Our Man in Tokyo: An American Ambassador and the Countdown to Pearl Harbor

Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. Nov. 2022. 352p. ISBN 9780358064749. $29.99. HIST
An at-once depressing and instructive chronicle of Japan’s descent from a democracy with free press and civilian rule (albeit represented by a deified and remote emperor) into a fascist society in which the military’s wishes trumped social and political norms by Kemper (A Splendid Savage: The Restless Life of Frederick Russell Burnham). Joseph Grew was ambassador to Japan for 10 years, until Japan declared war on the U.S. in 1941. Based largely on Grew’s detailed diaries and extensive communications with Cordell Hull’s State Department, President Franklin Roosevelt, and his wide range of influential friends, the book is more in the category of annals. Grew’s intimate knowledge is vital to any study of World War II. His attempts to modify the bloody Japanese invasion of China and the increasingly anti-Western focus of economic relations speaks to both the effects of untrammeled propaganda and the impotence of American diplomacy in the run-up to a global war. Although it may be difficult to follow for those new to the subject, the book presents an important view of the interwar relationship between the Japanese and the Americans.
VERDICT Highly recommended for World War II and diplomatic collections at the undergraduate level and above.
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