Emperor Hirohito and the Pacific War
(University of Washington Press, 2015), by Noriko Kawamura. Using previously unavailable Japanese sources, Dr. Kawamura, a professor of history at Washington State University, paints a fair and even-handed picture of Hirohito and provides an eye-opening look at the efforts of Japanese moderates to avoid war with the U.S. and to end the war as soon as possible. The information she presents shows that any attempt to equate Hirohito with Hitler is baseless.
The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire
, 1936-1945 (Modern Library, 2003, reprint edition), by John Toland. This is one of the most balanced books on Imperial Japan ever written. On many key subjects, the book presents information that most other books leave out, including such topics as Japan’s efforts to avoid war with the U.S., the Bataan Death March, the Sino-Japanese War, and the events that led to Japan’s surrender.
The Cause of Japan
(Simon & Schuster, 1956), by Shigenori Togo. This is one of the few books in English written by a Japanese author that presents Japan’s side of the story. Togo was Japan’s Foreign Minister from October 1941 through the end of the war. He was a lifetime foe of the militarists. He ardently opposed war with the U.S. and strongly supported surrendering on the terms outlined in the Potsdam Declaration. Incredibly, in a shameful display of revenge and injustice, the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal prosecuted him as a war criminal and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.
The Case of General Yamashita
(Kessinger Publishing, 2010), by A. Frank Reel. By order of General Douglas MacArthur, General Yamashita was hastily tried and executed for war crimes that occurred in Manila in late 1944, even though he had ordered his troops to evacuate the city, and even though he had been unaware of what was happening there. General Yamashita’s trial was so unfair and irregular that two U.S. Supreme Court justices condemned it in harsh terms. As historian Lawrence Taylor has noted about Yamashita’s case, “Never has a military leader been prosecuted for an incident when he has neither ordered, condoned, nor even been aware of the atrocity in question.”
Victors' Justice: Tokyo War Crimes Trial
(Princeton Legacy Library, 2016, reprint edition), by Richard H. Minear. Minear shows that the Tokyo Tribunal relied on deeply flawed legal concepts and violated basic rules of justice. For example, in most civilized nations, a death sentence requires a unanimous verdict, but the Tokyo Tribunal imposed its death sentences by narrow votes of 6-5 and 7-4. Minear provides an excellent discussion on the reasons for Japan’s intervention in China and its attack on Pearl Harbor. Minear discusses the fact that the tribunal could produce no evidence that any Japanese civilian leader or senior military official had ordered any officer or unit to commit war crimes. And, Minear makes the point that the tribunal ignored American and Allied war crimes in the Pacific:
Four Samurai: A Quartet of Japanese Army Commanders in the Second World War
There can be no doubt that the victor nations in the Pacific war committed many of the acts for which the Japanese stood indicted at Tokyo. For our present purposes it will suffice to consider two such acts: the Soviet Union's declaration of war on Japan; and the American dropping of the atomic bombs. . . .
By the standard of the Pact of Paris—at least as construed by the Nuremberg judgment and the majority judgment at Tokyo—the Soviet Union was guilty of the "crime against peace." Similarly, the United States had come under grave suspicion of guilt for a "crime against humanity." The Tokyo Charter defined that crime as ". . . inhumane acts against any civilian population." Did this definition not apply to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Consider the setting. Japan was prostrate. The American Government knew that Japan had asked the Soviet Union to mediate an end to the war. There could be no plea of military necessity. Nor could military necessity justify wholesale slaughter of civilians. (Minear 94-95, 99)
(Hutchinson, 1968), by Arthur Swinson. Drawing extensively on Japanese sources, Swinson provides a Japanese perspective on the war, especially on the major campaigns. He also discusses the surprising internal disputes within the Japanese army and the negative impact they had on military operations. And, he offers a valuable look at Generals Homma, Yamashita, Mutaguchi, and Honda.
Some Survived: An Eyewitness Account of the Bataan Death March and the Men Who Lived Through It
(Algonquin Books, 2004), by Manny Lawton. Lawton pulled no punches in describing numerous instances of brutal treatment by some Japanese soldiers. However, Lawton did not allow his horrible experiences to prevent him from also describing many cases of humane and even kind treatment by other Japanese soldiers. In reading Lawton’s book, one discovers that many of the Japanese soldiers Lawton encountered did not treat him and other POWs harshly, and that during some parts of his captivity the living conditions were tolerable and even mild.