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Jocelyn (The Reading World)

I love to read and can get very attached to my opinions, but recently I've been learning not to completely lose my head when people disagree with me, so feel safe to argue with me whenever you wish ;) 


The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb: Hiroshima and Nagasaki: August 1945 by Dennis Wainstock

The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb: Hiroshima and Nagasaki: August 1945 - Dennis D. Wainstock

Another short, condensed synthesis of the decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Wainstock delves into a lot of intimate details on both sides of the war, including quotes, messages, radio signals etc. as well as the U.S.'s shaky relationship with the Soviet Union. I don't remember much of it unfortunately, and I'd assign more importance to specific pieces of evidence if only I was actually deeply interested in this topic.

One thing I do remember is that Wainstock focuses a lot on how revolutionary it was for Emperor Hirohito to intervene with the Japanese Supreme Council when it came time for Japan to surrender to the U.S. The Council needed a unanimous vote in order to agree to surrender, against which the military faction was strenuously opposed even after the double blows of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, let alone the Potsdam Declaration. The Potsdam Declaration itself contained a particularly contentious Paragraph 12, which set vague terms of unconditional surrender and left the Japanese unsure of whether they would be allowed to retain the institution of the emperor.

In Wainstock's opinion, the U.S. was unreasonable in allowing so short a period of time--three days after Hiroshima for the bombing of Nagasaki--to allow the Japanese to adjust their policy accordingly. Moreover, the U.S. should have made it explicitly clear that the Japanese would be allowed to retain their emperor; thus, careless ignorance of cultural differences factored into the decision.

This is the second of two books I've forced myself to read on the subject. Both were very scholarly, very concise, and very dry--excellent for compilations of evidence, but not much in terms of working out the moral justifications of the bombing. I wonder what it'd be like to read from someone with a passion and enthusiasm for this. Or maybe it's a younger topic than I'd previously thought and has yet to produce conclusive analysis.

I'd personally think that the U.S. embargo, bombing of Pearl Harbor, and U.S. expectations of the Pacific War would play a huge role in deciding the sincerity and necessity of the atomic bombs, in addition to the damage already done by conventional bombing, but so far I've only seen it explained as not much more than background. It seems like Truman was genuinely concerned about resolving the war at the lowest possible cost to American lives--could any president look his people in the face and confess that American soldiers had died to spare the enemy when they had an expensive weapon of mass destruction at hand to end it?--but whether the U.S. under Roosevelt provoked the Pacific War with full prior expectation of Japanese attack, is still very unclear to me.