JAPAN'S SECRET WAR by Robert K. Wilcox


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Reports have surfaced sporadically of a Japanese atomic bomb project nearing fruition at the end of WW II--reports that, if true, would indeed alter perceptions, as noted in the preface by the late Yale historian-of-science, Derek deSola Price, leading propagator of such reports. The effect on American atomic-bomb guilt, Japan's anti-nuclear-arms stance, and the entire anti-nuclear movement cannot but strike any serious person--further supposing, as suggested here, that the Japanese knew about American progress and Truman knew about theirs! Against this earthshaking background, screenwriter/novelist Wilcox produces a mouse. He refers in the introduction to those previous reports; he speaks of searching voluminous government files, and of not getting action on his Freedom of Information Act requests; he tells of a few inconclusive interviews. And then he launches into a putative reconstruction of Japanese atomic-bomb development--bulked out with chapters about a Spanish spy from whom the Japanese may have gotten a few early atomic-bomb clues--that is largely undocumented. . . and peters out in repeated confessions of ignorance. By Japanese admission, Japan did have nuclear-research projects under-way (as, of course did the Germans and Russians) to develop a bomb for use against warships with kamikaze planes. They were also evidently on the prowl for sources of uranium, and may have found some in northern Korea. But for various reasons the projects were far from success at war's end--and it's extremely unlikely that Truman could have heard anything about them to influence his decision. One incident is intriguing, however: a German submarine--the U-234(!)--was en route to Japan with advanced-weapons information, 1,120 pounds of uranium oxide, and two Japanese naval officers, when Germany surrendered. (The two officers committed suicide.) ""What happened to the uranium? I have not been able to find out."" Wilcox thinks the Japanese stonewalled postwar US investigators, and the US government has engaged in a 40-year cover-up. Not a compelling case or dynamite reading.

Pub Date: March 18th, 1985
Publisher: Morrow