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 considering 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 Japanese 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 (also known as “the Big Six”), Foreign Minister Shigenori Tōgō risked assassination to save his country from annihilation. But the Big Six remained defiant, refusing 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.
David Dean Barrett is a military historian, specializing in World War II. He has published work in WWII Quarterly Magazine, U.S. Military History Review, and Global War Studies. He is the Historical Consultant / Producer for Lou Reda Productions' two-hour documentary, titled Heroes of the Sky: The Mighty Eighth Air Force, which aired as a primetime global event on National Geographic in late May of 2020. David has been a frequent guest speaker for more than a decade on the use of the atomic bomb in the final days of World War II and the end of the Pacific War.