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Hiroshima in America Paperback – August 1, 1996


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

President Truman was ambivalent about the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet, according to this unsettling study, Truman, influenced by army general Leslie Groves and Secretary of War Henry Stimson, went into denial and developed a sense of omnipotence that allowed him to deploy weapons that killed vast numbers of civilians. Eminent psychologist Lifton (whose National Book Award-winning Death in Life dealt with Hiroshima survivors) and former Nuclear Times editor Mitchell (The Campaign of the Century) draw on primary sources, including the diaries of Truman and other decision-makers, in an attempt to refute the widely held belief that the atomic bombings hastened WWII's end, thereby preventing an invasion of Japan and saving countless American lives. The authors demonstrate that the U.S. military and media for decades systematically suppressed on-site photographs, as well as American and Japanese documentary films, that showed the devastation produced by the bombs. They argue that the lasting, harmful impact of Hiroshima on American society includes a defense policy in thrall to nuclear weaponry, self-propelling arms buildups, patterns of psychic numbing and secrecy and denial of the health effects of radiation from bombs and from U.S. nuclear waste dumps. BOMC and History Book Club selections.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Lifton (The Journey of the Adopted Self, LJ 3/1/94) and Mitchell (The Campaign of the Century, LJ 4/1/92) bring their expertise to bear in this well-researched book examining the reaction of the American people to the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 and its domestic aftermath. The authors examine what they perceive to be a conspiracy by the government to mislead and suppress information about the actual bombing, Truman's decision to drop the bomb, and the birth and mismanagement of the beginning of the nuclear age. The authors claim that Americans then and now are haunted by the devastating psychological effects of the bomb. The most interesting aspect of their book is the analysis of Truman. The development of nuclear weapons and the bombing of Hiroshima will continue to foment debate and will be of interest to students of history and current affairs. Highly recommended for most collections.?C. Christopher Pavek, Putnam, Hayes & Bartlett, Inc. Information Ctr., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1995 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: 448 pages
  • Publisher: HarpPeren (August 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380727641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380727643
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #429,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 64 people found the following review helpful By M. Joslin on January 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book will change how you've viewed the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan. We've been lulled into the belief that it ended the war and "saved lives." But have our history books been truly honest in that simplistic regard to the act? This book urges you to look deeper into the issue, if you are serious about TRULY understanding the decision to use the bombs.
Lifton gives an incredibly thorough profile of the events and characters involved in the decision to start nuclear war. From political to psychological reasons, the characters are dealt with on a human level. It's a frightening tale, much more complex than the propoganda that was issued prior and following the nuke's use. Many will not like what is documented, because it reaches beyond the simplistic explanations, but sometimes truth is painful, especiallly when it may challenge what we believed are our true values.
This is a must read for all who believe nukes are a legitimate choice in war. Lifton will surprise you, and make you very intimate with Harry Truman and his thought processes going into the final months of the war, the pressures he was under, both from his own cabinet, the military, and the public.
We can only make choices based on the information made available to us. This book is unique in its presentation, and deserves full attention in our history courses and for those who seriously study the impact of our World Wars. It's not a literary guilt trip for the nation. It presents and profiles the hard truths, and no doubt took serious guts to publish.
Not many books can change your beliefs, but this one can, or at least legitimately challenged what you thought were established views.
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54 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Robert Carlberg on November 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
Using sources made available only recently, Lifton and Mitchell examine the US government's efforts to mold public opinion following the detonation of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs.
These included squelching reports of radiation injuries, preventing release of ground-level damage reports, discouraging discussion of alternatives to the bombing, playing up the "military necessity" of what was (at best) only partially a military decision, and placing all of the scientists and their papers under a shroud of "Top Secrecy" to prevent non-military viewpoints from being discussed or published.
Like Gar Alperovitz (and drawing heavily on his work), Lifton and Mitchell present revealing portraits of the main characters involved in this turning point in history, and make a compelling case that their motives were not always as pure as we've been led to believe.
A cautionary tale of the seduction of power.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Ollie Nanyes on August 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
The previous reviewers did a good job explaining what the book was about. I'll add the following: the authors discuss President Truman's role in making the decision to drop the bomb and seem to indicate that he was more or less a consent giver in this process rather than the decision maker.

Also, the authors explain why any exploration of this topic seems to spark outrage and resentment in the U. S., especially among military veterans.

Because of this book, I think that I will be better able to discuss this issues in a way that won't make people feel as if they are being attacked.
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Format: Paperback
Some reviewers damn this book because it maintains that the US atomic assault on Hiroshima (and Nagasaki, not specifically approved by Truman) was unnecessary and immoral. This is in fact the position taken by the authors, though they are far less vehement about it than readers who've heard about this book from others might expect. The real point of the book is to criticize the American legend that has built up around "the Bomb", beginning with Gen. Leslie Groves, Harry Truman et al. and ending with the response to the Smithsonian "Enola Gay" exhibit in the Nineties. This legend involves everything from the belief that the atomic attacks were necessary to public attitudes, generally, toward atomic weapons and the nuclear industry. It is true that the authors believe the atomic attacks were a mistake. It is also true that we can excuse these attacks (or at least the first, against Hiroshima), but not the mendaciousness and ignorance we usually encounter when the attacks are discussed in America.

My only substantive criticism, albeit a big one, is that the book is poorly sourced. Thirty-five pages of notes, yet most quotations and facts that I would have liked to follow up are not found in these notes. Also, though it's in the essence of the book that the authors subject American leaders and the general populace to heavy psychoanalysis, it sometimes seems excessive. A prominent example: the authors' reading of Harry Truman's precarious sense of self is plausible, but unprovable, and it seems excessive. The latter parts of the book are scarcely anything more than national psychoanalysis. Horror poetry of the nation, if you will. I'm not unsympathetic, but this stuff tells the reader nothing. The book should have ended with the report on the controversy over the Enola Gay exhibit.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By D. McNutt on November 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
Hiroshima in America, by Robert Jay Lifton and Greg Mitchell, is an incisive analysis of the distortions of the Hiroshima narrative and exploration of the implications of such distortions on America's national identity. In doing so, the authors focus not on the fateful day the bomb was dropped, but on the half century that followed, "and our struggles with and against what we call the `official narrative'...What the Hiroshima narrative conveys is the justification, even wisdom, of our use of the atomic bomb to save lives and end the war." Hiroshima in America presents a convincing body of evidence that this narrative is in serious need of revision, and that renewal can only come after such revisions are made. Overall, the authors are successful in reaching their stated aims, and the work as a whole shows how the decisions such as the one to drop the atomic bomb can disrupt a nation's narrative, and how secrecy, concealment, and falsification can be employed to smooth over such disruptions in an effort to reaffirm coherence.
Lifton and Mitchell begin by describing the early reaction to the bombing of Hiroshima, following Truman's announcement on...They argue that all the central aspects of what they call the `official narrative' was contained in Truman's speech. The atomic bomb was discussed in terms of other weapons of the day, it was aimed at a military target, and its use was morally defensible insofar as it was used against an aggressor nation who would have fought to the finish, costing hundreds of thousands of American lives. Any challenges to the official narrative were effectively silenced when Harper's published Henry Stimson's article describing the decision-making process.
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