Book Review: Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Paul Ham
Paul Ham’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki takes a new approach in explaining the atomic bombings of the Japanese cities. Instead of directly delving into the tortuous events, Ham takes us on a tour of the grim politics and elaborate machinations that resulted in the creation, and ultimately use of the greatest weapons built by mankind.
Starting at the last leg of the Second World War and during Roosevelt’s last days as President of the United States of America, Ham draws a very vivid and thought-provoking image of the mood and convictions of the leaders at that time. Ham’s description of Stalin’s demure grace, Churchill’s elaborate beliefs and Roosevelt’s firm decisions sheds a lot of light on what transpired during the Yalta Conference, and Ham very ruthlessly lays bare the actual feelings of the Big Three.
With the Yalta Conference, Ham begins a conscious narrative of the bomb’s creation through history, and very aptly describes the views and attitudes of a variety of politicians and war generals toward the bomb. The most notable personalities in Ham’s book are Harry Truman, Emperor Hirohito, Franklin Roosevelt, Japanese politicians and the American War Secretary during that time.
As Japanese recalcitrance to submit deepens, the USA tries a variety of tactics to compel Japan into submission, but to no avail. With the freedom of press clamped in Japan, the people have no idea of what is going on in their country. Not only that, Ham very succinctly adds the failings of the American leaders, and their ruthless impatience to test the bomb on civilians.
The actual bombing events are described vividly, so much so that it is difficult to put the book down at this point. Riddled with the accounts of survivors of the atomic bombs, Ham paints a grim picture of the desolation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the terror of radiation poisoning that grips the cities after that. Ham presents very accurate figures of the deaths sue to bombs as well as the apparent ignorance of the leaders regarding the sufferings of the people.
All in all, Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a very well-researched book presented in a very readable format. It is a book that will appeal equally to history buffs and casual readers, to anyone with an eye for compelling reading.
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