CODE-NAME DOWNFALL

THE SECRET PLAN TO INVADE JAPAN--AND WHY TRUMAN DROPPED THE BOMB

This grim and painstaking analysis of plans for operations Olympic and Coronet (the invasions of Kyushu and Honshu) argues that dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a military necessity that hastened the end of WW II and saved possibly millions of Japanese and American lives. Military experts Allen and Polmar (Merchants of Treason, 1988, etc.) build a persuasive case. Though Japanese forces had not won an engagement with the US since the war's first months, and defeat looked increasingly inevitable, the leaders of imperial Japan repeatedly vowed to fight US forces to the last man, woman, and child. The islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, not nearly as well defended as the Japanese home islands, had to be conquered in savage battles that lasted months and resulted in tens of thousands of American casualties. Allied demands for unconditional surrender were not an obstacle to peace, the authors argue; Americans were willing to permit Japan to retain the imperial system and to go on with its normal national life, but Japanese leaders rejected the offer. The morale and zeal of ordinary citizens to carry on the fight were high, even after American firebombings that claimed more lives than the atomic bombs would. The authors describe Olympic and Coronet in ghastly detail, noting that they might have resulted in more than 500,000 American casualties, as well as in the use of chemical and biological weapons by both sides. They conclude that, in making the decision to drop the atomic bombs, ``Truman was looking for ways to end the conflict honorably and at the lowest possible cost in American and Japanese lives.'' (For another look at this period, see Stanley Weintraub, The Last Great Victory, p. 624.) The authors' masterful marshalling of the evidence prompts relief that the invasion of Japan never took place, but it's unlikely to put to rest historical speculation about the morality of Truman's decision. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: July 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-684-80406-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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