on March 17, 2011
Dr. Wainstock has provided a very well-researched, interesting, and useful analysis of the political and military events in both America and Japan which led to the use of the single-most destructive weapon in human history. Using key primary research, Wainstock takes on the most critical question: Did dropping atomic bombs on Japan save American lives or was it an unnecessary act of revenge upon an already defeated enemy?
Wainstock explores the heated debates among top U.S. military commanders who advised President Truman on the military necessity for the use of the bombs, most notably the debates between General George C. Marshall and Admiral William D. Leahy.
Contrary to the orthodox opinion that the use of atomic weapons was unanimously considered the most decisive event in defeating Japan and which saved American lives, Dr. Wainstock reveals that such thinking was far from universal among the top American generals and advisers at the time.
For example, General Curtis Lemay, who commanded the famous B-52 fire bombing raids, believed the tremendous military success of his campaign, which destroyed sixty-six of Japan's largest cities, was the decisive factor which "brought about the collapse of Japan before the date set for our land invasion." Lemay always believed that "Japan was finished long before either one of the two atomic bombs were dropped." Dr. Wainstock points out that Lemay was not alone in his assessments. Top naval Admirals Ernest J. King and William D. Leahy agreed with Lemay. Army Air Force General Henry Arnold also agreed with Lemay. Indeed, even the highest ranking Army commander in the Pacific Theater, General Douglas MacArthur, shared Lemay's view that the bombs were not necessary for American victory.
Dr. Wainstock has provided an interesting and extremely well-written view into the events which led to the atomic bombing of Japan. With exhaustive research, readers are provided with windows into the debates among top American military commanders, the quality of advice given by Truman's political advisers, how Truman's own thinking evolved toward the ultimate use of the bombs, the costs of the American insistence on "unconditional surrender," and many insights into the Japanese military and political responses both before the bombs and after.
on August 16, 2015
The "Greatest Generation" has accepted the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the better of two alternatives - allied invasion and the loss of American life, or preemptive use of nuclear weapons. Professor Dennis D. Wainstock in this book highlights a third option - continued naval blockade and conventional bombing, forcing capitulation through exhaustion and even starvation. The Japanese were prepared for surrender well before the bombing: as Wainstock points out, the U.S. government knew Japan's intentions well through the earlier breaking of their communication code. And surprisingly, according to numerous quoted Japanese officials, the decision to ultimately accept unconditional surrender was principally based on the loss of the Soviet Union as the mediator of surrender.
Surprising as a first-time reader on this subject, nearly ALL of the combat general and flag officers were against the use of the atomic bombs as unnecessary to bring the regime to capitulation. Professor Wainstock quotes liberally from the records of these officers as well as the scientists of the Manhattan Project and he cites his sources copiously. The reader is presented with a nuanced conclusion explaining the advocacy for the bombings based on: a burgeoning geo-political desire to keep the Soviet Red Army and Soviet regime at bay, an executive fear of legislative ire at the expense of the bomb's development (~$2B) without its ultimate use, and a seething hatred of the enemy for the scars inflicted at Pearl Harbor.
It is impossible to confidently know the mental formulations of the men who espoused the use of the bombs, and it is probably a pointless effort in any case. What is knowable is that there was a third option and furthermore that option - to continue conventional warfare to its end - was clearly the favored direction of the wartime commanders including: General MacAuthor, General Eisenhower, General LeMay, General Arnold, Admiral King, Admiral Leahy and others. This history may demand to be rewritten some day... but probably not until the Greatest Generation has passed. The book is a well written and well presented thesis, thoroughly recommended as food-for-thought for the 'open-minded' reader.
on August 12, 2015
Although now outdated, the Wainstock's report is well documented. Unfortunately, as with most other atomic bomb books, he fails to take into consideration the repercussions of not using the bombs as soon as they became ready -- particularly the political partition of Japan with he Soviet Union and the lost of another million lives across Asia.
on October 11, 2015
Richard B. Frank calculated that 580,000 to 630,000 Japanese would have died during the invasion of Kyushu alone. This is above and beyond the 200,000-400,00 Allied POWs, men, women, and children, that the Japanese War Minister, General Anami, had ordered by killed when "the first enemy foot touches the Home Island."
John Ray Skates joins Frank in noting that the Japanese "peace feelers" were never going to come to anything because the Big Six (Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, War Minister, Navy Minister, Chief of Staff Army and Chief of Staff Navy) were split about surrendering at all.
I suggest you skip this book and get Frank's book, it will save you a tremendous amount of time and avoid a great amount of confusion about the facts of the matter.