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The Last Mission: The Secret History of World War II's Final Battle Paperback – May 6, 2003

4.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As dramatized by Smith, a WWII B-29 radio operator, and prolific military historian McConnell, Japan's surrender looks something like this: Emperor Hirohito, persuaded by the American atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and by the active imprecations of some of his cabinet ministers, decides to surrender and place his nation at the mercy of the Allies. A small cadre of junior officers simply cannot face the idea of surrender and begin a plot to undermine Hirohito's plan. Their goal: destroy the recordings of Hirohito's surrender set to be broadcast, isolate the emperor with local troops and proclaim that the civilians who counseled the emperor were traitors. They expect the armed forces to flock to their side and launch an all-out kamikaze attack on the approaching Americans. Yet the night of their plan, Smith's B-29 group flew past Tokyo, heading north to strike at one of Japan's remaining oil refineries. Fear of a third atomic bomb forced a citywide blackout that disrupted the conspiracy. Smith undertook years of research into Japanese and American strategizing and makes the book hard to put down for those interested in espionage and historical "what ifs." Maps and photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Smith was a radio operator on the crew of the B-29 bomber Boomerang in the Pacific theater of World War II. His plane, along with the others in the 315th Bomb Wing, 20th Air Force, was assigned to bomb strategic targets in the Japanese home islands. Flying stripped down "Superforts," they flew night missions over several Japanese cities, including Tokyo. On their return from one mission, they passed three Superforts flying toward Japan and learned only later that one was the Enola Gay on its mission to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Smith and McConnell (author or coauthor of more than 22 books, many on military subjects) provide more than an account of the final missions of the Boomerang and its crew. They take the reader to Washington, DC, to examine Allied strategies to end the war and to the inner sanctum of the Japanese military as it struggled with questions of surrender and survival. Finally, Smith describes his last mission over Tokyo, which was blacked out in anticipation of another atomic bombing, and how that mission forced Japanese rebels to abandon their efforts to prolong the war in the face of Emperor Hirohito's decision to surrender. More than a fascinating firsthand report of the last bombing mission over Japan, this book is an account of the last days of World War II in the Pacific. Recommended for academic libraries and larger public libraries. Grant A. Fredericksen, Illinois Prairie Dist. P.L., Metamora
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (May 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767907795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767907798
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Clyde Hussey on June 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book describes the last bombing mission by the B-29's of the 315th wing of the 20th Air Force. This is an important piece of history mainly because this mission took place after the 2nd A bomb was dropped . . . the time most historians claimed the war with Japan ended. The research that was done to write this book was done by Jim Smith, who was on this mission and knew there was more to it than just another raid on Japan's oil refineries. What came out of the research and is presented in this book is a story so important that it had to be told. What might have happened if this mission had not been flown could have cost the lives of millions of Americans and Japanese. In addition to being a good and exciting story, this is history that has not been reported before in anywhere near as much detail and with as much accuracy. I flew this mission also and have waited nearly 60 years for this story to be told. It is done well and with a high concern for accuracy by Smith and McConnell. Read it if you care anything about history as it really happened.
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Format: Paperback
The Last Mission is subtitled "The secret history of World War II's final battle". This subtitle is a little misleading, in my opinion, as the book really focuses on late war (1945) bombing runs over Japan.

One of the two authors of the book (Jim Smith) was on a B-29B bomber at the conclusion of the war, including what he calls "The Last Mission", which was a bombing run to attack a strategic oil refinery at Akita, with the routing taking the bombers directly over Tokyo.

It is the routing of the bombers that leads Smith and McConnell to write that this mission was the final battle of the war, and perhaps their mission succeeded in ending the war by preventing the attempted coup d'etat from achieving its mission in Tokyo during that final night of August 14-15, 1945. With a full blackout in effect in Tokyo (because of the stream of American bombers passing overhead), the rebels were unable to accomplish their goals of destroying the Emporer's surrender message and convincing the armed forces of Japan to carry on the fight through the final Ketsu-go, or invasion of the Japanese home islands, where the military intended to cause heavy casualties on the Allied forces.

There is no doubt that that had the coup succeeded, the war would have continued and Allied casulaties would have been enormous during Operation Olympic (the invastion of the Japanese islands), but I do not believe that this bombing mission single-handedly prevented those casualties). I agree that the timing & routing of the bombers did indeed hamper the rebels' efforts, but I think that the war would still have ended at the same time regardless of whether this mission was conducted or not.
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Format: Hardcover
What a great book! The author makes this small piece of history read as a fiction novel. It gives the detailed account of a night bomber group and the powerbrokers of the Japanese Empire. The stories, very well researched and written, never collide; yet parallel to weave a splendid story. The action is tense and faced paced, and you will not be able to put it down. The authors cite many other works on my bookshelves that I am more eager to read. The stories of the night modified B-29B, flying from Guam points the roots of US strategic air power. The story of the inner turmoil of Japan's surrender are also well done and cited. The book covers (for me) new ground on the use and policy of the decision to drop the atomic bombs. The third story told, the US fear of a prolonged campaign on the Japanese home islands, and the use of more atomic weapons was very interesting. This book is for serious and casual history reader packs an atomic punch!
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Format: Hardcover
This book provides a detailed examination of the last B-29 bombing mission against the Japanese Empire, as well as a very good description of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and a compelling discussion of the attemped coup by junior Japanese military officers against the Japanese government.
By the summer of 1945, the Japanese government was on its knees. Months of stinging defeats coupled by the continuous bombing of the homeland had brought the Japanese to a state of near extinction. Some factions of the Japanese were ready to surrender, citing the mounting losses from the American bombings, but most in the military favored continuing the war while preparing for the inevitable Allied invasion. Japan would strike at the Allies with massed kamikaze attacks while fighting to the last man on the invasion beaches.
Meanwhile, the Americans had perfected the world's first atomic bombs. After a successful test in the New Mexico desert, two bombs were shipped to the Marianas for eventual drops on Japan. The first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, while the second was dropped on Nagasaki. Even after the atomic bombings, Japan refused to surrender. The Japanese were still holding out for the final battle on the Japanese mainland. However, Hirohito and members of his cabinet were discussing the acceptance of the Potsdam Decleration, the Allied message to Japan stating the Allies would only accept unconditional surrender from the Japanese. This caused the Japanese great concern, for they wanted the freedom to disarm their own troops, prosecute their own war criminals, maintain the emperor, and have no Allied occupation. All of these terms were considered unallowable by the Allies.
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