Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days That Changed the World

Written by:
Chris Wallace
Narrated by:
Chris Wallace

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
June 2020
8 hours 41 minutes
The #1 national bestselling “riveting” (The New York Times), “propulsive” (Time) behind-the-scenes account “that reads like a tense thriller” (The Washington Post) of the 116 days leading up to the American attack on Hiroshima, by Chris Wallace, veteran journalist and CNN anchor and Max host.

April 12, 1945: After years of bloody conflict in Europe and the Pacific, America is stunned by news of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death. In an instant, Vice President Harry Truman, who has been kept out of war planning and knows nothing of the top-secret Manhattan Project to develop the world’s first atomic bomb, must assume command of a nation at war on multiple continents—and confront one of the most consequential decisions in history. Countdown 1945 tells the gripping true story of the turbulent days, weeks, and months to follow, leading up to August 6, 1945, when Truman gives the order to drop the bomb on Hiroshima.

In Countdown 1945, Chris Wallace, the veteran journalist and CNN anchor and Max host, takes readers inside the minds of the iconic and elusive figures who join the quest for the bomb, each for different reasons: the legendary Albert Einstein, who eventually calls his vocal support for the atomic bomb “the one great mistake in my life”; lead researcher J. Robert “Oppie” Oppenheimer and the Soviet spies who secretly infiltrate his team; the fiercely competitive pilots of the plane selected to drop the bomb; and many more.

Perhaps most of all, Countdown 1945 is the story of an untested new president confronting a decision that he knows will change the world forever. But more than a book about the atomic bomb, Countdown 1945 is also an unforgettable account of the lives of ordinary American and Japanese civilians in wartime—from “Calutron Girls” like Ruth Sisson in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to ten-year-old Hiroshima resident Hideko Tamura, who survives the blast at ground zero but loses her mother and later immigrates to the United States, where she lives to this day—as well as American soldiers fighting in the Pacific, waiting in fear for the order to launch a possible invasion of Japan. Told with vigor, intelligence, and humanity, Countdown 1945 is the definitive account of one of the most significant moments in history.
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Herb B.

The format of this book is unique and fascinating - counting down from the viewpoints of so many participants, both knowing an unknowing, was a stroke of brilliance. It worked in a very good way by combining relevant backstory with a sense of the dread to come. The information contained isn't revolutionary, surprising, or never mentioned before, but it enlightening and entertaining. I would recommend this book based on its content and presentation. However. In my experience, the single worst thing an author can do is narrate his own book. And this case is no exception - in fact, it's become my go-to example of bad decisions. Chris Wallace is a famous TV news guy, and he's good at it. But TV 'journalism', or news delivery, is dry, unemotional, and requires a droning baseline delivery. Wallace knows how to deliver the news, what he doesn't know is how to narrate a book. Like a newscast, his narration delivers no emotion - no humor, no sadness - and is read in his newscaster voice. It delivers facts in a dry and boring way, the steady drone of delivery imparting no dread, no urgency, no nothing. It is, in my honest opinion, the worst narration of any of the ~60 (or so) books I've listened to (mostly science and biography stuff). I may find a worse one at some point, but it would have to be B.A.D. BAD. Read this book for its story, but don't expect much from the narration. I have to give the narration one star or it would come off as not rated, but it doesn't deserve that star...

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Donald W.

A tale well told, though the topic has been extensively examined and the decision hotly debated from the moment it was acted upon. The personal details surrounding those directly involved in the project and in the mission itself are quite interesting and were new to me. But By far the controversial and compelling aspect of Truman’s determination to my mind has always been whether there was some way to communicate to the Japanese the awesome dispositive destructive power of the weapon without decimating Hiroshima and exterminating its populace. In Wallace’s telling, the discussion of the analysis of those alternatives is a bit skimpy. reciting in rote fashion that there were those who advocated such an approach and that it was rejected because we weren’t sure the bomb would work and because such a failure would only embolden the Japanese to fight on to the bitter end. But wasn’t the belief that they would do so regardless the animating assumption for dropping the bomb rather than pressing for a surrender? If so, in what way would it’s failure to perform as intended leave us any worse off? Could we not have considered filming the test, delivering the evidence only if it worked? In the end, these questions not analyzed but merely posed in what amounts to a detailed journal of events leading up to and surrounding what is surely the most momentous single event of the 20th century.

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Robert Clarke

I have read so many books about the war in the Pacific and this was one of my favorites. Of course it was not as detailed as some of the works by Tillman, Toland, et al. but had many interesting facts and flowed very well.

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Harry H.

I like Wallace's "just the facts" type reporter approach. Familiar voice with balance. Also like the characters included with their various viewpoints. I don't think it can be overstressed that second-guessing with the benefit of history is just mush. Nobody, but nobody really understood what they had. And Tojo and his hawks were never, never going to give up. I always wondered why they didn't drop the first one in a sparsely populated area. If a disintegrated mountain wouldn't convince, then so be it. Filming a test explosion wouldn't work... would have been dismissed as propoganda (Proof: to this day many still don't believe the holocaust occurred).

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LaMarr A.

A very worthwhile and interesting history summary.....and well read. The book highlights and outlines well the dilemmas of the challenges faced and decisions made 'agenda' free. I wish the book as required high school reading......

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Mark Y.

Very interesting story lots of facts

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