Thomas B. Allen and Norman Polmar's CODE-NAME DOWNFALL: THE SECRET PLAN TO INVADE JAPAN AND WHY TRUMAN DROPPED THE BOMB
Book review by Dennis D. McDonald
Allen and Polmar convincingly demonstrate Truman’s justification for dropping the atom bomb on Japan to end World War II. Japan wasn’t surrendering despite its cities’ being burned to cinders by B-29 raids. Evidence was mounting that an invasion of Japan would be a savage and costly venture both for the U.S. and for Japan.
This book intertwines descriptions of the brutality and bloodletting involved in the Allies’ island-by-island approach to strangling Japan late in the war with invasion planning. We’ve read some of this in other history books but here it’s presented as backdrop to the detailed planning underway for an ultimate invasion. It’s an effective approach. We witness what the Allies were seeing as the end of the war in Europe shifted attention to the Pacific War. Keeping in mind there was no guarantee that the Manhattan Project would work, the inevitability of an invasion of Japan was clear even as tenuous efforts were made by the Japanese to secure some kind of negotiated settlement through diplomacy with a still-undeclared Russia.
The level of detail presented is insightful. Attempts to show what was going on in Japan’s planning as well as in the U.S. are admirable. One discordant note consists of repeated swipes against MacArthur’s ego as he pushed for an invasion under his control.
Even assuming this is true — and the author’s revel in playing back MacArthur’s own words from memos and reports — I find this somewhat one-sided. I can’t believe there were not other outsize egos at play here in the push for an end to the Pacific war; what the authors write about MacArthur seems a bit one-sided and personal even if the basic events as presented are true.
Still, no matter how you look at the facts presented here, the Pacific Was provided monstrous examples of the brutality and savagery of which humans are capable. Truman grasped that when he authorized dropping the bomb.
Copyright (c) 2009 by Dennis D. McDonald