cover image Last Great Victory: 2the End of World War II, July/August 1945

Last Great Victory: 2the End of World War II, July/August 1945

Stanley Weintraub. Dutton Books, $35 (752pp) ISBN 978-0-525-93687-9

In an action-packed narrative, Weintraub (Disraeli) describes the portentous 30 final days of WWII. The Germans had already surrendered and the Japanese, facing an unconditional-surrender ultimatum, stoically prepared to resist an Allied invasion that would have dwarfed the Normandy landings. The testing of the first atomic bomb and the dropping of ``Little Boy'' and ``Fat Man'' on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively--covered here in suspenseful detail--rendered the invasion unnecessary. Weintraub describes how the news was received in various quarters--President Truman, returning from the Potsdam Conference, ``almost ran as he walked about the ship spreading the news''--and follows it up with a detailed account of the Japanese surrender and the start of the American occupation. On the U.S. home front, there was widespread fear of unemployment because of the abrupt cancellation of military procurement orders; block parties in working-class neighborhoods welcomed homecoming GIs; but in San Francisco, the victory celebration turned ugly: 12 deaths, thousands injured, hundreds of rapes. Weintraub concludes that the war produced as many crises as it settled but may have made world wars obsolete. His meticulous account deserves a wide audience. Illustrations not seen by PW. BOMC alternate. (July)