The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan

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This book explores the American use of atomic bombs, and the role these weapons played in the defeat of the Japanese Empire in World War II. It focuses on President Harry S. Truman's decision making regarding this most controversial of all his decisions. The book relies on notable archival research, and the best and most recent scholarship on the subject to fashion an incisive overview that is fair and forceful in its judgments. This study addresses a subject that has been much debated among historians, and it confronts head-on the highly disputed claim that the Truman administration practiced “atomic diplomacy.” The book goes beyond its central historical analysis to ask whether it was morally right for the United States to use these terrible weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It also provides a balanced evaluation of the relationship between atomic weapons and the origins of the Cold War.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Father Miscamble is a history professor at the University of Notre Dame and thus is at home with the theological and moral aspects surrounding the decision to unleash the world's first atomic bombs. He is also familiar with the political and military exigencies of the decision. He takes the reader carefully through the genesis of the bomb-building Manhattan Project, as planned by Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt originally for the bomb's use against Nazi Germany, and through the calculations of the key Allied decision makers, including Gen. George C. Marshall, the U.S. Army chief of staff, and Adm. William Leahy, the head of the Joint Chiefs." -Wall Street Journal

"This book, by the priest and cold war historian Wilson D. Miscamble, is a volume in the Cambridge Essential Histories series, which is (according to its statement of purpose) 'devoted to introducing critical events, periods or individuals in history … through thesis-driven, concise volumes.' Concise The Most Controversial Decision certainly is: it packs into its 150 pages discussions that other scholars have spent careers grappling with." -Barry Gewen, The New Republic

"In writing this book, Father Miscamble has done us a great service." -The Rev. Michael P. Orsi, The Washington Times

"Notre Dame profe ssor Wilson Miscamble has previously written about the blindly unforeseen handoff of the American government from Roosevelt to Truman on April 12, 1945, during the endgame of World War II. He now brings his wise and wide-ranging knowledge of the complicated decisions left for the American president at that time to one specific major decision: whether to drop the atomic bomb on Japan." -Jay Pasachoff, The Key Reporter

"Recommended." -Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521735360
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/11/2011
  • Series: Cambridge Essential Histories Series
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 416,602
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

The Reverend Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C., joined the permanent faculty at Notre Dame in 1988. A native of Australia, he was educated at the University of Queensland, from which he graduated in 1973 and obtained a master's degree three years later. In 1976, he came to Notre Dame to pursue graduate studies in history. He received his doctoral degree in 1980. He then served for two years as North American analyst in the Office of National Assessments, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra, Australia. In August 1982, he returned to Notre Dame and entered the priestly formation program of the Congregation of Holy Cross. He was ordained a priest on April 9, 1988. His primary research interest is American foreign policy since World War II. He is the author of George F. Kennan and the Making of American Foreign Policy, 1947–1950 and Keeping the Faith, Making a Difference. He has edited American Political History: Essays on the State of the Discipline and Go Forth and Do Good: Memorable Notre Dame Commencement Addresses. His most recent book, From Roosevelt to Truman: Potsdam, Hiroshima, and the Cold War, was published in 2007 and received the Harry S. Truman Book Award in 2008.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: the most controversial decision; 2. Franklin Roosevelt, the Manhattan project, and the development of the atomic bomb; 3. Harry Truman, Henry Stimson, and atomic briefings; 4. James F. Byrnes, the atomic bomb, and the Pacific war; 5. The Potsdam conference, the trinity test, and 'atomic diplomacy'; 6. Hiroshima, the Japanese, and the Soviets; 7. The Japanese surrender; 8. Necessary, but was it right?; 9. Byrnes, the Soviets, and the American atomic monopoly; 10. The atomic bomb and the origins of the Cold War.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 6, 2011

    Highly recommend.

    A concise and meaningful glimpse into an epic moment in our history that intelligently explains why we were compelled to drop the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even with the book's brevity the reader is still given an interesting picture of President Truman, the politics at that time, and a thoughtful explanation of how the Cold War began. A good book for non-historians.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2014


    Anyone know why Arthur Holly Compton wanted to drop the bomb on Japan??? I NEED TO KNOW!!!!!!!! IN FULL DETAIL. its for my social studies class. Reply to val.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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