New books out on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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tags: Hiroshima

●  To Hell and Back by Charles Pellegrino

●  Nagasaki by Susan Southard

Reviewed in the Wall Street Journal by Alonzo Hamby:

What is missing from both books is context. Neither author properly discusses the factors that went into the American decision to use the bomb. Nor do they venture an opinion on whether the bomb shortened the war. They focus on the ways the bomb affected civilians who had to cope with a catastrophe.

“To Hell and Back,” one may remember, appeared in an earlier form, in 2010, as “The Last Train From Hiroshima.” The publication of that book was suspended when the authenticity of one of Mr. Pellegrino’s sources—a man who claimed to have been on a plane accompanying the Enola Gay bomber on its Hiroshima mission—was called into question. That source and his assertions are gone from the new book. A foreword notes that he had indeed “tricked” the author, who later admitted his mistake.

In a preface to “To Hell and Back,” Mark Selden, a scholar of East Asian studies, declares that Mr. Pellegrino’s narrative “encourages us to reflect anew on the ethics and horrifying outcome of World War II strategies of massive civilian bombing, whether by Germany, Japan, or England, or by American fire-bombing of German and Japanese cities and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

His statement reminds us that the atomic bombs were the logical outcome of a style of war taken for granted on both sides by the summer of 1945. Britain suffered heavy bombing and massive property destruction, but civilian deaths for the nation were less than 45,000. The port city of Hull (population, 320,000), roughly analogous to Hiroshima or Nagasaki, endured damage to an estimated 95% of its housing stock but lost only 1,200 civilians. Unlike Britain, Japan seems to have made little or no provision for the protection of its civilian population.

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