Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Hiroshima Nagasaki: The Real Story of the Atomic Bombings and Their Aftermath” as Want to Read:
Hiroshima Nagasaki: The Real Story of the Atomic Bombings and Their Aftermath
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Hiroshima Nagasaki: The Real Story of the Atomic Bombings and Their Aftermath

4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  342 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
The first narrative history of the nuclear attack told from both the Japanese and American viewpoints.

Japan 1945. In one of the defining moments of the twentieth century, more than 100,000 people were killed instantly by two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by US Air Force B29s. Hundreds of thousands more succumbed to their horrific injuries, or slowly perish
Hardcover, 640 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published January 1st 2011)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Hiroshima Nagasaki, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Hiroshima Nagasaki

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. AmbroseBlack Hawk Down by Mark BowdenHiroshima by John HerseyOn Killing by Dave GrossmanUnbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Best Non-fiction War Books
64th out of 966 books — 1,383 voters
The Book Thief by Markus ZusakFarewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki HoustonThe Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankMartin Heidegger by Rüdiger Safranski1939 - The War That Had Many Fathers by Gerd Schultze-Rhonhof
Best WWII Fiction and Biography
36th out of 328 books — 462 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jennifer (JC-S)
Feb 01, 2012 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librarybooks
‘We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world.’ (Harry S. Truman 25 July 1945)

In an interview, Paul Ham said that it took him four years to write this book: 2.5 years of research and 1.5 years to write and edit. He said that he chose this topic because ‘I have always felt that there is something wrong with American narratives that attempt to justify the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in a nuclear holocaust.’ After researching and analysing the c
Chin Joo
Jan 29, 2014 Chin Joo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2, history
Judging by the two extremes ratings that this book received in Amazon, one can tell that this is a rather controversial book. The author did not think that the atomic bombs made Japan surrender which in turn avoided the loss of lives of many Americans who would otherwise have to invade the main islands of Japan. But his position was not just that the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unnecessary, he went further to obliquely imply that the reason for dropping the atomic bombs ...more
Michael Flanagan
A great read from start to finish. Paul Ham has delivered yet again the book is well researched and tells the story from every aspect of the dropping of the A-Bombs on Japan. From the political intrigue to the scientific quest to unlock the power of the sun and those who were the victims of it's power this book is a well balanced look into a defining moment in history.
Peter Mcloughlin
This very detailed history of the closing days of WWII and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It untangles the complex decision making on the part of the Japanese, the Americans and the Russians that lead to the use of nuclear weapons for the first and (hopefully) only time in history. The author blames nationalism and intransigence by both the Japanese and Americans in negotiating a surrender of Japan without resorting to use of the bomb. Japan in early 1945 was beat. It was the ...more
May 19, 2012 Ranger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-ii
After visiting Japan and Hiroshima in particular I just had to read up more about it all. Nuclear power and weapons have scared and awed me since I was a small child and visiting Hiroshima chilled me to the very core. The book caters for a leftist swing at American politics and decision making as well as creating a mind boggling impression of the Japanese psyche during the final days of the Pacific War. This is a great book for gaining a perspective on WHY, and towards the end of the book you ...more
Dec 28, 2014 Adam rated it really liked it
Determining the thesis of Paul Ham's Hiroshima Nagasaki can be accomplished with ease by simply looking at the table of contents--specifically, chapter six, which is entitled "Japan Defeated." This would seem to imply an end to Ham's investigation of the titular events; after all, the surrender of Japan is what history tells us was the ultimate goal--and accomplishment--of the atomic bombings of Japan. And yet, beginning as it does on page 166, chapter six does not even mark the halfway point: w ...more
Feb 15, 2015 Ray rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
There was so much research done for this book. It was more informative than any text book in school. A very heavy read and a very dark time in our history. I learned so much and am sadden by the results of just war in particular. Why? War doesn't decide whose right it decides whose left.
Oct 10, 2016 Don rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, society
A stunning, complete treatment of the only two nuclear weapons ever used on people. What makes this book unusual is the two-sided view -- A British historian investigating both the American and Japanese perspectives, as well as at least part of the Russian side, too.

The book left me with several takeaways:

--Civilization must never forget the inhuman devastation of these weapons. The graphic descriptions of the immediate and delayed human carnage make for nightmarish, heavy reading. Yet, 70 years
Laurie Bryce
Feb 27, 2015 Laurie Bryce rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating book with a powerful premise. Americans are brought up believing we dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki only because we felt forced to, and that Japan would never have surrendered otherwise. After absorbing this controversial book, I still think that's partially true, but not the whole truth.

Paul Ham meticulously presents a different view that makes the chaotic end of the war and the race for the bomb feel much more nuanced than that standard history. Some of the things
Mairéad (is roaming the Undying Lands)
[February 19th, 2016] AT LAST THE REVIEW

4 stars.

This weighty tome caught my eye due to the research I was doing for CrownedEmpyreon. Although I knew from what I read in textbooks and documentaries, and other forms of mediums that the atomic bombings, which helped end WWII has been a predominant blemish of both the sciencific and moral grounds of human life. And something that no person should have to play a part or have a role involved with such destruction. It is difficult though, considering I
Nov 04, 2014 Ted rated it it was ok
When all is said and done this is just another long piece of revisionist history. While it is fair to say that there will be those who will always question the justification for the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Ham makes some ludicrous claims to support his contention that the use of these weapons did nothing to contribute to Japan's surrender. Ham states that by early 1945 Japan was a defeated nation, that it had lost the air war, the sea war, that Japanese ground forces ...more
Mike Gabor
Sep 18, 2014 Mike Gabor rated it really liked it
Japan 1945. In one of the defining moments of the twentieth century, more than 100,000 people were killed instantly by two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by US Air Force B29s. Hundreds of thousands more succumbed to their horrific injuries, or slowly perished of radiation-related sickness.

Hiroshima Nagasaki tells the story of the tragedy through the eyes of the survivors, from the twelve-year-olds forced to work in war factories to the wives and children who faced it alone. Throu
Jan 21, 2015 Kiersten rated it really liked it
Extremely well written and a surprising page turner for such a dense, intensely researched book. Hiroshima Nagasaki is about more than just the two cities named in the title. The true focus of this book is the moment in time when citizen became acceptable targets of war. If injured during the course of a battle, no longer were the women and children left at home simply unfortunate casualties of the war waged on their husbands and fathers; in Hiroshima Nagasaki, Paul Ham shows how governments ...more
Patrick Lum
Aug 12, 2013 Patrick Lum rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly well-researched, well-argued book that puts the lie to the simplistic and oft-repeated argument "The Atomic Bombs saved thousands of American lives". Not simply a mere retelling of the humanitarian crisis caused by the obliteration of two civilian cities from the earth, nor a sweeping, depersonalised view of the 'necessity' of atomic warfare, Hiroshima Nagasaki places the dawn of the atomic age in a far wider view - of the cut-throat diplomacy of the Soviet Union and the United ...more
Sean Kennedy
Nov 13, 2014 Sean Kennedy rated it liked it
I was disappointed with this book. Although meticulously researched and offering a good (although not unique) revisionist take on early nuclear history, this is really the story of the nuclear bomb, and not really about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Out of over five hundred pages, only two slight chapters focus on the bombings themselves and the citizens who found themselves at the epicentre of the worst terrorist attacks enacted upon innocent civilians.

If the book had been called The Creation and Det
Edward Sullivan
This is the best book on the subject I've read yet, a superbly researched and absorbing narrative. I particularly like how Ham alternates between the American and Japanese perspectives. He effectively shatters the popularly held belief that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified because they ended World War II in the Pacific without a costly invasion of Japan’s home islands. Ham further convincingly argues that the bombings played no role at all in the surrender of Japan, ...more
Daniel Kukwa
Oct 17, 2015 Daniel Kukwa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
There's nothing like the feeling of finishing an engrossing, thorough, well-written piece of historical scholarship that leaves you contemplating commonly-held myths that have been neatly shredded into pieces. A very worthy, gripping examination of a time & place everyone thinks they know about...but really don't.
Dec 05, 2016 Hamish rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good, if a little long. Expertly researched but descends into dry numbers after a while that kind of numbs the vividness of it all. Makes me want to think more about soviet spies.
This was not nearly as controversial as it was made to be.
Apr 20, 2016 Jerome rated it liked it
A compelling and well-written but somewhat lightweight and repetitive history of the Manhattan project, the atomic bomb attacks, the surrender of Japan, and the aftermath. Much of the book is composed of moral arguments against the bomb’s proponents and developers, as well as the indecisive Japanese leadership and population. Ham’s arguments aren’t hard to sympathize with (given the ferocity of the Pacific and Asian theaters, the firebombing, and the scale of atomic warfare), but they still ...more
Mike Cook
Sep 18, 2015 Mike Cook rated it it was amazing
This excellent book covers the atom bomb from the beginnings of the Manhattan Project to the post-war years. It gives some of the history of the two cities turned to cinders in the blink of an eye. It provides insight into the schemes, dreams, machinations and fears of the leaders of the United States and its allies, as well as, the government of Japan. Both Hawks and Doves are involved in the decision making process and the struggle got intense between them. Obviously, the Hawks won, but how, ...more
Jun 04, 2015 Maria rated it it was amazing
The Americans developed and then drop the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. The second bomb was dropped on 9 August 1945. Japan surrendered and ended World War II on 15 August 1945. That's usually all American textbooks say. Ham, an Australian military historian, has written just under 500 pages (there are a lot of footnotes and appendices) giving vital context to the design, deployment and aftermath of the world's first atomic bombs.

Why I started this book: I started
A topic which is perhaps relatively neglected in WW2 literature, the dropping of the atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima was a story about which I didn't know a great deal before reading this. So Paul Ham managed to educate me in this regard, with lots of things that I knew nothing of.

The diplomatic aspect of the story forms the backbone, or spine, of this text and is intriguing and at times gripping. At other times though, it doesn't read particularly well and I found
Kristi Thielen
Aug 22, 2014 Kristi Thielen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ham's magisterial book tells the story behind the atomic weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and builds a case for the fact that they should never have been used, because the war would have ended when it did without them.

Two things set this book apart from others I've read on the same topic: Ham provides the pre and post bomb story lines of a number of people who lived in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thereby engaging the reader with the humanity of these people; and he details the story after
Aug 07, 2016 Max rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction, japan
This book is important and frustrating for the same reason—it's an excellent high-level summary of the work of many other historians that synthesizes many important narratives surrounding the American decision to drop the atomic bomb on the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This hopefully means that many more people will be able to judge this decision on a factual basis rather than parroting that old line about how it "saved a million lives" due to averting a land invasion of Honshu (which, as ...more
Greg Metcalf
Dec 28, 2014 Greg Metcalf rated it it was amazing
I read this book wanting more information on the circumstances surrounding the dropping of the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki so soon after dropping the first on Hiroshima. I never expected to be so thoroughly convinced neither should have been dropped. My only slight criticism of this book is that the author detracts from the solid evidence he gives by making his opinion clear. Hard to blame him, I just felt it weakened his presentation. This was an ugly political decision, made first, with ...more
Jan 22, 2015 Rick rated it it was amazing
Paul Ham did what a good historian does and that is present the events as they took place, offer an examination of the backgrounds that set events in motion, focus on a sampling of the people who interacted directly and then examine some of the more common theories. What he does not do in this story, to my epic relief, is frame the bombings from a given point of view. He describes the discussions of the bombing but allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions regarding its necessity. The ...more
James L. Currin
Dec 08, 2014 James L. Currin rated it it was amazing
This book did what I wanted it to do. It filled in blanks in my understanding of a horrific episode in a horrific war. Here is what I learned: (1) the fire bombing of Tokyo and other Japanese cities killed far more people than the two atom bombs. The fire bombing of Dresden, Germany was in this same category. (2) Many of these cities had no, or very few militarily significant targets. The purpose was to spread terror; therefore, I have to conclude that this tactic amounted to terrorism. (3) The ...more
Sep 02, 2014 Jim rated it it was amazing
Excellent account of the development of the atomic bomb leading to the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the aftermath. Ham focuses on the horror of the bombings and how it affected some of the indviduals. Over 100,000 people were killed and people have kept dying since then.
Was it worth it? Ham argues that, no, it wasn't. The atomic bombings did not bring about an end to the Pacific War. The blockade of Japan by the overpowering naval might of the USA and American total control of the
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima
  • Dresden
  • Death and the Afterlife: A Chronological Journey, from Cremation to Quantum Resurrection
  • The Physics of War: From Arrows to Atoms
  • Atomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters: From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima
  • A Call to Arms: Mobilizing America for World War II
  • The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era
  • Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster
  • The Things That Nobody Knows: 501 Mysteries of Life, the Universe and Everything
  • What are the Seven Wonders of the World?: And 100 Other Great Cultural Lists--Fully Explicated
  • Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings
  • Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II (General Military)
  • Horror In The East: Japan And The Atrocities Of World War - II
  • The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe 1940-1945
  • The Great Divide: History and Human Nature in the Old World and the New
  • The Tears of the Rajas: Mutiny, Money and Marriage in India 1805-1905
  • The First War of Physics: The Secret History of the Atom Bomb, 1939-1949
  • The Kamikaze Hunters: Fighting for the Pacific: 1945
PAUL HAM is a historian specialising in 20th century conflict, war and politics. Born and raised in Sydney, Paul has spent his working life in London, Sydney and Paris. His books have been published to critical acclaim in Australia, Britain and the United States, and include: 'Hiroshima Nagasaki', a controversial new history of the atomic bombings (HarperCollins Australia 2010, Penguin Random ...more
More about Paul Ham...

Share This Book