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And Japanese culture exacerbated the plight of the already disadvantaged. Those who had lost their families, including children, were shunned, as were the many women who no longer had a man. Returning soldiers were looked on as failures and brutes as their atrocities became known. Returning enlisted men took reprisals on their former officers for the abusive way they had been treated during the war. Hunger, lack of housing and poverty persisted for years after the war ended, leaving a widespread feeling of despair and victimization. People lived packed together in old train stations and shantytowns.
Just finding a time and place to go to the bathroom was difficult. People sold whatever they had including their bodies just for food. Prostitution proliferated to service the hundreds of thousands of American GIs. Many women found this the only way to get by. Crime was rampant. The black market was endemic not only providing necessities but American goods often procured from GIs.
To alleviate this deprivation, Mac Arthur and the US administrators did little; rather they focused on demilitarization, prosecuting war criminals and democratization. The prevailing power structures in both government and industry were broken up. Authority was decentralized. Statements supporting war and subservience to the state were stricken from school texts and replaced with statements extolling democracy. Elections were held and woman given the right to vote, something unthinkable before. Japanese society was to be radically changed. MacArthur was the new autocratic leader of Japan.
He kept aloof from the populace only dealing with a few top leaders. However China experts were welcome, their views shaped by Japanese atrocities in China. They lived a life unimaginable for most in the US in refurbished large houses replete with Japanese servants. The administrators were instructed in what passed for psychology at the time.
Ordinary Japanese looked on MacArthur as a father figure who had freed them from oppression and brought freedom. Most had been complicit with the military regime and thus had lost respect of the people. However, the communists now had credibility for having defied the emperor; freed from jail they began espousing their cause. They saw democracy within the confines of Marxist doctrine. Communism appealed to many citizens. Labor unions began organizing with strong communist backing.
By GHQ had weeded out many thousands of activists from labor and the Japanese government. Conservative Japanese leaders would now hold power for the rest of the century. As began war criminals were identified for prosecution. MacArthur intervened ensuring damaging testimony against the emperor would not be presented. Washington deferred. GHQ began an information campaign to purify the emperor and vilify his former cohorts. The new Japanese leadership concurred in this strategy. SCAP advised the emperor and Japanese supporters on how to proceed.
They dressed the publicly awkward Hirohito in civilian garb and sent him on tours to meet the people to humanize him in a public relations campaign. The emperor had gone from god to mortal, from leader of a holy war to a symbol of democracy. Next came writing a new constitution. Discarding a conservative Japanese government draft, GHQ wrote one in secret in a week with three values provided by MacArthur: The emperor symbolically leads the country; Japan stays completely demilitarized; peerage is abandoned and a parliamentary democratic system is established.
GHQ threatened to have a referendum on it if the government did not accept it. The government adopted it with minor changes in Unlike prior documents this was translated into simple Japanese. Booklets explained the law to the populace who generally accepted it. GHQ established an extensive censorship program. At its height, the Civil Censorship Detachment had a staff of 6, Censored were all books and magazines, major daily newspapers, brochures, pamphlets, movies and thousands of radio scripts.
Hundreds of thousands of private phone calls were monitored. Over million pieces of mail were spot checked. Foreign materials were censored before they could be distributed. Prohibited was any defense of the Japanese war or war criminals, disparaging remarks about America, its war conduct including the atomic bombing, its occupation or its allies or the reconstituted Hirohito. Any reference to censorship itself was also prohibited.
The John Hersey novel, Hiroshima , a best seller in America, was not allowed in Japanese until Japan was being isolated from much of what was widely available in America and the rest of the world. Communist and leftist rhetoric was targeted particularly after the outbreak of the Korean War in Unlike Nuremburg it had eleven judges from many different countries, most of which suffered Japanese atrocities in the war.
Only a simple majority was required to convict. In late , a majority decision sentenced seven to the gallows, sixteen to life, one to twenty years and one to seven. Those receiving death sentences were hung, the rest were all released by Who was indicted was often arbitrary as many ostensibly equally guilty were ignored, most notably the emperor protected by GHQ. The Japanese felt guilty because their family members, their countrymen died in vain.
Again this was not so much out of sympathy for the victims as it was a loss of respect for the perpetrators and the long shadow they had cast over all of Japanese society. The Japanese saw themselves as too technologically backward to have won. America had the atomic bomb, clear evidence of the importance of technical superiority. Thus moral, structural and political failures of Japanese society could be ignored with this simple one word answer. Only each individual deriving meaning from reflection on everyday life would build a better society, not striving for glory and rewards.
Tanabe was influential, but Japan embraced the first answer, science, and its incumbent rewards. As America anticipated the need to rearm Japan to fight communism, it gave up on establishing a pure democracy. SCAP had idled much of Japanese industry when it broke up the consortium of family owned large corporations known as zaibatsu. This had kept the economy from recovering, but Americans felt the Japanese were getting what they deserved.
The silver lining was the opening for many smaller companies. The large banks were not broken up. They became the basis for the new Japanese industrial oligarchy known as keiretsu. The American occupation left a legacy of centralization and government implementation of economic policy. First it helped clear up misconceptions about the Japanese people and their culture.
Common are racist views from cruel and heartless based on WWII atrocities to conformist and blindly loyal. Dower shows these easy characterizations to be superficial. The Japanese appear much more diverse and complex with behavior dictated by their circumstances. Second, the book said much about American foreign policy - arrogant, alternately idealistic and opportunistic.
An altruistic effort to establish democracy gave way to pragmatism and the red scare. Instead of a bastion of peace Japan was now expected to be an arsenal in the fight against global communism. American expediency overrode moral values, just what America saw in Japan before the war. The family owned zaibatsu were dismantled a new more efficient oligarchy, the keiretsu, established.
Building on an occupational legacy of centralized economic direction, government and industry could now work closely together without the need to fund a large military. This led to the well-coordinated economic trajectory that took a decimated country to one that would dominate world markets with products from Toyota cars to Sony electronics. View all 12 comments. Apr 14, Murtaza rated it it was amazing. One of my major interests is the sociocultural and political evolution of Asian societies in modernity. The preeminent society among these — the one people that had seemingly "made it" in the 20th century — was of course Japan.
The Japanese were an inspiration for reformers from Turkey to China. Even African Americans looked to the Japanese with hope. For a time Japan showed that it was possible for the colored peoples of the world to sit on equal footing with Europe and America. Their story wen One of my major interests is the sociocultural and political evolution of Asian societies in modernity. Their story went awry however.
Their modern project ultimately led the Japanese to become colonialists just like the Westerners whose civilization they had seemingly mastered. This led them into a campaign of aggressive war and genocide directed mainly against their Asian neighbors. This project came to a horrifying end in the atomic explosions that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ushering in a new Japan in their wake.
This book is the story of Japan after those explosions. The United States occupied the country as de facto military rulers until Between and no Japanese were even allowed to travel outside their borders. The Americans instituted a very strange regime. On one hand, they were almost as atavistic in their behavior as medieval conquerors. They unleashed themselves on Japanese women in the crudest manner possible.
The legacy of this sexual conquest and the perceived emasculation of the Japanese men they had just faced on the battlefield continues to color the U. The arrogant, frankly racist attitudes of ordinary Americans towards the defeated Japanese were in evidence all over the conquered country. I feel in some sense this reflected a desire to put an emboldened Asian people back in their place. The Americans truly lived as conquerors with the Japanese as their servants. The crushing poverty and exploitation of Japan during the U. Living as a defeated person means cramming into a full subway car while a spacious one nearby sits vacant, reserved for the new rulers.
It means being a domestic worker in the luxurious home of your conqueror while your own people starve for lack of food. This was Japan during the postwar years. At the same time, by destroying the old militaristic Japanese order the Americans unleashed the economic energies of the country in the long-term. The Japanese are undoubtedly a gifted people. And the Americans, for all their contempt, had not come to permanently enslave them.
Once it became clear that the Cold War was about to kick off with Communist China and Russia nearby, Japan was recast as an important bulwark.
The Americans helped put the new Japan on its feet and on the path to becoming the economic powerhouse that it was for the rest of the century. While its growth has faltered tremendously, Japan remains a modern and developed country. Anyone who has visited can attest that for all its structural flaws it remains an impressive society.
The U. I was astonished by this book. The suffering of the postwar Japanese was almost unfathomable. Even more interesting from an ideological standpoint was the disillusionment over the cult of the Emperor after the war. The "holy war" had been fought in the name of a God-King, Hirohito, who ruled Japan as its living divine monarch descended from the Sun God, Amaterasu. After the war ended in defeat, people were stunned and heartbroken, dazed and furious.
I will never forget the story of Watanabe Kiyoshi, one of the millions of young men who had fought and seen his comrades die on behalf of the Emperor, only to be filled with disgust and rage at the monarch's postwar kowtowing to the U. What had all that death and waste been for?
The ideology of Imperial Japan reminds me much of the apocalyptism of ISIS and similar groups — both obsessed with divine empire building and rushing to a glorious death. He and even many of the Americans who took part felt the whole proceeding to be an exercise in victors justice. The war against Japan had been a race war par excellence , on both sides. The Japanese had committed heinous war crimes. But no one could deny the American atrocities staring them back in the face, the evidence lying in the smoldering cities of Japan that had once been full of quotidian life.
Americans like Bonner Fellers who both loved and loathed Japan played an important role in the country's remaking, as did the singular General Douglas MacArthur.
Embracing Defeat : Japan In The Wake Of World War II - John Dower Reviews
I was undeniably impressed with the competence, confidence and forward-thinking attitude displayed by these men, truly stewards of a powerful empire. Having said that, most of the Americans based in Japan during the occupation however did not think much. They simply enjoyed the benefits that have accrued to conquerors in a conquered land since time immemorial.
This is riveting history of the type that you seldom come across, from a true scholar of Japan. Over pages the book was an absolute page-turner, even to a lay reader such as myself. I will definitely seek out Dowers other book on race in the Pacific War, a subject of which there were strong allusions to in this excellent work. May 31, Dan rated it it was amazing Shelves: national-book-award-non-fiction , pulitzer-non-fiction. An entertainer in Tokyo was singing subversive songs while accompanying himself on the violin.
Investigators attended a performance and were shocked. The Americans banned the show. Embracing Defeat was written by John An entertainer in Tokyo was singing subversive songs while accompanying himself on the violin. Every once in a while I read a history book where the author anticipates every question that I am likely to pose. This was that kind of read for me. With clarity and nuance, Dower addresses questions like the following: What was it like for the Japanese citizens in those months and initial years after the surrender? How did Japan turn it around so quickly?
Why were the Japanese people so fond of MacArthur? Did most Japanese citizens know of Nagasaki and Hiroshima? What forms of censorship did America implement? Perhaps the most discussed theme in the book was around Emperor Hirohito. In contemplating a possible abdication, a detached Hirohito opined that maybe could follow his passion into the field of marine biology. It is not at all clear if he seriously took the likelihood of a conviction and the penalty of death.
But in the end it was MacArthur who got his way with Eisenhower and Hirohito remained Emperor until his death in The fact that dozens of Japanese leaders were executed for war crimes including PM Tojo and that the Emperor remained in power was hard to square for most.
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The other large focus was on the Japanese people who, for the most part, showed great deference to the leadership of the occupying forces and to MacArthur in particular. The author presents some dark topics to be sure. There is a riveting chapter on how many Japanese citizens never forgave the leaders for evading responsibility and also other excellent chapters on censorship of books and films. I would have liked to have seen more personal stories about select individuals and discussion of more cities beyond Tokyo but I guess adding those topics to an already lengthy book would have made for an exhausting read.
Beyond MacArthur, who is always entertaining to read about, it is the smaller topics that pack the big punches such as the coverage on prostitution Geisha and otherwise , the animosity of ex Japanese soldiers to the American G. View all 6 comments. Apr 03, Stuart rated it it was amazing Shelves: historical , japan , politics , favorites.
Quite simply the most in-depth, perceptive and brilliant study of the post-war US occupation and reconstruction of Japan after World War II. Even with almost dense pages of academic but well-written erudition, it's not easy to tackle how Japan was transformed from a brutal imperialistic aggressor into a docile, cooperative, contrite and eager anti-Communist ally of the US, and how the decision to preserve the Japanese Emperor as a symbol of both Japan's rich cultural heritage and its new pea Quite simply the most in-depth, perceptive and brilliant study of the post-war US occupation and reconstruction of Japan after World War II.
Even with almost dense pages of academic but well-written erudition, it's not easy to tackle how Japan was transformed from a brutal imperialistic aggressor into a docile, cooperative, contrite and eager anti-Communist ally of the US, and how the decision to preserve the Japanese Emperor as a symbol of both Japan's rich cultural heritage and its new peaceful role in the post-war world was a crucial decision by MacArthur and the GHQ.
The effort to transform Hirohito from the symbol of Japanese militarism into a symbol of peace and acceptance is truly an amazing feat, and how GHQ worked with the post-war Japanese politicians and bureaucrats is equally impressive. The discussion of how the GHQ's reconstruction policy was then warped by the effort to contain Communism in Asian is also something you won't find in many other works.
The book is a treasure of details on every conceivable aspect of the occupation and reconstruction strategy as it unfolded, so I won't attempt to describe it here. Actually I read this book back in when I was a JET in Shimane Prefecture, Japan, and it has colored and deepened my perceptions of Japan in the ensuing 15 years of living here in Japan.
The JET program was started by Prime Minister Nakasone in during the Reagan Administration at the height of tensions over trade imbalances, ostensibly to "increase mutual understanding between the people of Japan and the people of other nations" by sending English-speaking college grads to rural Japanese junior and senior high schools to serve as cultural ambassadors and assistant English teachers.
So my perceptions of the program were very much affected by Embracing Defeat, because to me the JET program was a clear extension of the Japanese government's efforts to present a positive front to the youth of its Western allies and trade partners, to demonstrate good faith in "opening" the country to foreign youth, and also to expose Japanese students to Westerners. What I found very telling was the programs' emphasis on only inviting college graduates from English-speaking countries, and its total exclusion of youths from other countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, etc.
Because, frankly, Japan has still not been able to kick its admiration and aspiration to be like other Western countries, much more than neighboring Asian countries. And I experienced again and again during my 3 years on the JET program how much Caucasian foreigners were treated extremely kindly and warmly, while at the same time ethnically Asian foreigners, despite being raised in English-speaking countries, receiving a much cooler and more ambivalent welcome.
To wit, many Japanese still look up to Westerners, and in many cases look down on other Asians. Of course this is a generalization, but ask any white foreigner in Japan and they can tell you they receive different treatment from Asian foreigners not to mention the tens of thousands of native Korean residents of Japan who have lived here for several generations but are NOT granted citizenship despite this. To be fair, I think Japan has made major strides since the early days of the program, incorporating CIRs Coordinators of International Relations from various countries including China, Korea, Russia, Germany, France, etc to work in local government offices promoting "international relations", and I also served in that capacity for two years and had an amazing, life-changing experience.
And yet in light of the continued tensions with China and Korea over war crimes, comfort women, reparations, trade friction, and recently ocean and air territory, it's clear that Japan has yet to fully establish equitable relations with its Asian neighbors even over 60 years after WWII ended. View 2 comments. If you are thinking about reading this book, those are where to start. Thanks to both of them for their reviews! A meaty book that sometimes bogs down in detail — such as the postwar girlie pulps, which were pretty interesting, but the long discussions of authors who were akin to our postwar Beats -- not so much.
So my strategy, when I bogged, was to skim, or put the book aside for awhile. My rating: 4. What a pity the militarists managed to take control of the Japanese government! Millions of lives and untold treasure wasted. The contingencies of history…. There were Japanese ruling-class factions that thought war with America was a really bad idea.
Admiral Yamamoto's doubts. Some wanted to move North, against Russia. Had the zombie government admitted defeat early in , they could have saved well over a million Japanese lives, and avoided the A-bombs. But the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki demonstrated the accidental peacekeeping power of nuclear weapons. No nuclear-armed state has ever attacked another since then. And by early , it was obvious to the Japanese elites that the war was lost, and the internal search for who to blame had begun.
The Byzantine complexity of Japanese politics. Informal efforts by the Japanese to notify the victors of the worst war criminals. And the suffering, up to starvation, of the poor civilians. And all sorts of other unsavory details. Wholesale looting of supplies prior to the American arrival. Better still, read the book. The serendipities of fine-grained history.
Author Dower argues that participants like Sirota felt they were doing what the Japanese people would have wanted. Not much of this by direct American intentions — the legacy of the Occupation is mixed and tangled. Its pacifistic tendencies, enshrined in the Charter, are in tune with the national revulsion against the disastrous Pacific War.
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Some in the Truman administration argued for a revival of the Japanese Army, just 7 years after the end of WW2. Think of the welcome Japanese troops would have enjoyed in Korea!
Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II by John Dower (1999)
But the feudal and family owners are largely gone, new companies prospered, and income inequality is now much less than in America. Japan today has problems, but they are the problems of wealth. Oct 01, AC rated it it was amazing Shelves: 20thst-century , japan. Suffice it to say, this is a book of real depth and intelligence, and is fully deserving of the many awards and prizes it won.
Anyone who's interested in Japan that's you, Jimmy One point that came through loud and clear is the degree to which the U. Dower describes how in , panicked by events in Korea, Dulles and his Administration pushed to rearm Japan -- just seven years after the end of WWII - and how it was the Japanese, and the conservatives in power there at the time, who stopped it.
The height of folly and irresponsibility -- traits that have dogged Republican administrations and Congresses since the death of FDR. This is not the book to read if what you are looking for is the typical history of the Occupation Forces in Japan. This is a Japanese story. It tells the story of how the people of Japan managed to assimilate defeat and what it meant to them, how the occupation changed the nation, if it did, and the effect it had on both defeated and conqueror. Dower does this in a series of chapters that encompass everything from the food shortages and initial starvation, the rise of black markets, the establish This is not the book to read if what you are looking for is the typical history of the Occupation Forces in Japan.
Dower does this in a series of chapters that encompass everything from the food shortages and initial starvation, the rise of black markets, the establishment of brothels and the rise in prostitution, the literature both intellectual and obscene that began at this time, to the games that children developed which reflected the lives of the adults and the post-war problems of survival.
Each chapter is written from the Japanese view; how they reacted to events and changes in their lives, and not from the American position or the post-war Japanese government. While I believe this book was meant for a general readership it tends to read more like a textbook and contains such detailed information that I found my mind wandering at times.
For example, "Japan— only yesterday a menacing, masculine threat— had been transformed, almost in the blink of an eye, into a compliant, feminine body on which the white victors could impose their will. Apr 04, Nooilforpacifists rated it it was amazing Shelves: world-war-two-history , japanese-history. Simply among the most spell-binding books ever. Arranged topically, Embracing Defeat proceeds both topically and chronologically from the end of the war to the signing of the peace treaty.
The two most riveting chapters tell how fewer than 10 lawyers on MacArthur's staff none experienced in Constitutional law wrote Japan's post-war Constitution in under a week. One of those lawyers was a woman she died in --she's responsible for Japan's strong woman's rights protections. On the other han Simply among the most spell-binding books ever. On the other hand, of course, that same team wrote "Article 9" which, to this day, limits Japan's military to a purely defensive role, thus forcing the country to reman dependent on U.
It's all explained. Last September Japan's never-amended constitution was reinterpreted to expand the authority of its self-defence force so that it could come to the aid of Japan's allies if they were attacked. That this was effected by reinterpretation rather than amendment, that it was not supported by a majority of Japanese citizens, and that the US was cheering the "clarification" from the sidelines will not come as a surprise to anyone who has read Dower's exceptional, and exceptionally readable, history Last September Japan's never-amended constitution was reinterpreted to expand the authority of its self-defence force so that it could come to the aid of Japan's allies if they were attacked.
That this was effected by reinterpretation rather than amendment, that it was not supported by a majority of Japanese citizens, and that the US was cheering the "clarification" from the sidelines will not come as a surprise to anyone who has read Dower's exceptional, and exceptionally readable, history of the US postwar occupation of Japan. Dower's highly-refined sense of irony equips him admirably to illuminate the most ingenious paradox of Japan's adoption of democracy by fiat, freedom of expression amid heavy censorship, and widespread culpability for war crimes heartily endorsed by the Teflon former-deity who set the conflict rolling.
But the irony takes a backseat to even-handed analysis, balanced reporting and a well-built foundation of impressively researched sources. The book was a natural choice for the nonfiction Pulitzer in It is an eminently worthwhile read fifteen years later. Mar 15, Joseph Stieb rated it really liked it. This is a long book that extends beyond politics to look at culture, film, literature, gender, and Japanese society. The main theme here would have to be diversity.
Despite stereotypes of the Japanese as conformist, Dower traces a range of interpretations to questions like: Why did the war happen? Why did we lose? Who is to blame? How should we see the Americans? What is to be the nature of the new Japan? There's no doubt that the debates in Japan were vivid and multifaceted. At the same time, Dower acknowledges that the Japanese themselves were often concerned with the questions of collectivism and conformity.
Many believed there was a certain inauthenticity in shifting so quickly between militarism and cooperation with the United States, and both Americans and Japanese chalked that up to a collectivist tendency in the society. I haven't loved every Dower book I've read. There's a tendency to be too academic and too critical of his actors.
Cultures of War I thought was a bit of a screed, although I found War without Mercy to be a brilliant work. This book I'd put somewhere in the middle. It definitely illuminated a major blind spot in my historical understanding, and it is useful for shooting down certain myths about Japan and the US. Still, there were a few things I didn't love.
There are points at which he discusses tons of Japanese films, books, and media, but if you aren't familiar with these products these sections become long and tedious. Occasionally he fixates a bit on the "authoritarianism" of MacArthur's rule, downplaying the fact that it didn't last very long, phased into an era of greater freedom, and was always meant to be temporary.
Overall, though, even Dower has to admit that this was largely a success story. Two hated enemies came together in cooperation and reconstruction, and their relationship set the groundwork for the foundation of both a democracy and one of the world's powerhouse economic forces. This history was the essential first step in that process. Recommended for people interested in Japanese history or people whose knowledge of Japan is only about WWII and want to or should branch out a bit. Jun 06, BookishStitcher rated it really liked it.
Well written and fascinating book. The first couple of chapters had wonderful historical pictures quite often, but then there suddenly weren't any pictures anymore. That's why it loses a star for me. May 08, Tom Mathews rated it really liked it Shelves: reads , spies-and-war-stories , general-weirdness , history-historical , group-reads.
Dower's book is an in-depth study of postwar Japan and how it responded to its crushing defeat at the hands of the allied forces. Dower meticulously combed through myriad sources; political, social and artistic, to get a sense of the people's mindset during this most trying time in the country's history. His sources included books, movies, cartoons, articles and letters to newspapers and public officials from the Emperor's surrender announcement through the end of the occupation. While his schol Dower's book is an in-depth study of postwar Japan and how it responded to its crushing defeat at the hands of the allied forces.
While his scholarly approach tends to be a bit dry at times it is extremely comprehensive and provide insight into how Japan was able to go from the economic wreckage of to become the economic powerhouse it became in the s. I highly recommend it for students of the war and the impact it had on the world.
My thanks to the folks at the The History Book Club for giving me the opportunity to read and discuss this and many other fine books. Nov 30, John rated it it was amazing. I can only describe my experience of reading this particular book. In sum, Dower's book is a brilliant, entirely engrossing historical narrative that fully merits reading and consideration. I would expect such a book to have garnered as many awards for exemplary historical scholarship and writing as there are organizations to present present them.
I can just barely begin to imagi Because I've not read other writing of any kind or description on WWII in the Pacific, I can't comment on the content. I can just barely begin to imagine the quality of life for the Japanese, apart from the highest reaches of the elite, during the early years of occupation.
Imagine a country entirely encapsulated and isolated from the rest of the world. The Japanese could not travel internationally. A very few foreigners were granted entry visa. The Japanese received no news from the outside world apart from the accounts that US censors had approved prior to publication. Of course, television and the Internet didn't exist. Every form of expression, apart from private conversation, I suppose, was censored. Then chaos reigned. Those in positions of power seized and funneled military stores into the black market.
Government funds disappeared into private hands. Then began the transvaluation of all values, repeatedly - if anyone there cared to notice or could be distracted from the unremitting struggle to survive from one day to the next in an environment of starvation, malnourishment, homelessness, inadequate clothing, non-existent medical care, etc.
You name it, and the Japanese didn't have it - apart from an abundance of some rot-gut concoction that induced oblivion after three drinks. And then the struggle to create a new state, society and culture. And then to discover that Cold War politics dictated that the US "reverse course," demanded that the Japanese become a bastion of anti-communism, to be rearmed, under the threat of nuclear annihilation should they forget their "rightful place. But I really don't want to become curious about any of this.
Dower is very critical of the Tokyo war trials. The choice of who was put on trial seems arbitrary as some of the worst perpetrators were not prosecuted. Most notably absent were the members of Unit , which used Chinese for medical experiments against their will. The legal basis for "crimes against peace" was dubious and there was no precedent for trying individuals for their service to the state.
Embracing Defeat - Wikipedia
The trial was applauded by some but also became a symbol of victor's justice, where Japan was mainly punished for losing, not because it's conduct was different that other countries during the war. Whereas in , when the Japanese first heard of some of the atrocities committed by their army, some Japanese mothers were threatening to disown their sons, in , these war criminals were welcomed home as heroes.
Dower also discussed the new constitution, which was created in about a week by American and some European personnel. The creation of a constitution was beyond the instructions of MacArthur, but he rarely let such limitations affect him. The SCAP team drew up what would become the basis of the Japanese constitution, based on MacArthur's rough guidelines, and presented it to the Japanese government to accept.
The government had come up with their own draft, which had prompted MacArthur's call for an American one, but the Japanese draft had only superficial changes to the Meiji constitution. That hand, along with the true origins of the draft, was another victim of censorship in an effort to make the new constitution seem a purely Japanese creation. The most controversial part of the document was the demilitarization clause Article 9 , which the Americans almost immediately regretted and continue to regret to the present day.
The final section was on the economy, although Dower talks about it throughout the book. In this section, he looks at the rebuilding of the economy through directing production. This worked in producing some important goods but also led to rampant inflation and undermined non-essential production. The turning point was the Korean War, which was "a gift from God" for the Japanese economy. They started producing war goods, which stimulated the economy in other areas. Because of Article 9, however, Japan could not send troops, which frustrated Americans but thrilled the Japanese and Koreans.
Because of tensions of the early Cold War, especially after Korea, and because of the need to get the Japanese economy started again but without US reconstruction aid, the US had to rely on big business that had allied with the military before the war. Convenience for the US and its strongly anti-communist attitude pushed it to embrace the powerful and conservative elements of Japanese society, ensuring some continuity in social structure from before the war.
This a great book. It is, by far, the best I have read on the subject. It is well-researched and well-written. If you are interested in modern Japan, this is the book you should start with. I really enjoyed this book. I just finished another great story about one of the first women to be a part of working on the team that inventoried the assets of the Bank of Japan just after the war ended.
It's told through her letters home to her family. Letters Home is a great look at a part of the post war effort that's not often chronicled. I hope you'll check it out. Another really interesting history, this time of the American occupation of Japan. Dower argues that the Americans were more committed to the preservation of the Emperor than many average Japanese, and so they didn't investigate his war responsibility or explore the possibility of a postwar political order without at least having the Emperor as symbolic head of the nation.
He also details the hardship and despair of the postwar years; the way in which the American occupation turned the focus away from the atrocities the Japanese armies had committed against non-Americans; the sometimes exhilarating and sometimes terrifying sense that all the past boundaries had fallen away; the sexual liberation though he's pretty sanguine about prostitution as the best alternative for many young women under the circumstances ; and the pervasive censorship that prevented almost any portrayal of the occupiers and then switched near the end from suppressing anything that smacked of militarism to suppressing anything leftist, as the US switched its position from demilitarizing Japan to demanding rearmament in order to help contain the Soviets.
There was much in this excellent history which made me proud to be an American e. MacArthur but also much to indicate my own beloved country's need for self examination and improvement. Certainly Japan in the agony of defeat responded in creative ways from which we Americans can and should learn. War always brings injustice,tragedy, bitter ironies and hosts of other negatives. To move on to more productive activities than fighting seems to be something which Japan has learned better than many other nations. In my opinion,this book deserves to be read and pondered over by every patriotic American, regardless of political persuasion.
How did a nation which fought so ferociously in the Second World War face the specter and humiliation of defeat and occupation? Pretty well, all things considered. How to occupy a country - well. MacArthur was the right man for the job. Here at Walmart. Your email address will never be sold or distributed to a third party for any reason.
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