This magnificent Pulitzer Prize-winning history, told primarily from the Japanese viewpoint, traces the dramatic fortunes of the Empire of the Sun from the invasion of Manchuria to the dropping of the atomic bombs, demolishing many myths surrounding this catastrophic conflict. Why did the dawn attack on Pearl Harbor occur? Was was inevitable? Was the Emperor a puppet or a warmonger? And, finally, what inspired the barbaric actions of those who fought, and who speak here of the unspeakable - murder, cannibalism and desertion?
Several chapters I had to reread because spacing out for a line or 2 made it impossible to follow - so if you want to dig in to this book I suggest setting aside your reading list for a while and just read this book for a while. I think overall I'll have spent 2 months on this book but it's well worth it.
Many primary sources and interviews with quite a few highly placed individuals from President Truman to Clement Atlee, Allen Dulles, Nimitz, Spruance, Stark, Professor Hiraizumi, Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, survivors and leaders of both sides of every major (and many minor) Pacific engagements, Japanese Cabinet officials, Japanese Imperial household staff, most immediate relatives and staff of the Japanese Prime Ministers, Chinese Nationalist leaders, and many more.The list of primary interviews is 9 pages long. His list of acknowledgements reads like a Who's Who of the Pacific War.
My impression is that he was a bit soft on Hirohito, Konoye and Tojo. The book does not mention the biological warfare in China which killed around half a million Chinese. It also completely misses Hirohito's personal authorization of chemical warfare in China nor his specific signature denying dignity to and relieving the Army of the responsibility to treat POWs humanely. Every war crime the book mentions is laid at the feet of the radical midlevel officers - Nanking, Bataan, the Philippines, Singapore, and the execution of U.S. airmen.
The book provided a much fuller picture of the Japanese actions and decision making that I sought. One can see that, while the American mind lumps Nazis,fascists, and the Japanese into one hostile power-mad conquering group, each stood on completely different terms. This is quite evident in the number of wartime prime ministers in Japan - 4 during the US portion and 15 from the invasion of Manchuria. I was surprised to read that Japan's leaders, esp Tojo, were serious about the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. I had known that the Indonesians looked on Japanese occupation favorably and ex-Japanese soldiers assisted the Viet Minh fight the French, but I also learned that Burma and Indian nationalists looked on them favorably. It's hard to reconcile their treatment in these nations with their wartime behavior in the Philippines, Vietnam, and especially China.