The 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor seemed like a really appropriate time to read “Killing the Rising Sun”, so that’s what I did. Authors Bill O’Reilly (of Fox News fame) and Martin Dugard provide an interesting, 30,000 foot account of the war in the Pacific during WWII.
The United States was at war with Japan for about four years, so there’s a lot of ground to cover. The authors are faced with the challenge of distilling those four years into a book that’s a manageable size and engaging for the reader, while still painting a complete picture. Fortunately, they are up to the task.
The book provides an overview of some of the battles, providing selective firsthand accounts and not sparing the gruesome details. The Pacific was a particularly brutal theater of operations due to the terrain (islands, many with cave networks that allowed the Japanese to really dig in), as well as the vicious, never surrender mindset of the Japanese army. Some of the details are truly hair raising.
The authors also provide insights into the political climate of both countries. In the US, Roosevelt dies before the end of the war, leaving Truman, a man with whom Roosevelt only met face-to-face twice, in charge. The man from Missouri faces the daunting tasks of negotiating peace in Europe, containing an aggressive postwar Stalin and making a decision about dropping the atom bomb on Japan.
On the Japanese side, we get a glimpse of Emperor Hirohito, the isolated man god who is grossly out of touch with his people and reality. He relinquished control of most of the decision-making about the war to his prime minister, Tojo, who was hanged after the war for atrocities that he ordered.
And, of course, “Killing the Rising Sun” addresses the atomic bomb, including the development program, the decision to drop it, the details of the mission, the terrible impact it had on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the morality debate that occurred then and continues to this day.
“Killing the Rising Sun” is an interesting overview of the war in the Pacific. Not only is it a good refresher to what (hopefully) many of us learned in school, but I’ll bet you learn some things you never knew before. I certainly did. I’m a firm believer in knowing history, and “Killing the Rising Sun” is an interesting, digestible way to learn more about this particular aspect of WWII and the dawn of the nuclear age.
By the way, if you are in the Kansas City area, make sure you visit the Truman Presidential Library. It’s very well done and provides more information about this particular moment in history.
Have you read this book or any of the other books in the “Killing” series? Let me know what you think.