Academic journal article Military Review. It describes the complex challenges of economic reconversion, demobilization, redeployment, foreign policy, and public opinion faced by the United States in defeating a foe committed to fighting to the last man. The American victory over Japan, seemingly assured after the Battle of Midway in June , would rely on two atomic bombs and the belated intervention of Japanese emperor Hirohito. In a remarkably well-research volume, Waldo Heinrichs and Marc Gallicchio draw on a range of primary source material--personal accounts, U.
They begin with early as the balance shifted as American forces moved into unceasing offensive action that would take them to the Japanese homeland by summer Readers are given an up-front view of why the war in the Pacific was considered a special hell unlike any other theater. The authors remind us that Japanese officials also understood that the war had entered another phase after The Japanese military doctrine abandoned its previous waterline defense in favor of mobile defense inland organized around fortified strong points.
The overall objective would be to draw Allied forces into costly and time-consuming operations. Japanese training still emphasized the superiority of the warrior spirit but focused on a strategy of attrition and delay. Japanese officers became less willing to squander the lives of their men in suicidal banzai attacks, although this belief that all Japanese civilians should willingly give their lives for the emperor had become a fundamental principle of Japanese strategy.
But once the fighting was over, the strategic value of Iwo Jima was called into question. This line of defenses included islands like Iwo Jima. Given this information, American military leaders planned an attack on the island that they believed would last no more than a few days. Although Allied forces led by the Americans bombarded Iwo Jima with bombs dropped from the sky and heavy gunfire from ships positioned off the coast of the island, the strategy developed by Japanese General Tadamichi Kuribayashi meant that the forces controlling it suffered little damage and were thus ready to repel the initial attack by the U.
Marines, under the command of Holland M. On February 19, , U. Marines made an amphibious landing on Iwo Jima, and were met immediately with unforeseen challenges.
First and foremost, the beaches of the island were made up steep dunes of soft, gray volcanic ash, which made getting sturdy footing and passage for vehicles difficult. As the Marines struggled forward, the Japanese lied in wait. Within days, some 70, U. Marines landed on Iwo Jima. Although they significantly outnumbered their Japanese enemies on the island by a more than three-to-one margin , many Americans were wounded or killed over the five weeks of fighting, with some estimates suggesting more than 25, casualties, including nearly 7, deaths.
The Japanese, meanwhile, were also suffering major losses, and were running low on supplies — namely, weapons and food.
Just four days into the fighting, U. That image was captured by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the iconic photograph. Battles raged on in the northern part of Iwo Jima for four weeks, with Kuribayashi essentially setting up a garrison in the mountains in that part of the island.
The American forces sustained a number of casualties, but ultimately quelled the attack.
Dozens of Americans were killed during this process. In the end, neither the U. Retribution re-titled from the original ' Nemesis ' for the American market is the companion volume to Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, This is also apparent is the visceral animosity still felt by Japan's Chinese and Korean victims and their descendants, as a result of the depredations they suffered during this period.
The issue is often catapulted into the headlines whenever the subject of the Yasukuni Shrine is raised. Given the enduring legacies left by this bloody and brutal conflict waged across Asia and the Pacific, renewed scholarship on the subject is timely. Japan's Pacific Twilight Like Armageddon , its equally apocalyptically titled predecessor, Retribution is framed in a world of Gotterdaemmerung.
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The books objective, in Hastings' words, 'is to portray a massive and terrible human experience, set within a chronological framework, rather than to revisit the detailed narrative of campaigns that have been described by many authors, and which anyway could not be contained within a single volume' p. Beyond this remit, the core thesis throughout this book is the recurrent theme of 'Nemesis' or 'retributive justice'.
The author contends that the devastation visited on Japan and its people were deserved requital for the pointless and inhumane excesses of the Japanese armed forces in both victory and defeat. Hastings challenges readers to 'judge for themselves, whether the fate which befell Japan in merits [the description of 'retributive justice'], as I believe it does' p.
Yet this is no polemicist sermon. Hastings is at pains throughout not to demonize the enemy 'other' but to render him just as human as their Western foes. The author's conscious objectivity - despite his natural disposition and ultimate conclusions - is a remarkable strength, notably lacking in many other books on this subject with the cardinal exception of Ienaga Saburo's The Pacific War: The book covers all the key events and major controversies of the war including the Rape of Nanjing, Pearl Harbor, the American reconquest of the Philippines, the strategic bombing campaign, Okinawa, and the Manhattan Project.
Attention is also given to topics such as Japanese biological warfare experiments Unit , the Kempetai secret police , strategic dilemmas, and the oral testimony of civilian and militaryparticipants in the conflict - Allied, Japanese, or those of other Asian nationalities. As the author guides us through these topics he clearly and objectively examines the evidence and orthodox arguments, and always offers fresh perspectives. The 'composite' structure of the book, divided first and foremost thematically, then chronologically, is a winning formula, and the comprehensiveness of the volume is quite astounding.
Furthermore, there is a virtually seamless shifting of perspective between the high command, the tactical level, and civilian affairs. In this review essay, first I will offer comment on the 'retribution' thesis, then draw attention to some of the major highlights of this volume - particularly the contributions of Britain, China, and the USSR to Allied victory in , that are often understated elsewhere in the literature.
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The 'Nemesis' Thesis Hastings systematically builds a case for 'retribution', dismissing pleas for mitigation on the part of Japan or Western apologists for its wartime conduct p. He argues that the initiation and institutionalization of barbaric treatment of civilians and POWs, and Japan's fanaticism on the battlefield had perfectly logical consequences.
First, the Allies were provoked into sometimes responding in kind, and second, it removed any moral barriers to the application of maximum and indiscriminate use of force to defeat Japan, for example through firebombing, and ultimately, the atomic bomb. He notes that 'in an imperfect world, it seems unrealistic to expect any combatant in a war will grant adversaries conspicuously better treatment than his own people receive at his hands' p.
In the process he transcends John Dower's War Without Mercy thesis of racially motivated animus - though there is no denying the racist predispositions of many Allied and Japanese soldiers. Rather, according to Hastings, 'Allied hatred of, contempt for, and finally savagery toward their Pacific foes were surely inspired less by racial alienation than by their wartime conduct' p. Rather, a combination of factors, such as the obduracy of the Japanese leadership, cultural miscomprehensions, American domestic politics, and a desire to avoid massive Allied and Japanese casualties in the projected invasion of the home islands, all contributed to the decision to employ the A-Bomb.
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In addition, Hastings identifies a 'technological determinism' and institutional momentum behind it. An impulse to use all the weapons available to finish the war, a desire to see a return on the hugely expensive Manhattan Project investment, and quite simply the failure of anyone in the US system, either the President or high command, to ever reexamine, let alone countermand, the decision once it had been taken, made August 6 and August 9 inevitable.
The above arguments are also reinforced by an examination of the seemingly wanton disregard for their own population evinced by the Japanese leadership.