Book Review: Killing the Rising Sun

Killing the Rising Sun by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard is a great resource for anyone trying to learn more about United States history. This book focuses on America’s military role in the South Pacific including development of the atomic bombs that were later dropped on Japan helping end the war.

The rise and expansion of the Japanese empire is described including conquests into China prior to United States involvement after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The fall of the Philippines is recorded including the capture of Filipino and American soldiers (including Lieutenant General Jonathan “Skinny” Wainwright) on Bataan and Corregidor. The captured solders were later tortured and killed while on the Bataan Death March or in the miserable confines of prison camps for three and a half years.

General Douglas MacArthur fled the Philippines and pledged to return to liberate that country after the Japanese conquest. This eventually lead to military campaigns such as the assault on Peleliu, the effort to retake the Philippines, the struggle for Iwo Jima, and the battle for Okinawa. Fascinating, yet tragic stories of heroism are shared. Conversely, so are horrific descriptions of Japanese abuse and torment of apprehended soldiers, as well as the sanctioned rape (e.g., comfort women).

The story includes details of Colonel Paul Tibbets preparing for and eventually dropping August 6th, 1945 the first atomic bomb (Little Boy) on Hiroshima while flying the Enola Gay.  As well as specifics on August 9th, as the less famous Major Chuck Sweeney flew the Bockscar dropping the atomic bomb (Fat Man) on Nagasaki. After the bombings, details of the bombings after-effects are described so that the reader can appreciate the impact.

Throughout the book, O’Reilly and Dugard present conflicting alternatives for major players (e.g. President Harry Truman) in world events. For instance, a significant dilemma presented is whether dropping the atomic bombs were a better option than the alternative of a land invasion of Japan. Part of the consideration is the number of American solider lives that would be lost in a ground and air assault as compared to the large number of Japanese civilian deaths. Meanwhile, similar efforts to develop nuclear weaponry was being undertaken by the cruel German and Russian governments.

Books in this series by O’Reilly and Dugard always provide thought-provoking facts and details regarding events including insights to how history could’ve been different if certain proceedings otherwise transpired. In September 1950, as commander in charge of repelling communist advances into Korea, MacArthur successfully recaptured Seoul after leading an amphibious invasion at Incheon. When Chinese forces later joined in the fight against American troops, MacArthur authorized strikes into China. MacArthur’s actions disobeyed orders from President Truman. Yet, I wonder how the world would be changed if President Truman hadn’t relieved General MacArthur of his command in April 1951. What would have been the result if MacArthur had been allowed to take the fight to the Chinese? Intriguingly, Truman’s actions ruined his popularity and influenced him not to seek reelection in 1952, while MacArthur returned home a popular hero.

I recommend reading this book. American’s of all political persuasions and backgrounds should be able to appreciate the history O’Reilly and Dugard are trying to describe. You don’t have to be proficient in history to read this text. This book is a great introduction into World War II. I read it before Killing Patton, an earlier script in this series.

Note: I finished this book near the end of the summer in 2016. I wrote this review many months later at the end of December. Accordingly, I back-dated this post.

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