Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire

Front Cover
Random House, 1999 - History - 484 pages
"The publication of Richard Frank's long-awaited Downfall is an event of great importance, not only to historians but to the general public. No aspect of World War II is more controversial today than the use of atomic bombs against Japan in 1945. Some have argued that this act was cruel and unnecessary since Japan was on the verge of surrender. But by means of exhaustive research and the employment of previously neglected and recently declassified sources, Frank proves in this definitive book that neither the Emperor nor the Japa-nese armed forces were anywhere close to surrendering in August 1945.
"In a stunning tour de force, Frank re-creates the end of the war, not as it seemed to people writing much later but as it appeared to American and Japanese decision makers at the time. Though the bomb was often seen as the worst possible means of ending the Pacific war, Frank establishes that its use was superior to all existing alternatives, and saved not only Allied lives but Japa-nese lives as well. Masterly in conception, brilliantly reasoned, superbly researched, Downfall is all but impossible to put down.
"Anyone concerned with the moral, military, and political issues surrounding the end of the Pacific war must read this book."
--William L. O'Neill, author of "A Democracy at War
Downfall opens with a vivid portrayal of the catastrophic fire raid on Tokyo in March 1945--which was to be followed by the utter destruction of almost every major Japanese city--and ends with the anguished vigil of American and Japanese leaders waiting to learn if Japan's armed forces would obey the Emperor's order to surrender.
America's use of the atom bomb has generatedmore heated controversy than any other event of the whole war:
Did nuclear weapons save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans poised to invade Japan?
Did U.S. leaders know that Japan was urgently seeking peace and needed only assurance about the Emperor's safety to end the war swiftly?
Was the bomb really used to intimidate the Russians?
Why wasn't the devastating power of the weapon demonstrated first before being unleashed on a city?
Richard B. Frank has brought to life these critical times, working from primary documents, reports, diaries, and newly declassified records. These pages present the untold story of how American leaders learned in the summer of 1945 that their compromise strategy to end the war by blockade and bombardment, followed by invasion, had been shattered; radio intelligence had unmasked a massive Japanese buildup on Kyushu designed to turn the initial invasion into a bloody shambles. Meanwhile, the text and analysis of diplomatic intercepts depicted sterile prospects for negotiation before a final clash of arms. Here also, for the first time, is a full and balanced account of how Japan's leaders risked annihilation by gambling on a military strategy aimed at securing political bargaining leverage to preserve the old order in Japan.
Downfall replaces the myths that now surround the end of the war and the use of the bomb with the stark realities of this great historical controversy.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

Hong Kong's history: state and society under colonial rule

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Few historical issues have generated as much controversy as the question of whether the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 was necessary to compel Japan's surrender. No single ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - rnsulentic - LibraryThing

Great examination of the last months of WWII in the Pacific against Japan. Read full review


Raid of March 910
Strategies Old Strategies
From Zeppelins to B29s

20 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1999)

Richard B. Frank was born in Kansas in 1947. Upon graduation from the University of Missouri in 1969, he was commissioned in the United States Army, in which he served almost four years, including a tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam as an aerorifle platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division. In 1976, he completed studies at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. The following year he began research on his first book, Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Campaign, which was published in 1990. He lives in Annandale, Virginia.

Bibliographic information