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Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan Hardcover – 3 Jun 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (3 Jun. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674016939
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674016934
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.5 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,503,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Without doubt the best-informed book in English on Japanese and Soviet manoeuvres in the summer of 1945.' -- Times Literary Supplement, August 19,2005

About the Author

Tsuyoshi Hasegawa is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Cold War Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Ogun Eratalay on 1 Feb. 2008
Format: Hardcover
This very interesting book stunnned me in various ways. It challenged my views of the Second World War especially over Japan
and the principal reasons of Atom bombings.The official history over Japan is always the views of the victors--the US. This book is
written by a Japanese writer with caution but bravely. It brushes aside the reasons told by the US Administration about the usage
of A-bombs. The book carefully shows the inner-party struggles among the ruling elite of the Japanese Empire and clearly shows
that the Japanese Government was ready to accept surrender. The Japanese point of view depends heavily on the attitude of the
Soviet Union. When Molotov summons the Japanese Ambassador in Moscow and declares war on Japan, the Japanese elite is
devastated. They count on Moscow to mediate peace overtures between Japan and the US. The stormy advance of the Red Army
can not be stopped and the Japanese do not fight against the Reds either.Among the ruling elite of the Empire the worst nightmare
is a potential communist upheaval. They could do anything to avert this consequence at all costs. The changed US Administration
from Roosevelt to Truman clearly plays in this area. They don't want the Soviets involved in Japan proper. They can not stop the
invasion of the Red Army into China and Korea but they won't have the Soviets have a share on Japan. In a respect the dropped
A-bombs are a veiled threat to Soviet Union.The Soviet Union carefully play with the former and new imperialist powers in the
region. They liberate the oppressed Chinese people from the yoke of Japanese invaders giving huge boost to Communists in China
paving the way for the 1949 victory.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 21 reviews
86 of 94 people found the following review helpful
Very Good and Somewhat Controversial 21 Aug. 2005
By R. Albin - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a well written and documented attempt to produce a comprehensive account of Japan's decision to seek peace at the end of WWII. This includes the controversial topic of the importance of American use of nuclear weapons. Since at least one prior reviewer has used the "R" (revisionism) word, let me begin with with some brief historiographic background. Revisionism, unfortunately, is one of those words that has lost specific meaning and become a term of abuse. Any substantial work of historical scholarship presenting new information or a substantial new interpretation, like this one, is revisionist by definition and the mere fact that the author has a new point of view is not an excuse to fling abuse. In the debate over the use of nuclear weapons against Japan, revisionism has a concrete, specific connontation. It is used usually to refer to the work of historians like Gar Alperovits and others who argue that the use of nuclear weapons was unecesary, that the Truman administration knew this, and that bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was an effort to intimidate the Soviet Union. In this interpretation, the use of nuclear weapons against Japan was the opening salvo of the Cold War, not the conclusion of WWII. Hasegawa is definitely not in this camp and politely, but firmly, consigns the revisionist consigns the revisionist camp to the trash can. The Truman administration employed nuclear weapons with the primary purpose of bringing the war to an end as fast as possible.

The strengths of this book are Hasegawa's description and analysis of the role of the Soviet Union and his attention to the role played by figures, both in Tokyo and Washington, usually regarded as secondary figures. Hasegawa's interpretation is based in part of novel archival research. An important point of departure from what might be called the triumphalist American version that implicitly treats the American decisions as decisive and the Japanese role as essentially reactive. Hasegawa takes pains to emphasize the autonomy of Japanese decision makers. This is not novel. Richard Frank, in his excellent book Downfall, which covers much of the same ground, makes the same point and also emphasizes the autonomy of the Japanese leadership. Hasegawa goes farther than Frank with his extensive description of Soviet diplomacy and the impact of the Soviet decision to enter the war on the Japanese decision to capitulate. Hasegawa makes a strong case that both the Soviet entry and the American use of nuclear weapons were crucial factors in deliberations of the Japanese leadership to end the war. I found this aspect of the book convincing and I think the likely conclusion is that use of nuclear weapons with necessary but probably not sufficient to coerce the Japanese leadership to surrender. In the most controversial aspect of the book, Hasegawa argues that Soviet entry may well have been necessary and sufficient, and that use of nuclear weapons was not needed. This is a major point of difference with Frank, who sees use of nuclear weapons as decisive though he also discusses the importance of the Soviet entry. Hasegawa and Frank's disagreement centers on interpretation of a relatively small number of documents and it is impossible to be sure which is correct, though I find Frank's analysis more convincing. Hasegawa has interesting treatment of the Truman administration, which he presents has more uncertain and divided than usually thought. There is a lot of useful information in these sections of the book. Truman, who had been largely excluded from foreign policy during Roosevelt's life, is presented as periodically indecisive.

An important theme of Hasegawa's interpretation is that the American were willing and did use to bomb to avoid Soviet participation in the occupation of Japan. This is presented reasonably well, but I don't think that Hasegawa does as well as Frank in presenting the secondary reasons why the Truman administration wanted to end the war as quickly as possible. Certainly, they wanted to end the war without an invasion of the home islands. But, they also didn't want to take over a Japan in a state of chaos or given the Soviet behavior in Poland, share occupation with the Soviets. American policy objectives were just not to win the war but to sustain a lasting peace. Occupying a Japan with a functioning cooperative government and without a divided occupation were important goals. Nor, given the clearly duplicitious and aggressive behavior of the Soviets, was it irrational to use the bomb rather than wait to see what would happen after Soviet entry into the war. The Truman administration wanted to conclude the war with a minimum of casulties, to ease the occupation, to eliminate Japanese militarism and imperialism, to be able to democratize Japan, to make Japan a permanent US ally, and to ensure that Japan became an important member of the world economy. These objectives might have been accomplished with different decisions but its hard to argue with the remarkable results obtained by Truman and his advisors.
67 of 76 people found the following review helpful
The ultimate guide to the end of WWII in East Asia 5 Jun. 2005
By Kurt F. Lambert - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A brilliant analysis that not only fills in the many blank spots that existed with regard to the end of the war in the PTO, but also for the first time offers a complete and concise narrative of the decision making process simultaniously going on at all three major players. Hasegawa convincingly argues that it were not the atomic bombs that made Japan surrender (they were even resigned to receiving more of the same - testament to the effectiveness of LeMay's conventional bombing campaign, which in Tokyo alone killed more people in one night than died at Hiroshima ), but the prospect of Soviet occupation and the specter of communism. Faced with that alternative, the emperor rather preferred to surrender to the Americans.

Truman tried to keep the Soviets out by dropping the bombs early but failed to appreciate that a modification of the unconditional surrender terms regarding the status of the emperor might have accelerated Japan'surrender more than the bombs would do.

A must read for anyone interested in the history of WWII and/or the atomic bomb.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Excellent study 29 Mar. 2006
By T. Kunikov - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I was quite surprised to find a lot of interesting information in this book that I had no idea about. I am not very familiar with the pacific campaign in WWII nor about the political complications that existed between the three/four parties mentioned in this book, but in the end I'm very please I read this book and have a new outlook on the Soviet involvement with the end of the war in the pacific. While many like to believe that the two A-bombs were the main reason for Japan's surrender and acceptance of the Potsdam Proclamation the reality of the matter is that the Soviet entry into the war played the largest role. Reactions in Japanese high officials diaries attest to the fact that while the A-bomb was a surprise the invasion of Japanese controlled territory by Soviet forces was a great surprise and the event that finally forced the Japanese to rethink their stance in the war. Even after both A-bombs were dropped there were still those in Japan that wanted to keep fighting but the fact that they could no longer negotiate through the Soviet Union made them reconsider and listen to those who wanted peace at whatever price. All in all a good investment for a new point of view on the war in the pacific and a very interesting and gripping story of how the war came to an end and what role(s) Roosevelt, Truman, Stalin, Hirohito, and many others played.
35 of 43 people found the following review helpful
End Game 22 July 2005
By Christian Schlect - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A thought-provoking book that examines the frantic political and diplomatic efforts in three capitals (Moscow, Washington and Tokyo) as World War II closed down. The description and explanation of the race by the USSR to control the Kuril Islands, a strategic area still in dispute today, was especially enlightening to me. While I continue to think Truman's use of the two atomic bombs was more consequential to the political decision of the Japanese elite's accepting of U.S. surrender terms than is the view of Professor Hasegawa, I am convinced by the professor that the concurrent shock impact of Stalin's final military moves is the major key to understanding the ultimate wrenching decision made in Tokyo.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Rethinking the final blows to end World War II 17 Aug. 2005
By Dennis at Holy Apostles - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Cold War expert Professor Tsuyoshi Hasegawa does an excellent job of addressing the still-asked questions about the end of World War II. At 60 years and counting, the guilt and hand wringing continue vis-a-vis America's use of atomic weapons against mainly civilian targets in Japan. Were "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" really necessary? What about the Soviets and their eleventh hour invasion of Manchuria, Korea, and Sakhalin?

Hasegawa rightly answers these questions, yet downplays the impact of the atomic bomb in ending the War. He cites one official source that acknowledged a persuasive jolt from the Hiroshima bombing, even if it turned out to be in combination with the Soviet invasion -- a one-two punch, if you will. In any event, Hasegawa argues convincingly that neither action alone was decisive and that the Soviet offensive produced more dread than the destruction of Hiroshima. Also, his condemnation of the atomic bombings carries even more weight with respect to Nagasaki. Given the hindsight of Hiroshima, it was arguably criminal to resort to this second bombing. Like the first, it would prove to be indiscriminate in its effects and, as Hasegawa contends, it was politically motivated.

Hasegawa's "Racing the Enemy" offers a broader view than the usual line about the atomic bombs ending the War. However, one ought not to fault President Harry Truman completely, for he no doubt faced a moral dilemma. Either way, atomic bombing or invasion, the buck would stop with him being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, the majority of whom would be noncombatants. Historian David McCullough raises an important question in his biography of Truman: "How could a President, or the others charged with responsibility for the decision, answer to the American people if when the war was over, after the bloodbath of an invasion of Japan, it became known that a weapon sufficient to end the war had been available by midsummer and was not used?" What transpired afterward is yet another story. However, without the benefit of hindsight, the decision-makers could only go on the results of atomic bomb testing in the New Mexico desert, described by project chief Major General Leslie R. Groves as "successful beyond the most optimistic expectations of anyone."

Carefully researched and yet refreshingly easy to read, Prof. Hasegawa's "Racing the Enemy" contributes much to solving the riddle of the end of World War II. However, as good as it is, Hasegawa's book alone is not the last word. No single source says it all and "Racing the Enemy" should be read along with other fine accounts of the War in the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO). It is a welcome and needed addition to current scholarship and, in my opinion, offers much to the serious student of World War II. Fr. Dennis
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