This remarkable film originally ran on Showtime back in 1995, and the world seems to have forgotten about it. While the Paul Newman film FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY did an acceptable job of demonstrating the more technical issues in creating the bomb, this film offers an exceptional portrait of the political considerations on both sides that led to the atomic bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
History buffs will immediately recognize the excellent presentation of the facts, and newbies will learn a great deal about the input and contribution of lesser known figure such as Jimmy Byrnes and General Groves. Shot largely in Sepia tones to resemble grainy war footage, the film is remarkable for several reasons. First and most importantly in the age of patently horrible docudramas (see the wretched PEARL HARBOR -2001 for an example of pure histo-shit), this film aims for an accurate presentation of what actually happened, and not to present some new age politically correct agenda on whether or not the bomb should or should not have been dropped. Watching this gives a fair presentation on what was known and felt at the time. Of significant historic quality are the tortured deliberations of Harry Truman and then the subsequent speed with which he made the decision. Speaking as a both teacher and graduate student in history, I would include this film on the exceptionally tiny list of historical films accurate enough to be worth showing to college students.
The DVD came with no extras or subtitles, other than those “hard-burned” into the Japanese portions of the film. I have chosen to rip it into three 700 Mb chunks for the sake of video quality.
There are several excellent books on this topic, but the wikipedia website gives a very good introduction:
The film opens in April 1945 with the death of Franklin Roosevelt and the succession of Harry Truman to the presidency. In Europe, the Germans are close to surrender, but in the Pacific the bloody battle for Okinawa is still underway and an invasion of the Japanese home islands is not foreseen until the autumn. American battle casualties have almost reached 900,000, with Japanese casualties at 1.1 million, and some 8 million Asian civilians have died in the war that began with Japan's invasion of Manchuria in 1931.
The new president knows nothing about the nuclear weapons being developed at Los Alamos, and he must soon decide on whether to use them and how. Truman retains most of the Roosevelt cabinet but appoints James Byrnes as his secretary of state. The film portrays Byrnes as the bomb's principal advocate, an overbearing and drawling man who easily outtalks the diffident secretary of war, Henry Stimson, who has doubts even about the wisdom of the American fire-bombing raids on Japan.
"One of these Gadgets (bombs)," Byrnes says, "could end the war in one blow." When nuclear physicist Leo Szilard delivers a petition signed by 73 scientists urging the president not to deploy the bomb, Byrnes tells him: "You do not spend two billion dollars and then show them (American voters) nothing." The film suggests that Byrnes never mentioned Szilard's visit to the president. Also urging deployment is Maj. Gen. Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project. "We've come this far," Groves says; "there's no going back." A demonstration is ruled out because "it might be a dud."
In Japan, the strong man is Gen. Anami Korechika, the minister of war, who argues that if the homeland is defended at the cost of every Japanese, the Americans will tire of war and sue for peace. "Surrender is out of the question," he says. The voice of reason is the new civilian prime minister, Suzuki Kantaro, who says in private, "We must end this damned war." The emperor Hirohito is introduced as a quiet, sorrowful man with scant influence on events.
A committee appointed by Truman recommends unanimously that he use the bomb on "war plants surrounded by worker housing," without warning. A portly Gen. George Marshall lays out plans for the invasion of Kyushu in November and Honshu in March 1946, involving 767,000 Allied troops and casualties that may reach 250,000. In Tokyo, Adm. Yonai Mitsumasa assures the cabinet that 25 percent of the invaders will be destroyed by kamikaze attack at sea, 25 percent will die on the beach, and the rest will fall in battle. Children as young as nine are being taught to attack the invaders with bamboo spears. "This is madness," says foreign minister Togo Shigenori, an outspoken peace advocate. The civilians in the cabinet decide to secretly ask for Russian mediation.
On July 16, the Trinity test shows that a plutonium bomb is feasible and that a nuclear blast is even more powerful than scientists predicted. The uranium bomb Little Boy leaves Los Alamos for Tinian island in the Pacific. At the Potsdam conference near Berlin, the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin promises to join the war against Japan. British prime minister Winston Churchill urges Truman to use the bomb so as to constrain Russian expansion, an argument seconded by Truman's military advisers, who warn that unless Japan surrenders quickly it will have a Russian zone of occupation and the attendant problems.
Truman decides to drop the bomb, reporting afterward that he then "went to bed and slept like a baby." The Allied leaders deliver an ultimatum to Japan "to give them one last chance." In Tokyo, prime minister Suzuki tries to keep the army in line by declaring in a press conference that he will "mokusatsu" the ultimatum--a term that the Americans translate as "treat with silent contempt."
In deference to Henry Stimson's qualms, Truman strikes Kyoto off the target list, leaving Hiroshima as the primary target, and Enola Gay makes a successful drop on the morning of August 6, 1945. Recalls an airman afterward: "I'll tell you what I thought: this is the end of the war." The Japanese war cabinet is told that the blast killed or injured 130,000 people, but the hardliners argue that the U.S. can't have many more such bombs, that world opinion will prevent a repetition, and that Japan can still fight to an honorable peace. At worst, Gen. Anami declares, Japan will be "destroyed like a beautiful flower."
On August 9, the Soviet Union invades Manchuria; next day, the Fat Man plutonium bomb devastates Nagasaki. Hirohito finally intervenes, telling the cabinet that Japan "must endure the unendurable" and surrender. Young army officers urge Gen. Anami to join them in a military coup, but the army minister tells them: "The emperor has spoken; we must obey him." On August 15, the emperor's surrender message is broadcast to Japan, and Anami commits ritual suicide.