Kirkus Reviews QR Code


The Secret History of World War II’s Final Battle

by Jim Smith & Malcolm McConnell

Pub Date: Aug. 13th, 2002
ISBN: 0-7679-0778-7
Publisher: Broadway

A radio operator on the final US bombing mission over Japan teams with military historian McConnell (Inside Hanoi’s Secret Archive, 1995, etc.) to chronicle that mission’s unintended effect on a nationalist attempt to prevent Emperor Hirohito’s surrender.

Smith served on the Boomerang, a B-29 bomber that flew the last combat bombing run against the Japanese, and he asserts that WWII might have ended much differently were it not for that last run. After the war he spent more than 20 years investigating the historical implications of the Boomerang’s mission; here, aided by McConnell, he tells both his personal story and the larger one uncovered by his research. Smith’s war memories detail the easy camaraderie among the bomber crew that rendered bearable their harrowing combat experiences over Japan’s islands. Such friendship and teamwork paid off on the final mission of the war, according to the authors, as the Boomerang crossed over Tokyo to bomb the only Japanese oil refinery still operating. The Japanese, fearing another atomic strike, blacked out the city for the entire night. The authors demonstrate that this blackout transformed the imperial residence into an inky black warren just as the instigators of a military insurrection began searching for the recordings of Emperor Hirohito’s surrender message. Had the rebels succeeded in finding and destroying these recordings, Smith and McConnell contend, they would have convinced the Japanese population to continue fighting until the Allies had either invaded the islands or reduced Japan’s cities to radioactive rubble. The authors conclude that not only had the Boomerang’s crew completed the final and longest mission of the war, they had also unwittingly enabled Hirohito to complete his nation’s surrender with dignity.

Fresh perspectives on the oft-chronicled Japanese surrender should ensure that general readers will enjoy this as much as military history enthusiasts.