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Road to Surrender: Three Men and the Countdown to the End of World War II (Hardcover)
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A riveting, immersive account of the agonizing decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan—a crucial turning point in World War II and geopolitical history—with you-are-there immediacy by the New York Times bestselling author of Ike’s Bluff and Sea of Thunder.
“As Christopher Nolan’s movie Oppenheimer shows, the shockwaves reverberate still. The veteran biographer Evan Thomas now enters the debate.”—The Wall Street Journal
AN NPR BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
At 9:20 a.m. on the morning of May 30, General Groves receives a message to report to the office of the secretary of war “at once.” Stimson is waiting for him. He wants to know: has Groves selected the targets yet?
So begins this suspenseful, impeccably researched history that draws on new access to diaries to tell the story of three men who were intimately involved with America’s decision to drop the atomic bomb—and Japan’s decision to surrender. They are Henry Stimson, the American Secretary of War, who oversaw J. Robert Oppenheimer under the Manhattan Project; Gen. Carl “Tooey” Spaatz, head of strategic bombing in the Pacific, who supervised the planes that dropped the bombs; and Japanese Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo, the only one in Emperor Hirohito’s Supreme War Council who believed even before the bombs were dropped that Japan should surrender.
Henry Stimson had served in the administrations of five presidents, but as Oppenheimer’s work progressed, he found himself tasked with the unimaginable decision of determining whether to deploy the bomb. The new president, Harry S. Truman, thus far a peripheral figure in the momentous decision, accepted Stimson’s recommendation to drop the bomb. Army Air Force Commander Gen. Spaatz ordered the planes to take off. Like Stimson, Spaatz agonized over the command even as he recognized it would end the war. After the bombs were dropped, Foreign Minister Togo was finally able to convince the emperor to surrender.
To bring these critical events to vivid life, bestselling author Evan Thomas draws on the diaries of Stimson, Togo and Spaatz, contemplating the immense weight of their historic decision. In Road to Surrender, an immersive, surprising, moving account, Thomas lays out the behind-the-scenes thoughts, feelings, motivations, and decision-making of three people who changed history.
About the Author
Evan Thomas is the author of bestselling books including First: Sandra Day O’Connor, Being Nixon, John Paul Jones, and Sea of Thunder. Thomas was a writer, correspondent, and editor at Time and Newsweek and has taught writing and journalism at Harvard and Princeton.
“A terrifying, heartbreaking account of three men under unimaginable pressure . . . This is history that crackles with journalistic immediacy. I challenge you not to read this book in a single sitting.”—Nathaniel Philbrick, New York Times bestselling author of In the Heart of the Sea and Travels with George
“In this meticulously crafted and vivid account, Evan Thomas tells the gripping and terrifying story of the last days of the Second World War in the Pacific. Writing with insight and understanding, he re-creates for us those critical moments when, for better or worse, the decisions, from the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the Japanese surrender, were made.”—Margaret MacMillan, author of War: How Conflict Shaped Us
“With an unerring eye for detail and a deft touch with the dramatic, Evan Thomas tells one of the most important stories of all time with power and grace. Paced like a thriller, replete with fresh historical insight, and driven by new research, Thomas’s book explains how America came to deploy the deadliest weapons ever created. The result is an indispensable portrait of power, anxiety, and moral ambiguity.”—Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of And There Was Light
“This dramatic, in-the-moment masterpiece provides a convincing explanation of one of the great moral questions of twentieth-century history: Was America right to drop the atom bomb on Japan at the end of World War II? This is an indispensable book for those who want to understand the moral issues surrounding the use of great power.”—Walter Isaacson, New York Times bestselling author of Elon Musk
“A taut, thrilling narrative, rich, compassionate, and superbly nuanced.”—Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Revolutionary
“By turns surprising, illuminating, and thought-provoking, Road to Surrender also throws light on the extremities of human power, and the effect on those who wield it.”—Sinclair McKay, author of The Secret Lives of Codebreakers
“In this mesmerizing account of the final weeks of World War II, Evan Thomas provides a haunting, deeply human look at the mental and physical torment of American and Japanese leaders as they confronted the catastrophic reality of the atomic bomb. Thomas reveals in cinematic, nail-biting detail that Japan’s surrender was not a foregone conclusion.”—Lynne Olson, New York Times bestselling author of Madame Fourcade's Secret War and Citizens of London
“Superbly crafted . . . Drawing on a wide range of sources, including the primary figures’ diaries, Thomas makes the period come vividly alive. This moving account of three men of peace who had to make life or death decisions will interest history lovers everywhere.”—BookPage
“The author’s argument is well taken even though it does nothing to lessen the moral anguish that his principals—to say nothing of Einstein, Oppenheimer, and even Truman as well as generations after them—felt over the decision to unleash nuclear terror on their enemy. An exploration of the moral quandaries that surrounded the atomic bombing of Japan . . . a thoughtful study of nuclear war, its early discontents, and alternate scenarios that might have been worse.”—Kirkus Reviews