The war Japan waged between 1937 and 1945--the pivotal event of the twentieth century in Asia--fatally undermined and discredited Western colonial empires throughout Asia; destabilized China, leaving chaos, destruction, and civil war in its wake; spread untold suffering through Asia and the Pacific; left its former colony of Korea divided, with ominous implications; eliminated the military as a meaningful institution in Japan; and left a power vacuum throughout Asia that the United States chose to fill and continues to fill to the present. Newly available documents and supporting materials appearing on both sides of the Pacific make it possible to reevaluate Japan's war, and in so doing, to better understand the historic and cultural traditions shaping late-twentieth-centuryJapan and its relationships to Asia and the West.
Over the past fifteen years I have written and lectured extensively about the Imperial Japanese Army. In researching these projects, it became apparent that Japanese military historians were exploiting newly discovered or recovered records to interpret not only the field operations of the emperor's army but also its inner dynamics as an institution in prewar Japanese society. Japanese historians were not simply writing about what happened but were trying to explain why things had happened as they did. Such an effort involved sophisticated analysis of the evolution of Japanese army strategy, tactics, doctrine, operations, and leadership, including the role of the army's titular commander, the