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Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs against Japan, Revised Edition Paperback – February 28, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0807856079 ISBN-10: 080785607X Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 2 edition (February 28, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080785607X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807856079
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"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.

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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on July 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
One of the most complex, divisive, and nuanced debates in the history of the twentieth century is the decision by U.S. President Harry S. Truman in August 1945 to drop two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, thereby ending World War II. A traditional conception of the decision, indeed the one most often voiced by actors in the decision, was that it was done to speed the end of the war and thereby preserve American lives that might be lost in future combat. The revisionist interpretation, often identified with Gar Alperowitz, argues that the war was almost over and that the Japanese were on the verge of surrender anyway. The reason to drop the bomb, therefore, had little to do with the ending of World War II and was aimed more at impressing and influencing future relations with the Soviet Union. Another interpretation suggests that the use of the atomic bomb had more to do with American racism, and that the U.S. would have refrained from using such a horrific weapon on other Caucasians in Europe. Other scholars condemn the use of such a weapon targeting large populations, including non-combatants, as immoral and obscene. Subsequent historians have argued various permutations of these interpretations and the debate remains far from settled.

J. Samuel Walker's "`prompt & utter destruction': Truman and the Use of the Atomic Bomb against Japan" is a superb short discussion of the merits of each of these interpretations and an assessment of the current state of understanding on the subject. He takes an exceptionally even-handed approach, pointing up the strengths and weaknesses of each major argument and assessing how they have evolved over time. In the end, as Walker documents, five fundamental considerations played into the decision to use atomic bombs in August 1945.
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Pierre Weydert on May 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is an important contribution to the ongoing (and seemingly never-ending) debate on the reasons why the U.S. chose to drop two atomic bombs on Japan. The author took it upon himself to clearly determine whether the bomb was militarily necessary - as has been suggested by many U.S. historians writing before J. Samuel Walker - or whether it might have been used for purely political reasons such as intimidating the Soviet Union.
The results he comes up with are in many ways quite remarkable. For instance it becomes evident that then president Harry S. Truman was never confronted with the categorical choice between using the bomb and invading the Japanese main islands (which might have involved heavy U.S. losses). Indeed, by the beginning of summer 1945 Japan was believed to be so weak that the war was expected to come to an end before an invasion began, and even if it had been necessary to proceed with an invasion, the resulting casualties were supposed to be much fewer than Truman and his top-level advisers claimed after the war. However, Walker demonstrates rather convincingly that whichever alternatives might have existed, the bomb nevertheless proved to be the best means to win a decisive victory at the lowest cost in American casualties. Taking into account the element of time, one begins to understand how great the temptation must have been for Truman and his cabinet to drop the bombs and thereby finish the war with a clean stroke. Although other reasons, too, played an important part in the ultimate decision, the finding that using the bomb simply provided the president and his advisers with the most convenient measure to end the war is a compelling one and without doubt the book's most valuable message.
J.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By G. Chapman on December 9, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book gives a good overview but just that - an overview. The events and circumstances surrounding the use of the A-bomb simply must be addressed in greater depth for one who wishes to become truly knowledgable on the subject. However, its brevity is also a strength in that for one just getting into the subject it serves as a fabulous introduction and for those already familiar with the subject, it sums things up into a nice recap. Contrary to some reviews of the book, the author doesn't ever say or even imply that the bomb should not have been dropped. Quite the opposite, he provides compelling reasons why the decision to use the bomb was sound and wise militarily, politically, diplomatically, and morally. Granted, the idea of morally justifying such terrible force in any context seems paradoxical and borders on philosophical absurdity, but the author does an admirable job at least providing relatively sound coherent reasons. So while not the final say, this book would be a good addition due to its brevity, credible research, and arguments which, as a whole, are very sound.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Eleanor Shumaker on January 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a jewel of a book on the end of World War II. There have been many myths about Truman's decision to drop the bomb-he even made a brief film explaining how he made the decision, but this clears the air. Truman never actually decided. Everyone involved simply assumed, and correctly so, that once it was completed, it would be used. The author points to many reasons why the atomic bomb should not have been dropped on Japan, most of them valid and discussed previously in historical circles. However, there is a very interesting tidbit about Stalin and some other surprises. It is well worth reading.
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