How was it possible,"" the husband-and-wife Harrieses ask about the Imperial Japanese Army, ""for an organization displaying...


SOLDIERS OF THE SUN: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army

How was it possible,"" the husband-and-wife Harrieses ask about the Imperial Japanese Army, ""for an organization displaying the highest of soldierly qualities to posses such a capacity for barbarism?"" In this nicely researched, compelling history of the Imperial Japanese Army from its inception during the Meiji Restoration to its dissolution in 1945, the authors (Sheathing the Sword, 1987, etc.) answer that question well. At the core of the paradox lies the code of bushido, the ancient ethos of the samurai that, according to the authors, was perverted by modernizers of the Japanese military into a philosophy that exalted death and violence and taught contempt for the vanquished. These alterations, the Harrieses says, ""did indeed contribute to war crimes."" The development of the Imperial Japanese Army evidently was also pervasively influenced by the military institutions of Europe (particularly Germany), and, in emulating the armies of Europe, the Japanese distilled much of the best of both the samurai and the European traditions while developing a fighting force that could compete successfully with those of the Great Powers. Once it emerged from international isolation, the authors explain, Japan began to imitate Europe's imperialism as well as its militarism. Detailing Japan's intrigues against China and Russia and its successes in the first Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War, as well as its successful though peripheral involvement in WW I, the Harrieses show how the island nation's warlords developed a hubris that led inexorably to Japan's imperialist adventures on the Asian mainland and war with America. The authors go on to tell the story of the atrocities of the WW II Japanese forces and the collapse of Japan's martial tradition in the wake of defeat, and assess the modest role of the military in postwar Japanese life and policy. A fine history that analyzes the military legacy of the Imperial Japanese Army and assesses moral responsibility for its excesses.

Pub Date: April 1, 1992

ISBN: 0679753036

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992