Mr. Barrett's first book, 140 Days to Hiroshima: The Story of Japan's Last Chance to Avert Armageddon, released on April 7, 2020 and is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and Walmart. It can also be purchased in the United Kingdom from The History Press. The hardcopy version in the U.S. has sold out and the paperback version is expected out May 18, 2021. Digital and audio copies are also available, the latter voiced by Stephen Graybill, an award-winning voice-over actor, who has won a Gold Clio Award and a Silver Effie Award for his work. As an audiobook narrator, he has been awarded the Reader’s Choice Award of “Narrator of the Year.”
On the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki comes this heart-pounding account of the war-room drama inside the cabinets of the United States and Japan that led to Armageddon on August 6, 1945.
Here are the secret strategy sessions, fierce debates, looming assassinations, and planned invasions that resulted in history’s first use of nuclear weapons in combat, and the ensuing chaotic days as the Japanese government struggled to respond to the reality of nuclear war.
During the closing months of World War II, as America’s strategic bombing campaign incinerated Japan’s cities, two military giants locked in a death embrace of cultural differences and diplomatic intransigence. The leaders of the United States called for the “unconditional surrender” of the Japanese Empire while developing history’s deadliest weapon and weighing an invasion, Downfall, that would have dwarfed D-Day. Their enemy responded with a last-ditch plan termed Ketsu-Go, which called for the suicidal resistance of every able-bodied man and woman in “The Decisive Battle” for the homeland. But had Emperor Hirohito’s generals miscalculated how far the Americans had come in developing the atomic bomb? How close did President Harry Truman come to ordering the invasion of Japan?
Within the Japanese Supreme Council at the Direction of War, a.k.a. “The Big Six,” Foreign Minister Shigenori Tōgō risked assassination in his crusade to convince his dysfunctional government, dominated by militarist fanatics, to save his country from annihilation.
Despite Allied warnings of Japan’s “prompt and utter destruction” and that the Allies would “brook no delay,” the Big Six remained defiant. They refused to surrender even after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
How did Japanese leaders come to this impasse? The answers lie in this nearly day-by-day account of the struggle to end the most destructive conflict in history.
BOOK REVIEWS: 140 Days To Hiroshima: The Story of Japan's Last Chance to Avert Armageddon
A detailed, almost day-by-day account of political debates that preceded Japan’s surrender in World War II.
In his first book, Colorado-based military historian Barrett emphasizes that by 1943, once it became clear that matters were going badly, Japanese leaders never doubted that they could salvage matters by convincing the United States that every Japanese would fight to the death. They believed the U.S. lacked the fortitude for this crushing task and would seek a compromise peace. As the war journal of Imperial Headquarters wrote in July 1944, “the only course left is for Japan’s…people to sacrifice their lives by charging the enemy to make them lose their will to fight.” By that time, American military leaders also suspected that to win, American forces would be forced to kill every single enemy. The result was massive firebombing of cities and use of the atomic bomb. Barrett reminds readers that at first, the atomic bomb played no part in America’s strategy because no one knew if it would work. Planners envisioned a massive invasion of the home islands for November 1945. Everything changed after the bomb’s successful test on July 16. Several important American figures objected to such a terrible weapon, but they did not make a big fuss, and Barrett expresses little sympathy. According to the author, there was never doubt that we would use it. The Aug. 6 bombing of Hiroshima shocked Japan’s leaders, strengthened “peace” advocates, and persuaded the emperor that the war might be lost, but military chiefs exercised their veto, convinced that America would invade and suffer a crushing defeat. The Soviet Union’s declaration of war on Aug. 8 did not tip the balance, but the Nagasaki bomb on Aug. 9 was another matter. Military leaders realized that the invasion they yearned for might not happen and that the U.S. might simply continue to drop atom bombs. As a result, when the emperor announced that he favored surrender, they went along.
A nonrevisionist, reflective, opinionated, intensely researched WWII history.
Publication Date: April 7, 2020 Page count: 352pp
ISBN: 978-1-63576-581-6 Publisher: Diversion Books
Review Posted Online: 1.26.2020 Kirkus Reviews Issue: 2.15.2020
Historian Barrett debuts with an impressively researched chronicle of the months leading up to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Alternating between Japanese and American perspectives, Barrett opens with the firebombing of Tokyo on Mar. 10, 1945, noting that the estimated death toll of 84,000 people was greater than that of “any aerial assault in any theater during World War II.” Despite the level of destruction, Japanese military and civilian leaders remained unconvinced the war was lost. Barrett credits this intransigence to the Japanese army’s allegiance to the concept of “death before dishonor,” and to America’s objective of forcing Japan’s unconditional surrender. As President Truman and U.S. military commanders estimated the cost of invading the Japanese mainland, Japanese officials issued directives for soldiers and civilians to carry out suicide attacks with “hand-carried mines and explosives.” Nine days after the Hiroshima bombing (and six days after Nagasaki), a cadre of Japanese officers launched a failed coup d’état to prevent the emperor from surrendering. In the book’s epilogue, Barrett weighs arguments against Truman’s decision to drop the bomb and finds them lacking. By capturing both sides of the conflict, Barrett generates drama despite the inevitability of the book’s conclusion. Military history buffs will be riveted.
Agent: Leticia Gomez, Savvy Literary Services
Reviewed on: 01/30/2020
Release date: 04/01/2020
BLURBS: 140 Days To Hiroshima: The Story of Japan's Last Chance to Avert Armageddon
Richard B. Frank, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire; D.M. Giangreco, Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-47, Robert James Maddox, Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism, Michael Kort, The Columbia Guide to Hiroshima and the Bomb, A. J. Baime The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months that Changed the World, Kazuhiko Togo, retired Japanese diplomat and grandson of Japan's foreign minister, Shigenori Togo, at the end of WWII, and Flint Whitlock, author of numerous books on World War II including Desperate Valour: Triumph at Anzio have all written blurbs for 140 Days to Hiroshima. You can read them all under News & Events tab.
WWII QUARTERLY ARTICLES:
David's 8,000 word article entitled "Reign of Ruin" was published in the Spring 2017 edition of WWII Quarterly magazine. A second article, “Japan’s Hellish Unit 731,” was published in the magazine’s Fall 2018 edition.
ARTICLE REVIEWS: "Reign of Ruin"
"As someone who has written several articles for my magazine, David Barrett is always especially insightful and skilled at telling a story in a fresh and very compelling way." --Flint Whitlock, Editor, WWII Quarterly
"I found [the article] to be very thoughtful and well written. I was particularly fond of your analysis of FDR's decision to insist upon unconditional surrender from Japan."
Eric Van Slander
"I read [your article] Japan’s Reign of Ruin – twice and I must say I was immensely impressed – but not surprised. I admire your ability to finely craft every sentence to make a succinct point. Your description of the bomb blast and the immediate aftermath was haunting and offered what seemed like a unique perspective. This article also serves as a nice, concise snapshot of the whole Pacific theater during the war with insight as to how the European theater affected this theater. The explanation of the Japanese and American officials was nicely stitched together and provided, again, a unique insight as to the inner workings of the governments. A magnificent collection of real, hard facts! You nicely indicated five principal topics in the last year of the war and the reader sensed that these topics were the basis of a certain outline."