Sixty-six years ago the world changed. On July 16, 1945 a plutonium bomb nicknamed "The Gadget" exploded atop a 100 foot tower at a site called Trinity in the New Mexico desert. The explosion was so bright that a legally blind woman 50 miles away saw the flash. It turned the sand to glass and scientists worried it could set the Earth's atmosphere on fire. It also signaled the end of World War II, and three weeks later a uranium bomb named "Little Boy" was dropped on Hiroshima.
My only complaint with the book is that often there seems to be a casual characterization of many of the people involved as unthinking, unfeeling, power-hungry, or as mere "tools" of their leaders. At the same time, those who opposed the use of the bomb were portrayed as insightful and open-minded. Yet, although the book sometimes seems more sympathetic to the Japanese, it also attempts to examine both sides of the debate fairly. Mr. Walker explains what other options were discussed, such as sharing the test results or a demonstration on an uninhabited island instead of a city, and why such ideas would have been impractical. He looks at estimates of how much longer the war would last if an invasion were necessary and projected casualties – both American and Japanese. He also explains that Japan wasn't the only nation the US wanted to send a message to with its new weapon; a new threat was quickly developing with the aggressive and opportunistic entrance of the Soviet Union into the Pacific conflict. In fact, one whole chapter was devoted to explaining why there really was no other choice, recognizing that there were many factors to consider and it wasn't a simple decision. Japan had vowed to fight to the death, and all indications (even after Hiroshima) were that the people were willing to do so. The book isn't perfect but was one of the better discussions I've seen. It explains the politics and challenges of the time but doesn't forget that those were men, women, and children under that mushroom cloud, and was certainly a great insight into the events that ended the war.