Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs against Japan

By J. Samuel Walker | Go to book overview

THREE
THE
PROSPECTS
FOR
VICTORY,
JUNE 1945

On May 8, 1945, less than a month after Truman became president, Germany surrendered to the Allied forces and the war in Europe ended. This was cause for satisfaction and relief in the United States, but jubilation had to wait until Japan surrendered and the global conflict came to a close. Neither soldiers in the field nor policymakers in Washington anticipated that forcing Japan to quit the war would be an easy task. For the first time, the United States would be able to focus its energies and power on the Pacific campaign—as long as it lasted, the war in Europe had received top priority. Nevertheless, the prospects of facing an implacable enemy determined to defend its empire and its homeland were sobering and daunting, even if the Japanese were badly weakened and reeling toward defeat.

In the three and a half years after the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor, the Pacific war had proven to be a dreadfully savage affair. In the words of historian John W. Dower, it was a “war without mercy,” even more brutal and dehumanizing than the European conflict. “As World War Two recedes in time and scholars dig at the formal documents,” Dower wrote, “it is easy to forget the visceral emotions and sheer race hate that gripped virtually all participants in the war, at home and overseas.”1

Americans regarded Japanese with hatred of singular intensity, exceeding even their antipathy toward Germans. One reason was

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Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs against Japan
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Preface to the Revised Edition ix
  • Preface xi
  • One - A Categorical Choice ? 1
  • Two - The Most Terrible Weapon Ever Known 7
  • Three - The Prospects for Victory, June 1945 20
  • Four - Paths to Victory 35
  • Five - Truman and the Bomb at Potsdam 53
  • Six - Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75
  • Seven - Hiroshima in History 98
  • Chronology Key Events of 1945 Relating to the Pacific War 111
  • Notes 113
  • Essay on Sources 131
  • Index 137
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