Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan
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Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan [Hardcover]

Tsuyoshi Hasegawa
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 30, 2005

With startling revelations, Tsuyoshi Hasegawa rewrites the standard history of the end of World War II in the Pacific. By fully integrating the three key actors in the story--the United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan--Hasegawa for the first time puts the last months of the war into international perspective.

From April 1945, when Stalin broke the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact and Harry Truman assumed the presidency, to the final Soviet military actions against Japan, Hasegawa brings to light the real reasons Japan surrendered. From Washington to Moscow to Tokyo and back again, he shows us a high-stakes diplomatic game as Truman and Stalin sought to outmaneuver each other in forcing Japan's surrender; as Stalin dangled mediation offers to Japan while secretly preparing to fight in the Pacific; as Tokyo peace advocates desperately tried to stave off a war party determined to mount a last-ditch defense; and as the Americans struggled to balance their competing interests of ending the war with Japan and preventing the Soviets from expanding into the Pacific.

Authoritative and engrossing, Racing the Enemy puts the final days of World War II into a whole new light.

Editorial Reviews


The long debate among historians about American motives and Japanese efforts at ending World War II is finally resolved in Racing the Enemy, Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's brilliant and definitive study of American, Soviet and Japanese records of the last weeks of the war. (Richard Rhodes New York Times Book Review 2005-05-15)

Without doubt the best-informed book in English on Japanese and Soviet manoeuvres in the summer of 1945...[Hasegawa] provides an international context sorely missing from most previous work. He has mined Japanese and Russian literature and documentation and, despite much that is based on surmise, provides fresh insight into the extraordinary inability of Japanese leaders to surrender, and into Stalin's machinations aimed at maximizing Soviet territorial gains in East Asia. (Warren I. Cohen Times Literary Supplement 2005-08-19)

A landmark book that brilliantly examines a crucial moment in 20th-century history...[An] important, enlightening, and unsettling book. (Jonathan Rosenberg Christian Science Monitor 2005-08-02)

The most comprehensive study yet undertaken of Japanese documentary sources. The highly praised study argues that the atomic bomb played only a secondary role in Japan's decision to surrender. By far the most important factor, Hasegawa finds, was the entry of the Soviet Union into the war against Japan on Aug. 8, 1945, two days after the Hiroshima bombing. (Gar Alperovitz Philadelphia Inquirer 2005-08-07)

One of the first to make a detailed study of the political interplay among the Soviet Union, Japan, and the United States in 1945. (Alex Kingsbury U.S. News and World Report 2005-08-08)

As Tsuyoshi Hasegawa has shown definitively in his new book, Racing the Enemy--and many other historians have long argued--it was the Soviet Union's entry into the Pacific war on Aug. 8, two days after the Hiroshima bombing, that provided the final 'shock' that led to Japan's capitulation. (Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin Los Angeles Times 2005-08-05)

[Racing the Enemy] might be called the definitive analysis of the U.S. decision to use atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Professor Tsuyoshi Hasegawa of the University of California, Santa Barbara, has mined both Japanese and Soviet sources to produce the first truly international study of the Hiroshima decision. (Errol MacGregor Clauss Winston-Salem Journal 2005-08-07)

Managing to convey the thought processes, assumptions and biases of the Imperial elite is Hasegawa's greatest achievement...Hasegawa's story is a weird, compelling one, and his case for revising our view of the leadup to VJ Day is overwhelming. (John Dolan The Exile 2006-06-29)

Hasegawa's study provides the most comprehensive examination yet published on the international factors that shaped the decision-making processes and policies adopted in Washington, Moscow, Potsdam and Tokyo, and which ultimately contributed to Japan's surrender in 1945. Racing the Enemy provides a fresh and multi-faceted perspective on a well studied topic primarily because the author draws on information from Russian, Japanese and American archives and sources. While this study both complements and challenges the well-informed findings of Asada Sadao, Robert Butow, Richard Frank and Leon Sigal, the international framework in which Hasegawa places the surrender of Japan makes this book a compelling read for students and scholars alike. (J. Charles Schencking Pacific Affairs)

Will we ever really know why Japan surrendered in World War II? In this judicious and meticulously researched study of the endgame of the conflict, [Hasegawa] internationalizes (by a thorough look at American, Japanese, and Soviet literature and archives) the diplomatic and political maneuvering that led to Japanese capitulation...No study has yet to bundle together the myriad works on the war's end in such a complete manner...This work should become standard reading for scholars of World War II and American diplomacy. (Thomas Zeiler American Historical Review)

Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's Racing the Enemy is a splendid book--the first to examine the end of the Second World War in the Asia Pacific from a comprehensive, international perspective. Based on archival and published materials in Russian, English, and Japanese, it provides a gripping account of the complex diplomatic maneuvers and political battles that culminated in the tumultuous events of August 1945...Hasegawa has written the first truly international history of the end of the Pacific War. By bringing hitherto separate literatures together into a much-needed dialogue, he has recast the contours of the whole debate. Racing the Enemy will remain essential reading for students of foreign policy and international history for many years to come. (Anno Tadashi Monumenta Nipponica)

This book is a well-researched and provocative analysis of a fascinating yet neglected aspect of World War II: the American public's conventional assumption is that Japan surrendered to the Allies because of American atomic bombs...Hasegawa's conclusion raises tempting hypothetical questions for further research of this topic, and he provides intriguing answers to them. (Sean Savage Historian)


Racing the Enemy is a tour de force -a lucid, balanced, multi-archival, myth-shattering analysis of the turbulent end of World War II. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa sheds fascinating new light on fiercely debated issues including the U.S.-Soviet end game in Asia, the American decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan's frantic response to the double shock of nuclear devastation and the Soviet Union's abrupt declaration of war. (John W. Dower, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; 1st edition (May 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674016939
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674016934
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #191,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
84 of 92 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good and Somewhat Controversial August 21, 2005
This is a well written and documented attempt to produce a comprehensive account of Japan's decision to seek peace at the end of WWII. This includes the controversial topic of the importance of American use of nuclear weapons. Since at least one prior reviewer has used the "R" (revisionism) word, let me begin with with some brief historiographic background. Revisionism, unfortunately, is one of those words that has lost specific meaning and become a term of abuse. Any substantial work of historical scholarship presenting new information or a substantial new interpretation, like this one, is revisionist by definition and the mere fact that the author has a new point of view is not an excuse to fling abuse. In the debate over the use of nuclear weapons against Japan, revisionism has a concrete, specific connontation. It is used usually to refer to the work of historians like Gar Alperovits and others who argue that the use of nuclear weapons was unecesary, that the Truman administration knew this, and that bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was an effort to intimidate the Soviet Union. In this interpretation, the use of nuclear weapons against Japan was the opening salvo of the Cold War, not the conclusion of WWII. Hasegawa is definitely not in this camp and politely, but firmly, consigns the revisionist consigns the revisionist camp to the trash can. The Truman administration employed nuclear weapons with the primary purpose of bringing the war to an end as fast as possible.

The strengths of this book are Hasegawa's description and analysis of the role of the Soviet Union and his attention to the role played by figures, both in Tokyo and Washington, usually regarded as secondary figures. Hasegawa's interpretation is based in part of novel archival research.
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67 of 76 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A brilliant analysis that not only fills in the many blank spots that existed with regard to the end of the war in the PTO, but also for the first time offers a complete and concise narrative of the decision making process simultaniously going on at all three major players. Hasegawa convincingly argues that it were not the atomic bombs that made Japan surrender (they were even resigned to receiving more of the same - testament to the effectiveness of LeMay's conventional bombing campaign, which in Tokyo alone killed more people in one night than died at Hiroshima ), but the prospect of Soviet occupation and the specter of communism. Faced with that alternative, the emperor rather preferred to surrender to the Americans.

Truman tried to keep the Soviets out by dropping the bombs early but failed to appreciate that a modification of the unconditional surrender terms regarding the status of the emperor might have accelerated Japan'surrender more than the bombs would do.

A must read for anyone interested in the history of WWII and/or the atomic bomb.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent study March 28, 2006
I was quite surprised to find a lot of interesting information in this book that I had no idea about. I am not very familiar with the pacific campaign in WWII nor about the political complications that existed between the three/four parties mentioned in this book, but in the end I'm very please I read this book and have a new outlook on the Soviet involvement with the end of the war in the pacific. While many like to believe that the two A-bombs were the main reason for Japan's surrender and acceptance of the Potsdam Proclamation the reality of the matter is that the Soviet entry into the war played the largest role. Reactions in Japanese high officials diaries attest to the fact that while the A-bomb was a surprise the invasion of Japanese controlled territory by Soviet forces was a great surprise and the event that finally forced the Japanese to rethink their stance in the war. Even after both A-bombs were dropped there were still those in Japan that wanted to keep fighting but the fact that they could no longer negotiate through the Soviet Union made them reconsider and listen to those who wanted peace at whatever price. All in all a good investment for a new point of view on the war in the pacific and a very interesting and gripping story of how the war came to an end and what role(s) Roosevelt, Truman, Stalin, Hirohito, and many others played.
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35 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars End Game July 22, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A thought-provoking book that examines the frantic political and diplomatic efforts in three capitals (Moscow, Washington and Tokyo) as World War II closed down. The description and explanation of the race by the USSR to control the Kuril Islands, a strategic area still in dispute today, was especially enlightening to me. While I continue to think Truman's use of the two atomic bombs was more consequential to the political decision of the Japanese elite's accepting of U.S. surrender terms than is the view of Professor Hasegawa, I am convinced by the professor that the concurrent shock impact of Stalin's final military moves is the major key to understanding the ultimate wrenching decision made in Tokyo.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rethinking the final blows to end World War II August 17, 2005
Cold War expert Professor Tsuyoshi Hasegawa does an excellent job of addressing the still-asked questions about the end of World War II. At 60 years and counting, the guilt and hand wringing continue vis-a-vis America's use of atomic weapons against mainly civilian targets in Japan. Were "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" really necessary? What about the Soviets and their eleventh hour invasion of Manchuria, Korea, and Sakhalin?

Hasegawa rightly answers these questions, yet downplays the impact of the atomic bomb in ending the War. He cites one official source that acknowledged a persuasive jolt from the Hiroshima bombing, even if it turned out to be in combination with the Soviet invasion -- a one-two punch, if you will. In any event, Hasegawa argues convincingly that neither action alone was decisive and that the Soviet offensive produced more dread than the destruction of Hiroshima. Also, his condemnation of the atomic bombings carries even more weight with respect to Nagasaki. Given the hindsight of Hiroshima, it was arguably criminal to resort to this second bombing. Like the first, it would prove to be indiscriminate in its effects and, as Hasegawa contends, it was politically motivated.

Hasegawa's "Racing the Enemy" offers a broader view than the usual line about the atomic bombs ending the War. However, one ought not to fault President Harry Truman completely, for he no doubt faced a moral dilemma. Either way, atomic bombing or invasion, the buck would stop with him being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, the majority of whom would be noncombatants.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Impressive research but wrong conclusion
This is an impressive work of scholarship and a "must" read for anyone interested in the controversies surrounding the end of the Pacific War, including the dropping of the atomic... Read more
Published on January 18, 2013 by DC Dave
1.0 out of 5 stars A biased advocacy piece relying on selective omission of important...
I think that I am surprised at the number of 5 star reviews that this work has received. But then I reflected on who may choose to read this book. Read more
Published on July 24, 2012 by IGS
5.0 out of 5 stars Hasegawa's work in Racing the Enemy is substantial ...
IN THIS BOOK, Tsuyoshi Hasegawa writes about the circumstances surrounding the end of WWII and the surrender of Japan. Read more
Published on June 7, 2011 by Amik Ahmad
4.0 out of 5 stars A Different Ending
Since my father fought in World War II, I have always taken a keen interest in that period of history. I have often wondered what he thought and felt during that time. Read more
Published on September 19, 2010 by Doug
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking on the interplay of three nations.
There is a lot of meat in this book. The author reviews the documentary evidence on the end of WWII. Japan was still battling the United States, China, and Great Britain. Read more
Published on October 9, 2008 by Kevin M Quigg
4.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece of Historical Reconstruction
"Racing the Enemy" is a meticulous yet gripping reconstruction of the three-sided diplomacy surrounding the surrender of Japan in 1945. Read more
Published on August 16, 2008 by not me
3.0 out of 5 stars Fairly critical, but a worthwhile read...
I think that this book is certainly researched thoroughly and he takes a great deal of time to step by step cover what many books involving this war only touch upon at this stage:... Read more
Published on November 12, 2007 by Jason Hatfield
4.0 out of 5 stars Racing the allies
By 1945 Japan seemed well and truly beaten. Its navy and merchant fleet were on the bottom of the pacific. Read more
Published on November 1, 2007 by Tom Munro
3.0 out of 5 stars It's a wise country that knows its own enemy
"Racing the Enemy" makes a strong, though very strange, contribution to the endless controversy about the end of World War II, the use of atomic bombs, the deals cut between the... Read more
Published on March 21, 2007 by Harry Eagar
4.0 out of 5 stars I'm Not Convinced...
This is a thorough and scholarly work allowing the reader to view the end of WW II in the Pacific through multiple important lenses, rather than the America-centric one so many of... Read more
Published on March 12, 2007 by Dr. Philip J. Kinsler
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