Josh Liller's Reviews > Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan

Racing the Enemy by Tsuyoshi Hasegawa
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's review
Mar 12, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: world-war-2, politics, military
Read from February 20 to March 11, 2012

I had not heard of this book until the conclusion was including in a "Taking Sides" book assigned for one of my university classes. I added to my reading list for a research paper on the decision to use the atomic bomb.

Published in 2005, "Racing The Enemy" cites Richard Frank's Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire from 1999 and is in turn cited by Max Hastings' Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45 from 2008. Hasegawa takes a view on the end of the war against Japan contrary to both Frank and Hastings, thinking less of the atomic bombs and more of the Soviet Union joining the war against Japan.

Hasegawa tries hard to argue his thesis and provides a good focus on Soviet-Japanese relations, including Japan's naive (and possibly downright delusion) belief that they could negotiate with the Soviets and how it affected their decisions. But ultimately I'm not convinced, and more importantly neither is Hastings. Of course, Frank is American (and so am I), Hastings is British, and Hasegawa is Japanese so all may be reaching different conclusions from mostly the same evidence because they are seeing it through different cultural lenses.

A bigger criticism I have of the book than its thesis or conclusions is simply that I found it a dry read, especially compared to Frank and Hastings. Admittedly, I may be in part "bombed out" on the topic due to the research for and writing of my research paper that it impaired my reading of this book.

If you haven't read any of the 3 books I mentioned in this review, I think reading them in the order they were published (Frank then Hasegawa then Hastings) might be the best way to mentally digest the arguments being made.

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