- 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 1.1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 104 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #289,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire Reissue Edition
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Praise for Guadalcanal
"Brilliant . . . an enormous work based on the most meticulous research. Here is everything you might want to know about Guadalcanal."
--Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Richard Frank has produced what will surely become the standard history of the U.S. Navy's most important campaign. . . . A stunning debut by a major new talent in American letters."
"Guadalcanal is a masterly account of what happened and why. . . . Books of this quality are rare, and Richard B. Frank should be commended for his authoritative inaugural work."
"Mr. Frank's book is impressive in virtually all respects--a vividly and carefully crafted monument that is worthy of the Americans and Japanese who collided . . . on a little-known island named Guadalcanal."
--The New York Times Book Review
From the Inside Flap
Downfall opens with a vivid portrayal of the catastrophic fire raid on Tokyo in March 1945 -- which was to be followed by the utter destruction of almost every major Japanese city -- and ends with the anguished vigil of American and Japanese leaders waiting to learn if Japan's armed forces would obey the Emperor's order to surrender.
America's use of the atom bomb has generated more heated controversy than any other event of the whole war:
-- Did nuclear weapons save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans poised to invade Japan.?
-- Did U.S. leaders know that Japan was urgently seeking peace and needed only assurance about the Emperor's safety to end the war swiftly?
-- Was the bomb really used to intimidate the Russians?
-- Why wasn't the devastating power of the weapon demonstrated first before being unleashed on a city?
Richard B. Frank has brought to life these critical times, working from primary documents, reports, diaries, and newly declassified records. These pages present the untold story of how American leaders learned in the summer of 1945 that their compromise strategy to end the war by blockade and bombardment, followed by invasion, had been shattered; radio intelligence had unmasked a massive Japanese buildup on Kyushu designed to turn the initial invasion into a bloody shambles. Meanwhile, the text and analysis of diplomatic intercepts depicted sterile prospects for negotiation before a final clash of arms. Here also, for the first time, is a full and balanced account of how Japan's leaders risked annihilation by gambling on a military strategy aimed at securing political bargaining leverage to preserve the old order in Japan.
Downfall replacesthe myths that now surround the end of the war and the use of the bomb with the stark realities of this great historical controversy.
Top customer reviews
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This book was recommended to me and I was immediately grabbed by the introduction and the rest of the narrative. The author has a point of view, which is the decision to use the atomic bomb on Japan was a necessary decision. The decision was one of the best given the horrible alternatives.
The book brings forth so many interesting and yet forgotten facts, figures and allegations supported by evidence. I love how the narrative discusses the increased tempo at the end of the Pacific campaign. The book is just simply terrific in discussing details that the "humanity' crowd just forgets to make their points.
The ferocity of the campaigns in Saipan, Iwo Jima and then Okinawa most certainly brought clarity to the intensity of an invasion. The movement of Japanese forces to the expected landing grounds, the training of civilians to fight. As well, the conduct of the Japanese in using slave laborers, the prospect of millions of casualties and the uncertainty of Soviet intentions.
Frank discusses the disagreements over the possible courses of action and the stalemate of LeMay's campaign over Japan. Frankly, the argument of indiscriminate civilian bombing wasn't ever true and ignores the Japanese industrial degeneration into neighborhoods. Moreover, the concern was, unlike Germany, the island nation could easily be bombed into mass starvation.
This book pulls no punches in the descriptions of just what confronted Truman in July 1945 after Trinity. The fact of the matter is that this was a fateful decision like few others. It seems after reading this book and others that the decades past have brought more discomfort about the use of "the bomb" than could have been possible when it happened. The strategic campaign over Japan was massive and destructive. It seems that the revisionists revile "the bomb" but forget the firebombings (except for the March '45 raid) that consistently brought death and destruction without the effects of radiation (which were largely unknown at the time - another aspect forgotten as if the science was a known quantity).
As well, the Japanese leadership wanted to maintain fighting. Forgotten in the post-war years was how the leadership of Japan lied to its people, maintained the attitude of racial superiority and the resultant belief on the Empire as sacrosanct such that surrender was unthinkable. The incredible end of the war has been ignored and forgotten - coups and infighting. Plus, the assumption that Japan today is anything similar to 1945 (wrong) and was a democratic state. Fascinating.
Truly, this is a great book to read. The debate will continue, but this is a necessary read for those interested. As well I recommend Richard Rhodes book as well.
:::SPOILER ALERT (If you will pardon the phrase in connection with a historical work.)
In addition to the above, Frank presented/proved certain things that were new -- at least to me. These included:
-- The Japanese had so built up their forces on Kyushu that, if the US had gone forward with the planned invasion landings the invasion probably would have failed. Not just been a bloodbath, for both sided. But a bloodbath that defeat for the Allies. That was new to me, but Frank supports it.
-- The US Navy initially signed off on MacArthur's plans for the invasion, but based on MacArthur's assessment, as of June, 1945, that the Japanese forces on Kyushu were relatively weak. But as the summer of 1945 progressed, and as the Navy got more and more intelligence about the Japanese build-up, Navy leadership got increasingly concerned that MacArthur's plans were not just unrealistic, but delusional. Right about the time that Japan surrendered, things were building to a climax in which the Navy, under Admiral Nimitz, would have withdrawn support from the plan. And that would have made it virtually impossible that the invasion would have gone forward - at least, not before the Spring of 1946.
-- Frank's reporting on the intelligence aspect (allude to above) was a REAL revelation. I know a lot about the European War codebreaking efforts (e.g., Engima and ULTRA), and had heard of the Pacific War efforts (e.g., MAGIC). But what I did not know was that, as Frank makes clear, by the end of the war the US was reading Japanese traffic in near "real time," and distributing that intelligence to end users (high-level strategic military and political leaders almost as fast. The importance of this, in the context of the debate over the use of nuclear weapons against Japan, is that our decision-makers knew what the Japanese were thinking/discussing/planning, almost as soon as they did. And this fact destroys a lot of the the after-the-fact whining about the use of nuclear weapons.
For the SPOILERS part, I would compare this book favorably with "Shatter Sword: The Untold Story of The Battle of Midway." And that's about as high a praise as I can give.