- Series: Stanford Nuclear Age Series
- Paperback: 424 pages
- Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (August 11, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0804739579
- ISBN-13: 978-0804739573
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #175,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and Its Legacies 1st Edition
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"The quality of Sherwin's research and the strength of his argument are far superior to previous accounts." (New York Times Book Review)
"Probably the definitive account for a long time to come. . . . Sherwin has tackled some of the critical questions of the Cold War's origins―and has settled them, in my opinion." (Walter LaFeber)
"Sure to be the definitive study of these particular questions."
From the Inside Flap
In his Preface to this new edition, the author describes and evaluates the lengthening trail of new evidence that has come to light concerning these often emotionally debated subjects. The author also invokes his experience as a historical advisor to the controversial, aborted 1995 Enola Gay exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. This leads him to analyze the impact on American democracy of one of the most insidious of the legacies of Hiroshima: the political control of historical interpretation.
Reviews of Previous Editions
“The quality of Sherwin’s research and the strength of his argument are far superior to previous accounts.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Probably the definitive account for a long time to come. . . . Sherwin has tackled some of the critical questions of the Cold War’s origins—and has settled them, in my opinion.”
“One of those rare achievements of conscientious scholarship, a book at once graceful and luminous, yet loyal to its documentation and restrained in its speculations.”
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It is this deity's rise to power, which is here chronicled by Martin J. Sherwin. The complex political history is detailed from the beginnings of the Manhattan Project to the destruction of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Offering a fair treatment of all involved Sherwin provides the political backdrop to the creation of the atomic legacy, which continues to this day.
In this work he deals with the scientists' struggles with the military and subsequent use of their work toward military ends. These "soldiers out of uniform" began the race for the atomic bomb against Germany yet towards the end of their work many became increasingly aware of the moral ramifications for unleashing such a devastating device upon humanity. The burning question which continually came up to both scientists, political advisors and the world leaders involved (FDR, Truman, and Churchill) was, "What role would the atomic bomb take in the postwar world?" This question often failed to illicit response and only came to its answer after the destruction of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Sherwin spends much time on the relationship of the Soviet Union (Stalin) to the bomb. In the end the choice was to not let the Soviets in on the secret of S-1 (the military designation of the bomb) and Sherwin highlights how many saw this as negatively affecting the postwar relationship between an already fragile wartime cooperation between England, the United States and the Soviet Union. While Truman sought to use the bomb as leverage (at the Potsdam Conference) against both the Japanese and the Russians it seems to have worked for the Japanese but failed for the Russians. Japan surrendered shortly after the bombing of two of its cities, but the Soviet Union became hardened to the U.S. and American-Soviet relations quickly deteriorated. Could the Cold War have been averted if Roosevelt and Truman only included Stalin in on the knowledge of the bomb?
The atomic bomb brought about the end of the Second World War but brought about the beginning of the arms race and new war of nuclearism. While it was meant to be a means of peace during the war, the atomic bomb became a means of clouding the future of the postwar world. In conclusion, Sherwin quotes Henry Adams whom a century before the bomb wrote, "Man has mounted science, and is now run away with."
This book provides an immensely helpful pathway into the politics surrounding the creation and use of the atomic bomb. Unfortunately the scientific dimension of the creation and use of the bomb is lacking. Nonetheless this book is useful for understanding the political climate of the time and for also setting the backdrop to the Cold War and future American-Soviet relations. It is a good read, which would have been enhanced with some pictures of the key players, maps of the important places, and photographs (carefully chosen) of the subsequent devastation of the bomb.
While the political ramifications were effectively highlighted and questioned the moral issues while often raised were not adequately dealt with. While this is not a book on ethics it would have been interesting to explore the ethical legacies left from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sherwin does note that the majority of the political leaders never thought twice about using the bomb against Japan. I do not recall Sherwin connecting this at all with Pearl Harbor and I wonder what connection (if any) existed between the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the unquestioned use of the atomic bomb against Japan. It would have been worthwhile to explore further the ethical/moral impact, which the bomb had on the world and world leaders. Not much is dealt with after the bombing and because of that I was left somewhat disappointed.
Overall this is an excellent work, which details the political backdrop and milieu of the creation and use of the atomic bomb. It raises important political questions, which need answers. It unfortunately does not raise moral issues as such a topic should, but then again the purpose of the book was to show the political events surrounding the bomb. Nonetheless one wonders if the political arena and the moral arena can be separated. What is clear is that a new deity was created and released, one that continues to govern this world and strike fear in the hearts of nations, one with the power to destroy the world.
The author takes the reader through the entire process of the conception of the science behind nuclear weapons, and each step of the way in its development, criticizes the U.S. government for not giving the scientist's group full and equal sway over the leaders of the U.S. government, which anyone with half a brain would know belonged exclusively and rightly to the proper governmental and military leaders of the U.S. Not only does the author take this ignorant attitude, but each step of the way in the process, leaves no doubt in the reader's mind that not only were the scientists unfairly left out of the major decisions in the building of the bomb, but that the governmental and military leaders in the U.S. were incapable of and morally wrong in their decision-making process. The author never misses a chance to deride, ridicule or otherwise criticize the United States government and military in their difficult choices.
However, it is in his handling of the implications of the development and use of the bomb in the U.S. dealings with Soviet Russia and Josef Stalin, that the author fails most strongly, in his ridiculous demand that in order to prevent a later nuclear arms race, the U.S. should have brought Russia fully into the development and knowledge of all the atomic secrets. For this attitude alone, the author cannot be taken seriously. He totally ignores that the U.S. had to be friends with and financially support Russia during WWII to beat the German Nazi's but that the communist and totalitarian ideology of Russia could not be trusted to be let in on the atomic secrets. Of course, due to the fact that most of the scientists saw no problem with communism theoretically may explain this attitude by the author.
Finally, in his coverage and criticism of the U.S. decision to use the atomic weapons on Japan, and in the telling of the complete story of the reasons for using the bombs on Japan, the author simply ridicules the U.S. for using the bomb, failing to fully realize that the Japanese military completely ruled the country of Japan and would never of its own volition have surrendered to the U.S., leaving the U.S. no other decision but to use the atomic weapons on Japan, since the only other alternative to such use to convince Japan to surrender, was an invasion of the Japanese homeland, with the clear vision of the almost certain loss of one million U.S. military casualties in such an invasion. After the deaths of 400,000 U.S. military thus far in fighting the Second World War, the scientist group showed its total ignorance in its criticism of the U.S. government in making the decision to use atomic weapons on Japan, foolishly believing that negotiation alone would convince the Japanese military to surrender.
It is extremely disappointing to read a book showing the complete ignorance of the facts that while the scientists had the brains to invent the a-bomb, as a group, they didn't have the brains to realize the U.S. had no alternative but to use the bomb and to leave Russia out of the decision.