Prompt and Utter Destruction | J. Samuel Walker

Prompt and Utter Destruction
by J. Samuel Walker

Available AmazonPrompt and Utter Destruction

Quick Review

There are few topics in American history that are more controversial than the atomic bombings of Japan at the end of World War II. Questions about the morality and military necessity of using the bombs arose immediately after they were dropped and have been debated and conflated ever since. In Prompt and Utter Destruction, J. Samuel Walker cuts through the distortions and half-truths to present the realities and prospects for peace as they existed in August of 1945. Walker finds anti-bomb historians to have overstated the case that the Japanese were actively attempting to surrender at the time the bombs were dropped. But he also demonstrates that pro-bomb historians, in their insistence that the United States faced a categorical choice between using atomic bombs or invading Japan, have significantly understated other options that could have resulted in a Japanese surrender. He further shows that the projected casualty numbers from an invasion of Japan, which were used as a justification for the use of the atomic bombs, were greatly exaggerated after the war was over. Walker states that it is not his goal to answer the moral questions surrounding the bombs – indeed, he questions whether or not historians are able to answer such questions. Rather, his goal is to bring to light the factors that led President Truman to drop the bombs as well as to examine the alternative scenarios by which peace could have been achieved without them. In these goals, Walker’s book is a runaway success.

Praise for Prompt and Utter Destruction

“So intelligent is Walker’s book, so balanced, economical, lucid, and deeply informed, that those reading it will never again believe that the decision to drop the bomb was uncomplicated.” – Technology & Culture

“Walker’s book is the most useful layman’s synthesis of the debate in print.” – Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

“The author’s ability to cover the most important issues with economy . . . make[s] this an excellent addition to the literature, particularly useful for beginning students.” – Foreign Affairs

“…this is the best synthetic study of the use of the atomic bomb.”  – International History Review

What to Read Next

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Unconditional Surrender | Anne Armstrong


// World War II