cover image 140 Days to Hiroshima: The Story of Japan’s Last Chance to Avert Armageddon

140 Days to Hiroshima: The Story of Japan’s Last Chance to Avert Armageddon

David Dean Barrett. Diversion, $27.99 (360p) ISBN 978-1-635-76581-6

Historian Barrett debuts with an impressively researched chronicle of the months leading up to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Alternating between Japanese and American perspectives, Barrett opens with the firebombing of Tokyo on Mar. 10, 1945, noting that the estimated death toll of 84,000 people was greater than that of “any aerial assault in any theater during World War II.” Despite the level of destruction, Japanese military and civilian leaders remained unconvinced the war was lost. Barrett credits this intransigence to the Japanese army’s allegiance to the concept of “death before dishonor,” and to America’s objective of forcing Japan’s unconditional surrender. As President Truman and U.S. military commanders estimated the cost of invading the Japanese mainland, Japanese officials issued directives for soldiers and civilians to carry out suicide attacks with “hand-carried mines and explosives.” Nine days after the Hiroshima bombing (and six days after Nagasaki), a cadre of Japanese officers launched a failed coup d’état to prevent the emperor from surrendering. In the book’s epilogue, Barrett weighs arguments against Truman’s decision to drop the bomb and finds them lacking. By capturing both sides of the conflict, Barrett generates drama despite the inevitability of the book’s conclusion. Military history buffs will be riveted. Agent: Leticia Gomez, Savvy Literary Services. (Apr.)