Japan 1941

Review by Martin Koenigsberg

I just finished my 18th Book Review of the Year!!

I read this book as I began a cross Pacific Trek, first in Hawaii and then the Philippines. I was following my father’s footsteps toward Japan in the Pacific War, so it was almost enraging to find that Imperial Japan went to war with the western Allies, the US, Imperial Holland (Yeah-it was once), and the British Empire almost as an afterthought to their China Policy and without really pondering such a war as a real thing. Eri Hotta , noted Japanese historian, and scholar of the 20th Century, takes the reader into the countdown to war from the Japanese side – going over the notes, memoirs and interviews to show the reader an incompetent blindness to the enormity of the Decision to get into a war with an Industrial and Scientific giant like the USA was at that time. I got enraged by the lack of introspection that went in to starting a brutal war that would force my father to travel to far, mainly by troop ship, but sometimes by C-46s and 47s or PBYs if he was lucky, and result in so many Japanese deaths at the very end. Even the general reader, not used to Military history, will be intrigued by the failure of both political and military leaders of an empire to avoid an obvious self destruction, no one actually looking up from their desk and pointing out the cliff directly in their path. As one reads in the book- a Japanese “think tank”- a prescient concept still in its infancy worldwide – gave a seminar to key Japanese leaders expressly pointing out the folly of a direct military confrontation with the US. America was its prime oil supplier at the time and possessed at least 35X the Industrial Capacity of Japan. But the military and the political leadership blows right past that stop sign and remain committed to the China War. Watching the number of people who both understand the situation and are committed to peace dwindle- when you know they are consigning so many of their countryfolk and their neighbours to early death is both harrowing and profoundly disappointing. Makes for a gripping read, though. The book is all about adult themes, almost all of them political, and does have a few graphic injury descriptions, so the Junior Reader should be over about 13/14 years to appreciate all the levels. For the Gamer/Modeler/Military Enthusiast- hugely mixed resource. For the Gamer and Modeler- this is really background-albeit hugely important background- but it will not effect ‘the Scenario/Diorama/development level of the hobbies-although I still suggest Gamers read it to understand the Japanese mindset in WWII. The Military Enthusiast is the huge winner- getting insight into the Japanese Experience in WWII- and how some decisions could be made -without the right people actually making decisions. Reading this will really help the general reader understand the origins of the Pacific War.


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