War Without Mercy

by John W. Dower

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What is Dower's argument?

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John Dower argues that anti-Asian, specifically anti-Japanese, racism played a strong role in the way the Allies, especially the United States, conducted World War II. Dower’s focus is on the Pacific War, in which the US military had a much more central role than Europe. He shows the racial components of propaganda, investigates the internment of Japanese and Japanese Americans, and discusses the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan.

Dower supports the argument with the information he provides about the state of racial thinking in the late 1930s, as the war began, and then shows how it influenced US attitudes and practices once the nation entered the war in 1942. The idea of a superior race entered into Japanese nationalism, which contrasts sharply with the US promotion of inferior status as characterizing its Japanese opponents. The discussion of propaganda is central in his work. His detailed review of all aspects of the propaganda campaign—the most comprehensive the US military had ever launched—includes traditional media, such as newspapers, magazines, and posters, but also shows the effective use of film. The build-up of anti-Japanese sentiment was crucial, Dower maintains, to create a positive reception for the use of atomic weapons.

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