Martin's Must Reads: 'Countdown 1945'

Nov 12, 2020

Late in the afternoon of April 12, 1945, Vice President Harry Truman had just finished presiding over a session of the senate.  As was his custom, he was relaxing by having a drink with senators when he received an urgent message: come to the White House as quickly and quietly as possible. The next 116 days changed everyone involved, indeed the entire world.

I’m Mark Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and Chris Wallace in his book Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days that Changed the World tells the story of the development and the dropping of the atomic bombs.

Simply mentioning the atomic bombs that dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki evokes passionate feelings both for and against their usage.  To intelligently discuss the questions surrounding this issue one must understand not only the emotions but the history and story of the development of the bombs and the missions that dropped them.  Mr. Wallace lays out the historical facts of this story in such a way that will satisfy any military historian.

The real value of Countdown 1945 is the discussion of the morality of the actual use of the atomic bombs.  Both sides of the argument are explained in such a way the reader is forced past simple opinions to wrestle with the issues as those in 1945 had to.

Chris Wallace in Countdown 1945 provides an enlightened perspective on the question of the atomic bomb. From the words of Jacob Beser, the radar officer who insured both bombs denoted correctly, “Humane warfare is an oxymoron. War by definition is barbaric.  To try to distinguish between an acceptable method of killing and an unacceptable method is ludicrous.”