Road to Surrender by Evan Thomas

Click here to get Road to Surrender on Amazon

This book focuses tightly on a handful of politicians and senior military officers involved in America’s decision to bomb Japan, as well as Japan’s surrender in World War II. I scanned from about chapter 5, so this is not a review, but I’d suggest the audiobook if it grabs you.

On the eve of the new film Oppenheimer and Biden’s moral outrage at Russia’s nuclear sabre-rattling over Ukraine, this book reveals the uncomfortable reality of America’s atomic bombing in 1945. Japan’s fanatical war-mongering elites incited and marched their country to its near destruction. 

Putin was recently quoted as saying that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. I disagree. I’d say that honour went to Japan the day it attacked Pearl Harbor, which led inexorably to its disaster. War is a tool for political ends.

The book chronicles Japan’s unique fate and concludes with views on whether nukes were necessary at all. America rationalised that it would have lost a million men or more if it had invaded Japan to end the war, so instead it dropped the first atomic bomb barely after the paint had dried. The question is whether an invasion was likely at that cost. Methinks not. The nukes were rushed into use on a palatable rationale. Some believed it was a message to the Soviets.

It’s shocking today to think that a handful of people we barely know can still take, or be given, the power to nuke us all on a whim. And societies, despite education, are as susceptible to propaganda and conditioning as ever. Vast swathes of Russia seem to have surrendered political agency to the Kremlin, which has its finger on the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

The book is highly quotable from what I have scanned. Here are a few bits that caught my eye:

LeMay’s bombers have been so methodical at burning Japanese cities that the members of the [America’s] Target Committee are concerned that by the time S-1 [the first nuke] is ready, there will be none left … Indeed, Groves has asked the air force to preserve a number of cities from firebombing, to, in effect, save them for the atomic bomb. 

Most Americans approved of dropping two atomic bombs on Japan; some wished their countrymen had dropped more … Their worries focused more on whether Russia would get the bomb, or on whether they could find a new car or a house, a job or a spouse.

Col. Paul Tibbets named the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, after his mother. (Ahh – a mother’s pride, was little Tibbets 🤣)

Click here to get Road to Surrender on Amazon


Other interesting reviews which you may have missed (click the title name):

Atonement: I’m not a romance reader but this is one of my favourite historical fiction stories with an innovative ending, a really compelling screen adaptation and a superb movie score.

Checkmate in Berlin: Loved it! I was glued and thrilled beginning to end. You must read this book first, and take it with you if you visit Berlin with an eye on history. It also illuminates Russia’s war in 2022 in many ways.

Slaughterhouse-Five: Very readable WW2 fiction, if you can get over the odd combination of Dresden vs aliens and Eternalism, and an ambiguous ending.

Astronaut Wives Club: A great non-fiction book which does exactly what it says in the title.

Rocket Men: Another amazing book which retells mankind’s first foray to the moon on Apollo 8.

The Book of Daniel: A thriller, echoeing the fate of the real Rosenbergs, convicted and executed as American Communists during the fifties Red Scare.

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