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Thank God for the Atom Bomb by Paul Fussell
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Thank God for the Atom Bomb (1988)

by Paul Fussell

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The title essay is not only the best in the collection but pretty much the last word on the bomb, as far as I'm concerned. Other highlights include a really sharp appreciation of Orwell, a look at "naturalist" beaches, and a critical but not condescending appraisal of the Indy 500. If you don't get the book, at least read the title essay online. It's incredibly well done. ( )
  Stubb | Aug 28, 2018 |
I cannot tell a lie: What I actually have (along with four, count them four, other LT members) is the British publication of this book, which has a different ISBN as well as a different title, Killing in Verse and Prose. (It was put out by something called Bellew Publishing; apparently no established British publishers wanted to be associated with the argument of the title piece. The paperback is ugly and the cover art is baffling as well as hideous.)

Anyway, I was already familiar with Fussell as a controversialist; I didn't know about his literary criticism, of which the samples in this volume are excellent. Evidently it is still permissible for an academic to write lucid and attractive prose -- or maybe once you have tenure, you can turn off the fog nozzle and get away with it.
  sonofcarc | Nov 29, 2014 |
A very good friend of mine, a history teacher, amd I used to have a running battle over Truman's use of the atomic bomb. I argued that given the time and the context of the decision, Truman had no choice. Ken argued that the sole purpose was a political decision to scare the Russians. Both views are not necessarily contradictory. The reading I've done about both Japanese and American views indicates a certain ambivalence, but clearly the average GI was scared shitless of a proposed invasion of the Japanese homeland given the fierce defense of Iwo Jima, Tarawa, and Okinawa, not to mention Kamikaze attacks.

One has only to read the comments of Admiral Halsey et al to understand the depth of racial hatred of the Japanese and the fear-mongering that had been engendered (often deliberately) but also the result of evidence of barbaric practices, to sympathize with the political pressure and debacle that would have resulted if the US had invaded Japan at the loss of even a few lives had he not used a weapon of this magnitude. (At the time they weren't even sure it would work.)

It must be acknowledged that I think the use of the bombs was horrific and hard to justify, but trying to put myself in Truman's shoes and with the information he had at that time, it's hard to see how he could have made any other decision. General LeMay's (who really should have been charged with being a war criminal)deliberate fire bombing attacks on Japanese cities had been horribly effective at leveling Japanese cities which were constructed of very flammable materials. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were virtually the only cities left.

This book is actually a collection of essays on a variety of topics, but the one about the atomic bomb was the most controversial. It had appears in the The New Republic (August 26 and 29, 1981), pp. 28-30.] This title essay is as much a critique of books like Gray's The Warriors, which Fussell argues "[H:]is meditation on modern soldiering, gives every sign of remoteness from experience.
Division headquarters is miles behind the places where the soldiers experience terror and madness and relieve these pressures by sadism."

There is a nice collection of essays critiquing Fussell's position at http://www.uncp.edu/home/berrys/courses/hist102/hist102_docs_abomb.pdf

It's a discussion that should continue to haunt us.

Fussell has written a great deal about our mythic view of war [b:The Great War and Modern Memory|154472|The Great War and Modern Memory|Paul Fussell|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1172255931s/154472.jpg|149094] and [b:Wartime Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War|154474|Wartime Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War|Paul Fussell|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1172255932s/154474.jpg|1762410]. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
For me the title essay alone was worth the cost of admission. Why did Truman drop the bomb? Perhaps to avoid the deaths of half a million American soldiers in an invasion of the Japanese islands. As a soldier in the war, Fussell has every right to defend the President's decision, as it may well have saved his own life.

Fussell has sympathy for the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but also points out that Japan was prepared to fight to the death of every soldier to defend its borders. If you believe it was necessary to vanquish the aggressor, well then, there you go.

But there are other great essays as well. It's an impressively eclectic collection and I enjoyed each and every one. From travel writers to auto racing, peotry and the Second Amendment, it's a rollercoaster of topics and strident opinions. ( )
2 vote Oreillynsf | Jun 20, 2010 |
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Many years ago in New York I saw on the side of a bus a whiskey ad I've remembered all this time.
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"This is not a book to promote tranquility, and readers in quest of peace of mind should look elsewhere," writes Paul Fussell in the foreword to this original, sharp, tart, and thoroughly engaging work. The celebrated author focuses his lethal wit on habitual euphemizers, artistically pretentious third-rate novelists, sexual puritans, and the "Disneyfiers of life." He moves from the inflammatory title piece on the morality of dropping the bomb on Hiroshima to a hilarious disquisition on the "naturist movement", to essays on the meaning of the Indy 500 race, on George Orwell, and on the shift in men's chivalric impulses toward their mothers. Fussell's "frighteningly acute eye for the manners, mores, and cultural tastes of Americans" (New York Times Book Review) is abundantly evident in this entertaining dissection of the enemies of truth, beauty, and justice.… (more)

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