Title: “Killing the Rising Sun”
Authors: Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugar
As a devotee of the World War II genre, I found this book to be very meaningful. It encompasses a series of vignettes of events and persons involved in the Pacific Theater of Operations. The authors weave these vignettes into a tapestry — an overview of the times.
Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard pursue a goal of making history interesting to the average reader. Even though the outcome of the story is foreknown, it is fascinating and even suspenseful at times, because of the murder mystery writing style of the authors. There also are many interesting “tidbits,” such as President Harry Truman’s favorite Sunday dinner.
The vignettes describe the bloody battles between the U.S. Marines and the Japanese forces on several Pacific islands, including Peleliu and Iwo Jima. Prime Minister Tojo, also known as the Hitler of the Pacific, gave his soldiers permission to rape, behead, torture and defile their opponents. In China, soldiers and civilians were methodically slaughtered. Eighty thousand women were raped in the “Rape of Nanking.” The barbaric Japanese treatment of American and Filipino prisoners was blatantly revealed in the infamous Bataan Death March. Surviving prisoners became slave laborers.
As the war turned in the Americans’ favor, Emperor Hirohito resisted surrender. The Japanese considered it dishonorable, in the extreme, to do so.
In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt learned Germany was pursuing an atom bomb. He ordered work to begin on the development of just such a bomb. The efforts of Robert Oppenheimer and his associates in developing the bomb are described vividly. They worked hard and were proud of their effort. Unfortunately, the program had been infiltrated with Soviet spies who shared the atomic secrets with Josef Stalin’s scientists.
When the bomb was ready, the heavy responsibility of approving its use fell on the shoulders of Truman. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander of forces in the Pacific, was the last official told of the bomb’s successful testing, perhaps because of the strained relationship he had with Truman.
The bloody fighting on Iwo Jima and Okinawa made it clear the invasion of Japan would come at an immense cost. Estimates of American losses were more than 1 million. The Japanese loss of life would be even higher. Truman made the difficult, but logical, decision to use the weapon if the Japanese rejected unconditional surrender. They refused.
The USS Indianapolis had the task of delivering the atomic bomb to Tinian Island. Tragically, a Japanese submarine sank the ship not long after the delivery. The loss of sailors was great. Horrifyingly, many sailors died, one by one, from shark attacks.
The authors give us insight into the settings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the activities of the Japanese citizens just prior to the bombing. Many of the civilians of Hiroshima did evacuate before the bomb struck.
The book describes, in sobering detail, the preparations for delivery of the atomic weapons and the devastating results of the bombs. On Aug. 6, 1945, the Enola Gay dropped the first bomb, known as “Little Boy," on Hiroshima. In spite of the devastation, Emperor Hirohito and his staff refused surrender, preferring to fight to the death. On Aug. 9, 1945, a more powerful plutonium bomb, known as “Fat Man," dropped on Nagasaki. Finally, Hirohito surrendered.
I was only a young boy at the time, but I recall the universal feeling of relief and joy everyone experienced at the news of the bombing. Finally, the war would be over.