I think the premise that the saving of many, many allied lives justified the atomic bombs is neither new, nor unpopular. There is plenty of revisionist views that say different, but it generally holds it own, but read this book and the case becomes overwhellming. Even the planned invasion would have used multiple nuclear weapons in a obvioulsy misunderstood 'tactical' role. The Japanese had husbanded resources, and mass Kamikazie attacks would have had a serious effect on the invasions. It is sobering stuff. Tthe book is repetative in parts - possibly as a collection of academic papers - makes one do the occasional double take, but it is fascinating, well presented stuff. The inhumanity is not in tTruman giving the go ahead for the bombing of cities, a matter of concern to all, but of the complete disregard for the lives of those they were suppsoed to protect, on the part of Japanese diehard military fanatics. Well worth a read for those who like to believe that it was all over before the bombs.The book does seem to discount any further role for the Red Army,sweeping through Manchuria, but in the end the allied lives saved, and the loss of any chance for some sort of 'unclear' victory because of unsustainable casualties inflicted on the Americans and their allies shines clearly from this book, based on detailed study rather than assumed political positions. Enlightening, and sobering.
In 1945, the American invasion of Japan was cancelled because the Japanese surrendered. The American high command seems to have believed that it would have been tough, but the Japanese had taken such a beating that it wouldn't have been too terrible. This book digs deeper including analysis of Japanese sources (as opposed to American analyses of Japanese capabilities which throughout the war showed severe over-optimistism), leading to some horrifying conclusions. The Japanese had a very sophisticated plan, knew exactly what was coming, were planning to accept appalling losses perhaps in the tens of millions, and had plenty of troops and equipment including aircraft and fuel held back from the previous fighting. By 1945 the loss rates in island assaults were around 100% for the Japanese defenders, and had gradually reached almost one American casualty for every one to two Japanese dead; combining that with the knowledge that the Japanese had assembled millions of troops backed by civilian militia leads to some sobering arithmetic.
In general the various chapters of this book are extremely well written,thorough and persuasive, and both the technical capabilities of the sides and the sheer impending human catastrophe are brought to life very well. It clearly brings to life the terrible situation for all concerned : the American planners who wanted desperately to end the war but faced terrible decisions; the American troops (and navy and air force) facing mass death; the Japanese military and civilians who would have been slaughtered; and the 400,000 people per month (largely civilians) who were dying in Asia at the time of the surrender. This book has a little of everything with chapters on American and Japanese planning and forces; the terrain; Japanese tactics (such as the use of kamikaze aircraft, refined to perfection by this point); even the American plans to supply blood to the battlefield.
My one criticism of the book is that while the chapters are generally good, it's hard to discern a clear structure or a theme other than "here's a good analysis of another fascinating but awful aspect of the situation". On the other hand, I certainly found it hard to put down.
I highly recommend this book to any one interested in WW2 and the Pacific War - I read the on-line article "OPERATION DOWNFALL :The devil was in the details" a few years ago by the author at the Joint Forces Quarterly - and eagerly read things I never knew about eg the Inundation of the Tokyo Plain and also the example of the Invasion of Leyte Island as an example of over-optimistic planning which took far longer to conquer than anticipated -
Leyte is a perfect example. It was to the Luzon campaign what the Kyushu invasion was to the capture of Tokyo, a preliminary operation to create a huge staging area. Today, we can recall MacArthur wading ashore triumphantly in the Philippines. But what Truman and Marshall knew only too well was that MacArthur was supposed to have retaken Leyte with four divisions and have eight fighter and bomber groups striking from the island within 45 days of the initial landings. Nine divisions and 60 days into the battle,however, only a fraction of that airpower was operational because of unexpected terrain conditions (and this on an island which the United States had occupied for forty years). Nor had fighting on the ground gone as planned. The Japanese even briefly isolated US Fifth Air Force headquarters and also captured much of the Burauen airfield complex. This is just one rare or not known nuggets of information - which I had never heard of ( and I read a great deal on WW2 )- the other thing was how hard it was to capture insignificant features of ground from the Japanese and how good their anti-tank guns were , so that the Invasion would have been no walkover .........The operational plan for Operation Coronet called for a swift strike up the Kanto Plain to cut off Tokyo by a pair of US armored divisions from Europe. As a practical matter, however, there was no way to actually conduct the envisioned movement in a timely fashion. Now, long before the British experienced the tragedy of pushing XXX Corps up a single road through the Dutch lowlands to Arnhem, an event popularized through the book and movie A Bridge too Far, US Japan Invasion planners were well aware of the costs that would be incurred if the Kanto Plain was not secured for mobile warfare and airfield construction prior to the wet season. Intensive hydrological and weather studies begun in 1943 made it clear that an invasion in early March offered the best chance of success, with the situation becoming more risky as the month progressed.
With good luck, relatively free movement across the plain might even be possible well into April. Unfortunately, this assumed that the snow run-off from the mountains would not be too severe, and that the Japanese would not flood the fields. While subsequent post-war prisoner interrogations did not reveal any plans to systematically deluge low-lying areas, a quick thrust up the Kanto Plain would not have been as speedy as planners believed. First, there were no bridges in the area capable of taking vehicles over 12 tons. Every tank, every self-propelled gun, and prime mover would have to cross bridges erected for the event. Next, logistical considerations and the sequence of follow-up units would require that armored divisions not even land until Y+10. This would provide time for the defenders to observe that the US infantry's generic tank support was severely hampered by already flooded rice fields and- shall we say- suggest ways to make things worse for the invaders.
A late start on Honshu would leave American forces to fight their way up flood plains that were only dry during certain times of the year, but could be suddenly inundated by the Japanese. If the timetable slipped for either operation, US soldiers and Marines on Honshu would risk fighting in terrain similar to that later encountered in Vietnam- minus the helicopters to fly over this mess- where all movement was readily visible from even low terrain features and vulnerable convoys moved on roads above rice paddies. Unfortunately, foul weather would have delayed base development on Kyushu and spelled a potentially disastrous late start for the operation on Honshu.
anyway VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED so very well done Mr Giancreco !
A great 'what if' book and very revealing about the casualties the US might have sustained (they were not keen to have the allies involved). There is some repetition in this book which gives it the feel of a series of academic articles strung together.