The basic premise is that a B-movie actor named Syms Thorley is writing what is either a suicide note or a memoir in Reagan-era Baltimore. In it he reveals the truth behind "Project Knickerbocker", the Navy's plan to end WWII in the Pacific by breeding giant fire-breathing reptiles and unleashing them upon Japan. Not wanting to use such a horrible weapon that would kill so many civilians, it was decided to do a "demonstration" by having a smaller, man-sized monsters ruin a model city in front of a Japanese delegation. Only problem: the man-sized reptiles are docile, so a man in a rubber suit is needed. That man is Syms Thorley. Shambling Towards Hiroshima is his story.
Includes examples of:
- Awesome, but Impractical: The attempt to create (In-Universe) Real Life Kaiju runs into complications because it's impossible to breed Kaiju on a small (human) scale (for demonstration and intimidation purposes) that are actually intimidating (KNICKERBOCKER did created three in the regular size — read "Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever"— but nothing is ever done with them and it's never said if they have the same issue as the small ones) size and the ones that have been bred are very docile. In the end, the military just kills all of the KNICKERBOCKER Kaiju and pools all resources in the Manhattan Project.
- Epic Fail: In the end, this is all that comes from Project KNICKERBOCKER. The giant Kaiju that were already produced (three of them, in fact) are never mentioned if they work ok or not, but the attempt at making small ones to present to the Japanese for intimidation purposes all turn out to be too docile, and the Government's attempt at doing this regardless by putting Thorley in a costume doesn't works because the dignitaries that were in the demonstration recognized that it was a man in a suit and laughed their asses all the way back to Japan. Incensed, the U.S. government just scrapped the whole thing (which included killing the giant monsters they had already made) and placed all of their money on that newfangled "atom bomb" project.
- Fictional Media: Most (but not all) of the films referenced in the book.
- Ghostapo / Stupid Jetpack Hitler: At one point, it is noted that the Nazis have been trying to breed Kaiju of their own, for the very same purposes. Unfortunately for them, they are also running into the same snags.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Okay, some were. Thorley is an obvious stand-in for Boris Karloff.
- Operation: [Blank]: Project KNICKERBOCKER, the U.S. Navy's attempt at creating Kaiju as wonder-weapons for the Pacific Theater.
- People in Rubber Suits: Thorley's job is to be one of these, to pretend he's one of the smaller Kaiju and wreck a simulated Japanese city to intimidate some dignitaries and hopefully make them tell the Emperor to surrender. The Japanese recognize that it's a man in a suit no matter how much effort was put into making the suit realistic and just laugh the whole thing off instead.
- Refuge in Audacity: Thorley hopes that his tell-all book on Project KNICKERBOCKER will not be silenced because to do so would require the Government to admit that the story he's telling (that they tried to create giant monsters during World War II) has any inkling of truth to it.
- Whole Episode Flashback: 90% of the book is flashback or comments on the events in those flashbacks.
- Weird Historical War: Once again, an attempt by the United States to create Real Life (In-Universe) Kaiju. It ends up being subverted or even defied — after the attempt at intimidating the Japanese dignitaries doesn't works because they laugh off the demonstration (they recognize Thorley is just a man in a suit), the U.S. government just poisons the Kaiju that had already been made and put all of their money behind the Manhattan Project.