Tsuyoshi Hasegawa - Racing the Enemy

In this riveting read Hasegawa walks both experts and novices on the subject through the surrender negotiations that took place during WWII. Even though I know, as you all do, the ending to the story I eagerly turned each page with anticipation of what was going to happen next. It isn't often that I consume a book in just a few days but this is one of those books. I read the whole thing in just two days (due in part, I must confess, to those two days being spent mostly on airplanes and in airports).

I have only two minor complaints with respect to this book. The first is that Hasegawa almost makes it seem as if Japan would have surrendered sooner had they been in communication with the U.S. instead of with the Soviet Union. In the end he doesn't state this, but he probably should have made it clearer earlier on that it was only a small Japanese faction that wanted to end the war earlier and would have done so if they had enough power (they didn't) given the terms that some in the U.S. government were thinking of at the time. For instance

[Sakai's] draft indicated that Konoe was prepared to accept Japan's surrender, provided that the continuity of the imperial house was assured. There was a remarkable similarity between Stimson's draft ultimatum and Sakai's conditions. (p. 123)
Sakai and Stimson weren't discussing these conditions by the way. The peace-seeking Japanese minority were letting the Soviet Union know their feelings--not the U.S. That was unfortunate, however, since there were some peace-seekers in the U.S. government and the Soviet Union wanted the war to go on long enough so that they could enter it and be rewarded with more territory in so doing.
The Japanese, however, were still requesting Moscow's help in ending the war. Stalin exploited this request to prolong the war, but he was keenly aware that Japan's surrender was imminent... [Stalin] must have been consumed by the fear that the war might end before the Soviet Union could join the fray. (p. 128)
My second complaint is, again, a minor one. At times, things seem to get a bit repetitive. Other than those two, insignificant items I really enjoyed this book--not only as a history lesson but for the things that can be learned from this history in particular.

It's a fascinating book that I encourage you to read. I don't want to make this a lengthy review, spoiling more of the details, because you really all should read it.

from the publisher:
With startling revelations, Tsuyoshi Hasegawa rewrites the standard history of the end of World War II in the Pacific. By fully integrating the three key actors in the story--the United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan--Hasegawa for the first time puts the last months of the war into international perspective.

From April 1945, when Stalin broke the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact and Harry Truman assumed the presidency, to the final Soviet military actions against Japan, Hasegawa brings to light the real reasons Japan surrendered. From Washington to Moscow to Tokyo and back again, he shows us a high-stakes diplomatic game as Truman and Stalin sought to outmaneuver each other in forcing Japan's surrender; as Stalin dangled mediation offers to Japan while secretly preparing to fight in the Pacific; as Tokyo peace advocates desperately tried to stave off a war party determined to mount a last-ditch defense; and as the Americans struggled to balance their competing interests of ending the war with Japan and preventing the Soviets from expanding into the Pacific.

Authoritative and engrossing, Racing the Enemy puts the final days of World War II into a whole new light.