It is once again time for my Remembrance Day book review. This time I have choosen a different theatre of World War II – Japan. Japan’s Longest Day describes the country’s decision to surrender to Allied forces. Although seemingly an easy decision for an outsider; the decision was more difficult for the Japanese. Although primarily about August 14th – 15th, 1945 the book begins by outlining Japan’s precarious position and the Postsdam Proclamation. The Proclamation released by Allied forces on July 26th called for the “unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces”, the alternative being “prompt and utter destruction.” Japanese statemen were by this point wanting peace. They were pursuing peace through the slim chance of the good offices of the Soviet Union whom the Japanese were currently at peace with. As a result officials decided to ignore the Proclamation.
There were other reasons the Declaration had been ignored. “The Japanese had been taught that they had never lost a war, that surrender was dishonourable, and that the only alternative to victory was death.” Another issue was the integrity of the Imperial House of Japan. Would the Allies demand the end of hundreds of generations of divine descent?
For the Japanese things were about to shift from bad to worse. On August 6th, the Americans dropped a new type of bomb on Hiroshima. Just two days later the Soviet Union declared war on Japan. There would be no mediation. The next day a second atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki. Shigenori Togo, Japan’s Foreign Minister, believed that their situation was so unstable that any proposed conditions would be refused by the Allies. Nonetheless, some members of Supreme War Council still insisted on four conditions necessary for surrender. In addition, many questions clouded Japanese officials: What would happen to the Emperor? To Japan? Would the army demobilize or initiate a coup d’etat? Japan was running out of time.
There are two things I love about this book. The first is the dramatic nature in which the book is written. It is very engaging and interesting. Secondly, is the amount of research involved. This is not surprising as it was compiled and written by The Pacific War Research Society which interviewed dozens of actors involved in the surrender of Japan. Accordingly I deem this book worth reading.