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The Rising Sun: The Decline & Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-45
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The Rising Sun: The Decline & Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-45

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  3,480 Ratings  ·  186 Reviews
This Pulitzer Prize–winning history of World War II chronicles the dramatic rise and fall of the Japanese empire, from the invasion of Manchuria and China to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Told from the Japanese perspective, The Rising Sun is, in the author’s words, “a factual saga of people caught up in the flood of the most overwhelming war of mankind, tol ...more
Paperback, 976 pages
Published May 27th 2003 by Modern Library (first published 1970)
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Matt Davis Yes, but in an overview kind of way. If you're looking for the detailed strategies of each campaign along with an in-depth study of the critical…moreYes, but in an overview kind of way. If you're looking for the detailed strategies of each campaign along with an in-depth study of the critical battles, this hits at about 80%. There is a one-volume "War in the Pacific" history that is more in-depth on the campaigns, but if you're searching for a comprehensive study of the inner workings of the Imperial Japanese government along with a fantastic set of insights into the Imperial Japanese psyche and decision-making process, this is the book for you. It is a fantastic read. (less)

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May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
By my last count, there were one gazillion books on World War II, with more coming out every week. And it will never stop. World War II will continue to be refought between the covers – and on Kindles – long after human memory of the event is gone. It will be told for as long as there are people to tell stories.

The question, then, is which of those books to read? You can spend your entire life reading World War II books and not even scratch the surface. Besides, there are other things to do in
Jun 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book explores Japan’s involvement in World War II. It focuses upon the Pacific theater and upon battles, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and finally it explains in detail why it took so long for the Japanese to surrender. All related to the Japanese involvement is covered in detail. It is not hard to follow because it written in a narrative voice projecting the views thoughts and words of those who fought, both Americans and Japanese. What is difficult is the slaughter. Slaughter on b ...more
Erik Graff
Mar 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans & Japanese
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
Looking for a relatively light read I picked this off the shelves where it had been sitting for years. Having read a couple of his other books, I was pretty sure that Toland would be interesting.

Indeed, he was--even more interesting than I had expected, neither expecting that this book would be so sympathetic to the Japanese perspective nor that Toland's wife was Japanese. No expert, but certainly not unread about the war in the Pacific, I was rather blown away by the presentation, the other boo
Jul 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
With a Nobel prize winning book, John Toland accomplishes telling the Japanese side of WWII.

The 1930’s were an interesting time in Asia. Japan had an exploding population and no natural resources. They also had a very dangerous enemy in Communist Soviet Union threatening her. Japan’s solution laid in Northern China’s Manchuria. They occupied Manchuria easily because China was too weak to defend it. Japanese business moved in and Japanese populated it. Manchuria provided a number of benefits to
Winner of the 1971 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, this book covers the War in the Pacific from a Japanese perspective. Extensive, well researched and readable, covering the timeframe from the invasion of Manchuria and China to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After the Japanese invasion in Manchuria, the book starts of with the efforts of the American ambassador and the Foreign Minister of Japan to try to prevent war due to the boycot that the Western powers have established
Aug 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: generals, admirals, emperors, diplomats, war criminals
This is the third big book on the Pacific War I have read recently. Ian Toll's first two books (of a planned trilogy), Pacific Crucible and The Conquering Tide, were a magnificent historical account of the war from both sides. So given that this book covers much the same ground, though it was written much earlier, I will do a lot of comparing with Toll's books, though I think Toland's book is equally good and you will not find it at all repetitive to read both authors.

As thick as this book is, i
Bart Thanhauser
Mar 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
I took far too many notes on this book trying to remember the events and people that dot these pages. But what resounds more than these pages of notes, is my belief that Tolland's greatest success is in what he didn't do: Tolland avoided the Cold War lens and the Great Man theory. In avoiding these pit falls, he has not only written a fascinating, highly readable book (especially considering it's length), but he has set a standard by which I think all history books should be held.

The Cold War le
Mikey B.
Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, world-war-ii
An epic account of the Japanese war. Toland tells the story from many different perspectives – from the Emperor and his aides to the lowly soldier trapped in Guadalcanal. It is all here – the prelude to Pearl Harbour to the finale of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Many aspects are of interest – the Japanese were continually obsessed with striking the fatal knock-out blow. At Pearl Harbour they believed they had accomplished that. They tried again at Midway, Tarawa (to be held for one th
Ahmed Chowdhry
Oct 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is one of the best books on Pacific War especially from a Japanese point of view that I have read. A detailed description of the Japanese aggression (in short form) and collapse (in long form) in World War Ii, told from the perspective of "inside the Japanese governmental and military command structures. I will not forget the build up to the Pearl Harbor attack and the strategy that was employed. The Japanese high command, both the Army as well as the Navy knew that they were waking up a sl ...more
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love John Toland. He may be one of the most prolific historians during my lifetime. Possibly a precursor to the popular historians such as McCullough or Ambrose. I read his well received, but not academically praised biography of Hitler, and the controversial Day of Infamy and I thought that those books were both well done and convincing; however, I have shied away from The Rising Sun, more from its intimidating length than its content. It is immense - running nearly a thousand pages with ampl ...more
Christopher Saunders
Aug 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Mammoth history of Japan's involvement in the Second World War. Toland seeks to emulate the sweep, if not the editorial tone of Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, mixing high-level cabinet deliberations and diplomacy with military strategy and the on-the-ground experience of Japanese soldiers and sailors. Toland's portrait shows a Japanese leadership eager to exploit China but agonizing over their decision to attack America and Britain, the division among Japan's military and political l ...more
Jun 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Grumpus by: Arminius
Shelves: audiobook, history
The definitive source regarding the view of WWII from the Japanese perspective. An amazing amount of insight and information. Cannot recommend highly enough for those interested in WWII.
David Eppenstein
I generally avoid histories of WWII. I enjoy history immensely but between Hollywood, the History Channel, and the vast array of fictions and histories this war has been done to death. I would guess the reason for this is that it is still in our living memories, it was the last war with a clear line between good and evil, and because it was readily captured by contemporary visual media and preserved for us to see everyday. Having said that I still occasionally pick-up a WWII history if it has so ...more
Jun 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: military
I found this to be two books in one. The first half covers the diplomatic, military, and economic reasons that led to World War II. It does so by weaving accounts of Japanese officers and government officials with the historical record all while appearing to avoid the narrative fallacy. The second half of this book covers the war in the Pacific. Unfortunately, it does so at a more tactical level filled with anecdotes and human interest stories as opposed to the macro level approach that made the ...more
Dave Hoff
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Old, reread after O'Reily's book, Toland has more from the Japanese side. Can see O'Reily used it as a reference. Especially the Russian-Manchuria part at end of WW2. Good history book, required reading for this generation.
Jun 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: military
This book is huge, and I'm thankful to have found a manageable, one volume paperback, looking something like a very thick novel, but very easy to carry around. No one will deny that there's an enormous amount of information here detailing every major battle of the Pacific War from Pearl Harbor to the end and then some, but its also important to note how that information is organized.

The book finds its beginning with the 1936 coup attempt in Japan and then moves quickly into the lead up to Pearl
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, history, wwii
Very informative and educational. I would've liked more information on the trials of Japanese war criminals, but I'll have to find something else for that.

This account was written without bias showing all the ugliness of Imperial Japanese conquests, but also describing the often unknown internal struggle between the ultranationalist/militarists and the many who sued for peace from the beginning until the end. Even until the surrender factions within the military attempted to thwart plans for pe
Antonio Nunez
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This exceptional, Pulitzer prize-winning book tells the story of the Japanese empire from the takeover by militarists among assassinations in early 1936 to the unprecedented visit by emperor Hirohito to Supreme Commander MacArthur in September 1945. In between it is a story of hubris in which a strong and vibrant people allow faulty leaders to guide them from a dominant role in the far East (in which they held Manchuria, Korea and other territories like the Caroline, the Marshall, the Palau or t ...more
D. Wayne
Jul 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Wow, Japan had logical reasons for attacking us. Who knew? Japan viewed its expansion in Asia as equivalent to the U.S. continental expansion and power grab in the western hemisphere.

Why would the U.S. stop another with a near identical view of national destiny. Japan adopted All-American values like crushing "lesser" people, gobbling resources for exploitation, and providing economic opportunity for a burgeoning population at home. All this was conducted under a parliamentary democracy determin
Adam Nelson
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent narrative history of Japan's experience in World War II, examining the issues and circumstances leading to Japan's involvement, strategic battles and encounters throughout, and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I must confess that I tapped out at various points in my reading of this book, but that doesn't mean that it didn't have tremendous value. Toland offers writing here that ought to please all readers of history, whether it be to gain factual or strategic knowledge or to get ...more
Sep 30, 2016 rated it liked it
This is quite a long book, and covers an overview of the Japanese involvement in World War II. It goes into quite a bit of minute detail about the "war is hell" parts of things, and a lot of the politics - which was quite interesting - but in general I still feel it does not paint the full picture. I think very little mention was made of the numerous war crimes committed by the Japanese - the book touches on it in the description of the Bataan Death March, but that seemed like just another incid ...more
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The inspiration to read this book came from reading Eri Hotta's Japan 1941. The confused, leaderless Japanese government that led the nation from one blunder to the next almost tripped and fell into conflict with the largest industrial power in the world; I wanted a broader view of how something like this could be possible.

This book does not disappoint: it begins with the 2/26 incident, when hardline Army officers attempted to overthrow the government, and traces the subsequent years of slow shi
Written from the viewpoint of the Japanese, the book explains the Japanese thought process leading to war with the US, Britain, and the Netherlands and finishes at the US victory at Guadalcanal. John Toland uses historical interviews of Japanese Generals and politicians for this story, those that survived the war that is. I learned quite a bit from this book. I did not realize how divided the Japanese were about going to war, nor did I fully understand the Japanese political undercurrents of the ...more
Oct 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
It was enjoyable. It was nice to see things from the Japanese perspective. If you can follow the logic, you can see one of the huge problems of nationalism. You can also see repeated thinking, where the Japanese Navy kept thinking in terms of the 1904 Russo-Japanese War, and kept looking for THE decisive battle, rather than trying to create a defensible perimeter. There isn't too much focus on Japanese atrocities, that is well covered in a great deal of the literature, neither is it glossed over ...more
Paul Kelly
Nov 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant, excellently written book. If I'd read this, I probably wouldn't have bothered going back to have a look at many of the others that I read while in search of a book like this (Though I'm glad I did). The book reads like a novel, and is just as enthralling. However, it doesn't have much to say about the darker aspects of the Japanese War Effort, and definitely takes a more pro - Japanese position on many of the events leading up to the war. Still, despite this an excellent read, thoug ...more
David B
Oct 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
John Toland recounts the history of the Pacific War from the years leading to the attack on Pearl Harbor until Japan’s surrender to the Allies in magnificent detail. His copious research and numerous interviews with individuals ranging from the lowly foot soldier to the highest levels of military and civilian authority results in a narrative history with true epic sweep. Toland has a novelist's eye that recreates events in riveting fashion and an analytical mind that explains strategy and motiva ...more
Sep 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, military
I'm really torn judging this book. On one hand it is extremely well sourced and I was amazed by the variety of information and dialogues here. It was especially worthwhile to read about the road to war between Japan and USA and the last days before Japan's surrender. On the other hand, some of the personal stories were boring for me and kept me from following the big picture, in which I was interested. Still- a fantastic read.
Jul 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
While perhaps too detailed for some and too American-oriented for others, Toland's study has stood the test of time. It - in my view anyway - is truly balanced and incredibly detailed. It's insights are valid, it's judgements insightful. Not a quick, nor simple, read but certainly a worthy use of your time.
Lee Scoresby
May 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful story of the Pacific side of World War II. Toland tells a story from the point of view of officers, generals, and common soldiers on both sides.
John Abele
Jul 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Much information, Toland tends to white wash Japanese war crimes.
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Best three NF books on WWII? 1 3 Oct 27, 2017 10:37AM  
Military mumbo jumbo 2 32 Nov 15, 2011 11:24AM  
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  • Japanese Destroyer Captain: Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Midway - The Great Naval Battles As Seen Through Japanese Eyes
  • Midway: the Battle That Doomed Japan
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  • Wandering Through Winter: A Naturalist's Record of a 20,000-Mile Journey Through the North American Winter
  • The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture
  • Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Extermination, 1939-1945
John Willard Toland (June 29, 1912 in La Crosse, Wisconsin - January 4, 2004 in Danbury, Connecticut) was an American author and historian. He is best known for his biography of Adolf Hitler.[1]

Toland tried to write history as a straightforward narrative, with minimal analysis or judgment. This method may have stemmed from his original goal of becoming a playwright. In the summers between his coll
“The main barrier between East and West today is that the white man is not willing to give up his superiority and the colored man is no longer willing to endure his inferiority.… The white man is a century behind the colored man. The white man is still thinking in terms of colonies and colonial government. The colored man knows that colonies and colonial-mindedness are anachronisms. The colonial way of life is over, whether the white man knows it or not, and all that remains is to kick off the shell of the chrysalis. The man of Asia today is not a colonial and he has made up his mind he will never be a colonial again.” 1 likes
“Lieutenant Moore and his two companions were trying to give chase. They found to their amazement that the Zeros were faster and more maneuverable, climbing at an astounding rate. They had been assured there was no such thing as a good Japanese fighter plane, although exact data on these Zeros had been sent to the War Department by the brilliant and unorthodox Colonel Claire Chennault in the fall of 1940. The chief of the Flying Tigers had also elaborated in detail on ways whereby the heavier P-40 should be able to shoot down the faster Zero, but this information, which could have saved the lives of bewildered American pilots dying that moment, had been filed away. Chennault was too much of a maverick to be taken seriously by his superiors.” 0 likes
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