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The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936-45 summary The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936-45, series The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936-45, book The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936-45, pdf The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936-45, The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936-45 684c328a44 This Pulitzer Prize Winning History Of World War II Chronicles The Dramatic Rise And Fall Of The Japanese Empire, From The Invasion Of Manchuria And China To The Atomic Bombing Of Hiroshima And Nagasaki Told From The Japanese Perspective, The Rising Sun Is, In The Author S Words, A Factual Saga Of People Caught Up In The Flood Of The Most Overwhelming War Of Mankind, Told As It Happened Muddled, Ennobling, Disgraceful, Frustrating, Full Of Paradox In Weaving Together The Historical Facts And Human Drama Leading Up To And Culminating In The War In The Pacific, Toland Crafts A Riveting And Unbiased Narrative History In His Foreword, Toland Says That If We Are To Draw Any Conclusion From The Rising Sun, It Is That There Are No Simple Lessons In History, That It Is Human Nature That Repeats Itself, Not History


10 thoughts on “The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936-45

  1. says:

    By my last count, there were one gazillion books on World War II, with coming out every week And it will never stop World War II will continue to be refought between the covers and on Kindles long after human memory of the event is gone It will be told for as long as there are people to tell stories The question, then, is which of those books to read You can spend your entire life reading World War II books and not even scratch the surface Besides, there are other things to do in life Like drinking or reading about the American Civil War or doing both at the same time Thankfully, there are a few landmark books, the ones that everyone can name, the ones that are certified as classic, that stand out from the pack, like a guy wearing an Armani suit at a clown college or a clown at an Armani store, if you prefer In the European Theater of Operations, one of those classics is William Shirer s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich Shirer was a journalist who spent time in prewar Nazi Germany, and even followed the Nazis into France Concerned that the Gestapo was going to arrest him, Shirer fled Germany in 1940 and later wrote his seminal account, a history of the Second World War as seen through the eyes of Hitler and his henchmen The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich has its shortcomings among them an archaic and heavily belabored distaste for homosexuality , but there is no denying its place in the firmament All books coming after had to deal with its shadow John Toland s The Rising Sun The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire is a Pacific Theater counterpoint to Shirer s masterwork It tells the tale of the other side of World War II, and does so mainly from the point of view of the Japanese Upon publication, it won the Pulitzer Prize, and can be found in the endnotes and bibliography of just about every subsequent book written about the Pacific War More than anything, though, it is a book that finds that perfect balance between macro and micro, between general and private and civilian It always strives to hold the big picture clear, but never fails to remind you of the individuals who collectively made that big picture As such, this is a rare history, one that is scholarly and massively researched, yet also shot through with empathy, compassion, and humanism It is one of the best books I ve read on World War II Toland begins in 1936, with young Japanese radicals bent on assassinating several of the Emperor s advisers These men were practicing gekokujo, or insubordination, a semi legitimate form of rebellion In this opening chapter, Toland briskly sometimes too briskly outlines the background that fomented gekokujo the fall of monarchies after World War I the competition between democracy, socialism, and Communism that came in its wake the rapid westernization of Japan and the resulting scandals and corruption Japan s population explosion and the inevitable blowback by conservatives and nationalists During Japan s rise as a Pacific power, it invaded Manchuria which it saw as a buffer against the Soviet Union with whom they d warred at the beginning of the century and as a source of raw materials and, in 1932, established the puppet state of Manchukuo The creation of Manchukuo obviously heightened tensions between China and Japan Those tensions came to a head in 1937 at the Marco Polo Bridge, in an incident that better marks the actual beginning of World War II as opposed to the September 1, 1939 invasion of Poland by Hitler The clash at the Marco Polo Bridge led to full scale war, including the infamous Nanking Massacre The only real criticism I have with The Rising Sun is in Toland s handling of the Second Sino Japanese War Part of the reason I bought this book was to learn about this forgotten theater Unfortunately, however, Toland deals with China in a cursory fashion He does not take the time to develop the strategy of the war, or explain in great detail how it unfolded The fall of Nanking merits barely a page This stands in stark contrast to the space devoted to the American Japanese conflict beginning in 1942 For instance, Toland devotes an entire and yes, brilliant chapter to the battle of Guadalcanal In other words, despite the broad claims of its cover, The Rising Sun is mainly focused on the war between American and Japan This means less attention though it s not entirely ignored paid to China s dual struggle against Japan, and themselves , Britain s collapse in Singapore, the Burma Campaign, and the massive battles of Kohima and Imphal in India.Even though Toland decides to place his heaviest emphasis on familiar territory, it nevertheless manages to be revelatory After the earlier chapters, which felt compressed, The Rising Sun hits its stride in the run up to Pearl Harbor You get to see the rationale behind Japan s decisions, its attempts to negotiate with America especially through Prince Konoye , and the different factions within the Japanese ministry When we think of Japan in World War II, we think of Nanking and Pearl Harbor, of the Bataan Death March and kamikazes Prime Minister Tojo has become a caricature of evil, divorced from any of the human traits that even Hitler has posthumously been granted These conceptions do little to broaden our understanding of what actually happened By taking us into the backrooms of Japanese policymaking, we get to see the world and its perils as they did They faced many difficulties as a small, overcrowded island nation, a net importer of just about everything When President Roosevelt decided to turn of the oil spigot, it was as grave a threat to Japan as Khrushchev s October missiles were to the United States in 1962.To be sure, Japan s colonial impulses were brutal, but they had learned from the best that is, from Europe It is also interesting, as Toland notes, how Japan s pan Asian ambitions did not fall entirely on deaf ears There were many people for whom an Asian power in the Pacific was preferable to the white powers that had dominated for a hundred years or , using their human capital and removing their resources for exploitation elsewhere After the war, of course, that pan Asian spark was enough to incite anti colonial movements all over Asia, including Indochina and India The difficulty in writing this type of history is that you are taking the side of the conquered And history, of course, is written by the winners That means that Allied atrocities are subordinated to the carnage perpetrated by the bad guys In other words, the casual reader, familiar with the winner s take, might feel that Toland is soft peddling Japan s crimes I don t think he does Anything that smacks of such is a function of the point of view he has chosen for his narrative Nobody does evil thinking it is evil there is always a rationalization, followed by a rationalization, until you re in too deep A good example of this is the Bataan Death March Toland does not skimp on the horrors suffered by MacArthur s captured troops, but does place it in a milieu divorced from contemporary propaganda He shows how the overarching cause of the Death March was Japan s poor planning and its utter surprise at America s collapse in the Philippines They were simply not prepared for the influx of tens of thousands of starving, disease ridden soldiers General Homma s execution at the end of the war can only be seen as MacArthur s crass punishment of the man who kicked his ass off Corregidor Though General Homma did not set out to massacre his prisoners, there were certainly men under his command who intended just that This filtered down to the rank and file Japanese soldier, who was created within a framework of unending violence beaten by his superiors taught to fight to the death imbued with the belief that capture was dishonor, and that the way of the warrior was death Toland was an author especially suited as far as a white American could be to tell this story, as he was married to a Japanese woman named Toshiko, who assisted as his interpreter By giving an account of the Pacific War from the Japanese perspective, he gave them a humanity denied by wartime hyperbole of unthinking, unfeeling, murderous fanatics Toland gives them a voice, quotes their letters and diaries, stands with them in their pillboxes or on the street the day a bomb exploded with the light of a thousand suns My greatest surprise in reading The Rising Sun was its emotional impact It begins as a straightforward, chronological history, marked by tremendous research but structurally run of the mill As the book progresses, though, you recognize the elegance of Toland s construction, how he weaves the stories of heretofore unknown participants into the grander narrative Part of the reason The Rising Sun is so effective, so powerful, is the way Toland threads the mini arcs of participants into the larger story During the Battle of Saipan, for instance, Toland follows the travails of a young Japanese nurse and shows you the war through her eyes, in all its terrible, limited scope In Garapan a young volunteer nurse by the name of Shizuko Miura a tomboy with a round merry face flinched as the first shells landed She peered out the window of the first air station into the dim light The Americans were bombarding the town again As the explosions moved closer she helped transfer those wounded in the earlier shelling to a dugout With daylight came enemy planes and an even violent barrage from the ships It is June 14, Shizuko thought calmly I have lived for eighteen years and my time to die has come A shell shook the dugout like an earthquake and knocked her to the ground She staggered outside The first aid station was obliterated She saw a piece of red metal it was shrapnel and, curious, touched it with her finger It burned her Planes droned overhead but no one was firing at them Garapan was aflame The heat was so intense that she could hardly breathe She started to make her way through the rubbled streets strewn with bodies Toland was able to tell stories like this because of his diligent primary research In the source section, you will find ten pages filled with names, noting all the people with whom he d conducted interviews The names include prime ministers, admirals, and also Shizuko Miura For this reason alone, The Rising Sun is a touchstone of World War II writing The firsthand information gathered from these participants, many of whom might have been forgotten, has proven invaluable to historians and writers who have followed in Toland s footprints But this is not the only reason to read The Rising Sun, or even the best Rather, it is a testament to humanity in the midst of the most inhuman period of human existence In Toland s own words, it is a story that is muddled, ennobling, disgraceful, frustrating, full of paradox.


  2. says:

    Looking for a relatively light read I picked this off the shelves where it had been sitting for years Having read a couple of his other books, I was pretty sure that Toland would be interesting.Indeed, he was even interesting than I had expected, neither expecting that this book would be so sympathetic to the Japanese perspective nor that Toland s wife was Japanese No expert, but certainly not unread about the war in the Pacific, I was rather blown away by the presentation, the other books I d read being very much pro Allies, anti Axis.Among the propositions put to the reader by Toland s text are how Japanese policy was substantially independent of that of the other Axis powers and how the Pacific war might well have been avoided had the U.S State Department another secretary at the time Other contentious positions taken by the author include a rather critical portrayal of MacArthur and a rather positive one of Emperor Hirohito Roosevelt and Ambassador Grew come across well Rumors that Roosevelt knew beforehand of the Japanese intention to attack Pearl Harbor are discounted.Most particularly, however, I liked how Toland used, and defined, a number of Japanese terms and expressions, employing this as one means to get at the Japanese mindset, something few in the U.S government or military understood.Like the original Tora, Tora motion picture, coproduced by citizens of both countries, or like Clint Eastwood s recent diptych on one battle of the war, this book is unusually balanced and is to be highly recommended.Now I just have to find the second volume as this one ends with Guadalcanal, arguably the turning point of the Pacific War I have since found this edition, a combination of both volumes, and have given the first volume of the other edition away to a Japanese friend for her reactions.


  3. says:

    This book explores Japan s involvement in World War II It focuses upon the Pacific theater and upon battles, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and finally it explains in detail why it took so long for the Japanese to surrender All related to the Japanese involvement is covered in detail It is not hard to follow because it written in a narrative voice projecting the views thoughts and words of those who fought, both Americans and Japanese What is difficult is the slaughter Slaughter on both sides, mind you I felt it was balanced, neither pro Western nor pro Eastern.Keep in mind that I should be able to read a book from start to finish that so closely follows battle after battle is pretty darn amazing This is proof that it somehow was able to keep my attention It was clear even to me, someone who shies away from books focused upon military battles and thus scarcely knows military terms You follow in detail Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March, the fall of Singapore, Midway, Guadalcanal, Saipan, the Battles of Leyte Gulf, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima Other battles too, but those named are covered in great detail You learn the Pacific Islands If you listen to the audiobook you must dig up your own maps, but that is really no problem It would have been nice if a word or two were added about the location of the particular islands When it gets to the Battles of Leyte Gulf there are so many islands and so many fleets that I went to Wiki to get the movements on paper The reason why you can follow these battles is that the soldiers speak, and joke and talk to the reader Some change their mind you follow their thoughts I did wonder sometimes how in the world the author got this information This is supposedly non fiction. Letters Survivors stories afterwards This is not explained in an afterword or introduction Maybe the printed book has notes Harakiri, now this is exemplified many, many times in the text This is a concept difficult to understand for Westerners You need umpteen examples of particular individuals and situations to begin to understand the shame coupled with defeat in Eastern mentality I understand better, but not completely I am very glad I chose this book Well worth the time and effort invested I personally think it is a book better read on paper than listened to There are so many names and details to absorb Maybe you are fluent in Japanese names, but I am not My audiobook was narrated by Tom Weiner Even if he does a good job, I would have preferred a snail s pace What did I like best Maybe learning why it took so long for Japan to surrender What do I think on closing the book There should be strong controls on the military Mistakes were made on both sides On every side and by all parts I learned a lot.One thing The author s wife is Japanese and the book received the Pulitzer Prize for general non fiction in 1971.


  4. says:

    With a Nobel prize winning book, John Toland accomplishes telling the Japanese side of WWII The 1930 s were an interesting time in Asia Japan had an exploding population and no natural resources They also had a very dangerous enemy in Communist Soviet Union threatening her Japan s solution laid in Northern China s Manchuria They occupied Manchuria easily because China was too weak to defend it Japanese business moved in and Japanese populated it Manchuria provided a number of benefits to Japan They included not only a territory to expand into but also had some natural resources More importantly, however, it was a buffer between the Soviet Union and Japan itself China s fear of further Japanese aggression led their weak governmental military forces to combine with the government s inner enemy the Chinese Communist forces in a joint effort against Japan.Soon menacing Chinese forces fired on the Japanese at the Marco Polo Bridge Japan retaliated thrashing the Chinese forces and occupying vast Chinese territory including Nanking However, some poorly disciplined Japanese soldiers, unbeknown to their Commander General Jwane Mastui, raped, murdered and massacred as many as 300,000 Chinese civilians.With this background the book gives us a good detail of the history of American Japanese relations They began in 1853 when Mathew Perry s ships pulled into Tokyo Bay with a letter from President Milliard Fill asking Japan to open its doors to American goods Good relations continued with America s support for Japan in the Russo Japanese War American Investment Bank Kuhn, Loeb and Co financed much of the war for Japan And in 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace prize for brokering the end of the Russo Japanese War Also, in doing so saved Japan from economic collapse However, the Japanese people were never told by their government of their pending economic collapse due to the cost of the war so they correspondingly held the U.S accountable because the war was stopped while Japan was clearly winning Now back to the story Japan had taken control of Northern China Manchuria and Vietnam where she had a place to populate her growing citizenry As a result, America instituted restricting exports to Japan Oil was the main restricted export In fact, Japan received 100% of its oil from the U.S.A Without oil Japan could not maintain its expanding territory Japan had also partnered with Germany and Italy because she feared an Anglo Saxon takeover of the World by America and England She also correctly held the view that the West held her to a double standard specifically because of her race What Japan meant was that England had colonies in the Caribbean, Central America and elsewhere America had taken Texas and California from Mexico as well as annexing Hawaii and the Philippines Yet, Japan had no right to expand Japan had intensively prepared for the Pearl Harbor attack They also tried to avoid attacking America through diplomacy However, combinations of forces worked against a diplomatic solution First, FDR s Secretary of State Cordell Hull did not trust the Japanese Second, America s friendship with England and Japan s alliance with Germany did not bode well for the Japanese England had already been at war with Germany at the time of Japan s attempted diplomacy Third, Japanese atrocities committed against the Chinese provided a less sympathetic American government Fourth, bad translations of messages turned sincere attempts at reconciliation into belligerently viewed intelligence In addition, Japan had been running out of oil, so the longer they waited for a diplomatic solution the dire their situation got.With those conditions, Japan s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was very successful from their point of view They had killed 2403 Americans, sunk 18 ships and destroyed 188 planes.When Winston Churchill found out, he immediately called President Roosevelt When the President confirmed Winston hung up went to bed and had a good night sleep America was now in the war, England was now saved.The war in the Pacific did not start out well for the Allies America and England First, the Japanese stunned the English with a victory at the Battle of Singapore In 7 days Japan inflicted upon England their largest surrender in their very active military history That followed with a Japanese Sea victory at Java, an island south of Borneo The Allies luck changed with the Battle of Midland The Allies learned of the coming Japanese attack and planned a brilliant counter by surprising Japan with a bombing raid on Japan s homeland This was planned and implemented by James Doolittle This attack shook Japan s air of invincibility The Allies triumphant victory followed.As the war went on America saw victories Long lasting military heroes such as Douglass MacArthur, Bull Halsey and Chester Nimitz emerged as a result Mr Toland vividly describes the atrocities of all of the major battles with spine chilling accuracy The fact that the Japanese belief that surrender was worse than death was something that only made their state worse Mr Toland describes the compassion American soldiers had on Japanese prisoners of war Feeding, nursing and treating their captives with respect were the typical American prison camp norms When America developed the Atomic bomb, it was calculated that using it would end the war and save thousands of lives However, leaflets dropped on Japan about the dire consequences that America s new weapon would bring were ignored And still, after the A bomb was dropped on Hiroshima they refused to surrender The second bomb dropped on Nagasaki would finally and reluctantly convince Japan to capitulate At the surrender ceremony MacArthur gave an absolutely brilliant speech which left the Japanese newspaper Nippon Times to say a new Japan which will vindicate our pride by winning the respect of the world.


  5. says:

    This is the third big book on the Pacific War I have read recently Ian Toll s first two books of a planned trilogy , Pacific Crucible and The Conquering Tide, were a magnificent historical account of the war from both sides So given that this book covers much the same ground, though it was written much earlier, I will do a lot of comparing with Toll s books, though I think Toland s book is equally good and you will not find it at all repetitive to read both authors.As thick as this book is, it s only one volume, whereas Ian Toll is writing three whole volumes on the entire war in the Pacific Thus, while Toll devotes a great deal of attention to the politics and individual political and military leaders on both sides of the conflict, The Rising Sun, as its title indicates, focuses mostly on Japan Naturally the planning and personalities on the American and British and later Chinese and Soviet sides are mentioned, but mostly only inasmuch as they were pitted against their Japanese counterparts.One of the things most striking about Toland s narrative is that he lays out all the blunders that were made by both Japan before, during, and after the war These margins where the errors occurred and where history could have been changed are one of the things I find most interesting in non fiction histories, when competently examined Let s start with whether or not war was inevitable.Did we have to go to war with Japan The basic historical facts are well understood the Japanese wanted a colonial empire, and Europe and the US didn t want them to have one When the Japanese invaded China, the US put an oil embargo on them This would inevitably strangle the Japanese economy, as for all its rising technical prowess, Japan remained a tiny resource impoverished island So the Japanese pretty much had no choice but to give up their ambitions or go to war We know which one they chose.The question for historians is whether or not this could have been averted.Ian Toll seems to think that war was inevitable the Japanese and the West simply had irreconcilable designs But John Toland seems to, not exactly argue, but present a great deal of evidence, that miscommunication and misfortune had as much to do with Japan and the US being put on a collision course as intransigence Of course Japan was never going to give up their desire to be a world class power, which means there was no way they would have accepted the restrictions imposed on them forbidding them fleets or territory on a par with the West Whether the West could have been persuaded to let Japan take what it saw as its rightful place at the grown ups table is debatable But in the first few chapters of The Rising Sun, John Toland describes all the negotiating that went on between Japanese and American diplomats The Japanese were split into factions, just as the Americans were Some wanted peace no matter what some were hankering to go to war and really believed their jingoistic propaganda that the spiritual essence of the Japanese people would overcome any enemy But most Japanese leaders, from the Imperial Palace to the Army and Navy, were realistic and knew that a war with the US would be, at best, a very difficult one So there were many frantic talks, including backchannel negotiations among peacemakers on both sides when it became apparent that Secretary of State Henry Stimson and Prime Minister Hideki Tojo were not going to deescalate.There were a number of tragedies in this situation Sometimes the precise wording of some of the phrases used in Japanese or American proposals and counter proposals were mistranslated, resulting in their being interpreted as inflexible, or disingenuous, than they were intended, causing both sides to mistrust the other Sometimes communications arrived late There was also a lot of particularly labyrinthine political maneuvering on the Japanese side, where political assassinations were commonplace at that time and the position of the Emperor was always ambiguous Toland apparently interviewed a very large number of people and read first hand accounts and so is able to reconstruct many individual talks, even with the Emperor himself, putting the reader in the Imperial throneroom as Hirohito consults with his ministers, and then in telegraph offices where communiques are sent from embassies back to Washington.Toland doesn t definitively state that war could have been avoided, because it s still not clear what mutually agreeable concessions might have been made by either side, but what is clear is that both Japan and the US could see that war was looming and neither side really wanted it At least initially, everyone except a few warmongers in the Japanese military did everything they could to avoid it.Unfortunately, diplomatic efforts were for naught, and the Emperor was eventually persuaded to give his blessing to declare war.Admiral Yamamoto knew very well that Japan had no hope of winning a prolonged war, which was why when war happened and he was put in charge of the Japanese fleet, he planned what he hoped would be quick, devastating knock out punches Pearl Harbor and Midway that would sink the US back on its heels and persuade the Americans to negotiate an honorable peace before things went too far.This was unlikely after Pearl Harbor Nobody on the Japanese side seemed to realize just how pissed off America would be by this surprise attack though the unintentionally late formal declaration of war delivered hours after the attack when it was supposed to have been delivered just prior certainly didn t help But it was a forlorn hope after the debacle at Midway in which, aided by superior intelligence from broken Japanese codes, the US fleet sank four Japanese carriers Many military historians grade Yamamoto poorly for this badly executed offensive, which rather than delivering a knockout punch to the US fleet, proved true his prophecy that The Americans can lose many battles we have to win every single one The bulk of the book covers the war itself, including all the familiar names like Guam, Guadalcanal, Wake Island, Corregidor, Saipan, Okinawa, Iwo Jima Toland does not neglect the British defense of India, the tragic fate of Force Z, which blundered on ahead to its doom despite lack of air cover and thus heralded in the new reality that air power ruled above all, and the multi sided war in China in which communists and nationalists were alternately fighting each other and the Japanese, with both sides being courted by the Allies Any military history will cover the battles, but Toland describes them vividly, especially the first hand accounts from the men in them the misery and terror, and also the atrocities, like the Bataan Death March, and the miserable conditions of POWs taken back to JapanOne of the things evident in many of these battles was just how much is a roll of the dice Human error, weather, malfunctioning equipment, pure luck, over and over snatched defeat from the jaws of victory or vice versa Inevitably, the US had to win they simply had men, equipment, resources The Japanese began going hungry almost as soon as the war began, while the Allies, initially kicked all over the Pacific because they were caught off guard, began pouring men and ships and, often most importantly , food well fed troops into the theater Still, individual battles often turned on whether or not a particular ship was spotted or whether torpedoes hit Luck seemed to favor the Americans often than not, but I found Toland s descriptions particularly informative in recounting how little details about equipment, and the human factor decisions made by individual commanders, and how the willingness to take risks or an unwillingness to change one s mind often determined the outcome of a fight.Who were the war criminals Two of the other big questions I find most interesting about World War II are the ones that will probably never be answered satisfactorily.First was Emperor Hirohito a war criminal I was in college in 1989 when Emperor Hirohito properly known as the Showa Emperor died I had a friend who was a Japanese exchange student She was grief stricken All of Japan mourned.There is a particular narrative I heard growing up It is one that was pushed heavily by the Japanese from approximately the moment the decision was made to surrender until about the time Hirohito died According to this version of history, Hirohito was a figurehead, a puppet of Japanese military leaders He had no real decision making power, and any active resistance on his part would have led to his being killed Thus, he was not responsible for the war or any of Japan s war crimes he was an innocent, born to assume a hereditary throne and assume a position of purely symbolic importance.I was a little shocked when I read an article in some British tabloid denouncing Hirohito upon his death and cheering that the war criminal was now in hell.Yet while neither view is strictly accurate, it is certainly complicated than the sanitized version that was accepted for so long This sanitized version was in fact produced in part by the US, particularly Douglas MacArthur, from the moment the war ended, as a deliberate strategy to secure faster Japanese cooperation and reconciliation It was predicted that trying Hirohito as a war criminal as about one third of the American public wanted to do at the time would have resulted in widespread guerrilla warfare and the need for a much longer and active occupation of the Japanese homeland When the Japanese finally began negotiating terms of surrender, one of the sticking points, the one thing they tried to carve out of the demand for an unconditional surrender, was that the Emperor would retain his status and, by implication, not be charged with war crimes.So, how active was Hirohito in the war planning According to Toland, he was very much involved from the beginning, and had far than symbolic influence over his cabinet, ministers, and military Could he have simply forestalled a war by telling them not to go to war Maybe While political assassination was common, it seems unlikely that anyone would have dared laying a hand on His Majesty himself And according to the cabinet meetings and private conferences Toland describes, even the most zealous Japanese leaders felt unable to proceed without getting a final say so from the Emperor So if Hirohito had been resolutely against a war, it seems likely that the militarists would have had a much harder time getting one.At the same time, Hirohito was in many ways bound by his position Traditionally, the Emperor did not make policy, he simply approved it He wasn t supposed to veto anything or offer his opinion, he was just supposed to bless the decisions that had already been made Hirohito, especially later in the war, departed from this tradition than once, shocking his advisors by taking an active role or asking questions during ceremonies that were supposed to be mere formalities.Personally, he seemed to be a rather quiet, studious man who would have been much happier as a scholarly sovereign and not the Emperor of an expansionist empire He possessed a genuine, if abstract, concern for the Japanese people, and this motivated him later to accept surrender and even put himself in the hands of the Allies, whatever they might decide to do with him.Almost certainly, he also had no direct knowledge of Japanese atrocities So, Hirohito was no Hitler Still, neither was he the uninvolved innocent that it became politically expedient to portray him as after the war.Hideki Tojo, on the other hand, the Minister of War and Prime Minister, who was tried and executed as a war criminal, probably deserved it Initially lukewarm about going to war with the US, he became a zealous prosecutor of the war, as well as an increasingly megalomaniacal one who seized and authority for himself, quashed all dissent, and most damningly, towards the end, when most Japanese leaders were seeing reality and talking about terms of surrender, was one of the hold outs who insisted Japan should fight to the end Along with a few other generals who were willing to see Japanese civilians take up bamboo spears and die by the millions fighting off an Allied invasion, Tojo deliberately prolonged the fighting well after it was obvious to all that Japan was finished I think it is not unfair to say that he caused hundreds of thousands of needless deaths on both sides.Did we have to drop the bomb Toland spends only a little time, in the last few chapters, talking about Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the decision leading up to the use of the atomic bomb on Japan This is another very loaded historical question in which there are people with strong opinions on both sides Some have argued that the US didn t need to use the bomb Japan was already negotiating surrender and that we did for reasons ranging from racism to a desire to demonstrate them as a deterrent to the Soviet Union Others claim that Japan was fully willing to fight to the last spear carrying civilian, and that the atomic bombs saved millions of lives on both sides by preventing the need for an invasion.Entire books have been written about this subject, and Toland, as I said, does not try to dig into it too deeply, but he does represent much of what the Americans and Japanese were thinking and saying at the time The case he presents would suggest that the truth, unsurprisingly, is somewhere in between.Yes, the Japanese knew they were going to have to surrender and were already trying to negotiate an honorable peace But it s not at all clear that it was the dropping of atomic bombs I was surprised to learn the Japanese actually knew what they were, and indeed, Japan had already started its own nuclear program, though it hadn t gotten very far that convinced the holdouts to agree to an unconditional surrender At the time, the atomic bombs did not seem all that impressive to them they were already willing to endure horrific casualties, and the firebombing of Tokyo had killed many people than died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki It was likely the declaration of war by the Soviet Union, when Japan had been hoping the Russians would help them negotiate peace, that was the deciding factor The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki just drove home their inevitable defeat.Could we have gotten an unconditional surrender when we did without the atomic bombs We will probably never know But only a few people at the time really appreciated what new era had been ushered in Harry Truman, interestingly, said afterwards, and continued to say, that he gave very little thought to the decision to use the bombs, and felt no moral angst about it Indeed, two bombs were being prepared for use when the Japanese finally did surrender.If you want one volume that covers the entire span of the war against Japan, I think this monumental work by John Toland leaves very little out, and I highly recommend it to WWII historians However, I also encourage interested readers to then seek out the recent works by Ian Toll, who devotes pages to the American commanders as well, and talks about some of the political issues among the Allies that Toland treats briefly, as well as going into even detail about individual battles.


  6. says:

    Winner of the 1971 Pulitzer Prize for General Non Fiction, this book covers the War in the Pacific from a Japanese perspective Extensive, well researched and readable, covering the timeframe from the invasion of Manchuria and China to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.After the Japanese invasion in Manchuria, the book starts of with the efforts of the American ambassador and the Foreign Minister of Japan to try to prevent war due to the boycot that the Western powers have established It is painful to see read how the good intentions are hampered by ignorance, impatience and indignation on the American side and militairy extremism on the Japanese side Inevetibly, this flows into the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbour and the consequent campaign.What struck me was the underestimation of the Japanese of the Western powers, the wishful thinking of the generals and admirals Seeking the decisive battle it happened time and time again that the Japanese thought they had destroyed the enemy fleets and their carriers, only to find them still active after each battle After Midway, Japan was doomed but it seemed not to be realised by the Japanese Army and Navy.The book quotes several eye witness accounts of Japanese soldiers, mainly focussing on the battle of Guadalcanal, Okinawa and the Philippines Other than the title might suggest, this is not a study of the fall and decline of the Japanese empire, but a war account For example the American successes against the Japanese merchant fleet is only sparsely mentioned, while in my eyes this was one of the deciding factors.For someone who needs a good introduction for the War in the Pacific, this is a good introduction and highly reccomended For someone already well known with the aspects of the Pacific War, this book may have requirend some depth.Let me finish with a quote by Japanese general Kawabe, after he witnessed the respect the Americans showed him after the Japanese defeat If human beings were to sincerely exercise justice and humanity in their relations with one another, the horrors of war in all likelihood could be avoided, and even if a war unfortunately broke out, the victor would not become arrogant and the suffering of the losers would be alleviated immediately A truly great cultural nation in the first requisite 3,5 stars.


  7. says:

    Mammoth history of Japan s involvement in the Second World War Toland seeks to emulate the sweep, if not the editorial tone of Shirer s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, mixing high level cabinet deliberations and diplomacy with military strategy and the on the ground experience of Japanese soldiers and sailors Toland s portrait shows a Japanese leadership eager to exploit China but agonizing over their decision to attack America and Britain, the division among Japan s military and political leadership, and their wholehearted commitment once war s actually declared Toland relishes details, from the importance of mistranslation in deteriorating diplomatic relations, to the slang and attitudes of Japanese troops Because of its scope, the book s somewhat spotty on certain subjects the Sino Japanese War s barely touched on, while the Anglo Chinese campaign in Burma s reduced to a brief chapter There s a long section on the founding of the East Asia Co Prosperity Sphere, and its popularity among pan Asians, but no follow up on the movement s dissolving as Japan s brutality became evident For that matter, Japanese atrocities are heavily downplayed, reduced to a sentence or two amidst detailed, multipage battle accounts If Toland seems overly sympathetic to Japanese aspirations, he deserves credit at least for his comprehensive, multilayered approach.


  8. says:

    I took far too many notes on this book trying to remember the events and people that dot these pages But what resounds than these pages of notes, is my belief that Tolland s greatest success is in what he didn t do Tolland avoided the Cold War lens and the Great Man theory In avoiding these pit falls, he has not only written a fascinating, highly readable book especially considering it s length , but he has set a standard by which I think all history books should be held.The Cold War lens is when writers apply the Cold War the ideologies, cultures and people that were at war for decades to explain most 20th century events I was born just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and as a result the Cold War doesn t loom as big But I think many history books written before the Wall s fall apply the Cold War lens too freely and too often The Cold War is used to explain and understand events that are diverse than this lens Tolland does not ignore the Cold War altogether and towards the end of the book, he explains how World War 2 shaped and affected the bipolar world that followed But he does not let this lens overwhelm the true subject matter Japan and the key relationship to this book the US and Japan Having written this book in the 1960s, this is an impressive feat.The Great Man theory is the idea that a single man or woman changed the course of history By this logic, if another man or woman was in power at a certain moment in history, events would ve played out differently This is a pretty appealing theory if Hitler had never existed, Germany would not have tried to take over Europe If not for Truman, the US would not have dropped the atomic bomb But it can be used too liberally It s a lot fun to read about big personalities, and it s much easier to explain events through the Great Men than through multiple, smaller causes As a result I think history writers sometimes hyperbolize their characters and simplify their narratives I personally think that most events in history are a result of greater, bigger forces I m not trying to make this too dense, but see Graham Allison for info Put anyone in the president s shoes and in the same political context, and they d make the same decision that the Great Man made And if they are the kind of person that would make a different decision, then the context they lived in would not have allowed them to become president in the first place This means that there would ve been World War without Hitler, and the bomb would ve dropped without Truman In short, context determines history than a single person and context itself is determined by a web of people and forces greater than just one man Tolland does an admirable job of capturing these greater forces, and in so doing he not only creates a fascinating, readable tome on modern Japanese history, but he also sets a standard for the care and seriousness to which all history writing should aim.I originally picked up this book because I wanted to read about the Japanese in Indonesia I ve been living in Indonesia for the past year and people here sometimes say that the 3 years the Japanese were in power in Indonesia were worse than the 300 years of Dutch colonialism This book doesn t give much information about the Japanese in Indonesia, or for that matter the Japanese in East Asia as a whole This book was mostly about American Japanese relations and was heavy on battle details and political details But it was nonetheless fascinating If you had told me I d read a combined 300 pages about battles for tiny, forgotten Pacific Islands I d probably be skeptical But somehow even the maneuvers the charges and retreats and naval squirmishes all kept my interest and were imbued with both thoughtful analysis and emotion.I wrote mid read, For a 900 page book this is very readable Still, man is it long This is a pretty worthy assessment You don t need me to tell you this This is a long book But it s about as readable as any history book can be It s a smart and emotional tome A long cast of characters most of whom Tolland personally interviewed string Tolland s writing together, and the result is a wide reaching history book that still manages to carry an intimacy to it Letters and personal journals pick up the narrative of history and then are lightly put down They make this dense book personal while still being full of information 4.5Also, here are some additional notes on 3 things that I learned from this book that I d like to hold on to They are unique mini theses that Tolland presents Feel free to skip this.1 One of the reasons that Japan and America collided was Japan was a growing nation that needed land and resources In Japan, an aggressive military clique rose to power and these vital national needs land, energy became an attempt to establish hegemony in Asia Many thought, if the US is allowed to establish hegemony in America and mine other nations for needed resources, why can t we Many people besides Tolland have argued this, but it s still an interesting point Especially the details that Tolland gives about Japan s too powerful military 2 Japan for all its imperialistic aggression was also a liberator This is an incredibly interesting point Many outside the military saw the war in the pacific as a war where Japan would liberate Asia from Western colonialism And although this point was pumped up with propaganda, there was a lot of truth to it Japan gave independence to many nations that it conquered and it recognized the rebel governments fighting for independence in Western colonized nations like India They were doing some remarkably forward thinking, democratic stuff While the US and Britain were writing the Atlantic Charter but not following through with it still holding colonies, still selling Polish sovereignty to Russia , Japan was gathering Asian leaders, declaring their sovereignty and pledging a mission to Asian freedom from the Western colonial yoke During the war Japan held the Greater East Asia Conference in Tokyo for all foreign Asian, anti colonial leaders There was a lot of propaganda to this especially since Indonesia was considered an exception, and Japan deemed not ready for independence while it mined it for resources but it s still powerful, inspiring stuff 3 Truman did not need to drop the bomb, and Japan s military elite were sort of nuts Truman did not need to drop the bomb There were plenty in Japan that were ready for peace and actively wanted it The Emperor was close to publicly espousing peace, and Japanese diplomats were already contacting Russian and European nations to help mediate a peace The US could ve detonated a bomb on a deserted island or in the air, to push these leaders to faster action At the same time, Japan s military elite was pretty nuts Many of the top most leaders believed that this had to be a fight to the death, a fight to the last man They wanted to arm men, women, and children on the mainland to at least make the US suffer They believed 100 million were prepared to die, and should die to defend Japan Surrendering was out of the question.


  9. says:

    An epic account of the Japanese war Toland tells the story from many different perspectives from the Emperor and his aides to the lowly soldier trapped in Guadalcanal It is all here the prelude to Pearl Harbour to the finale of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Many aspects are of interest the Japanese were continually obsessed with striking the fatal knock out blow At Pearl Harbour they believed they had accomplished that They tried again at Midway, Tarawa to be held for one thousand years , Saipan and on and on They even believed they could destroy the enemy on the Japanese mainland Another aspect is the ferociousness of the combatants who refused to surrender and viewed suicide as the honourable way to leave life There were always substantially Japanese deaths than American ones in most of the conflicts.John Toland s varying montages of the agony of battles, of prisoners of war, of the victims of fire bombing are all very poignant The build up to the attack on Pearl Harbour, and the frustration and miscues on both sides is very well told The end, with the Potsdam Proclamation that was completely rejected by the Japanese government, followed by the dropping of the atomic bombs well documents the legacy of the wars ending I feel at times that Mr Toland is too lenient with Hirohito s performance he could have prevented Pearl Harbour and the subsequent Japanese onslaught in Asia The Japanese had signed the Tri partite Pact with Hitler and Mussolini and this was ill received by the Anglo American democracies This was somewhat overlooked by Mr Toland Nevertheless this book is a great accomplishment and presents the war, with all its detailed planning, from the Japanese viewpoint.


  10. says:

    This is one of the best books on Pacific War especially from a Japanese point of view that I have read A detailed description of the Japanese aggression in short form and collapse in long form in World War Ii, told from the perspective of inside the Japanese governmental and military command structures I will not forget the build up to the Pearl Harbor attack and the strategy that was employed The Japanese high command, both the Army as well as the Navy knew that they were waking up a sleeping giant The book tries to give a balanced account of events, giving perspectives of the major players Japanese, American, Russian, Chinese and British , as well as fascinating insight into the political diplomatic maneuvering that lead to key strategic, political, and military decisions in the war and their outcomes This is a must read for anyone interested in the second world war.


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