"Nobody is more disturbed," said President Truman, three days after the destruction of Nagasaki in 1945, "over the use of the atomic bombs than I am, but I was greatly disturbed over the unwarranted attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor and their murder of our prisoners of war. The only language [the Japanese] seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them. When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast. It is most regrettable but nevertheless true."
The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed more than 100,000 instantly, mostly women, children, and the elderly. Many hundreds of thousands more succumbed to their horrific injuries later, or slowly perished of radiation-related sickness. Yet the bombs were "our least abhorrent choice", American leaders claimed at the time - and still today most people believe they ended the Pacific War and saved millions of American and Japanese lives. Ham challenges this view, arguing that the bombings, when Japan was on its knees, were the culmination of a strategic Allied air war on enemy civilians that began in Germany and had till then exacted its most horrific death tolls in Dresden and Tokyo.
The war in Europe may have ended but it continued in the Pacific against a regime still looking to save face. Ham describes the political manoeuvring and the scientific race to build the new atomic weapon. He also gives powerful witness to its destruction through the eyes of 80 survivors, from 12-year-olds forced to work in war factories to wives and children who faced it alone, reminding us that these two cities were full of ordinary people who suddenly, out of a clear blue summer's sky, felt the sun fall on their heads.
©2011 Paul Ham (P)2012 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
Paul Ham did a great job, the research is evident in the details and the story is very well balanced, many different perspectives and facts that go well beyond the surface.
The section describing the immediate aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima is quite harrowing, with personal and graphic descriptions that took me back to my visit of the Hiroshima Peace Museum and the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims.
I read military history to better understand why man does horrific things to each other.
Paul Ham presents a honest and balanced account of the atomic bombings. Ham shows that no decisions, whether horrific or insignificant, can be pigeon holed as either a black or white finality by later day armchair historians. Ham presents the cacophony of voices that spoke for and against the use of atomic weapons and gives flesh to a few of the Japanese who survived the attack. I thoroughly enjoyed that Ham presented all sides, facts, opinions, and innuendoes and did not lead the reader, but allowed you to come to your own conclusions about this time in our history.
I learned more about the Manhattan Project and the results of its work than any other source I have yet read. "Hiroshima Nagasaki" reads like a historic novel where I sometimes forget I already know the ending.
It was very illuminating to learn about the real reasons for Japan's surrender.
I thought Mr. Meldrum portrayed all characters very well, but I enjoyed his rendition of Roosevelt the most.
Another Day of Infamy
I've asked numerous friends their belief about what caused the Japanese surrender at the end of WWII, and all answered 'the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki'. Paul Ham provides convincing evidence that the first (and fortunately only) use of atomic weapons in war had almost no influence on the surrender decision taken by the doomed government in Japan. Encircled, and economically strangled by naval blockade, its major cities razed by systematic fire-bombing, Japan chose to surrender to the US and its allies to avoid invasion by the Russians who surged across the Manchurian border only days after the devastation of Hiroshima, but before the significance of that event had even begun to be understood. Ham arrives at this point after providing the detailed political, military and scientific context in which it occurred. He is a superb historian and skilled narrator, who has changed my view of the end of WWII with this marvellous book. I could not recommend it more highly.
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