulation, under the auspices of the army and navy and the Manhattan Project Preliminary surveys involve about 14,000 Japanese who were exposed to the radiation of atomic fission It is considered that the group and others yet to be identified offer a unique opportunity for the study of the medical and biological effects of radiation which is of utmost importance to the United StatesThe argument that the Pacific War was ended not by the Bombs but by the Russian invasion of Manchuria is supported by his description of the political manoeuvring by the Japanese government in trying to broker a peace deal and is mirrored by the double dealings in Europe.I enjoyed the book, having come to it looking for a different interpretation of events, wanting my preconceptions to be challenged and, although there was a false start, this is what I got While I didn t necessarily agree with all of the conclusions reached, and was a little concerned by some of the references quoted in particular his use of David Irving s The Destruction of Dresden when describing the European bombing offensives, I was generally carried by the narrative and the debate I particularly enjoyed the chapters on the birth of nuclear science and the workings of the Manhattan Project The chapters dealing with the two raids are harrowing and surprisingly quite short, and although I found little new in the bombing of Hiroshima I learned a lot about the effects of the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.Very much recommended to anyone interested in the war in the Far East or the start of the Cold War, or twentieth century history in general, or if you re comfortable with well written challenges to the orthodox history As The Onion put it in The Onion Presents Our Dumb Century, it may well have been a case of Nagasaki bombed just for the Hell of it. We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world Harry S Truman 25 July 1945 In an interview, Paul Ham said that it took him four years to write this book 2.5 years of research and 1.5 years to write and edit He said that he chose this topic because I have always felt that there is something wrong with American narratives that attempt to justify the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in a nuclear holocaust After researching and analysing the core archives, Paul Ham said he felt a strong impulse to write an accurate account of the bomb, and to dissect the truth from the lies and popular myths The lead up to August 1945, and the aftermath, is covered from a number of different angles historical and political as well as military and scientific Aspects of the book are based on extensive interviews with eighty survivors and depict the human communities of the two cities before and after they were destroyed So much of the damage was civilian schools, hospitals, and the homes of so many primarily women, children and the aged It is an atomic bomb It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East Paul Ham writes that the orthodox view of why the atomic bombs were dropped is President Harry S Truman s justification enunciated two years after the decision was made that the bombs saved the necessity of invading Japan and the loss of one million American servicemen Ham scrutinises this ex post facto justification pointing out that the atomic bombs were not the only option and, in any case, Japan was rapidly running out of the raw materials required in order to continue.General Curtis LeMay, like the RAF s Air Vice Marshall Bomber Harris who ordered the area bombing of Hamburg and Dresden believed that Japan s military leaders could be shamed into surrender if their cities and civilian population were blanket bombed The dropping of Little Boy and Fat Man was an extension of that strategy and while these bombs killed thousands of civilians, it apparently had little impact on the Japanese war machine or those directing it Or did it Surely it s not total coincidence that Japan surrendered just days after Nagasaki was bombed In Ham s view, what really led to the Japanese surrender was Stalin s sudden entry into the war in the Pacific The Japanese generals could see one million Soviet troops pouring into Manchuria, ready to invade Japan and to avenge the Russian defeat of 1904 05 The Japanese people had kept their Emperor and lost an empire Having read the book, having had some of my views and assumptions challenged, I m still forming my own conclusions especially on the role of science and the responsibility of scientists Revisiting the choices made in 1945 is important can we apply learning from the past to an unknown future Total war had debased everyone involved As it does, and will continue to do.Jennifer Cameron Smith A fascinating account of the buildup and background to the dropping of the two atomic bombs on Japan and the aftermath A lot of research obviously went into this book, and although I have read accounts before, those were mainly to do with the horrendous experiences of the survivors This book makes it very clear exactly what drove the handful of men who controlled the entire Japanese war machine, and their lack of concern with one exception a man who was always overruled for the ordinary people They were just cannon fodder or expected to live off starvation rations a lot of children died of malnutrition while labouring to demolish buildings and create firebreaks in the cities which by then were experiencing devastating icendiary bombing raids by the US airforce Even children as young as 12 were conscripted while the mindless propaganda continued to insist that Japan was winning the war As long as these civilians died with honour , that was all that mattered to those who ruled over them.Behind the scenes, the heads of the military were resistant to the increasing conviction of the civilian members of the government that a peace had to be brokered but the stumbling block was the US insistence on unconditional surrender The Emperor had to be preserved and this had not been guaranteed The book documents the peace feelers these top officials put out, through various channels, the chief one being via the ambassador to the Soviet Union who was expected to convince the Russian goverment to be the mediator of an end to the war despite the unusual for the time blunt and determined attempts by that ambassador to explain to his superiors that the Russians had no interest in doing that and were in fact building up to break their agreement with Japan The strange system of government in Japan at the time where the Emperor was literally a living god but was also rarely expected to voice his own opinion and where, if he said that Japan should surrender, it would be seen as influence from corrupt officials who would then be fair game for assassination meant that despite crippling losses and a mounting death toll from the conventional bombing, there was no will among the military or their leaders to cease fighting.Contrary to the impression which has been given by the US government since the end of WWII, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are shown in the book to be of no consequence to the Japanese rulers The chief reason for their finally agreeing to surrender was that the Soviet Union had declared war on Japan and was invading Japanese conquered territory in China It was useful as an excuse the Emperor for one used this in his broadcast to the general population that it was to save them from a cruel new weapon, but in his broadcast to the remnant of the Japanese fighting forces, he didn t mention it in that, the reason given was that the Soviet Union had declared war and there was no point fighting such an overwhelmingly superior force The author shows that the Japanese would most likely have surrendered without the dropping of atomic weapons, certainly without Nagasaki being bombed, and could have been induced to give up due to the blockade which had starved the country of all raw materials and fuel and food supplies The decision had already been made in the US government not to invade, even before the atomic bomb had been tested, so there certainly was no saving of huge numbers of American lives as the public have always been told despite the few dissenting voices.After the war, the US officials clamped down on news of radiation sickness and confiscated the documentation of Japanese doctors who tried to research it, as well as refusing to hand over any medical supplies to those desperately struggling medical professionals At the same time, with inducements of food or sweets to children they induced Japanese who had felt the effects of the bomb or its aftermath to submit to tests, and did not provide any treatment The whole attitude was one of extreme callousness I had read about this before, but here it forms part of the continuous narrative of self serving and self deceiving attitudes among certain men in power in the occupation forces Some did speak out, but reports were hushed up and so on In general, this is an illuminating book which raises moral questions such as how is it possible for countries which prided themselves on being Christian and democratic to inflict such horrendous suffering on a civilian population commencing with the carpet bombing with incendiaries and high explosives and culminating in nuclear holocaust As Ham shows, the Allies had condemned the barbaric treatment of prisoners and those conquered by Germany and Japan, and yet in effect had sunk to the same level The only thing that holds this book back from a 5 star rating for me is that it is very focused on the US role in the Pacific and does not even acknowledge that the Royal Navy had a role in the Pacific war, which is an attitude shown in Hollywood portrayals for some years A small acknowledgement of the British contribution in WWII would have provided a little balance.