John W. Dower, Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has compiled what may become one of the most authoritative books to date on the history of Japan after World War II and the war’s aftermath on the country itself. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II is a study of a country suddenly forced to recreate itself literally from the ashes of defeat. Dower’s book covers the history of Japan from Emperor Hirohito’s speech of concession to his people on August 15, 1945, until 1952, when the American troops left Japan. In between, Dower explains in clear detail the gentle balancing act General Douglas MacArthur and his people had to maintain to not only ensure the seed of democracy was planted in Japan, but to ensure the unique structure of Japan itself was not thrown into total chaos while trying to make this happen.
The Americans saw a unique opportunity to remold Japan in their own democratic image, but for a country rooted in thousands of years of tradition this would not be an easy task. Dower clearly describes both where this succeeds and where this fails, and captures both the victor’s and the vanquished’s point of view effectively. This book is an invaluable resource.