Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire

Richard B. Frank, Author Random House (NY) $35 (512p) ISBN 978-0-679-41424-7
The premise behind this excellent history of the concluding stages of WWII in the Pacific is that the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has cast a light so bright that it has blinded historians to many of the political, diplomatic and military realities that existed before August 6, 1945. In his comprehensive study of the last months of WWII, Frank (Guadalcanal) aims to present events ""as they were perceived and recorded by American and Japanese participants in 1945--not years or decades thereafter."" In 1945, American strategists developed their plan, ""Operation Downfall,"" for forcing the unconditional surrender of Japan. Japanese leaders, meanwhile, mobilized all available military and civilian resources for a final defense of the homeland. Though they knew the war was lost, Japanese military strategists believed their preparations were sufficient to compel the Allies to offer more generous terms on which the war might end. Frank immerses his readers in the flow of intelligence estimates, battle experience and shifting strategy on both sides. The centerpiece of the book is an exacting and dispassionate examination both of the American decision to use the atomic bomb and of whether Japan would have surrendered absent the bomb. Frank marshals an impressive and complex array of evidence to support his contention that surrender by Japan was by no means imminent in August 1945, and that alternatives to the bomb, such as incendiary bombing, carried no certainty of causing less suffering and fewer deaths than the atomic bomb. In his balanced use of sources and in his tough-minded sensitivity to moral issues, Frank has enriched the debate about the war's conclusion. Agent, Robert Gottlieb of William Morris. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/30/1999
Release date: 09/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-0-14-100146-3
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