Rising Sun, John Toland

Rising Sun, John Toland

This is a very impressive history of the Pacific War, written largely from the Japanese point of view. As a result we get an unusually detailed account of the build-up to the war as seen from Japan, the development of Japanese strategy and the impact of the American victories. The text is supported by some very detailed research, including a large number of interviews with surviving Japanese officers (a much larger group during the 1970s, when the book was written.

The book has dated in only one area. When it was written the US was engaged in Vietnam, and some parallels are drawn between the American struggle against Communism in Asia and the view held by some Japanese political and military leaders that their invasions of Manchuria and China were also motivated by a desire to fight Communism. This would be more convincing if it wasn't clear that the officers who triggered both invasions were far more interested in expanding Japanese power.

A second flaw is that the author tends to ignore the atrocities committed by the Japanese, both against Allied POWs and civilians, in China and in the conquered territories. The main exceptions are the fall of Nanking and the Bataan death march, which are both examined. As a result the Japanese justification for going to war is left untested.

These are only minor flaws. In general this book is a triumph, telling a familiar story from an unfamiliar, but still vitally important angle. Most histories of the war in Europe present the German point of view, but in contrast very few histories of the Pacific war give the Japanese view in such detail. Here we see the arguments within the Japanese government and military, the assumptions they acted upon and the often very faulty military intelligence that inspired many of their later decisions.

1 - The Roots of War
2 - The Lowering Clouds
3 - Banzai!
4 - Isle of Death
5 - The Gathering Forces
6 - The Decisive Battle
7 - Beyond the Bitter End
8 - 'One Hundred Million Die Together'

Author: John Toland
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 954
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2011 edition of 1971 original

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