Japan at War in the Pacific
The Rise and Fall of an Empire, 1869–1945
By Jonathan Clements
Published by Tuttle Publishing; Dist. by New South Books
RRP $39.99 in hardback | ISBN 9784805316474
As Jonathan Clements writes in this book, the story of the rise of Japanese militarism remains a political minefield, citing then US Vice President Joe Biden’s rebuke of candidate Donald Trump in 2016 for suggesting that Japan consider acquiring nuclear strike capabilities.
‘Does he not understand that we wrote Japan’s constitution to say they could not be a nuclear power?’, igniting a predictable furore in Japan.
By the time of Japan’s surrender in 1945, an entire generation had grown up knowing nothing but conflict. But the transformation of Japan into a militarist power began many decades earlier, with the toppling of the old samurai regime, and the rush of the formerly isolated nation onto the world stage.
Towards the end of the 19thcentury, Japan ditched its French military advisers in favour of Germany and particularly the Prussian Jakob Meckel who reorganised the Japanese army and advocated a society built on total obedience to the emperor.
The battle for supremacy in the Pacific brought Japan to great heights but led ultimately to the nation’s utter devastation at the end of World War II, culminating with the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—the only time such weapons have been used in warfare.
Even today, Japanese history casts a long shadow. Strengthening the armed forces remains a contentious issue against the backdrop of its militaristic history. Clements delves deep to explain the forces that led to the development of such a society in Japan and its awful consequences.
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