TARGET TOKYO: The Story of the Sorge Spy Ring by Gordon W. with Donald M. Goldstein & Katherine V. Dillon Prange

TARGET TOKYO: The Story of the Sorge Spy Ring

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Huge, like the two previous books based on manuscripts left by the late Prof. Prange, At Dawn We Slept and Miracle at Midway--but not nearly of the same interest or caliber. The subject of these nearly 600 pages is the Soviet spy ring operated by Russo-German Richard Sorge in Tokyo from 1933 to 1941--with the object of learning, foremost, if Japan would attack the USSR. Sorge's hearsay warning of the German attack was not heeded; but in October 1941 his firm reassurance--""The Soviet Far East may be considered guaranteed against attack""--was instrumental in the movement of Soviet Far Eastern troops to the Western battlefront. Sorge's feat in insinuating himself into Germany's Tokyo embassy, and then into the confidence of high-placed Japanese, has been regularly described as ""remarkable""--the present authors take due, if crude, note of suspicion of foreigners in ""monolithic, racist Japan""--and when the facts came out in the 1960s, two authoritative books appeared (by Richard Deakin and Chalmers Johnson). The fact that they're out of print makes this the Sorge book by default: one that takes down Sorge's reputation. The authors are conventional anti-Communists who can only write of Sorge and his German and Japanese co-conspirators in cartoon terms. When radioman Clausen falls ""under the spell of Nazi propaganda,"" and recants: ""He still thought in the totalitarian pattern and merely shifted gears with no noticeable grinding from one dictatorship to another."" Because Sorge's Japanese mistress previously had a Communist boyfriend, she could ""listen with approval when Sorge expressed. . . ideas that would have sent another woman scurrying to the nearest police station."" The figure who particularly suffers from this treatment is Sorge's key Japanese collaborator, respected newsman Ozaki, whose posthumous heroicization as a patriot and freedom-fighter (for opposing a totalitarian government) is one of the authors' targets. The achievements of the ring are generally clipped: Sorge's tip-off didn't determine the troop shift westward; the ring was fast disintegrating, from his drunkenness and other derelictions, when the group was uncovered; they certainly weren't working for ""democracy"" or ""world peace,"" they were Communist apparatchiks--and it all goes to show how far they could go. The detailing, as in the earlier books, makes good reading for intrigue-fanciers and historical-origin buffs (how did this or that misapprehension get about). But the book is also narrow and superficial.

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 1984
Publisher: McGraw-Hill