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on 6 September 2017
A sobre account of ALL the events leading up to the production of the A-bomb and its use. The chapters dealings with the suffering on the ground are hard to read. The book argues, persuasively to this reader, that the use of the bomb was the worst of alternatives available, and that the US authorities did all they could to mask their mistake--including not sharing medical information with Japanese doctors treating what they didn't know was radiation sickness. Plenty of support given for the thesis.
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on 29 April 2017
Big door-stopper of a book. Very detailed. Lot's of who did/said what where when etc. If you are into the history of atomic bombs etc you will like this book. The author tells you what was happening inside the Japanese, American, Soviet and British leaders circles at the time and is very illuminating and interesting.
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on 10 May 2017
If you read this and still think atomic weapons are any way acceptable I will be surprized.
Very well written
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on 1 May 2016
This book reflects on depressing events that needn't have happened and if there is one thing that sticks in my mind from this book, apart from the sadness of death and lack of medical help or advice given by the allies to help deal with the effects of radiation (even months later) it is the fact that Politicians love to avoid telling the truth, and the buck stops with the President himself.
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on 10 August 2015
I am half way through this book and cannot put it down. So far it is very well written, full of factual information and yet also horrifyingly cold at times when I would not be able to contain my own views. The historical facts of the dropping of these bombs has been discussed many times, but this account is one of the more easy to read. There is no shying away from the fact that so many died with the dropping of these weapons and this author does not sugar coat this aspect of the story.

There are details included here that I did not previously know and this adds to the horror of the eventual bombings. I could wait until I finished the book to review it, but I very much doubt that my views will change between now and then. This is an excellent book detailing one of the most brutal campaigns in the history of warfare. The author has presented the facts with out bias one way or the other and as such this read presents the data as a time line upon which you can make up your own mind.

The key players here are well researched and presented as humanely as possible. Given that I am only half way through, I cannot judge it on the details about some of the people involved, but I hoping that there will be more about the story of the man who gave the plans to the Russians, rather than the brief mention he has had so far in the narrative.

So for historical accuracy, for remaining neutral when dealing with a very emotive subject, I can only give this book five stars, although it does deserve more. I am though expecting to shed some tears before I finish this long and involving book. Given that we have just marked the seventieth anniversary of these bombings, I would recommend that this book should be read by all who express an opinion on the use of Nuclear Weapons.
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on 2 February 2012
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
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on 26 December 2013
A relatively long book at around 700 pages although the last 20% or so is made up of notes and appendices. This is a comprehensive look at the subject matter of the development and eventual use of the bomb. For me, the book does tend to drag a little at times and repeat itself through back tracking, but this is a minor criticism really. For anyone wishing to learn more about the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this is probably as good a place to start as any. The subsequent nuclear arms race and the cold war is also dealt with here. As is often the case, there are conflicting opinions about for example whether it was really necessary to use the bombs to end the war. Some, including Paul Ham maintain that their use was not necessary, others disagree. I guess we will never know for sure. But if they had not been used in Japan, who knows where they would have been used instead and to what extent!
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on 7 February 2013
If you are even remotely interested in this subject I can not recommend this book enough.
Interesting chapters regarding the firebombing of other cities, the ascendency of Truman and the history of the development of the atomic bomb.
Very readable and a real page turner.
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on 2 October 2014
An excellent book. It raises all kinds of emotions and controversy if you read the rest of the reviews.

It seemed to me to be well researched and looked at 'the facts' from all points of view to try and give an accurate account of events and people leading up to the dropping of the bomb. It delved into the politics of the time and tried to point out motivations that I had not considered before. Russia, Japan, America and England were all considered as well as the scientists and the part they played

It was well worth reading and I may well re-read at some point.
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on 17 March 2015
This period of history should be required reading for anyone seeking to govern, or be governed, in the nuclear age.

In its chronicling of the prevalent mindset and the series of smaller and larger decisions that lead to the atomic-bombing of civilian populations, this book calls to mind Robert McNamara's 'In retrospect' through the obvious failings of personality politics and bureaucracy when applied to moral/ethical issues. The damage done by such episodes of 'groupthink' is lasting and extreme, but can hopefully be avoided in future by keeping the lessons of the past. The capacity of governments (American, Japanese, British and Russian) to maintain a wilful blindness to the suffering of people without power or influence should not be underestimated to this day.
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