A definitive account of complex political maneuvering that accomplished little.



The tortuous history behind America’s decision to insist on Japan’s unconditional surrender.

In this tightly focused narrative, history professor Gallicchio writes that when Franklin Roosevelt announced in 1943 that the war would end when Germany and Japan surrendered unconditionally, few objected. It became a controversy in 1945 when Japan’s defeat seemed inevitable to everyone except Japanese leaders, who maintained that all their countrymen would die before surrendering. Two administration camps existed. Secretary of War Henry Stimson led those convinced that Japanese leaders were more likely to surrender if assured that the emperor would keep his throne. Dean Acheson, who would become secretary of state in 1949, led those who argued that this would prolong the war by convincing the enemy that America was weakening. Harry Truman listened but did nothing, and the Navy was lukewarm to any assurance. Having annihilated enemy naval and air defenses, Navy leaders were certain that a blockade would starve Japan into submission. Army leaders, led by Gen. George Marshall, argued that this would take years and that war-weary Americans would lose heart. In any case, public opinion supported unconditional surrender. The Army argued for an invasion of the home island, an immense project. In the end, a second atomic bomb and the Soviet invasion persuaded Japan to give in. Its offer to surrender included a clause protecting the emperor, which the U.S. rejected, returning a softened version that Japanese leaders, after heated debate, accepted. But as the author points out, the controversy persisted. During the war and until the 1960s, advocates of modifying unconditional surrender were conservatives who proclaimed this would save American lives while liberals protested that “the real aim of the ‘emperor worshippers’…was to maintain Japan as a bulwark against Russia and revolution.” After the ’60s, matters reversed when liberal “revisionist” histories claimed that Japan was on the verge of surrendering and that Truman brushed off the evidence and insisted on dropping the bombs to intimidate Russia.

A definitive account of complex political maneuvering that accomplished little.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-19-009110-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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