Killing the Rising Sun, Bill O’Reilly, Martin Dugard, authors; Robert Petkoff, narrator
On December 7, 1941, the United States was caught unawares and unprepared by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Thousands of victims were sent to a watery grave, to remain there, buried at sea in their ships. At the time of the attack, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the President. His health was failing, but the world was largely unaware of that, as well. After his death, it fell to the new President Harry S. Truman, to make a monumental decision that would ultimately cost many lives, but also would finally end the war that had claimed millions and millions of lives. It would also save countless American lives.
This book is about the events surrounding the development and eventual unleashing of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, causing massive destruction and an enormous loss of lives coupled with thousands of horrific injuries. Many believed then and many believe now (one in that corner was Douglas MacArthur), that it was unnecessary to drop the bombs to end the war. They believe that somehow either diplomacy or an invasion would have been a better avenue to follow, would have resulted in fewer civilian casualties and deaths; however, that would have continued the loss of American lives and of other allied troops since the Emperor of Japan refused to surrender unconditionally and refused to end hostilities. His soldiers would fight to the death to avoid facing the humiliation of returning home as cowards and failures.
As the reader learns of the heinous tactics and behavior of the Japanese during WWII, it will be difficult not to agree with President Truman’s decision. Many will find it difficult to feel that the dropping of the bombs was unjustified. The Japanese were often more brutal and barbaric than the Germans, though I must admit I was stunned to believe that even more despicable behavior was possible than that of the Germans. They were extremely vicious and evil in their treatment of the Jews and others they deemed to be of a lesser race. However, more POW’s survived as German captives than as Japanese captives. The Japanese government did not follow the Geneva Conventions, they tortured and murdered their POW’s, they captured women who came to be known as “comfort women” who were forcibly raped by their troops; they sanctioned murder and pillage when they conquered a territory; they even engaged in cannibalism. They were responsible for the “rape of Nanking” and were utterly barbaric in the way they behaved and in the choices they made when it came to those dwelling in the lands they conquered. They were expected to fall on their swords rather than return home alive which would mean they were cowards, traitors who failed their Emperor and the Land of the Rising Sun.
The book describes the situation in graphic and descriptive terms, making it clear that it might have been impossible to end World War II utterly, in any other way. Accurately following the history of events, the authors bring the story behind the bombings to light for all to see. It is a well-written and well-narrated history of the events of that time. I would highly recommend it to those who might still question the judgment of President Truman and to those who want to learn more about the reason it was necessary or even considered. Often, hindsight is 20/20, but it doesn’t take into account the emotional stress or physical danger that America was confronted with at the time.