As I’ve stated many times, there’s long been a blind spot about the Asian Theater of World War II. You can stack the books written about Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan side by side, the former would dwarf the latter. When books do appear about Japan during World War II, they are usually about the front in the Pacific, or, less often, in the Chinese and Burma theaters. A notable exception is Japan At War: An Oral History. However, Osprey Publishing has recently released The Japanese Home Front 1937 – 1945, which aims to help fill that gap.
Chinese history has long been ignored in the West, but a few spotlights do shine out from time to time on certain events, even if only to provide superficial understanding. These usually point to the Opium Wars, the Boxer Rebellion, and, recently, the Sino-Japanese War. However, there is a small window of time in Chinese history that contained multiple smaller wars, which has almost been completely ignored by Western scholars. This brief era is what The Bitter Peace – Conflict in China 1928-37 by Philip S. Jowett illuminates.
It’s often said, “history is written by the victors,” and this only half true. While the narrative of World War II is definitely constructed from the Allied lens, this does not mean that the vanquished were unable to tell their stories. German officers and soldiers pumped out volumes of memoirs during the postwar years, many of which were consumed voraciously by readers in America and Britain. Japanese memoirs were more sparse, at least regarding translations that made it to the West. One notable exception was Masanobu Tsuji’s memoir Japan’s Greatest Victory, Britain’s Worst Defeat.
Japanese Destroyer Captain is the postwar memoir of Tameichi Hara, a Japanese Navy officer who earned the nickname the “Miracle Captain.” He is one of the only Japanese captains to have survived the entire Pacific War from its beginning in 1941 to its end in 1945. Of the 175 destroyers the Imperial Navy possessed during World War II, 129 were sunk.
World War II has been cemented of the national consciousness as a “good war” in the Allied nations – America, Britain, Russia – for decades now. However, the fourth major partner of the Allies – China – has only recently embraced this narrative and until fairly recently, even downplayed its importance. This shift is the crux of Rana Mitter’s new book China Good War. [Read more…] about China’s Good War by Rana Mitter Review
The years of 1931-32 were a turning point in Japanese history, typified by military coups, invasions, and political assassinations. Although this era only gets a few sentences in English language history books, the specific details of three events – the October Incident, the Blood Brotherhood Incident, and the 5-15 Incident – are fascinating in their own right and read like a thriller novel. I’ve taken information from various sources to create a thoroughly researched and detailed account of these events that changed the course of Japan.
I am often asked if the musical references and songs that I include in the Reiko Watanabe/Inspector Aizawa series are real. Well, the answer is ‘yes’ and I have the reciepts to prove it. [Read more…] about Japanese Songs from the 1930s – Music of the Reiko/Aizawa Series
Otto Eckhart’s Ordeal is a historical novel by Nail Edworthy, dealing with the Nazi hunt for the Holy Grail. It answers the question, ‘what if Indiana Jones was told through the Nazis’ point of view?’
1930s Shanghai has long captivated people for its lurid underworld, usually presented in the form of the notorious Green Gang. However, there was a brief period in Old Shanghai where a new batch of gangsters rose to prominence, and their story is told in Paul French’s City of Devils.
China Dawn by Robert L. Duncan is a historical epic novel from 1988, spanning the years of 1931 to 1981, moving through various locations, from Tokyo to Shanghai, to Manchukuo, to Singapore, to Paris.