"Nobody is more disturbed," said President Truman, three days after the destruction of Nagasaki in 1945, "over the use of the atomic bombs than I am, but I was greatly disturbed over the unwarranted attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor and their murder of our prisoners of war. The only language [the Japanese] seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them. When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast. It is most regrettable but nevertheless true."
The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed more than 100,000 instantly, mostly women, children, and the elderly. Many hundreds of thousands more succumbed to their horrific injuries later, or slowly perished of radiation-related sickness. Yet the bombs were "our least abhorrent choice", American leaders claimed at the time - and still today most people believe they ended the Pacific War and saved millions of American and Japanese lives. Ham challenges this view, arguing that the bombings, when Japan was on its knees, were the culmination of a strategic Allied air war on enemy civilians that began in Germany and had till then exacted its most horrific death tolls in Dresden and Tokyo.
The war in Europe may have ended but it continued in the Pacific against a regime still looking to save face. Ham describes the political manoeuvring and the scientific race to build the new atomic weapon. He also gives powerful witness to its destruction through the eyes of 80 survivors, from 12-year-olds forced to work in war factories to wives and children who faced it alone, reminding us that these two cities were full of ordinary people who suddenly, out of a clear blue summer's sky, felt the sun fall on their heads.
©2011 Paul Ham (P)2012 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
This was a new and comprehensive perspective on the effect and causes of the bombings.
It placed everything in its total context.
It made me think differently about the war againts Japan.
"Amazingly detailed and balanced account."
Paul Ham did a great job, the research is evident in the details and the story is very well balanced, many different perspectives and facts that go well beyond the surface.
"While extraordinary, I can only give it 3 stars"
This only rates a three because it drags, and it's so repetitive, I damned near cried a few times. It's a truly emotionally charged issue, and up front, let me just say it: I was one of those strident mouthy types who, without thought, pointed out that, after someone said, quite harshly, that the US was the only country to have used atomic weapons, we used them on a country, Japan, that was nowhere near the happy, pappy, anime loving people they are now. At the time of the use of atomic weaponry, there was some unspeakable brutality going on: in China, in the camps, in their very ideas on how life should be lived, in their code that it was better to spread death and die, than, well, here, suffice it to say: blah, blah, heinous, blah.
But Ham has made me rethink this with very indepth reporting of what was going on from all angles.
And therein lies the problem.
The humanity is lost.
You want the horror? You want to realize that what happened was wrong and that it happened to people who were just as misguided as any people who happened to follow leaders who led them astray? Read/listen to "Hiroshima Diary."
But skip the eeeeeeendlessssss politics that Ham wallows in. Brilliantly researched, yes. Well-narrated, without a doubt. Boring, holy cow, I'm off to take a nap!
"What we thought we knew, but didn't."
I've asked numerous friends their belief about what caused the Japanese surrender at the end of WWII, and all answered 'the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki'. Paul Ham provides convincing evidence that the first (and fortunately only) use of atomic weapons in war had almost no influence on the surrender decision taken by the doomed government in Japan. Encircled, and economically strangled by naval blockade, its major cities razed by systematic fire-bombing, Japan chose to surrender to the US and its allies to avoid invasion by the Russians who surged across the Manchurian border only days after the devastation of Hiroshima, but before the significance of that event had even begun to be understood. Ham arrives at this point after providing the detailed political, military and scientific context in which it occurred. He is a superb historian and skilled narrator, who has changed my view of the end of WWII with this marvellous book. I could not recommend it more highly.
"If you want drivel, this isn't it"
This well-documented and well-argued book is contrary to the accepted drivel we were all taught
"A comprehensive study about a fundamental moment."
The diverse aspects about the bombs.
6 months in 1945
The description of the two bombs effects
"Detailed and harrowing"
The section describing the immediate aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima is quite harrowing, with personal and graphic descriptions that took me back to my visit of the Hiroshima Peace Museum and the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims.
"Honest and balanced account"
Paul Ham presents a honest and balanced account of the atomic bombings. Ham shows that no decisions, whether horrific or insignificant, can be pigeon holed as either a black or white finality by later day armchair historians. Ham presents the cacophony of voices that spoke for and against the use of atomic weapons and gives flesh to a few of the Japanese who survived the attack. I thoroughly enjoyed that Ham presented all sides, facts, opinions, and innuendoes and did not lead the reader, but allowed you to come to your own conclusions about this time in our history.
I learned more about the Manhattan Project and the results of its work than any other source I have yet read. "Hiroshima Nagasaki" reads like a historic novel where I sometimes forget I already know the ending.
It was very illuminating to learn about the real reasons for Japan's surrender.
I thought Mr. Meldrum portrayed all characters very well, but I enjoyed his rendition of Roosevelt the most.
Another Day of Infamy
"One of the best studies into this subject"
I recommend this book to anyone interested in this subject as it is straight forward, interesting and well researched. Nothing really new in the history, but the book does tell a story with fact, detail and feeling. Nobody will feel that they are left 'holding the blame' but you do get the idea of what went on. Well written by Paul Ham (I think one of Australia's best historians), well read by Robert Meldrum. I think not only a good book but a great book.
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