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The Bomb


As an active WWII bombardier returning from the end of the war in Europe and preparing for combat in Japan, Howard Zinn read the headline "Atomic Bomb Dropped on Japan" and was glad—the war would be over. "Like other Americans," writes Zinn, "I had no idea what was going on at the higher levels, and had no idea what that ‘atomic bomb’ had done to men, women, children in Hiroshima, any more than I ever really understood what the bombs I dropped on European cities were doing to human flesh and blood." During the war, Zinn had taken part in the aerial bombing of Royan, France, and in 1966, he went to Hiroshima, where he was invited to a "house of rest" where survivors of the bombing gathered. In this short and powerful book, the backstory of the making and use of the bomb, Zinn offers his deep personal reflections and political analysis of these events, and the profound influence they had in transforming him from an order-taking combat soldier to one of our greatest anti-authoritarian, anti-war historians.

Simultaneous publication this August in the U.S. and Japan commemorates the 65th anniversary of the USA’s two atomic bombings of Japan by calling for the abolition of all nuclear weapons and an end to war as an acceptable solution to human conflict.


"Part history, part memoir, part sermon, The Bomb is meant to wake up citizens, to rouse them to reject ‘the abstractions of duty and obedience’ and to refuse to heed the call of war."
—Jonah Raskin, The Rag Blog

Howard Zinn (1922 –2010) was raised in a working-class family in Brooklyn, and flew bombing missions for the United States in World War II, an experience he now points to in shaping his opposition to war. Under the GI Bill he went to college and received his Ph.D. from Columbia University. In 1956, he became a professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, a school for black women, where he soon became involved in the Civil rights movement, which he participated in as an adviser to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and chronicled, in his book SNCC: The New Abolitionists. Zinn collaborated with historian Staughton Lynd and mentored a young student named Alice Walker. When he was fired in 1963 for insubordination related to his protest work, he moved to Boston University, where he became a leading critic of the Vietnam War.

In his liftetime, Zinn received the Thomas Merton Award, the Eugene V. Debs Award, the Upton Sinclair Award, and the Lannan Literary Award. He is perhaps best known for A People’s History of the United States. City Lights previously published his essay collection A Power Governments Cannot Suppress. We feel lucky and proud to have known and worked with him, and are honored to bring The Bomb to a wide readership.

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