POWER POINTS: Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

This is the second book that I have read in the “killing series” by Bill O’Reilly. Considering my recent career change, this one had a new interest and greater significance.

POWER POINTS from this book included:

The breathtaking number of deaths in combat.

The “total U.S. military deaths in battle and from other causes were 407,316” (source).  The way these nations fought is a matter of interest for today’s military.  For the last two decades our battles have been fought against large gang or tiny army size groups of men, most of which have had inferior technology and weapons. 

We are moving into an era where our next battles will likely be fought against “near peer” (someone who has similar weapons and abilities).  The casualties we have seen in the various campaigns on the “War on Terror”, though heart-breaking, are not even close to the number of casualties inflicted in World War 2 or other wars.  

U.S. Casualties from the War of Terror: Operation Freedom Sentinel, 1/1/2015-present, 49 deaths. Operation inherent resolve, 10/15/2014-present, 62 deaths. Operation new dawn, 9/1/2010-12/31/2011, 73 deaths. Operation iraqi freedom, 3/19/2003-8/4/2010, 4,424 deaths. Operation enduring freedom, 10/7/2001-12/31/2014, 2,346 deaths.

In contrast, during the first Gulf War (1990-1991), 382 American service members died in-theater; 147 (38 percent) of those a result of direct combat.

During the Vietnam War (1964 to 1975), there were 47,413 U.S. military battle-related deaths, and 10,785 service members died from other causes.

In the five years of World War II (1940-1945), 291,557 American troops lost their lives in combat, and 671,846 were wounded. (source)

Reflecting on the relentless courage of those Soldiers, the tenacity of our leaders, and the will of our nation to win the war makes me thoughtful, prayerful, and determined to prepare as we consider and train for war in which significant casualties could be normative again.

The evil in Nanking

It was hard to read O’Reilly’s description of the evil.  I found myself fidgeting, nauseous and angry as I read first-hand accounts of the brutality inflicted on the Chinese civilians by the Japanese military.

In a six week period, between 200,000 and 300,000 people were killed… thousands of brutal rapes occurred, many ending in death at the end of a bayonet… and there were competitions between Japanese soldiers to see who could behead the most Chinese. (pg. 48 and other source).

As I read this, I considered the evil we’ve seen in the last two decades by Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other forces.  The point is this… though it may have different names, skin colors, and geographical locations, evil will always be a force in this world that requires good and strong men to crush it.

The decision to kill thousands with one bomb

Imagine being President Truman: If you do not drop the bomb thousands… hundreds of thousands will die in battle and many of them will be your own people.  General Douglas MacArthur believed that the invasion of Japan would result “in a million casualties” (pg. 142). 

If you do drop the bomb… thousands… several hundred thousand people will die.  Either way… mass casualties will result.  

The weight of this decision is staggering and one man had it to make… President Harry S. Truman.

Reading this reminds me to follow the counsel of St. Paul:

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.  Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 NLT)

Key personalities and the change in warfare 

I just finished reading The Mission, the Men, and Me: Lessons from a Former Delta Force Commanderby Peter Blaber.  He says that “the history of modern day warfare is the history of man-hunting” (pg. 139).  In other words… today we regularly seek to eliminate the leader not the army (e.g. Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, heads of ISIS and Al Qaeda, etc.)… and in doing so often spare thousands of lives.

I wonder how different World War 2 would have been… how many lives would have been spared (if any) had Emperor Hirohito been eliminated.  I considered it as I read this from O’Reilly:

“The battle for Okinawa has raged for eighty-two days.  More than twenty thousand Americans are dead.  Of the half-million Americans who came ashore, one-third have either been killed or wounded.

America did not enter this war by choice, but the days when men fought to avenge the tragedy of Pearl Harbor are long since past.  The world will not be safe until Japan is defeated.  Yet Japan has not capitulated to another nation in more that two thousand years.

Emperor Hirohito has the power to change all that.

He refuses.

Hirohito’s nation is certainly defeated. The emperor’s subjects are bleeding and destitute; their land is aflame.  But Hirohito is not even contemplating surrender to the hated Americans.

However, unbeknownst to the emperor, a force more powerful than any he has ever experienced will be unleashed.” (pg. 112-113)

It was heart breaking to read about the devastation and loss because of the stubborn refusal of one man to do what he ultimately would do anyhow… surrender.  One is forced to wonder how different things would have turned out had he been sought as aggressively as Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden.  (You have to wonder too how many deaths would have been spared had the death of Hitler been a priority).


Reading history is insightful for even though times and technology have changed, the heart of humanity has not.

I am persuaded that the faster things change, the more we must become experts in the things that do not… (e.g. human nature).

I enjoyed and recommend this book for it’s insightful details and edge of the seat reading!

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