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Five Days in August:
How World War II Became a Nuclear War
Michael D. Gordin
With a new preface by the author

Paperback | 2015 | $19.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691168432
232 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 2 halftones. 5 maps.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400874439 |
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Most Americans believe that the Second World War ended because the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan forced it to surrender. Five Days in August boldly presents a different interpretation: that the military did not clearly understand the atomic bomb's revolutionary strategic potential, that the Allies were almost as stunned by the surrender as the Japanese were by the attack, and that not only had experts planned and fully anticipated the need for a third bomb, they were skeptical about whether the atomic bomb would work at all. With these ideas, Michael Gordin reorients the historical and contemporary conversation about the A-bomb and World War II.

Five Days in August explores these and countless other legacies of the atomic bomb in a glaring new light. Daring and iconoclastic, it will result in far-reaching discussions about the significance of the A-bomb, about World War II, and about the moral issues they have spawned.

Michael D. Gordin is professor of the history of science at Princeton University. He is the author or editor of several books, including Red Cloud at Dawn: Truman, Stalin, and the End of the Atomic Monopoly.


"Michael D. Gordin's worthy study concludes that the bomb's uniqueness has inappropriately encouraged Japan's reluctance to recognize and evaluate its war responsibility, and points toward the importance of examining nuclear weapons outside the familiar context of a nuclear standoff."--Publishers Weekly

"Gordin has done an excellent job in surveying the diverse views on what happened during those momentous five days in August 1945."--John Krige, Science

"In this brief but impressive work, Gordin takes a fresh, unique look at a much-studied topic. Although he touches on the development of the atomic bomb, his main concern is how scientists, politicians, and military planners from the bomb's inception to the present have viewed this new weapon."--J.L. Gall, Choice

"In addition to lucid and careful summaries of the issues, a particular virtue of this book is the substantial and well-chosen collection of documents from American and Japanese sources."--Lawrence D. Freedman, Foreign Affairs

"Five Days in August is brief and accessible, effectively communicating even technical and scientific concepts, and would be of use to the history or international relations classroom. This reevaluation of 'nuclearism' is a timely study, worthy of consideration and discussion."--Stephanie L. Trombley, Historian

"This author has written a stimulating book that brims with insights and is based on an impressive amount of research. . . . Gordin has written a challenging book that ranges far beyond the five days mentioned in his title."--Robert James Maddox, The Historian

"This short book grips the general reader and leads the curious on to longer and more scholarly writings."--Edwin R. McCullough, European Legacy

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Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations xi
Preface to the Paperback Edition xiii
Acknowledgments xiii
Chronology xv
Chapter 1: Endings 5
Chapter 2: Shock 16
Chapter 3: Special 39
Chapter 4: Miracle 59
Chapter 5: Papacy 85
Chapter 6: Revolution 107
Chapter 7: Beginnings 124
Coda: On the Scholarly Literature 141
Abbreviations Used in Notes 145
Notes 147
Index 195

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