Killing the Rising Sun is one of those books that attract people to read about the history. As the saying goes, “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat.” And I sincerely hope the history of World War II would not repeat. World War II didn’t happen too long ago; it was in my parents’ generation when it happened and is still vivid in their memory. We baby boomers and future generations benefited enormously from the sacrifices their generation made. All I knew was US dropped 2 atomic bombs in Japan in retribution to their attack on Pearl Harbor and quickly wrapped up the war. Oh, there were a few skirmishes in between trying to take over some islands for military bases.
Not so quick, there were so many events that happened and so many lives lost on both sides. In this book, the authors wrote a vivid chronology of how the U.S. was involved in World War II, the background stories of the European War, and the how U.S. refocused to fight Japan after that war was wrapped up with Germany’s surrender on May 7, 1945. From the Japanese’s attack on the Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 to the surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945 was a long nearly 4-year war. These days, it’s hard to imagine to be in a war that lasts more than a few days.
Overall, the stories read like a novel but that’s trivializing the many thousands of lives lost. It was riveting and mesmerizing – many of stories were told as observed by real people, instead of describing the general fact. Though we all knew what happened in the end. I kept on listening to the audiobook attentively, lest I missed anything. Very good read and a must read for those we can’t appreciate what good lives we’ve got now.
The book started with the battle of Pelelius, a Japan-occupied island near Philippines. This was the MacArthur’s triumphant return on his way to retake Philippines. On chapter 3, Harry Truman, a humble Missouri native came into the picture as the Vice President, after helping FDR re-elected. Quickly, the story moved toward the last year of the World War II when German’s surrender is almost secured when FDR gave away East Europe to Stalin of Russia and putting his focus on fighting Japan. Then MacArthur retook Philippines as the Iwo Jima battle was being concluded around February and March of 1945. These were important battle fronts that paved the way for US to get close to Japan for dropping the Atomic Bombs. Starting from Chapter 9 (about one third of the book), Truman inherited the US Presidency from FDR then the spotlight of the story was on the Atomic Bombs: the development and testing and the final drops. The fall of Okinawa on June 23, 1945, set up the final stage of the invasion of Japan that MacArthur wanted but it’s not up to him. There was a detailed description of the events leading to the sinking of USS Indianapolis by Japan’s I-58 submarine. Finally, the two Atomic Bombs: Little Boy and Fan Man sealed the fate of Japan’s surrender.
– The book started with a letter by Albert Einstein to Franklin Roosevelt on a potential weapon that could be made using his Relativity Theory in triggering in splitting an atom (E= MC^2). FDR almost didn’t get it until the second time he heard about it. The Manhattan project was seeded on October 12, 1939 – almost 6 years before the bombs were dropped in Japan. Ironically, Einstein’s was never invited to the Manhattan Project to build the Atomic bomb because his “security” risk.
– The story about General MacArthur was less than flattering. I knew a little about his insubordination from the book Truman by David McCullough. It’s very clear that both FDR and Truman hated his guts. I don’t blame Truman though and would do the same thing by giving him a cold shoulder and not notifying of the A-bomb until a few days before they were dropped. MacArthur was famous for making grand shows in the public by having his “return” photographed and his towering photo over Emperor Hirohito after the war ended.
– It appears the premise of God-given “superior race” armed the German and Japanese soldiers with great courage and brutality against the “other inferior” races. It’s pretty sad that humans or the power, like the Japanese Emperor, propagated such myths to stay in the power. From these historical facts, shouldn’t we name racism as the source of all wars and evils?
– Kamikaze, the suicide planes, changed the war tactics. It’s very difficult to fight people or terrorism for that matter when your enemy is willing to commit suicide to win. This was a big headache for US Navy at that time. Many ships were destroyed as a result.
– The firebombs consists of cylinders of napalms destroyed a big parts of the cities including Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, and Kawasaiki and more than a million residents lost. but they didn’t make the same impact as the Atomic Bombs.
– The torpedo and sinking of of USS Indianapolis by a no-name Japanese submarine I-58 was rather ironic. USS Indianapolis carried the Little Boy atomic bomb to Tinian island before being sunk on its way to Manila. The rescue mission was accidental – how do you lose a battleship without people’s being aware of it? It’s a little Japanese victory that didn’t turn the tide for Japan but Charles McVay, the captain at helm, paid the price by committing suicide 23 years later.
– The second atomic bomb, Fat Man, was made for a Hollywood movie. The Bockscar B-29 plane couldn’t find its target and moved to Nagasaki target instead. It almost didn’t make it as back as it ran out of fuel upon its arrival at Okinawa – couldn’t even taxi off. And then the bomb was falsely activated in the air. So much excitement. At the end, it did its job of convincing Japan to surrender itself.
– The capture of Hideki Tojo at his farmhouse, despite his own failed suicide, a bullet that missed most of his critical organs, was an interesting, ironic story. He was later hanged for his war crimes.
– Emperor Hirohito escaped any war crime committed throughout the war was simply amazing to me. How MacArthur orchestrated the saving of his God-like face in front of the Japanese people, citing him as the stability factor. To me, that’s an oversight and atrocity.
– Russian’s invasion into China’s Manchuria and declaring war against Japan helped forcing Japan’s unconditional surrender. Later, it turned over the territory to the Communist China and contributed the demise of Chiang Kai Shek’s KMT.