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Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy Hardcover – 5 Nov 2013

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Amazon.com: 132 reviews
93 of 101 people found the following review helpful
An important and interesting new book 29 Oct. 2013
By bdallmann - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I often wondered during history class in middle and high school, “What did the other side think of this war?” Americans frequently are restricted to being taught only about their own side of a war, which puts us at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to understanding our world. It is for this reason that I truly appreciated reading Eri Hotta’s Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy.

The book puts into perspective Japanese culture and politics in the years and months leading up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In particular, it investigates the question of why Japan’s leaders entered into a conflict they knew they had no chance of winning. Through reading the book I was able to learn something about Japanese politics and how Japan’s admiration for the United States began to turn sour in the first part of the twentieth century.

Hotta is not forgiving toward her country for its actions before or after the bombing. She recognizes the mistakes that were made by Japan’s leaders due to arrogance or ignorance (or often both), and reveals how the Japanese people were fooled by their leaders into believing their country was more powerful and capable than it really was. She refers often to Japan’s “self-delusion” and “face-saving” tactics, which only exacerbated the country’s political problems.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have trouble sometimes staying focused on a book about history that includes so many names, dates, and places. However, in the front of the book you’ll find a map of the Asia-Pacific Region in 1941, as well as a list and description of major characters and a timeline of events in Japanese history from 1853 through April 1941. These references made the book much easier to comprehend.

Hotta’s book is a valuable new perspective in the history of World War II, and is a great read for anyone interested in the war, Japanese politics, or Asian culture and history.

More reviews at mybooklust.wordpress.com
46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Japan's Long Plunge Into War 13 Nov. 2013
By Jeffrey T. Munson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Everyone knows that, on December 7th, 1941, the Japanese Navy attacked the American base at Pearl Harbor. Numerous ships were sunk or damaged, scores of planes destroyed, and over 2,000 people were killed. But what led Japan to take such a drastic step to start a war that they had no hope of winning? Eri Hotta attempts to answer this question in "Japan 1941".

One could argue that World War II began when Japan invaded China in 1931. From that point forward, Japan was under scrutiny from the rest of the world, including the United States. By 1941, Japan was suffering from sanctions, including an embargo on oil and scrap metal from the United States. War with the United States was a distinct possibility.

But what of the preparations for this war? Hotta argues, rightly so, that the Japanese were unprepared to fight a successful war against the United States. The industrial might of the United States would overwhelm Japan. Japan, in the words of Winston Churchill, would be ground into dust.

Despite the vast difference in industrial might, many Japanese felt that war was the only answer. Others believed that success could be achieved through negotiation. It was this constant bickering and interservice rivalry that ultimately doomed Japan. Hotta states that none of Japan's top leaders had sufficient will, desire, or courage to stop the momentum for war. The attack on Pearl Harbor can be viewed loosely as a tactical success for the Japanese. But the result was a strategic nightmare, for only 6 months later, the Japanese advance was stopped at Midway.

I found this book to be an informative narrative about Japan's preparations for war in 1941. The narrative encompasses all major aspects of what the diplomatic and military situation was like for Japan from the time of the invasion of China up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Although somewhat difficult to read due to all of the names, the book nonetheless contains a wealth of information about Japan's preparations for war.
40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
The politics of 1941 Japan 14 Nov. 2013
By EdM - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This new look at the reasons why Japan took the path to war in 1941 offers new insights as well as previous treaded ground. The author was born in Tokyo and educated in Japan and researched Japanese archives to present a Japanese perspective on the events leading to war. The majority of the population were jubilant at the onset as the prevailing view was that America had been waging economic warfare against Japan for some time. Prince Konoe, prime minister from July 1940- October 1941, and Matsuoka Yosuke, foreign minister July 1940-July 1941 are portrayed as the ones most responsible for leading Japan onto the path of war. This alters previous readings of Konoe being a moderate influence in the imperial government. However, the author nearly exonerates Tojo Hideki as the former general had to make the best of an already complex situation and the military was set for war. The events of this time period is open for interpretations and there are numerous authors that can take widely different viewpoints. This author presents her findings and explains them in a good format. The Roosevelt administration was waging economic warfare against Japan. This fact has been written about before but this book actually details that it was waged in a manner that FDR knew could lead to retaliation. If a nation today tried to cut the US off from its oil supply or any other resource they would attack that country. Japan was mired in a conflict with China, taking over administration of Indochina from France, and was tied by treaty to countries that the west didn't like. The political method of the imperial government is explained and it really was a complex way of running a modern nation. Nationalists may applaud the book's view that Japan was stuck with events and the stubbornness of American and British demands that made war inevitable. The book unfairly points the blame on a few individuals as the army leaders were also pro-war and put pressure on the cabinet to make unwise decisions. The final analysis comes about how the path to war was decided upon even by those individuals who knew it to be hurtful to the country but was faced with no other option. Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor led to four years of war but seen from the Japanese perspective and from more than seventy years of time the author has done a service to history and to the people that lived it. 4.5 stars.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A superb book 26 Nov. 2013
By Christian A. von Hassell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It is so rare to read history that is of great importance, fills major research voids and - at the same time - is very readable. Eri Hotta's fantastic book provides the reader with a unique insight of a world that few historians have managed to research. This books is vivid anbd or great importance in understanding just how Japan was compelled into war and how so many inside that otherwise conformist nation were unhappy about the march to war. I have written about World War II and I understand the formidable task of accurate research. This book truly impressed me and I recommend it.
Agostino von Hassell
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
How the Japanese stumbled into WWII 11 Nov. 2013
By Jeff Ingram - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an interesting book as it shows the desire for consensus, service benefits and face saving that led the leaders of Japan to start a war their professionals expected to lose. The private and more honest opinions of military and civilian leaders weren't the ones they expressed in imperial conferences. Japan had been in a quagmire in China but continued with policies that were draining the country. Their actions in China were thoroughly detested by most of the world. Japanese leaders knew Japan couldn't match the industrial output of America yet they were willing to gamble that they could attack the US and allies in Asia, quickly grab what they wanted and then, somehow, make peace with the countries they attacked and still get to keep what they had taken. Japan struck in December 1941. Admiral Yamamoto was quoted in early 1942 as saying; "In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success." In less than 6 months the Battle of Midway (June 4th, 1942) ended the run of Japanese victories.
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