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Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy

ISBN: 978-1452666778
Review Date:

Author Eri Hotta was born and raised in Japan and attended institutions of higher education in the United States and the United Kingdom. This gave her the perspective across both sides of the Pacific War. While in the West we often think of major Japanese figures one dimensionally, Hotta's Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy provided information on how each of these figures thought, each of their successes and failures, and how their collective actions and inactions ultimately resulted in war. Saburo Kurusu was described by Cordell Hull as deceitful, and so his reputation was sealed as so for Americans; Hotta, however, revealed Kurusu's sentiments against a war with the United States, his sincere efforts in peace negotiations, and the fact that he was purposely kept out of the decision process so that he had no idea that war was unavoidable by late Nov 1941. While Hideki Tojo's warmongering was well known, the author shared Tojo's early reluctance to engage in war, believing that to seize Dutch resources was to lower Japan to the level of common thieves. Additionally, Hotta went back in time and introduced the readers to the Meiji Constitution and how the complete separation of civilian and military leadership, each reporting directly to the Emperor, gave way to the situation in which the two branches could move in separate directions, as they did in the 1930s. The Japanese ideal of pursuing collective goals while abandoning individual goals also caused Isoroku Yamamoto, Fumimaro Konoe, Koichi Kido, and many others to be ineffective in steering the course away war. While the author successfully presented the Japanese perspective, she made clear that the responsibility of war fell squarely on the shoulders of the Japanese leadership, who lacked the will and courage to challenge their hawkish colleagues (perhaps lacked the creativity that there was such a course of action?).

I had reviewed this book in its audio book format. Laural Merlington did a fine job with the reading.

While we already had many great western resources on the weeks leading up to the Pacific War, Hotta's Japan 1941 formed a great complement for a full understanding. She walked the fine line well, presenting how Japan moved toward various decisions, supported by sources not readily cited by western publications, all the while made no apology for those who ultimately brought on a deadly and destructive war for both sides. This title would surely go on my recommendation list for fellow Pacific War history enthusiasts.

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Related People:
» Showa
» Konoe, Fumimaro
» Kurusu, Saburo
» Matsuoka, Yosuke
» Nomura, Kichisaburo
» Tojo, Hideki

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