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Atomic Salvation

How the A-Bomb attacks saved the lives of 32 Million people

(12 customer reviews)
Authors: Tom Lewis
World War II
C Format

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Outsiders interview Sky news

“If the war had continued, it’s entirely possible that as many as 27 million Japanese might have died, as the Allied armies blasted their way from the initial landing zones at the Kyushu Peninsula up towards Tokyo.” – TOM LEWIS

Since the initial grateful acknowledgement of the success of the A-bomb attacks in ending World War II, there has been a steady reversal of opinion and sentiment: from a first hearty appreciation to a condemnation by many, of the United States for its actions.

Atomic Salvation investigates the full situation of the times to a previously unplumbed depth. It examines documents from both Japanese and Allied sources, but it uses logical in-depth analysis to extend beyond the mere recounting of statistics. It charts the full extent of the possible casualties on both sides if a conventional assault akin to D-Day had gone ahead. The work is concerned solely with the military necessity to use the bombs, but it also investigates why that necessity has been increasingly challenged over the successive decades.

Controversially, the book shows that the Japanese nation would have lost many millions of their people – likely around 28 million – if the nation had been attacked in the manner by which German was defeated: by amphibious assault; artillery and air attacks preceding infantry insertion, and finally by subduing the last of the defenders of the enemy capital.

From the other side, the book investigates the enormous political pressure placed on America as a result of their military situation. The USA’s Truman Administration had little choice but to use the new weapon given the more than a million deaths Allied forces would undoubtedly have suffered through conventional assault.

Through investigation of reactions then and since, Atomic Salvation charts reaction to the bombings. It looks briefly at a range of reactions through the decades and shows that there has been relentless pressure on the world to condemn what at the time was seen as the best, and the only, military solution to end the war.

Never has such an exhaustive analysis been made of the necessity behind bringing World War II to a halt.

Radio Adelaide 101.5 Interview with Tom Lewis here

Tom Lewis

Tom Lewis

A retired naval officer and high school teacher, Dr Tom Lewis OAM served in the Australian Defence Force, where he saw active service as an intelligence analyst in the Middle East. Tom has written 21 history books, with his most recent being “The Sinking of HMAS Sydney”, which focuses on living, fighting and dying in […]

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12 reviews for Atomic Salvation

  1. Remarkable in its sweep of World War II’s Pacific theatre, and the terrible price all involved would have paid if it continued. Atomic Salvation would be ideal for a comprehensive documentary.

  2. I have worked with Tom Lewis for over a decade producing pioneering Australian military history books which draw heavily on relevant Japanese sources. It is exciting to see Tom turn his considerable talent and ability to a global audience with Atomic Salvation … congratulations on a wonderful and fearless book!

  3. An effective blend of historical narrative and scholarly argument, Dr Tom Lewis’s Atomic Salvation is both a memorable and enlightening reading experience.

  4. This book is a reminder of something we may not wish to be reminded of. But facts are inexorable, and no history of the Second World War could possibly be complete without reference to the final act.
    The dropping of the Atom Bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, and the resultant immediate or protracted deaths of vast numbers of men, women and children remains a horrifying incident in a horrifying conflict between nations. Invariably the agonised call arises, “Was there no alternative?”
    Tragically, there was not. We would like to think otherwise. But this book makes it clear. Any delay, any alternative decision would have resulted in far greater loss, far greater agony, to both sides.
    The situation in 1945 was obvious and the end result was fairly certain. But to reach that end result there seemed a certainty of enormous losses all round.
    The Japanese, after a series of victories and achievements which few could have predicted, were now on the defensive. The greater material strength of America and her allies was finally beginning to tell. But there was to be no surrender. The Japanese soldier was bound to a tradition, nurtured over hundreds of years, that, whatever the odds against them, they would die rather than give up. “Death with honour” rather than ignominious capitulation. This was already manifest in the various successes achieved by the Allies in attacks on enemy-held positions, – attacks which succeeded only after heavy losses to the victors, and the virtual annihilation of all defenders.
    This philosophy of “resistance to the end” was as much imbued in the civilian population of Japan as it was with the military. The Allies faced the very real prospect that final conquest would be achieved only by house to house resistance, with resultant heavy losses on both sides. And for how many years?
    This was the reality faced before the bomb. The book makes clear the enormous devastation awaiting friends and enemies alike.
    This was the justification for the Bomb. Its potential for wholesale destruction obviously shocked at least some Japanese leaders into a re-assessment of the traditional values. There remained the diehards, and the balance of power remained uncertain until the intervention of the Emperor. Only then did the Japanese nation accept the humiliation and defeat it would otherwise never have contemplated. But the result was the saving of millions of lives on both sides.
    There was one special urgency to the immediate end of hostilities. Large numbers of Allied troops had been taken prisoner in the early years of the War, many had already died under the harsh conditions imposed, and it was clear that all would have perished under those same conditions if the war had continued.
    There are two difficulties besetting contemporary readers of these events. The first is the failure to comprehend the immense urgency of the situation as it appeared in 1945. The war was devastating, and daily causing immense losses in soldiers and civilians on both sides. The book shows clearly how those losses would have inevitably and inexorably continued. Only those there at the time would have understood the ruthless pressure of events. Modern readers of now far-off events must remind themselves they are not reading an exciting novel, but a real account of a real tragedy.
    The second difficulty for the contemporary observer is that the past is a different country. Modern-day Japan is a nation of top international ranking, with stable government, increasing prosperity and an educated and alert citizenry, welcoming to visitors from other lands. It is hard to think back a century to a people dedicated to the conquest of other peoples and the ascendancy of “The Greater East-Asian Co-prosperity Sphere” which, in reality, meant only one nation. So it is not surprising that some, now reading for the first time of these events, might ask, “Could the nation we know of as peaceful and prosperous now, really have been the aggressive, ruthless, attackers of their neighbours and those further afield?”
    The answer to that question is “Yes”, and this book will tell you why.
    The Honourable Austin Asche, QC, AC is a former Administrator of the Northern Territory of Australia, and a Supreme Court Judge. He served in World War II in radar in northern Australia as a member of the Royal Australian Air Force.

  5. Just finished ATOMIC SALVATION- an absolute powerhouse of a book, definitely puts the atomic bombs in perspective! Thank you so much Tom Lewis

  6. The Atomic Bombings of Japan Were Tragic; a Ground Invasion Would Have Been Even Worse
    by • 10 July, 2020

  7. Tom Lewis puts a forward a compelling case as to why the atomic bomb was dropped. All in all an informative book which I would recommend to anyone
    who is interested in the facts behind the dropping of the atomic bomb.

    At last we have what I consider to be the definitive word as to why America should have dropped two atomic bombs on Japan and what alternatives existed if we had not. {Full Disclosure: This reviewer was alive when it happened, heard about the events live on the radio, and had a father in the marines in the Pacific theater at the time of the bombings – he came home in 1946 safely and uninjured physically.}

    In meticulous and clear prose, Tom Lewis details the actions and preparations leading up to the two bombings. Nothing was certain. All were operating in unknown territory. Just before the first test to see if the detonation of an atomic device was a viable prospect, Enrico Fermi was jokingly taking bets as to whether or not the atmosphere would catch on fire. When the creation of a Hydrogen bomb was being considered there was some concern that the oceans might explode due to the presence of abundant hydrogen. All fears were repeatedly rebutted over the years and now we have a world replete with thermonuclear weaponry. As for Japan, it is absolutely essential to point out some key factors that have been overlooked when it comes to debates over whether or not the atomic bombs should have been dropped on Japan.

    1) An invasion of Japan, an empire comprised of multiple islands still possessing a powerful functioning army and a population prepared to fight down to the last man, woman, and child, would have made the Normandy landing seem like a stroll on the beach. And, in truth, Japan did not surrender immediately after the atomic assault on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Indeed, a number of upper echelon political and military figures wanted to continue the war. In minute detail Lewis presents statistics for potential casualties on both sides, and even the sub-title for this book – “HOW THE A-BOMB ATTACKS SAVED THE LIVES OF 32 MILLION PEOPLE” -says it all.

    2) Going back in time to the 13th century one can read of the twice failed attempts on the part of Kublai Khan, ruler of the mighty Mongol Empire, to conquer Japan. Even the weather and attendant storms were against him. The Qing Dynasty – last dynasty of Imperial China – failed to prevail against the Japanese forces near the end of the 19th century. Even the Russian Empire was defeated by the Japanese in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 which ultimately led to the downfall of the Tsar and the Romanov Dynasty. The East Asiatic possessions of the British Empire along with America’s own were swept away by the initial conquests of the Empire of Japan. Only ONE nation which fought a truly full two-front war during WWII was capable of defeating the Japanese Empire – the United States of America! But at what cost? The French were beaten and evicted from East Asia, Britain and its Empire were decimated, and the Soviet Union even with tens of millions of deaths and casualties was only fighting Germany since it had signed a Neutrality Pact with Japan back in April of 1941.

    Revisionists and Apologists overlook the total burden placed on the US at the time. Consolidation and control in Central and Eastern Europe, after the recent previous defeat of Nazi Germany, still required much man power, attention, and resources. How much was left in the tank so to speak to launch a full LAND assault on Japan? In his book, Lewis lays out in chapter after chapter the consequences of a drawn out war with Japan. Some chapter titles highlight the problem: “Was Japan going to fight on? How much longer could Japan have fought? How would the war have continued if the A-bombs had not been used? The Russian option, Allied and Japanese casualties, Actual and Possible Deaths of POWs [Japan never signed the Geneva convention], Revenge as a motivator.”

    3) The last deserves special attention. You hear nothing from Apologists about the Bataan Death March, Okinawa, the Rape or Massacre of Nanking (Nanjing) whose fatality numbers are often denied by Japanese Revisionists, and finally Pearl Harbor. Where are the Apologists for it? In effect, Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima-Nagasaki stand as two “book ends” with regard to WWII. What began with the former was basically terminated with the latter. And there you have it. Apologists and Revisionists need not reply. You weren’t there. You most likely weren’t even alive then. While “hindsight” may be 20/20 vision, don’t overlook the “fog of war”.

  9. We are now 75 years removed from the events of August 1945, when World War II came to an abrupt and dramatic end. Japan, the last Axis power following the end of the Third Reich, surrendered to the Allies after the United States delivered two atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Faced with atomic annihilation, Japan had to accept that not only could they no longer win the War, they now could see a future that would result in the complete destruction of their cities, their culture, their language… everything that made the Japanese who they were.
    When I began my history studies I had already developed an interest in Japanese history, particularly during the 19th and 20th centuries when Japan rapidly modernized and rose to become the dominant power in Asia. Imagine my surprise when I found myself stationed in Germany during the 40th Anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing and the focal point of a protest by locals against the use of that bomb. I did not understand… didn’t these Germans understand that the weapons were used to END a war? Didn’t they know that millions of lives, both Allied AND Japanese, had been saved at the cost of two cities?
    In the forty years that passed it had become intellectually fashionable to look at the A-bomb attacks in isolation: without the history of the previous four years of war, the critical events of the last few months leading to Japan’s surrender, or the enormity of both options of dropping the bombs… or NOT dropping the bombs.
    Mr. Lewis not only looks at the decision in its totality but also does the math to estimate exactly how many lives, Japanese and Allied, were saved by using the bombs for the shock value needed to end the war. Then he takes it even further, discussing the myths and blatant mischaracterizations that came out in the decades following the war.
    As strange as it sounds, many critics of the decision to drop the bombs don’t really know much about WWII, particularly in Asia. The Japanese were not simply minding their own business when the two B-29s dropped their deadly cargos on two of their cities. Japan had been fighting in China for over a decade and its armies had seized French Indochina, the Dutch East Indies, Singapore, the Philippines and Burma. Their naval aviation had launched a premediated attack against Pearl Harbor, their army air force bombed northern Australia, their midget submarines attacked Sydney and Newcastle. The nature of the Imperial Japan’s way of war was punctuated by the names of their atrocities: The Rape of Nanking, the Bataan Death March, the Rape of Manila, the Sandakan Death March… to name just the most deadly.
    Japan’s ruthless actions had resulted in an equally ruthless Allied effort to push Japan back to its home islands and to destroy its war-making capability. By August 1945 Japan’s lifelines to its shrinking empire were cut by American submarines and aircraft, sinking the tankers needed to fuel the aircraft and warships that remained and the freighters needed to feed the soldiers. B-29s were killing more people in firebomb attacks on Japanese cities than would be lost during the A-bomb raids. The islands of Saipan and Okinawa had just been taken with staggering U.S. losses… and the virtual annihilation of the Japanese there, both military and civilian.
    Atomic Salvation provides depth to this literal world-shaking event. Lewis discusses not just the Imperial Japanese Army’s determination to fight to the death, as they did in Okinawa, but the fact that whatever food supply available would be directed to it while the Japanese people starved to death. Lewis discusses not just the huge casualties the Allies expected when they “hit the beach,” but also the incidental cost in Allied lives as the huge war machine being gathered off Japan’s shores suffered from noncombat deaths from training accidents, sickness, weapon failures, etc. There were also factors such as the deaths of 300,000 POWs whose execution had already been ordered Japan’s warlords, the increasing cost of kamikaze attacks, and the costs in humanity of ordinary soldiers as Allied troops were forced to kill women and children charging with sticks. Such was the degree of “resistance” that the Japanese had decided upon.
    Lewis discusses the postwar intellectual hoops that were jumped to make the Japanese militarists to be victims and Americans to be the bad guys but regardless of the reasons for this flip-flop to be desirable, to make a judgment on the use of the two atomic bombs one must have ALL the facts, not just the ones that are convenient to a 21st Century history-lite viewpoint. Tom Lewis has done that job here.

  10. The book is well worth reading, for the logical structure of the narrative, the sequencing of Lewis’s arguments, the detailed chronology, some clear and informative statistical tables, and the transcripts from many personal interviews.
    The author, who served in the RAN for over 20 years, makes his case clearly and concisely, and has given an easily-read description of the many pollical, military and ethical issues, which are still contentious 76 years after the event.

  11. Thankyou for your wonderful books.

  12. Atomic Salvation does a stirling job of the context necessary to understand how correct the bombings were.

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