HIROHITO: Behind the Myth by Edward Behr

HIROHITO: Behind the Myth

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A fascinating study of Hirohito's wartime role that, unfortunately, is marred by an excess of fervor. In his eagerness to prove that not only did tire late Emperor Hirohito know more than is generally acknowledged about the conduct of WW II, but that he in fact was an important figure in its management, Behr (Bearings, 1978) at times adopts a prosecutor's stance toward his subject. This is especially true of the cinematographically treated introduction, where Hirohito is portrayed as a master of public relations who bamboozled MacArthur. But, as Behr's own evidence in later chapters shows, the idea of a ""puppet Emperor"" controlled by the military and unable to stop the war was primarily an American creation, although it was enthusiastically adopted by the Japanese. Still, while this study is not ground-breaking, it is more accessible than earlier works, such as David Bergamini's 1971 Japan's Imperial Conspiracy. It is also a more balanced view of Hirohito, despite Behr's penchant for taking every opportunity to advance his case for Hirohito's having successfully covered up the degree of his wartime involvement and responsibility. Behr is particularly successful in picturing a human side of this often remote ""living god"" (e.g., in his recounting of Hirohito's complaint that he was not allowed to eat the potentially fatal, but tasty, meat of the fugu--puffer--fish). Overall, a worthwhile profile of the only Axis leader to remain in power after the war, a feat for which Behrcalls Hirohito ""tire ultimate survivor of all time.

Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 1989
Publisher: Villard/Random House