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Operation DOWNFALL and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947
  • ISBN/SKU: 9781591143161
  • Binding: Hardcover and eBook
  • Era: WWII
  • Number of Pages: 416
  • Subject: History
  • Date Available: October 2009
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HELL TO PAY is also availble as an Audio Edition from Audible via Amazon


Arthur Goodzeit Award for Best Military History Book of 2009 Awarded by the New York Military Affairs Symposium


Hell To Pay is a comprehensive and compelling examination of the myriad complex issues that comprised the strategic plans for the American invasion of Japan.  U.S. planning for the invasion and military occupation of Imperial Japan was begun in 1943, two years before the dropping of atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  In its final form, Operation Downfall called for a massive Allied invasion—on a scale dwarfing "D-Day"—to be carried out in two stages.  In the first stage, Operation Olympic, the U.S. Sixth Army would lead the southern-most assault on the Home Island of Kyushu preceded by the dropping of as many as nine atom bombs behind the landing beaches.  Sixth Army would secure airfields and anchorages needed to launch the second stage, Operation Coronet, 500 miles to the north in 1946.  The decisive Coronet invasion of the industrial heartland of Japan through the Tokyo Plain would be led by the Eighth Army, as well as the First Army, which had previously pummeled its way across France and Germany to defeat the Nazis.


These facts are well known and have been recounted—with varying degrees of accuracy—in a variety of books and articles. A common theme in these works is their reliance on a relatively few declassified high-level planning documents.  An attempt to fully understand how both the U.S. and Japan planned to conduct the massive battles subsequent to the initial landings was not dealt with in these books beyond the skeletal U.S. outlines formulated nine months before the initial land battles were to commence, and more than a year before the anticipated climactic series of battles near Tokyo.  On the Japanese side, plans for Operation Ketsu-go, the "decisive battle" in the Home Islands, have been unexamined below the strategic level and seldom consisted of more than a list of the units involved and a rehash of U.S. intelligence estimates of Kamikaze aircraft available for the defense of Kyushu.


Hell to Pay examines the invasion of Japan in light of the large body of Japanese and American operational and tactical planning documents unearthed by the author in both familiar and obscure archives, as well as postwar interrogations and reports that senior Japanese commanders and their staffs were ordered to produce for General MacArthur's headquarters.  Hell to Pay clarifies the political and military ramifications of the enormous casualties and loss of material projected by both sides in the climatic struggle to bring the Pacific War to a conclusion through a brutal series of battles on Japanese soil.  This groundbreaking history counters the revisionist interpretations questioning the rationale for the use of the atom bomb and shows that President Truman's decision was based on very real estimates of the truly horrific cost of a conventional invasion of Japan.


D. M. Giangreco served for more than twenty years as an editor for Military Review, published by the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  He has written and lectured widely on national security matters, and is an award-winning author of numerous articles and eleven books, including Dear Harry...Truman's Mailroom, 1945-1973.


  • Listen now: Dennis Giangreco discusses Hell to Pay on the “John Batchelor Radio Show.”


Praise For HELL TO PAY 


“This book is an important addition to World War II history."Air Power History

“Hell to Pay presents a detailed and well-supported argu­ment based on the author’s me­thodical analysis of vast evidence, in which he dissected from both sides’ perspectives the available intelligence and detailed planning leading up to the invasion of the Japanese home islands. Not only has the author crafted a compelling narrative, but he has also decisively put to rest any question of the justification of Presi­dent Truman’s decision to use atom bombs to end the war with Japan. Hell to Pay is far more than a com­pelling history of the planning for the invasion of Japan in the final stages of World War II. It represents histori­cal scholarship and engaging writing of the highest caliber and decisively corrects revisionist distortions of one of the war’s most controversial deci­sions. This is a major achievement for the author and a must-read for historians of World War II.”Army History Magazine, Winter 2013

“Hell to Pay is far more than a com­pelling history of the planning for the invasion of Japan in the final stages of World War II. It represents histori­cal scholarship and engaging writing of the highest caliber and decisively corrects revisionist distortions of one of the war’s most controversial deci­sions. This is a major achievement for the author and a must-read for historians of World War II.”Army History Magazine, Winter 2013 

. . . .This book breaks new ground and is an important addition to previous works about war in the Pacific Theatre. It is thoroughly recommended.”WARSHIP 2011’s “Naval Books of the Year”

 "A former editor at Military Review provides us with one of the first books to detail the planned U.S. invasion of the Japanese home islands in October 1945 and the Japanese preparations for that invasion. Drawing on solid research in both countries, Giangreco lays out the U.S. planning and the whole scenario of what would have happened: millions of casualties, prolongation of the Pacific war, possibly past 1947,and manpower shortages and war weariness in the United States, with Japanese  militarists—and their no-surrender policy—in control in Japan. The two-pronged invasion would have begun on the island of Kyushu, preceded by no fewer than nine atom-bomb drops behind the landing beaches. Illustrative of just how much the war with Japan was a close-run thing, this is essential reading."Library Journal (Starred Review)

"Giangreco . . . synthesizes years of research in a definitive analysis of America's motives for using atomic bombs against Japan in 1945."Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review)

"I know of no other book that examines the actual scenarios for the invasion of Japan more fully than this. It strikes me as an important piece of military history. Of course, some will continue to argue that "Japan was ready to surrender"--without ever adequately explaining why, if that was the case, Japan did not surrender before Hiroshima and Nagasaki."—Alonzo L. Hamby, History News Network 

"Author Giangreco describes in horrific details the American planning for the invasion of Japan, which would have been the largest amphibious assault in history.  He convincingly shows that both sides were rushing headlong toward a disastrous confrontation in the Home Islands' and that it was prevented only by the sudden conclusion of the war in August 1945. His account, based on exhaustive research and informed by special insight into military operations, will refute revisionist theses, especially the contention that Truman's and Stimson's projection of American casualties was a postwar invention."—Sadao Asada, author of From Mahan to Pearl Harbor: American Strategic Theory and the Rise of the Imperial Japanese Navy

"A magnificent achievement. Giangreco provides a comprehensive analysis of preparations by both sides for the anticipated invasion of Japan. He demolishes two of the revisionists' most precious myths: that Japan was trying to surrender during the summer of 1945 and that casualty estimates later cited by American officials were wildly exaggerated in order to cover up the real reason for using atomic bombs. This book is indispensable for anyone interested in the subject."—Robert James Maddox, author of Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism.

"Truman unleashed the atomic bomb to avoid the appalling casualties of invading Japan. Revisionists condemn the morality of the war-ending 'miracle of deliverance' by belittling the butcher's bill. Tapping little-known American and Japanese records of 1945 D. M. Giangreco lays bare the gruesome bloodbath had Operation Downfall been launched. Case closed."—Edward S. Miller, author of War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945

"D. M. Giangreco brilliantly examines not only the military planning of the United States for the anticipated invasions of Operation Downfall but also the unrelenting defensive preparations of Japan in its Ketsu-Go campaign. This important book is filled with crucial insights and fascinating details about the strategy and tactics of each side as they moved towards a bloody and costly culmination of their fierce conflict. It constitutes essential reading for all those who truly want to comprehend Japan's defeat and the end of the Pacific War."—Wilson D. Miscamble, author of From Roosevelt to Truman: Potsdam, Hiroshima and the Cold War

"Hell to Pay is a comprehensive, revealing, extensively researched description of American plans and preparations for the invasion of Japan, with important new information and analyses. Especially valuable are its detailed explanations of force requirements, manpower and redeployment problems, and Japanese defensive measures."—Stanley L. Falk, former Chief Historian, U.S. Air Force

"The complex conditions perceived by both Japanese and American decision makers, and the difficult assessments made at the time, require, in Hell to Pay, the portrayal of vast arrays of numbers. In few books about any subject other than astrophysics are figures more provocative, and more persuasive. Giangreco turns number-crunching into high drama."—Stanley Weintraub, author of 15 Stars: Eisenhower, MacArthur, Marshall: Three Generals Who Saved the American Century

"In Hell to Pay, Giangreco challenges some historians who have suggested that Japan was preparing to surrender and that casualty estimates for the planned invasion of Japan later were exaggerated. According to Giangreco, the numbers were frightful enough in 1945. Estimates in circulation that July, he writes, suggested that any invasion would kill between 5 million and 10 million Japanese, and perhaps cost the United States between 1.7 million and 4 million casualties, including between 400,000 to 800,000 killed.  Truman's decision was made in real time, Giangreco writes, using the most reliable estimates then available. Those numbers, Giangreco maintains, also were the result of cumulative research of many parties over a long period and not the result of any casual tweaking. The fact remains, he writes, "albeit uncomfortable or inconvenient for some, that President Harry S. Truman's much-derided accounts of massive casualties projected for the two-phase invasion of Japan is richly supported by U.S. Army, White House, Selective Service and War Department documents produced prior to the use of nuclear weapons against Japan, and stretching all the way back through the last nine months of the Roosevelt administration."— Brian Burnes, Kansas City Star

"Japanese were well prepared.  They knew where we were coming, at Kyushu starting November 1, 1945, and then right at Tokyo in the Spring 1946.  Stunning.  The two atomic bombs were mercy in comparison to the projected casualties on both sides.  Truman chose the atomic bombs to save American lives.  In so doing, he also saved Japanese lives, up to 8 million. . . . I will never again be dubious about the decision to use the atomic bombs.  In a world of ghastly choices, he chose the nightmare over the Apocalypse."John Batchelor, WABC, on November 14, 2009

"In 1945, Harry S. Truman authorized the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was a gamble, intended to shock Japan into surrender.  A cottage industry has since arisen to explain why the bombs were unnecessary.  Japan would have surrendered anyway, it is claimed, or a demonstration of the bomb off Tokyo harbor would have worked just as well.  These claims are often based on cursory examination of the situation.  No rigorous study of the strategic situation was attempted in the immediate aftermath of war's end.  Many misconceptions arose about Japan's inability to continue fighting resulted.  Those misconceptions should be dispelled by this book. . . . Disparaging the use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is easy before reading Hell to Pay."  It is more difficult after doing so."— Mark Lardas, Galveston County Daily News



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