Review: Countdown 1945

Countdown 1945 by Chris Wallace with Mitch Weiss
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds” 
― Oppenheimer's translation from the Bhagavad Gita

2020 is seventy-five years removed from 1945, when the US dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, making us the first and still the only country to use atomic weapons in war. Countdown 1945 is Chris Wallace's telling of the events during the 116 days from the death of Roosevelt until the atomic bombing at Hiroshima.

The "countdown" structure helps to move the story along and provides a tight focus for the short book (under 250 pages for the book, 8 hours 45 minutes for the audiobook). Wallace uses the structure to move the action back and forth through the main players - President Harry Truman who makes the decision to use the bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer and crew who labor at Los Alamos to perfect it, Paul Tibbets and his team who dropped the bomb, and Hideko Tamura, whose family lives through the atomic blast.

If this is your introduction to the story of the development of the atomic bomb, you won't be disappointed. Wallace's telling is brisk and keeps the pages turning. My problem with the book is that in order to keep it a page turner, much of the background and context of the story is left out. It's a fascinating time in history, and if you like this book I'd encourage you to seek out others like McCullough's Truman, Neiburg's Potsdam, Bird and Sherwin's American Promethius and Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb.

I read the audiobook, narrated by the author, whose confident newsreader's voice lends itself well to this story.

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