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Atomic Tragedy


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About the Author

Sean L. Malloy is Associate Professor of History/Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Merced. He is the author of Out of Oakland: Black Panther Party Internationalism during the Cold War andAtomic Tragedy: Henry L. Stimson and the Decision to Use the Bomb against Japan, both from Cornell.


"Malloy explores with sensitivity, insight, and rigorous attention to detail the complexity and contradictions of wartime research into atomic weapons ... Far from succumbing to the 'great man' approach to history, Malloy reveals the extent to which momentous historical events may be wrought by a large number of men-great, middling, or base-acting with incomplete or inaccurate information, according to differing value systems, in the service of contradictory ends... Malloy deftly manages the biographer's trick of portraying his subject with sympathy while stopping short of hagiography. He assesses Stimson's actions and motivations with clear eyes, acknowledging and distinguishing between the moral standards of his time and those of our own."-Dyon Stefanon, America in WWII "Malloy rovides an important perspective on the continuing debate about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 ... His study of Henry L. Stimson, who served as secretary of war during World War II, is valuable. Stimson, who was in his seventies during the war, was one of the Republican Party's most respected elder statesmen, having been in Hoover's and Taft's cabinets before. He was a deeply moral man who believed in the rule of law to keep international order. Yet despite his fervent belief in moral suasion, he succumbed to the allure of the atomic bomb-and all its attendant horrors-when presented with the possibility that the terrible war could be concluded through its use, even though at the expense of civilian life. Malloy's book ... presents us with an updated and exceedingly insightful assessment of the aging statesman, perhaps no longer at the top of his game yet faced with one of our country's most challenging decisions during its most awful conflict. Malloy believes Stimson's decision to support the bomb went against his most cherished beliefs and was for many a disappointing conclusion to an outstanding career of public service... This book is highly recommended for all collections."-Library Journal (starred review) "Showing originality, Sean Malloy approaches the decision to use the bomb from the perspective of a key player, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, who had a record of opposition to indiscriminate attacks on civilians, evident misgivings about the prospective use of the atomic bomb, and concern about the implications of its use for future peace and security."-Lawrence D. Freedman, Foreign Affairs "Malloy's work is the best analysis of these crucial events that I have seen, and if I had to recommend to students a single book to read about the decision to drop the bomb, this would be it. Clear, fair, engaging and historiographically sophisticated, it is a major contribution to our continuing struggle to understand the terrible events of the 1939-1945 world war."-Susan Lindee, Peace and Change "Sean L. Malloy's richly detailed, well-argued book is the latest addition to the growing literature on Stimson that offers a critical analysis of his role in what is arguably the most momentous U.S. defense and foreign policy decision of the modern era-to use nuclear weapons against Japan and as a diplomatic tool against the Soviet Union. Malloy's goal is daunting, especially in a relatively brief book, but he achieves it surprisingly well. Making extensive use of archival resources, Malloy employs the lens of biography to recapture Stimson's complicated relationship to the bomb and the context of its use... This book is a well-written, informative, judicious account that will be useful to historians as well as policy analysts and ethicists."-Monroe H. Little, Journal of American History, June 2009 "Using the life and perspective of the erudite, elitist, loyal, compassionate, and complicated Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, to drive his narrative forward, Malloy examines the development of the bomb and the decision to use it. Anyone looking for a review of atomic bomb scholarship as well as a sense of the actual decision-making process will find Malloy's thoughtful and very accessible account both enlightening and thought provoking... Atomic Tragedy is well worth the read."-Jonathan F. Phillips, Military History of the West, 2009 "For decades, Henry L. Stimson's seminal role in the dawn of the nuclear age has demanded a serious study. With Atomic Tragedy, Sean L. Malloy has done more than fill this glaring gap. He has drawn a compelling, expertly researched, incisive, and balanced portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's secretary of war. This book merits a spot on the top shelf of essential works on nuclear history and transcends prior biographical treatments."-James G. Hershberg, George Washington University, author of James B. Conant: Harvard to Hiroshima and the Making of the Nuclear Age "Henry L. Stimson stood at the center of the maelstrom of world conflict at the middle of a century of unprecedented military destruction. Sean L. Malloy's Atomic Tragedy details how this principled secretary of war, drawing on Victorian codes of conduct, approached his military planning and policymaking role. Malloy's book not only makes compelling reading but also offers a vital reflection on the ways in which the world Stimson helped make is still very much with us."-Michael D. Gordin, Princeton University, author of Five Days in August: How World War II Became a Nuclear War "Sean L. Malloy has written a superb book. In these pages, he describes how Henry L. Stimson balanced his involvement in the use of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki against his own standards of war, morality, and international relations. Malloy presents Stimson in light of what the Secretary of War himself consider the tragic destruction of these cities and adds a new dimension to the debate on the use of the atomic bomb at the end of the Pacific War."-Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, University of California at Santa Barbara, author of Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan "Atomic Tragedy is an incisive analysis replete with sparkling details. Sean L. Malloy takes the pioneering work of Barton Bernstein and Gar Alperovitz to the next level in a nuanced history that concisely summarizes and ultimately transcends the existing scholarship."-Elizabeth Borgwardt, author of A New Deal for the World: America's Vision for Human Rights "It is necessary to have this book now, just as we embark on yet another spasm of atomic expansion. Sean L. Malloy tells the reader about all the conflicting pressures on Henry L. Stimson and fits him in perfectly to his times and to ours. No one can come away from this book without a deep appreciation of the real meaning of Stimson's all-too-human struggles. Atomic Tragedy is a work to be reckoned with."-Lloyd C. Gardner, Charles and Mary Beard Professor of History, Rutgers University

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