Academic journal article Military Review

Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II

Academic journal article Military Review

Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II

Article excerpt

EMBRACING DEFEAT: Japan in the Wake of World War II, John W. Dower, W.W. Norton & Co., The New Press, NY, 1999, 676 pages, $29.95.

Nominated for the 1999 National Book Award for Nonfiction, Embracing Defeat illuminates obscure aspects of Japan's occupation after World War II. John W. Dower has written several books about the period but has avoided repeating, in detail, political and social themes. American works about the occupation usually show how American ideas and methods reshaped Japanese society. Japanese works show how those ideas and methods were modified.

Dower has no patience with the view that the United States, personified by US General Douglas MacArthur, bestowed democracy on a grateful Japan, causing it to live happily ever after. In fact, Dower devotes much space to discussing the occupation government's conceits.

Dower adopts a critical view, skewering absurdities and pretensions, such as censorship regulations. For example, it was forbidden to criticize the Soviet Union during the Cold War's early days because it was one of the Allies that had participated in Japan's defeat. In fact, it was illegal to even mention censorship's existence.

By examining what people read, heard and saw, Dower recreates a specific historic moment, showing how the occupation affected ordinary urban Japanese during that time of extreme poverty. …

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