The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945 (Modern Library War) Reprint Edition
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“Unbelievably rich . . . readable and exciting . . . The best parts of [Toland’s] book are not the battle scenes but the intimate view he gives of the highest reaches of Tokyo politics.” —Newsweek
“Similar in scope to William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Toland’s book is fresh and dramatic throughout. The Rising Sun is not only a blood-and-guts action story, it also presents for the first time a great deal of fresh information.” —Chicago Sun-Times
From the Back Cover
In weaving together the historical facts and human drama leading up to and culminating in the war in the Pacific, Toland crafts a riveting and unbiased narrative history. In his Foreword, Toland says that if we are to draw any conclusion from "The Rising Sun, it is "that there are no simple lessons in history, that it is human nature that repeats itself, not history."
- ASIN : 0812968581
- Publisher : Modern Library; Reprint edition (May 27, 2003)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 976 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780812968583
- ISBN-13 : 978-0812968583
- Item Weight : 2.03 pounds
- Dimensions : 6 x 1.5 x 9.1 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #126,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Toland does not hesitate to criticize the Japanese when he feels the evidence warrants it. His book is by no means some kind of partisan apology for Japan, and I don't know how any objective person could read the book and say otherwise. What Toland does do is provide often-ignored facts and context regarding Japan's actions in Manchuria, China, and Indochina; Japan's substantial peace overtures to FDR to try to avoid war (all of which FDR rejected); the conduct of Japanese and Allied forces during the war; Japan's relations with the Asian countries that it wrested from Allied control; and the events that did--and did not--lead to Japan's surrender.
He includes, not just the stories of the leaders, but also of average civilians, foot soldiers, and sailors to tie the story together and give it context and his treatment of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are detailed, including the deliberations leading up to the decision to use the bomb and the reaction of the Japanese leaders to it. The sections dealing with the Japanese peace feelers following the Invasion of Okinawa, their subsequent efforts to accept the Potsdam Declaration in spite of fanatics within the military who, even after the atomic bombs and Russian entry into the war, would rather have seen national self-immolation than surrender.
This book is a must read for any serious student of military history. No book on the Japanese in World War II written by a non-Japanese author goes so far to in explaining the complexities and confluence of events and personalities that determined the outcome of events.
Possibly this book doesn't touch on enough of the terrible things that happened in the war in the Pacific, but the book, like most books about WW2, is still fascinating and horrifying.
Toland does a great job of noting some particularly moving and poignant moments in the war, many of the stories are terribly sad, but people of today should know how horrible WW2 was, hopefully there'll never be another war on that scale.
Toland was a great author, the book is very readable and engrossing, highly recommended if you're interested in the war in the Pacific.
Rising Sun offers none of that, a gem that presents known facts and oral accounts as it is, from both sides, written in a moderator-like tone. A rare in-depth coverage of imperial Japan that transcends the usual presentation of Japan as a mindless, blood thirsty aggressor. Rising sun does not whitewash Japanese aggression, nor glorify Allied efforts. Instead, the book offers a glimpse into the minds of leadership of warring nations, the soldier on the frontlines, civilians caught in the war, giving readers a chance to appreciate trade offs individuals had to contend with during that turbulent era.
The author has done an excellent job presenting a timeline of key events that led Japan down the road of no return, the complexities of Japanese culture, society and thinking that is seldom appreciated in the west. A must read for all history buffs.
Top reviews from other countries
He tells the story at three distinct levels.
He gives us just enough detail on the politics, both inside and outside Japan, to make the context comprehensible without ever becoming tiresome. He describes the military events with precisely the same level of detail, neither boring nor insufficient, from the very start of the fighting by Japan’s armies, in Manchuria in 1932, long before any Western powers became involved. Finally, he uses material left behind by survivors to give us a personal view of the events, whether of Japanese soldiers and civilians. The tale of Shizuko Miura, a nurse who witnessed the landings and fighting on Saipan, was particularly telling, and those of atomic bomb survivors chill the blood.
He starts with the background of Japan itself, including several attempts made by groups of army officers to impose their will on the country, if necessary (according to their own lights) by violence. They justified insubordination spilling over into mutiny as true loyalty, to a higher set of values, the essence of Japan or ‘kokutai’.
The apparent impossibility of snuffing out such movements, probably because the ideas of ‘kokutai’ were so broadly shared even by those who would not break with discipline to uphold them, led to the growing pressure on the nation to flex its muscles. An expansionist programme saw Japanese forces occupying increasingly extensive areas of China and eventually led to the clash with the United States.
There was nothing inevitable about that clash. Toland tracks the long and painful negotiations between the two nations that might have avoided conflict. I was particularly fascinated, and not a little horrified, by the misunderstandings caused by the US ability to read all Japanese communications – they had broken their codes – but failure to translate the contents correctly. Toland gives a series of examples. For instance, Japanese Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo wrote:
“This is our proposal setting forth what are virtually our final concessions”
After the code was broken, the message was translated, or rather mistranslated, as:
“This proposal is our final ultimatum”
leaving Secretary of State Cordell Hull with a view of the Japanese position as far more unbending than it was. It seems that being able to read an adversary’s messages may be no advantage, and may even be a handicap, if one misunderstands them so thoroughly.
In the end war broke out simultaneously against the US, Britain and Holland, with Japanese forces invading the Far Eastern possessions of the latter two powers, as well as attacking Pearl Harbor. For a little over a year, Japan knew nothing but success, her advance apparently unstoppable. But then the US began to prove the wisdom of Japanese Admiral Yamamoto’s words, that the Pearl Harbor raid had merely awakened a sleeping giant.
At the battle of Midway in 1942 the US established air and naval superiority in the Pacific. And in successfully taking back Guadalcanal, an island in the Solomons, it finally blocked and indeed reversed Japanese progress. Then its hugely superior economic and industrial strength came into play and the machine of American power began to grind forward towards Tokyo.
Toland charts its advance compellingly, with much survivor material to bring to light just what the cruelty of the conflict meant to individuals. In amongst the horrors and brutality, he describes some reactions that bring a little relief: for instance, the Japanese soldier who decided not to follow most of his colleagues into suicide, when he was told by another survivor that the whole garrison had already been posted as dead back in Japan. What was the point of dying again?
The book describes the politics of both sides, within Japan, between Japan and the Allies and within the Allied powers – the Soviet Union, for example, refusing to act as a go-between between Japan and the United States over peace overtures, until it too declared war in the last days of the conflict, so that it could stake its claim to territory it coveted. He also describes the tensions in the high commands, or between Japanese military and political leaders: there was a final attempt at a coup in Japan to prevent the slide towards peace.
At the personal, political and military level the book gives an immensely readable and highly engaging account of a fascinating and crucial period of our history. Never dull, always engrossing, Toland’s book is well worth reading if you’re interested in those turbulent times. Or, indeed, if you enjoy history for its capacity to astonish even more than fiction.
Roosevelt was anxious to avoid any actions that would be seen as aggressive and that might precipitate war but, unfortunately, American commanders don't seem to have been briefed explicitly to prepare adequately for the eventuality of war should the diplomacy fail.
The Japanese cultural view of the shame of capture and their resulting fanatical defence is well portrayed. Japanese atrocities are not dwelt upon but nor are they ignored.
As defeat stared the Japanese in the face, the peace party, and its feelers to the Allies, was rather lame, even convincing themselves that the Soviet Union would make an honest broker.
All in all, a good history showing more of the "other side of the hill" than many Pacific War histories and how cultural differences had such an influential role..