William Craig's THE FALL OF JAPAN
Book review by Dennis D. McDonald
This history book about the final days of the Pacific War is both detailed and highly readable. The author focuses on key events and easily transitions from on-the-ground details to global strategic events and decisions. Anyone mildly interested in the Pacific War may already be somewhat familiar with many of the general details but having so many coherently presented in a single well-researched package is a real treat, given that current students may only know about Pearl Harbor and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The book starts with the horrific and savage battle to take Okinawa in the Spring of 1945. By now Japan had lost the war but the Japanese military decided to fight on knowing that an invasion of the Home Islands was inevitable. The author takes us inside the deliberations of the military and the tug of war between those willing to sacrifice the entire Japanese population and those who believed some type of surrender was inevitable. Pathetic attempts by the “peace” faction of the Japanese government to put out peace feelers to the Allies via the Russians — who had not yet joined the war against Japan but were ready to seize that opportunity — are described.
Finally the Emperor himself calls a halt to the war following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even then, rabid military elements attempted to stage a coup and thereby continue the fighting, but by then it was too late.
Also well described are attempts to locate Allied prisoners of war in Japan and China by special teams that knew that Japanese soldiers in the field might not be willing to surrender despite the Emperor’s orders. Some of these teams ran headlong into Russian Army elements eager to swoop in and grab territory.
Some poignant elements are also detailed. Chief among these is the rescue of General Wainright from 3 years of captivity and his invitation by MacArthur to attend the surrender ceremony on the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Harbor.
Of special interest to me, given my own interest in aircraft, is the description of the Nagasaki bombing raid by the Bockscar B-29. The troubles this mission experienced are usually overshadowed by the efforts of the Enola Gay so this chapter’s information was entirely new to me.
Below images: Bockscar (left) and Enola Gay (right)
Review copyright (c) 2018 by Dennis D. McDonald