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Prompt and Utter Destruction: President Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs Against Japan [Paperback]

J.Samuel Walker
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 Feb 2005
In this concise account of why America used atomic bombs against Japan in 1945, J. Samuel Walker analyzes the reasons behind President Truman's most controversial decision. Delineating what was known and not known by American leaders at the time, Walker evaluates the roles of U.S.-Soviet relations and of American domestic politics. In this new edition, Walker takes into account recent scholarship on the topic, including new information on the Japanese decision to surrender. He has also revised the book to place more emphasis on the effect of the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in convincing the emperor and his advisers to quit the war. Rising above an often polemical debate, Walker presents an accessible synthesis of previous work and an important, original contribution to our understanding of the events that ushered in the atomic age.

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Prompt and Utter Destruction: President Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs Against Japan + Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan + Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb
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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; Revised edition edition (28 Feb 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080785607X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807856079
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 16.1 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 332,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Walker's book is the most useful layman's synthesis of the debate in print." - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; "The author's ability to cover the most important issues with economy... make[s] this an excellent addition to the literature, particularly useful for beginning students." - Foreign Affairs"

About the Author

J. Samuel Walker, historian of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has published six other books on the history of American foreign policy and the history of nuclear energy.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Despite an expression that suggested fatigue and strain, President Harry S. Truman strode briskly into the meeting he had ordered with his most trusted advisers. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The uneasy mix of science and politics 24 Mar 2013
When Harry S Truman heard of the first test explosion of the atomic bomb he described it as, 'the most terrible thing ever discovered'. Yet he had no hesitation in using the weapon against Japan and having taken the decision to bomb Hiroshima retired to bed and slept soundly. Truman's main political adviser about the bomb was Secretary of War Henry Stimson who told a bemused Truman on April 25, 1945, that within four months the United States would have 'the most terrible weapon ever known in human history, one bomb of which could destroy a whole city'. It could mean the end of civilisation or provide an opportunity to save civilisation itself.

Truman had assumed the presidency following Roosevelt's death on 12 April 1945. Roosevelt did not consult his Vice-President (VP) on any matters of consequence, causing John Nance Garner, his first VP, to describe the office as, 'not worth a bucket of warm spit' although the final word was more earthy. Thus, through no fault of his own, Truman came to office 'ill-informed and poorly prepared for the responsibilities he assumed'. He pursued his predecessor's policy of winning the war with the minimum of American casualties and, having served in the First World War, knew the meaning of war personally. He was willing to delegate (something Roosevelt rarely did) which led to his setting up of a Committee to consider the implications of the new weapon.

The Committee did not question the assumption that the bomb should be used without advance warning 'to make a profound psychological impression on as many of the inhabitants as possible'. They considered there was no reasonable alternative to using the bomb if the war was to end without the massive casualties which could be incurred by invading Japan itself.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book was an excellent historical account of the events leading up to the use of the atomic bombs. I now realize that there were a multitude of reasons for and against their use, and a lot of gray in between. The reader is presented the information and forced to make their own opinion on this very controversial event.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 5 Jan 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Arrived exactly when I needed it in order to finish a project. Great quality book and interesting! Thank you very much!
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good book 8 May 1998
By A Customer
I was confronted in a class with the claim that we dropped the bomb for the purpose of intimidating Russia. Not so, I exclaimed, we did it to prevent massive casualties from a land invasion of Japan! Well, this book was a real eye-opener. The book showed that neither viewpoint was accurate, but I came away yet confident that the terrible decision had not been irresponsibly nor immorally made.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Walker, in this wonderful book, makes clear that the consensus of scholarly study is that the bomb was known to Truman, and to decision-makers, AT THE TIME, to be UNCECSSARY.
The book then goes on to, as other reviewers have made clear, roll out the totality of reasoning behind the eventual - and only - employment of high-casuality atomic weapons in history.
But to leave out the fact that Walker, a conservative, official government historian, leaves out the possibility that the Truman decision-makers did NOT know that the bomb wasn't needed is to continue to construct what's commonly called "Hiroshima myth."
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