The book is written by a Japanese scholar who was born in the present day Seoul in Korea, moved to Japan as a refugee after the defeat of Japan, studied at Tokyo University, and has obtained a Ph.D. from Harvard, having teaching experience at Harvard, Tsukuba University and University of Southern California. The principal messages coming from the book are that Japan is not properly perceived by many including the Japanese themselves, and that the recent history of Japan needs to be reexamined on the basis of historical facts rather than propagandas or politically manipulated stories. On this basis, he asserts that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was consciously prepared a war with Japan in 1940 and 1941 as evidenced by several documents which had been made available in recent years, that the Allied occupation policy has distorted the sense of nationhood of the Japanese intentionally by means of media and publication control and, therefore,that the Japanese should be free from such manipulations and reestablish their own position in the world.
The author accuses the Tokyo Trial (the International Military Tribunal for the Far East) which was initiated by Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, who directed the Allied occupation forces after the surrender of Japan in 1941, because the trial was not authorized by the international law at that time, the principal crime for the trial, the Crime against Peace, was hastily made up by heads of the Allied nations toward the end of the war without consultation with representatives of the Axis nations. In addition, the suspected crimes committed by officials of the Allied nations were not tried. This trial was, Mera argues, intended for labeling Japan as an aggressor and for leaving the impression that the Allied nations were free from war crimes.
Upon seeing China which used to be a great nation and was subjected to harsh treatments after the Opium War with Britain, the Japanese were worried. They integrated all feudal lords under the Emperor in 1868 through the Meiji Restoration, and started the modernization processes in order to defend the country from aggression from abroad. At that time, most Asian and African people were under the colonial rule by Western Powers. Thus, the government of Japan proposed the principle of“non-racial discrimination” at the start of the League of Nations in 1919. Though a majority of participating nations supported the proposal, it was turned down by the chair, President Wilson of the U.S., claiming such an important resolution required unanimity. Nonetheless, Japanese politicians maintained sympathy to oppressed people in Asia. Japan attempted to promote their independence and cooperation under the name of the Asian Co-prosperity Sphere during the Pacific War.
The mainstream history attributes the cause of the Pacific War to the “surprise attack” by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. However, the author argues that since then various new information became available due to the following developments: (1) release of secret documents held by Soviet Union after its collapse in 1991, (2) the Freedom of Information Act of the U.S. in 1966, (3) decoding by the U.S. government of secret communications between Soviet agents in the U.S. and Moscow during the 1930’s and 1940’s, and (4) declassification of secret documents by the U.S. government in the 1990s. The author presents in Chapter 6 five actions which FDR took in preparation for a war with Japan in 1940 and 1941. First, FDR started a drastic expansion of warms production in secrecy by obtaining collaboration from industrial leaders in early 1940. Second, President Roosevelt divided the American Navy in 1941 into two by establishing an independent and strengthened Pacific Fleet in addition to the traditional Atlantic Fleet. Then, he had Japanese language schools established in secrecy at Harvard and Berkeley in 1941. In addition, he provided to Chiang Kai-shek of China generous loans totally $125 million in 1940. Furthermore, FDR allowed American pilots and military aircrafts sent to China for fighting with the Japanese military. They were called “Flying Tigers.”To avoid formal participation in the Asian war, those American pilots were pretended to be“volunteers.” In fact, the Flying Tigers were given approval to bomb Japanese industrial cities on July 23, 1941, five months prior to the Pearl Harbor attack.
The author asserts that FDR’s last provocation to Japan was the Hull Note that demanded Japan to total withdrawal from China and the French Indochina including Manchuria on November 26, 1941.
Turning to the post-war situation, the Allied occupation policy on Japan was aimed at weakening Japan to the extent that she would never dream of attacking the U.S. in the future. For this purpose, a number of actions were taken by the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Allied Occupation Forces. In addition to the Tokyo Trial which was one of the policy measures,they abolished military totally, demanded rewriting of the Constitution, undertook complete control of media, communications and publications, and changed the education system. Undesirable books were expelled so that the traditional Japanese way of thinking would be replaced by a Western way. In addition, the Japanese people were taught that they committed a serious crime of aggression over the neighboring and other Asian countries. These policy measures have been surprising successful in altering the attitude of the Japanese which is still maintained.
The author concludes that the historical evidence indicates that Japan did not colonize neighboring countries, and the Pacific War was rather imposed by the U.S. rather than Japan’s aggression. The verdicts of the Tokyo Trail need not be respected as the Trail itself was arbitrary. Instead, Japan had helped Asian and African people to become independent by fighting with Western Powers even though Japan herself was defeated. Thus, the Japanese people should be proud of their past and behave without any sense of guilt.