Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire

Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire

Frank explains how American leaders learned in the summer of 1945 that their alternate strategy to end the war by invasion had been shattered by the massive Japanese buildup on Kyushu, and that intercepted diplomatic documents also revealed the dismal prospects of negotiation.

Frank's comprehensive account demolishes long-standing myths with the stark realities of this great historical controversy.

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It took two bombs and the declaration of war by the Russians to finally drive Hirohito to do it. It is an extremely informative and important book to remind people of the horrors of the Pacific War: the bloody battles at Saipan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa with harsh tropical conditions, the poor treatment of prisoners of the Japanese, the harsh treatment given to the locals by the occupying Japanese forces, the cruel human experiments carried out by Unit 731, banzai charges and kamikaze attacks-these need to be considered when judging whether the Japanese deserved to be bombed or not.

Richard Frank argues that the decision to use the atomic bomb originated out of military rather than diplomatic necessity. However, his final chapter gives the impression that he is seeking vindication for the decision-makers during the Pacific War especially in terms of using the atomic bomb. Frank offers a comprehensive look at military strategy and thinking during the Pacific War, which adds a valuable component to the history of the atomic bomb.

Sherry argues persuasively in The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon that the air campaign against Japan was never intended to accomplish anything other than "softening up" the Japanese before a land invasion (p. The atomic bombings and the claims that they ended the war were more likely the result of efforts by AAF commanders to rationalize the enormous amounts of money devoted to the bombing (development of the B-29 cost more than the Manhattan Project itself) and to demonstrate the necessity for a large and independent Air Force after the war was over. Large numbers of men (by conscription) and women (by economic necessity) had been drawn into the factory system, and the 'drift toward oligopoly,' Thomas Havens notes, saw '11,000 small shops forced to close in Tokyo alone by mid-1943.' Doubtless, many of those were in the rapidly collapsing consumer sector, but as the Strategic Bombing Survey later concluded: 'By 1944 the Japanese had almost eliminated home industry in their war economy.' Factories with fewer than 250 workers still played a vital role, but these were hardly backyard drill presses. 285-6)In any case, Sherry adds, bombing damage to Japan's heavy industry plus the U.S. Navy's stranglehold on imports of raw materials gave both factory and cottage industries few materials for any type of fabrication.

Frank uses extensive declassified transcripts of Ultra (military) and Magic (diplomatic) U.S. codebreaking to get members of the Japanese war cabinet's own words, or lack thereof, on this issue. And, speaking of demonstrations, the fact that it took two atomic bombs on Japan to get it to surrender puts the lie to the idea that a "demonstration" bomb would have been enough to get the Japanese to a non-negotiated surrender with them attempting to hold on to territory.

This exhaustively researched book is arguably the most authoritative popular reference for the subject of the last months of the Second World War against Imperial Japan.

Consideration of counterfactuals comes up due to the contraversy regarding whether or not the United States was justified in dropping two atomic bombs on Japan, and the importance of these events in causing the Japanese government to surrender. Also at issue is whether or not the Japanese government was trying to surrender before the atomic bombs were dropped in August 1945. Finally, it has been suggested that the United States dropped the bombs not to cause Japan to surrender, but as a threat to the Soviet Union. S. casualties (casualties are generally defined as the sum of those killed, wounded and missing as the result of a military action) made for the first planned invasion of one of the main islands of Japan, Operation Olympic to invade Kyushu in November 1945. If the invasion had been attempted these numbers would probably have proved to be underestimates because the projections were based fewer Japanese troops than would have been on the island by November 1945. The United States also planned an invasion of the main island of Honshu, Operation Coronet, but planning and preparation for this later operation was less advanced than for Operation Olympic Estimates of the number of Japanese killed by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are also variable and contentious. In the absence of the atomic bombs, but with knowledge of increased Japanese troop numbers on Kyushu, it is possible that the debate within the United States government about how to proceed against Japan would be reopened and an invasion might have been called off due to the higher caualties that would result.

Two things that Frank focused on that I thought particularity interesting were that the American incendiary attacks were focused on industry, not civilians; and the possibility of saving not only American lives, but Japanese, Chinese, and Korean lives by ending the war as quickly as possible. Frank goes into the American planning of bombing and how the war industry of Japan was largely spread out in small workshops, rather than being concentrated in large central factories.

Richard Franks Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire utilizes newly declassified military papers and years of research to disclose the events leading up to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and provoke us to rethink the delicate trichotomy of dropping the bombs, invading the Home Islands and forcing the Japanese to surrender through blockade and diplomatic channels. Frank, who previously wrote another non-fiction Guadalcanal, intentionally started the book by demonstrating the horrible effects of bombing raids and perhaps by doing so, illustrated further destruction in the event of a prolonged campaign even without the use of atomic bombs. Traditionalists held that the atomic bombs were necessary to end the war while revisionists argue that Japan was already seeking to end the war before the bombs were dropped and hence the United States used the nuclear weapon for political reasons directed at the Soviet Union rather than for military and peaceful purposes. He also hinted that if the Americans had battle the Japanese in Kyushu, high casualty might be able to push the president and military leaders to modify their surrender term. Again, the revisionists claim that if Americans were to modify the surrender term, the Japanese would be able to agree on peace. This book will not convert those who opposed the decision to drop the atomic bombs, which is understandable given the terrible destruction.

As such, Frank goes into detail about Japanese plans to defend the Homeland, how they anticipated the American invasion would be on the island of Kyushu, and the extensive preparations to defend it. But do not assume Frank is callous or unfeeling in any way toward the Japanese; his descriptions of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima was horrific and sobering.

Richard Frank has written a totally engaging book on the last six months of WWII in the Pacific; and more specifically, why Japan was NOT getting ready to surrender immediately prior to the atomic bombs being dropped. In the end, many thousands died in the Pacific theater (the Japanese alone killed over 18 million other Asian peoples...don't hear that often, do you?) The two atomic bombs, without a doubt, shortened the war and perversely saved over one million Japanese, and close to one million US servicemen.

  • English

  • History

  • Rating: 4.17
  • Pages: 512
  • Publish Date: May 1st 2001 by Penguin Books
  • Isbn10: 0141001461
  • Isbn13: 9780141001463