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Paperback The Last Mission: The Secret History of World War II's Final Battle Book

ISBN: 0767907795

ISBN13: 9780767907798

The Last Mission: The Secret History of World War II's Final Battle

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Book Overview

A gripping account of the final American bombing mission of World War II and how it prevented a military coup that would have kept Japan in the war.

How close did the Japanese come to not surrendering to Allied forces on August 15, 1945? The Last Mission explores this question through two previously neglected strands of late--World War II history, whose very interconnections could have caused a harrowing shift in the course of the postwar...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Small events with large results

For those interested in the war in the Pacific, this is an extremely intriguing book. One of the authors was the radio operator on a B-29; the other has written a number of books on military history. The result is a marvelous combination of low-level details that only someone who fought in the war would know, with descriptions of high-level strategic issues written by a professional historian. This book's importance rests on a major distinction. Germany was defeated by invasion from the east and west. Hitler's refusal to surrender had no impact on the outcome. In contrast, Japan was conquered without invading its home islands. We now know that even after the A bombs were dropped, those in high positions who wanted to fight on whatever the cost were virtually equal in strength to those who wanted to surrender. Only the intervention of the Emperor and his speech to his nation, broadcast at noon on August 15, 1945, brought the war to a quick end. We also know that on the night before that speech, portions of the Japanese military moved into the imperial castle, hoping to destroy that already recorded speech and kidnap the Emperor. Other elements of the Japanese military were planning to launch massive suicide attacks on US carriers operating close to Japan that very day. Those attacks might have destroyed the delicate negotiations to end the war taking place through the Swiss. To give one illustration of why needs first-hand accounts like this, consider one fact that an academic historian might not know. Rather than attempt the difficult task of flying directly to their target over long distances of water, B-29s often aimed south of their target and flew north, parallel to Japanese coast, using the aircraft's radar to establish their position from prominent features on the coastline. They only turned toward Japan when close to their target. That practice, unknown to anyone who wasn't there, meant that Japan's radar defenses could not predict where aircraft they saw offshore would strike. That uncertainty would, in turn, become a critical factor in ending the war early. Others have written "what if" books that suggest that some of history's most important wars might have turned out far differently, if only some small factor were changed. This book does the opposite. It builds on what actually happened and suggests that a specific chain of small events, each unimportant in itself, combined to bring the war to a rapid end. An American pilot was being tortured to reveal something about A bombs. He knows nothing, so to satisfy his captors, he claims that the next A bomb will fall on Tokyo. As a result, Tokyo's air defenses panic when their radar picks up a small squadron of B29s offshore. The planes are headed elsewhere on a special mission, but they don't know that. Fearing another A bomb attack, they shut off all electrical power to Tokyo. That leaves the imperial castle in darkness, making it impossible for the conspirators to find the recording


Engaging. This is the stuff movies are made of. I hope Steven Spielberg gets a hold of this. I would be more than happy to do the adaptation and take a deferred pay.

A Gripping Account of the Final Bombing Mission of WW II

This book provides a detailed examination of the last B-29 bombing mission against the Japanese Empire, as well as a very good description of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and a compelling discussion of the attemped coup by junior Japanese military officers against the Japanese government.By the summer of 1945, the Japanese government was on its knees. Months of stinging defeats coupled by the continuous bombing of the homeland had brought the Japanese to a state of near extinction. Some factions of the Japanese were ready to surrender, citing the mounting losses from the American bombings, but most in the military favored continuing the war while preparing for the inevitable Allied invasion. Japan would strike at the Allies with massed kamikaze attacks while fighting to the last man on the invasion beaches.Meanwhile, the Americans had perfected the world's first atomic bombs. After a successful test in the New Mexico desert, two bombs were shipped to the Marianas for eventual drops on Japan. The first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, while the second was dropped on Nagasaki. Even after the atomic bombings, Japan refused to surrender. The Japanese were still holding out for the final battle on the Japanese mainland. However, Hirohito and members of his cabinet were discussing the acceptance of the Potsdam Decleration, the Allied message to Japan stating the Allies would only accept unconditional surrender from the Japanese. This caused the Japanese great concern, for they wanted the freedom to disarm their own troops, prosecute their own war criminals, maintain the emperor, and have no Allied occupation. All of these terms were considered unallowable by the Allies.At the same time, Russia had entered the war against the Japanese, and they were sweeping through Manchuria with their sights set on Northern Japan and a chance at being allowed as part of the post-war occupation force. The Allies wanted to avoid this possibility.After a moratorium on bombing raids over Japan, the raids began again. Since most important targets had been destroyed, the target selected was the Akita Oil Company refinery in Northern Japan. Was this a coincedence, or did the Americans specifically select this target so it wouldn't fall to the Russians in the event they advanced into Northern Japan?Radar picked up the B-29s as they were heading North, and a total blackout of Tokyo was ordered. It was feared by the Japanese that the Allies were prepared to drop a third atomic bomb on Tokyo, thus the city was blacked out. It just so happened that the blackout occurred precisely when the scheduled coup was supposed to start. The main objective was to find the wax disks that Hirohito had used to make his surrender recording on. The militants wanted to destroy these disks and make their own broadcast stating the continuance of the war. However, due to the blackout, the militants had a very difficult time finding their way around the Imperial Palac

Eye Witness Review

This book describes the last bombing mission by the B-29's of the 315th wing of the 20th Air Force. This is an important piece of history mainly because this mission took place after the 2nd A bomb was dropped . . . the time most historians claimed the war with Japan ended. The research that was done to write this book was done by Jim Smith, who was on this mission and knew there was more to it than just another raid on Japan's oil refineries. What came out of the research and is presented in this book is a story so important that it had to be told. What might have happened if this mission had not been flown could have cost the lives of millions of Americans and Japanese. In addition to being a good and exciting story, this is history that has not been reported before in anywhere near as much detail and with as much accuracy. I flew this mission also and have waited nearly 60 years for this story to be told. It is done well and with a high concern for accuracy by Smith and McConnell. Read it if you care anything about history as it really happened.

A novel, but true

What a great book! The author makes this small piece of history read as a fiction novel. It gives the detailed account of a night bomber group and the powerbrokers of the Japanese Empire. The stories, very well researched and written, never collide; yet parallel to weave a splendid story. The action is tense and faced paced, and you will not be able to put it down. The authors cite many other works on my bookshelves that I am more eager to read. The stories of the night modified B-29B, flying from Guam points the roots of US strategic air power. The story of the inner turmoil of Japan's surrender are also well done and cited. The book covers (for me) new ground on the use and policy of the decision to drop the atomic bombs. The third story told, the US fear of a prolonged campaign on the Japanese home islands, and the use of more atomic weapons was very interesting. This book is for serious and casual history reader packs an atomic punch!
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