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Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire Reissue Edition

84 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0141001463
ISBN-10: 0141001461
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Editorial Reviews Review

Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire is an impeccably written analysis of the last months of the Pacific War and the unfolding of the American air campaign over Japan. The story opens with a searing description of the fire-bombing of Tokyo in March 1945, which caused more deaths than the atom bomb in Hiroshima. Within five months, Japan's economy was collapsing and the country faced catastrophic starvation. Richard B. Frank coolly analyzes different scenarios for ending the war (Russia waited in the wings). Frank concludes that the emperor and the Japanese military were far from ready to surrender, and that the decision to use the atom bomb probably saved millions of lives, not only Allied but Japanese and other Asian lives, also--perhaps a hundred thousand Chinese were dying each month under Japanese occupation. The effects of the bomb worked on many levels, even lending faces to the Japanese militarists, who could convince themselves that they were defeated not by a lack of spiritual power but by superior science. Densely documented, intelligently argued, Downfall recreates the end of the war from the viewpoints of the principals, giving the book an unusual immediacy. A highly valuable insight into the disintegration of the Japanese Empire, one of the most dramatic episodes of World War II. --John Stevenson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The premise behind this excellent history of the concluding stages of WWII in the Pacific is that the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has cast a light so bright that it has blinded historians to many of the political, diplomatic and military realities that existed before August 6, 1945. In his comprehensive study of the last months of WWII, Frank (Guadalcanal) aims to present events "as they were perceived and recorded by American and Japanese participants in 1945Anot years or decades thereafter." In 1945, American strategists developed their plan, "Operation Downfall," for forcing the unconditional surrender of Japan. Japanese leaders, meanwhile, mobilized all available military and civilian resources for a final defense of the homeland. Though they knew the war was lost, Japanese military strategists believed their preparations were sufficient to compel the Allies to offer more generous terms on which the war might end. Frank immerses his readers in the flow of intelligence estimates, battle experience and shifting strategy on both sides. The centerpiece of the book is an exacting and dispassionate examination both of the American decision to use the atomic bomb and of whether Japan would have surrendered absent the bomb. Frank marshals an impressive and complex array of evidence to support his contention that surrender by Japan was by no means imminent in August 1945, and that alternatives to the bomb, such as incendiary bombing, carried no certainty of causing less suffering and fewer deaths than the atomic bomb. In his balanced use of sources and in his tough-minded sensitivity to moral issues, Frank has enriched the debate about the war's conclusion. Agent, Robert Gottlieb of William Morris.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (May 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141001461
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141001463
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

172 of 181 people found the following review helpful By Steven Zoraster on October 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book will become the standard against which all future study of the use of atomic bombs against Japan is judged. The author describes in detail the continuous flow of new information to both the military and government bureaucracies of Japan and the United States. That information, mixed with prevailing ideology on both sides, helped determine the course of the World War II in the Pacific during the summer of 1945. Among pieces of the whole picture which I was not aware of before reading this book are:
1. While the United States was intercepting diplomatic messages sent from Japan to the USSR attempting to achieve a negotiated peace through Russian intervention, it was also intercepting many more messages planning for the last ditch battle against the expected American invasion of Japan. An invasion that the Japanese - including the Emperor - expected to end in a Japanese victory followed by a relatively favorable peace for Japan. (In fact, by August of 1945, Admirals Nimitz and King of the United States Navy worried that the planned invasion would end in a Japanese victory!)
2. The fire-bombing of Japanese cities was just as horrendous as the use of the atomic bomb, causing more deaths when done "correctly," and causing many more deaths in total than were caused by the use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Plus, if General LeMay hadn't figured out how to "do it" right using B-29s and "conventional" weapons, he would have almost certainly been replaced by someone else, almost as fast as he replaced his predecessor. (His predecessor having failed to get much obvious destruction in Japan out of the B-29s at his command.)
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100 of 106 people found the following review helpful By fastreader on December 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
Was Hiroshima necessary? What about Nagasaki? Would the invasion of Japan really have cost the lives of a million American soldiers, or were the Japanese eager to give up? And hey, what about those Russians?
People know amazingly little about the Pacific War, compared to the epic conflict between the white nations in Europe. Indeed, the first two weeks of August 1945 loom larger for the chattering classes than do the four years that preceded them--eight years if you date the war from the invasion of China proper--fourteen years if you consider that it started with Japan's annexation of Manchuria. I've been reading about the events of August 1945 for a decade, and I have to say that the analysis gets better as the years go by. Richard Frank's book is the best yet.
Olympic: First off, Frank gives a good capsule description of Operation Olympic, the invasion of Kyushu planned for November 1, and Ketsu-go, the preparations being made to destroy the American invasion force at the beaches. Frank then brings up evidence that during the summer of 1945, the Japanese reinforcement of Kyushu was so fearsome that American planners were beginning to turn against the invasion. By October 15, they now believed, 625,000 troops would be defending Kyushu. On Luzon, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima, the Japanese had shown their willingness to fight almost to the last man, with death tolls running as high as 97 or 98 percent. Meanwhile, they inflicted casualties at the rate of one American for every one or two defenders. To me, that suggests 600,000 Japanese soldiers dead on Kyushu, and upwards of 300,000 Americans killed, wounded, or missing. No wonder Truman wanted the Russians in the war, and no wonder he dropped the atomic bombs.
The Russians are coming!
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It is an overworked cliche but still true: the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan is one of those crucial, pivotal events in human history. Richard Frank's "Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire" is undoubtedly the finest history written about the end of World War II and, thus, the beginning of the post-war tribulations. Using many Japanese primary sources as well as new American information, he provides a view into the events, emotions, and intentions nowhere previously available. He succeeds at showing us what people thought and felt and believed in addition to what they did. The insights into the Japanese plans and deliberations are especially illuminating and are essential to understanding the unfolding of events. I don't believe that Mr. Frank will put to rest the argument over the efficacy of using atomic weapons but he has provided the best narrative and explication of the analysis, plans, and decision to use them against Japan. My sole quibble with the writing in "Downfall" is that Mr. Frank breaks Barbara Tuchman's dictum never to argue the sources in the midst of the narrative. If ever there is a book to be an exception to that rule, this one is it.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Al Krieger on May 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book takes you to those days in late 1945, and gives up all of the facts and feelings from both the Japanese and American viewpoints. It is excellently written, fully documented and researched, and finely tuned to keep the readers' interest at all times. While it does slow down, somewhat in places, suffering from conveying too much detail, overall it kept my interest from cover to cover. I thought I knew all about this period in time, and the events that occured then, but I was wrong. I learned a lot that I never knew just from reading this narrative. The author also does a masterful job of conveying the feelings which were in force then, so you feel like you are there also. From a historial viewpoint, this book is far, and above, the best that I have ever read on this subject and period of time. It is a must for every reader of historical facts, and battle periods that have affected our lives ever more. The one single fact that this books deals with is the wide diferences we, and the Japanese felt about conducting the war, and ending it. I highly recommend this book for all serious readers of historial, and military events.
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