The last work I read by Zinn having been his 752-page tome A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present , Zinn’s The Bomb came as a succinct, 91-page surprise. Sometimes promoted as his last book, The Bomb is a collection of two of his previously released essays brought together in August of 2010 to mark the 65th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The essays are prefaced by an introduction explaining his happiness and relief at hearing about Hiroshima while on his way to the Pacific, after serving as a bombardier in Europe. He discussed the physical and mental distance that he felt as a bombardier from the killing and destruction that he engaged in, and compared it to the further distance that must be felt with drones and cruise missiles. This experience as a bombardier, and the descriptions that he read about Hiroshima and Nagasaki after his discharge, planted a seed for further research and, eventually, a visit to one of the towns that he took part in bombing.
The first of the essays, “Hiroshima: Breaking the Silence,” details the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. More interestingly, though, it presents war-time and current research that argues that the dropping of the atomic bomb was completely unnecessary. Even more engaging was “The Bombing of Royan.” In this second essay, Zinn reflects on his own experience taking part in the unnecessary and catastrophic bombing mission to test out another new weapon and forgotten controversy – Napalm. He not only researched the experimental and political mission, but also visited the town of Royan to interview the survivors. Both of the essays succeeded in forcing me to question the long held and reinforced beliefs that I have had, both as the holder of a degree in history, and as someone with several family members who fought in the Pacific and were expected to invade Japan.
The Bomb was published as a pocket-sized book by Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights. Before becoming a Beat poet and a publisher, Ferlinghetti was a naval officer in WWII, and was posted to Nagasaki. "Before I was at Nagasaki, I was a good American boy. I was an Eagle Scout; I was the commander of a sub-chaser in the Normandy Invasion." “Anyone who saw Nagasaki," he wrote, "would suddenly realize that they'd been kept in the dark by the United States government as to what atomic bombs can do."