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Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan Hardcover – May 30, 2005

4.0 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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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)

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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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,007,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
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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