The Untold History of the United States, Volume 2: Young Readers Edition, 1945-1962

The Untold History of the United States, Volume 2: Young Readers Edition, 1945-1962

The Untold History of the United States, Volume 2: Young Readers Edition, 1945-1962

The Untold History of the United States, Volume 2: Young Readers Edition, 1945-1962


    Qualifies for Free Shipping
    Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for delivery by Tuesday, September 26
    Check Availability at Nearby Stores

Related collections and offers


Discover America’s secrets in this second of two volumes of the young readers’ edition of The Untold History of the United States, from Academy Award–winning director Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, adapted by Eric Singer.

There is history as we know it. And there is history we should have known.

Complete with poignant photos and little-known but vitally important stories, this second of two volumes traces how people around the world responded to the United States’s rise as a superpower from the end of World War II through an increasingly tense Cold War and, eventually, to the brink of nuclear annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

This is not the kind of history taught in schools or normally presented on television or in popular movies. This riveting young readers volume challenges prevailing orthodoxies to reveal uncomfortable realities about the US role in heightening Cold War tensions. It also humanizes the experiences of diverse people, at home and abroad, who yearned for a more just, equal, and compassionate world. This volume will come as a breath of fresh air for students, teachers, and budding young historians hungry for different perspectives—which makes it a crucial counterpoint to today’s history textbooks.

Adapted by high school and university educator Eric S. Singer from the bestselling book and companion to the documentary The Untold History of the United States by Academy Award–winning director Oliver Stone and renowned historian Peter Kuznick, this volume gives young readers a powerful and provocative look at the US role in the Cold War. It also provides a blueprint for those concerned with shaping a better and more equitable future for people across the world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781481421775
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 01/14/2020
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 674,148
Product dimensions: 7.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range: 10 - 18 Years

About the Author

Oliver Stone made such iconic films as Platoon, Wall Street, JFK, Born on the Fourth of July, Natural Born Killers, Nixon, Salvador, and W., and is the author of the highly acclaimed memoir Chasing the Light.

Peter Kuznick is professor of history and director of the award-winning Nuclear Studies Institute at American University and is currently serving his sixth three-year term as distinguished lecturer with the Organization of American Historians. He has written extensively about science and politics, nuclear history, and Cold War culture.

Eric S. Singer is a high school and university educator. He holds an MEd in curriculum and instruction and a PhD in United States history, and served as the principal researcher for The Untold History of the United States documentary series and companion book. He lives near Washington, DC, with his wife and daughter.

Read an Excerpt

The Untold History of the United States, Volume 2
When Americans found out that the United States had dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, many recoiled in horror. Others made light of the atomic bomb and its destructive power. Since photos and film footage from Hiroshima were still censored by the government, most Americans could not visualize the destruction that atomic bombs could do. As American cities had never been bombed, it was incredibly difficult for people to imagine what such devastation would look like. Americans read newspaper stories that described the bomb as the biggest ever dropped, more powerful than 20,000 tons of TNT.

Without actual photos depicting the damage at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, comedians, journalists, artists, and even bartenders let their imaginations run wild. Referring to Hiroshima, one radio announcer remarked that after the atomic bomb, the city “looked like Ebbets Field after a game between the Giants and the Dodgers.” Bartenders in Washington, DC, invented the “Atomic Cocktail,” an incredibly strong green-tinted drink that went “boom” when you drank it. General Mills sold “Atomic ‘Bomb’ Rings” for a breakfast cereal box top and fifteen cents. Ads for the rings urged people to “look into the ‘sealed atom chamber’ in ‘the gleaming aluminum warhead . . . [and] see genuine atoms SPLIT to smithereens!’”1 General Mills was bombarded with orders from 750,000 kids. Atomic pistols, atomic robots, atomic chemistry sets, uranium board games, PEZ candy space guns, and model nuclear reactors lined toy store shelves across the country.2 Royal Tot Manufacturing Company of New York produced a “safe, harmless, cap shooting, giant atomic bomb.” Children could buy just one bomb or an entire arsenal.3

Influenced by toy companies, radio shows, and conversations at the dinner table, kids across the country played atomic cops and robbers, pretended they were pilots of atomic spaceships, played atomic arcade games, and threw radioactive snowballs at their friends. At the playground in New York’s Washington Square, Life magazine observed that children were making up new atomic games:

We watched a military man of seven or eight [years old] climb onto a seesaw, gather a number of his staff officers around him, and explain the changed situation. “Look,” he said, “I’m an atomic bomb. I just go ‘boom.’ Once. Like this.” He raised his arms, puffed out his cheeks, jumped down from the seesaw, and went “Boom!” Then he led his army away, leaving Manhattan in ruins behind them.

While the kids played, their parents worried. A distressed mother in Pelham Manor, New York, wrote a letter to radio commentator H. V. Kaltenborn:

Since [Hiroshima] I have hardly been able to smile, the future seems so utterly grim for our two boys. Most of the time I have been in tears or near-tears, and fleeting but torturing regrets that I have brought children into the world to face such a dreadful thing as this have shivered through me. It seems that it will be for them all their lives like living on a keg of dynamite which may go off at any moment, and which undoubtedly will go off before their lives have progressed very far.4

As many in the United States wondered and fretted about what it might be like to experience an atomic blast, those in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were living through an actual nuclear nightmare. Americans were about to learn much more about that hell.

Subscribers to New Yorker magazine woke up on Saturday morning, August 31, 1946, to find in their mailboxes what would become the twentieth century’s most important work of journalism. The cover illustration featured the delights of everyday life: people strolling through a beautiful park, a relaxing game of badminton, swimmers splashing in a lake while others danced on the beach.5 But it masked the painful truths inside, revealed in just one long article simply titled “Hiroshima.”

The article’s young author, John Hersey, was born in Tianjin (formerly known as Tientsin), China, to missionary parents who worked for the YMCA. He learned Chinese before he learned English. In 1924, Hersey moved with his family back to the United States, and they settled in Briarcliff Manor, New York. After graduating from Yale and traveling to study at Clare College in England, he was sure he wanted to be a journalist.

John Hersey, Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist and author of Hiroshima.

Eight years of working with talented authors like the legendary Sinclair Lewis made Hersey an incredibly gifted writer. He wrote extensively about World War II as it unfolded for Time and Life magazines, and he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1945 for his novel A Bell for Adano. Hersey had realized his dream, to become a well-respected journalist and write stories that would change the world. Now, he would tackle Hiroshima for the New Yorker.

In August 1946, when Hersey’s Hiroshima was published, most Americans still could not relate to the horrors that the Japanese had faced just a year earlier. Hersey decided that his role as a journalist was to tell the whole story about what really happened there in a steady, matter-of-fact way. Recalling the detailed research Lewis had conducted on each of his characters, Hersey knew that his writing would be much more powerful if it described what happened to the actual victims. What did Hiroshima look like through their eyes?

Hersey spent three months in the devastated city listening, learning, and observing. He saw people’s shadows permanently emblazoned on concrete by the blast. He visited hospitals and interviewed doctors and nurses who had seen the most horrific injuries. He talked to children who were dying of leukemia and other radiation-related diseases. Hersey admitted that while he was there, he was “terrified all the time. If I felt [terrified] coming there eight months later, what must the feelings of the people who were there at the time have been?”6 Gazing out over the Ota River, Hersey wondered: How could one bomb possibly cause such unimaginable death and destruction?

This map shows the horrific destruction caused by the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. The bomb detonated directly above the city’s center, igniting a firestorm that extended roughly 1.5 miles in every direction.

After interviewing close to forty survivors, Hersey chose to write about six of them: Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a secretary at the East Asia Tin Works; Masakazu Fujii and Terufumi Sasaki, two doctors; Father William Kleinsorge, a German priest; Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a seamstress; and Kiyoshi Tanimoto, pastor of Hiroshima’s Methodist Church.7 His writing was as a journalist’s should be—sober, unemotional, and very detailed.

Hersey painstakingly described how each of his subjects experienced August 6, 1945. At 8:15 a.m., as Mrs. Nakamura gazed out her window at her neighbor’s house, suddenly:

Everything flashed whiter than any white she had ever seen. She did not notice what happened to the man next door; the reflex of a mother set her in motion toward her children. She had taken a single step . . . when something picked her up and she seemed to fly into the next room over the raised sleeping platform, pursued by parts of her house. Timbers fell around her as she landed, and a shower of tiles pommelled her; everything became dark, for she was buried. The debris did not cover her deeply. She rose up and freed herself. She heard a child cry, “Mother, help me!,” and saw her youngest—Myeko, the five-year-old—buried up to her breast and unable to move.

As Dr. Fujii read the morning paper on the front porch of his small hospital, he saw the atomic flash.

Startled, he began to rise to his feet. In that moment . . . the hospital leaned behind his rising and, with a terrible ripping noise, toppled into the river. The Doctor, still in the act of getting to his feet, was thrown forward and around and over; he was buffeted and gripped; he lost track of everything, because things were so speeded up; he felt the water.

Father Kleinsorge saw the atomic flash as he ate breakfast with the other priests in their mission. Stunned and confused, he “had time for [only] one thought: A bomb had fallen directly on us. Then, for a few seconds, he went out of his mind.”

He never knew how he got out of the house. The next things he was conscious of were that he was wandering around in the mission’s vegetable garden in his underwear, bleeding slightly from small cuts along his left flank; that all the buildings round about had fallen down except the Jesuits’ mission house, which had long before been braced and double-braced by a priest named Gropper, who was terrified of earthquakes; that the day had turned dark; and that Murata-san, the housekeeper, was nearby, crying over and over, “Shi Jesusu, awaremi tamai!” Our Lord Jesus, have pity on us.8

Hersey ended his article with the testimony of ten-year-old Toshio Nakamura:

“The day before the bomb, I went for a swim. In the morning, I was eating peanuts. I saw a light. I was knocked to little sister’s sleeping place. When we were saved, I could only see as far as the tram. My mother and I started to pack our things. The neighbors were walking around burned and bleeding. Hataya-san told me to run away with her. I said I wanted to wait for my mother. We went to the park. A whirlwind came. At night a gas tank burned and I saw the reflection in the river. We stayed in the park one night. Next day I went to Taiko Bridge and met my girl friends Kikuki and Murakami. They were looking for their mothers. But Kikuki’s mother was wounded and Murakami’s mother, alas, was dead.”

Once word got out about Hersey’s article, copies of the New Yorker flew off newsstand shelves. The ABC network broadcast it over the radio. For four straight nights, Americans sat in their living rooms and listened to the gut-wrenching stories narrated by Paul Robeson and three other prominent actors. Albert Einstein requested a thousand copies to share with his friends and colleagues. A college student wrote to the New Yorker, “I had never thought of the people in the bombed cities as individuals.”9

Over 200,000 individuals died when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many more suffered long after from exposure to the devastating radiation. Sadako Sasaki was one of them.

Sadako was two years old in 1945 when the Enola Gay flew over Hiroshima. She grew up as the city struggled to rebuild. By 1955, Sadako had become an outgoing and creative twelve-year-old. She was very athletic—one of the strongest members of her school’s track team. She routinely won races against her classmates. On race days, she forgot about everything else and gave each race her all.


One bitter cold day, Sadako was practicing sprints on the field behind the school. All of a sudden, a strange and disorienting sensation came over her. She fell to the grass, unable to move any further. A teacher ran over to help. Sadako tried to get back on her feet, but her legs would not support her body.

Her father took her to the Red Cross Hospital. Sadako’s whole family was there waiting for her. After the doctor examined her, he asked to speak to her parents in private. From outside the room, Sadako heard her mother’s anguished cry, “Leukemia! But that’s impossible!” Sadako covered her ears in denial. She couldn’t possibly have leukemia. She was perfectly healthy.

Over the next few months, Sadako became weaker and weaker. The radiation from the atomic bomb had caused her disease, which sapped all of her energy and caused terrible headaches. Her bones felt like they were knives, cutting her from within. Eventually, she was confined to her bed in the hospital.

One day, Sadako’s friend Chizuko visited her in the hospital. Chizuko was determined to cheer up her friend and make her feel better. She pulled a piece of origami paper out of her bag and began folding it again and again. Finally, Chizuko had contorted the single piece of paper into a beautiful crane. Sadako asked Chizuko how the crane was supposed to make her well again. Chizuko responded, “Don’t you remember that old story about the crane? It’s supposed to live for a thousand years. If a sick person folds one thousand paper cranes, the gods will grant her wish and make her healthy again.”

The two friends sat together on Sadako’s bed, folding crane after crane. Maybe, just maybe, the gods would listen and make her healthy again. At first, the cranes were uneven, but as the girls practiced, they became more and more precise. Chizuko lined up the cranes on a small table. Ultimately, they made so many that Sadako’s brother offered to hang them on strings from the ceiling.

By July 1955, Sadako had made over 600 paper cranes. But she was not getting better. As she drifted in and out of sleep, she asked her parents, “When I die, will you put my favorite bean cakes on the altar for my spirit?” Her mother couldn’t answer. She just reached out and held her daughter’s hand. Her father insisted, “That will not happen for many, many years. Don’t give up now, Sadako chan. You have to make only a few hundred more cranes.”

In mid-October, Sadako couldn’t remember if it was day or night. She couldn’t talk, she could only listen. She heard her mother cry and desperately wanted to comfort her, but she could not seem to muster the strength. She tried to fold another crane, but her fingers couldn’t make the motions. Her doctor came in and told her, “It’s time to rest. You can make more birds tomorrow.” Seeing the hundreds of colorful paper cranes floating above her head gave her comfort. Sadako nodded and fell asleep.

Sadako passed away on October 25, 1955. She had made 644 cranes. Her friends folded another 356 and buried them with her. They gathered up Sadako’s journal entries and compiled them into a book called Kokeshi, which made its way around Japan. Children across the country read Sadako’s story and raised money to build a statue in her honor.

In 1958, a statue of Sadako Sasaki was unveiled in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park. Children across Japan raised money for its construction. Every year, people from around the world drape the statue in bands of paper cranes to remember Sadako and her bravery.

In 1958, three years after her death, the statue was erected in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park. Today, Sadako stands proudly and strongly on a pinnacle of stone. In her hands is a wide golden crane, which she appears to be releasing into the world. Perhaps the world, sick with the disease of war, will learn from Sadako’s example. As countries raced to build bigger and more powerful nuclear weapons in history’s bloodiest century, how many more Sadakos would there be before people woke up to the terrible human consequences of war from the air?

Table of Contents

Foreword D. Watkins xi

Introduction: The Cold War 1

Part 1 Atomic Fallout 7

1 Hiroshima: Imagination and Reality 9

John Hersey's Hiroshima

August 6, 1945

Sadako's Cranes


2 Maiden Voyage 19

Doctors' Donations

Repentance Rather Than Hatred

Full Hearts

This Is Your Life

Tanimoto's Story

Big Surprises

A Change of Heart

3 Bikini Atoll 35

Good-bye, Bikini


4 Bombshell 41

The Bikini Effect

Yellow Cake

Elementary Art

Part 2 The Cold War Comes Home 49

5 Truman to Wallace: You're Fired 51

Old Man River

Walking in Dignity

Silencing Americans

The Hollywood Ten

It's America. I Have a Right to Sing

Media Spin

6 Two Can Play at That Game 65

Soviet Development

Built on Bones

7 Survival Is a Choice 71


Prepping for the Bomb

If You Grow Up

What to Do If a Bomb Falls on the Fourth of July

8 We Refuse to Cooperate 79

Operation Alert 1955

We Shall Not Be Moved

May 3, 1960

Part 3 Culture of War 91

9 Losing Half a World 93

North Korea Invades South Korea

Communism Spreading

Enter China

10 MacArthur Goes Nuclear 102

Old Soldiers Never Die

A Nervous Chill

11 Stalemate 107

War Games

Presidential Militarism

12 Eisenhower Answers America 117

Humanity Hanging from a Cross of Iron

You Would Swear the Whole World Was on Fire

A New Bomb

Hot Fish

Nuclear Fallout

13 Lunacy 130

Looking for Satellites

Franklin Chang-Díaz

Commonwealth of Satellites

The Peaceful Atom

14 On the Beach 142

Military Growth

Part 4 Americanizing the World 149

15 The Cost of Oil: Iran 151

Shahs Get Rich While the Workers Stay Poor

Tudeh: Parry of the People

A New Day on the Horizon

Man of the Year

Operation Ajax

Death to America

16 Bananas for Bananas 165

United Fruit



Secret War

The Price of Cheap Bananas

17 Sweet Empire 180

An Exploding American Frontier

Central Hershey


New Spain

Big Sugar

Batista's Rule

18 Rebel with a Cause 197

¡Cuba Libre!

Secret Army

Strange Things

Stranger Than Fiction

Part 5 Dangerous Moments 213

19 Jack Kennedy 215

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going


Missile Gap

Cold Warrior

Kennedy Wins

20 Bay of Pigs 229

Steeling for Battle

The Invasion Begins

21 Disaster at Playa Giron 235

Sea Fury

A Kick in the Teeth

Killing Castro

New Ideas

22 Berlin 244

A Very Cold Winter

A Wall Is a Hell of a Lot Better Than a War

Gun Thy Neighbor

23 The Most Dangerous Moment in Human History 254

A Bit of Their Own Medicine


Generalized Anxiety

Everywhere Sowing Death and Destruction


The Brink of Armageddon

Conclusion and Reflections 269

Chapter Notes 271

A Time Line of Events 283

Photo Credits 289

Acknowledgments 295

Index 297

From the B&N Reads Blog

Customer Reviews