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Hiroshima: The World's Bomb

Hiroshima: The World's Bomb

by Andrew J. Rotter

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The US decision to drop an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 remains one of the most controversial events of the twentieth century. However, the controversy over the rights and wrongs of dropping the bomb has tended to obscure a number of fundamental and sobering truths about the development of this fearsome weapon. The principle of


The US decision to drop an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 remains one of the most controversial events of the twentieth century. However, the controversy over the rights and wrongs of dropping the bomb has tended to obscure a number of fundamental and sobering truths about the development of this fearsome weapon. The principle of killing thousands of enemy civilians from the air was already well established by 1945 and had been practised on numerous occasions by both sides during the Second World War. Moreover, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was conceived and built by an international community of scientists, not just by the Americans. Other nations (including Japan and Germany) were also developing atomic bombs in the first half of the 1940s, albeit hapharzardly. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine any combatant nation foregoing the use of the bomb during the war had it been able to obtain one. The international team of scientists organized by the Americans just got there first. As this fascinating new history shows, the bomb dropped by a US pilot that hot August morning in 1945 was in many ways the world's offspring, in both a technological and a moral sense. And it was the world that would have to face its consequences, strategically, diplomatically, and culturally, in the years ahead.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Rotter, a professor of history at Colgate (The Path to Vietnam), proposes to restructure the debate over the atomic bombing of Japan by putting the subject in a global context. His detailed analysis of Japanese reactions to Hiroshima and Nagasaki draws a commonsense conclusion: the nuclear strikes combined with Soviet intervention gave Emperor Hirohito the opening he needed to end a war clearly lost. America alone, however, did not decide to build the bomb; leading scientists in other countries worked on embryonic atomic bomb projects. Nor were Americans alone in considering the bomb's use. In Britain, Germany and Japan, false starts, scarce resources and wartime exigencies limited results. Rotter nevertheless concludes that any other power would have dropped a developed bomb with no more hesitation than the U.S. Ironically, the superpowers' mutual efforts to step away from the abyss in later years were accompanied by increasing and successful efforts by others to join the nuclear club: Britain, France, Israel, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea. The atomic bomb is now "the world's bomb"-as political, cultural and religious contexts increasingly deny that genuine noncombatants exist. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists' Doomsday Clock continues to tick. 18 b&w photos. (June)

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Library Journal

These two new books provide important perspectives on the continuing debate about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, which ultimately concluded the war in the Pacific and World War II. Were these bombings necessary? Rotter's well-written narrative looks at the development of the bomb from an international standpoint and recounts the vigorous competition between the Allies and the Axis powers to come up with an effective atomic weapon that could be used to turn the tide of war. Going beyond the accounts found in such classics as Richard Rhodes's The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Rotter delves into the complex personalities of the numerous military, political, and scientific leaders who were engaged in this enterprise. In so doing, he creates the context-both in military and in diplomatic terms-that led the Americans to use the bomb on the two unsuspecting Japanese cities.

Malloy's study of Henry L. Stimson, who served as secretary of war during World War II, is equally valuable. Stimson, who was in his seventies during the war, was one of the Republican Party's most respected elder statesmen, having been in Hoover's and Taft's cabinets before. He was a deeply moral man who believed in the rule of law to keep international order. Yet despite his fervent belief in moral suasion, he succumbed to the allure of the atomic bomb-and all its attendant horrors-when presented with the possibility that the terrible war could be concluded through its use, even though at the expense of civilian life. Malloy's book, which builds on earlier work by Hodgson (The Colonel) and Morison's classic Turmoil and Tradition, presents us with an updated and exceedinglyinsightful assessment of the aging statesman, perhaps no longer at the top of his game yet faced with one of our country's most challenging decisions during its most awful conflict. Malloy believes Stimson's decision to support the bomb went against his most cherished beliefs and was for many a disappointing conclusion to an outstanding career of public service. Both of these works are highly recommended for all collections.
—Ed Goedeken

From the Publisher
"Given the number of tomes on the atomic bomb, one might be forgiven for asking whether we need another one. In the case of Andrew J. Rotter's Hiroshima, the answer is definitely yes.... The author is to be commended not only for having succeeded at that task, but also for providing a valuable teaching volume and a creative reflection of interest to the specialist."—Michael D. Gordin, The Journal of Military History

"A comprehensive account of the development of nuclear weapons from the early 20th century through the current concerns about terrorist attacks.... Rotter writes beautifully, using telling anecdotes with great skill.... This is the best relatively brief and readable study of this important and still timely topic. Highly recommended."—A.O. Edmonds, CHOICE

"Present[s] a new perspective and challenging insights...Rotter provides a context that makes the atomic bombing of Japan seem far from inevitable. [H]e has not only created an accessible work for students but also added significantly to the literature about the Gadget and about Fat Man and Little Boy." — Technology and Culture

"Readers looking for a single-volume history of the development of the use of the atomic bomb would be well advised to start with Rotter's measured and thoughtful work." — The Historian

"Rotter tells this story extremely well—his writing, throughought the book, is superb...[this] could well serve as a useful classroom text." — Diplomatic History

Product Details

OUP Oxford
Publication date:
Making of the Modern World
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Andrew J. Rotter is Charles A. Dana Professor of History at Colgate University. He has written extensively on US-Asian relations during the twentieth century, including The Path to Vietnam.

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