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Iguchi, Takeo. Demystifying Pearl Harbor: A New Perspective from Japan.

Iguchi, Takeo. Demystifying Pearl Harbor: A New Perspective from Japan. Translated by David Noble. Tokyo: I-House, 2010.343pp. $60

This carefully researched book painstakingly corrects the diplomatic history surrounding Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. The author is a retired Japanese ambassador who was the young son of the Japanese counselor in Washington, D.C., on 7 December 1941. Unlike too many Japanese writers, Iguchi is no apologist for the sneak attack. Rather he objectively analyzes recently released empirical evidence that reveals the individuals truly responsible for delaying lawful notice to the United States about the coming attack. The fault did not rest with the embassy staff, as portrayed to the Tokyo war crimes tribunal, but with a conspiracy to cover up facts, a conspiracy that is now traceable to high-level officials who deliberately delayed Foreign Ministry telegrams.

Moreover, the Japanese notes delivered to then-secretary of state Cordell Hull shortly after the attack were not declaration-of-war ultimatums as required by international law but watereddown notices about the termination of bilateral negotiations. The unmistakable conclusion from the evidence is that the officials in power wanted to catch the Americans off guard.

Iguchi writes from firsthand experience and with convincing passion about those in Japan who even now do not want to accept responsibility for their country's perfidious actions. He cites authoritatively from official, insider records, not only placing blame where it belongs but also clearing up the record to allow closure, moving to more open and honest U.S.-Japanese relations.

The book provides a detailed time-line context for the foreign policy pursued by Japan throughout 1940-41, when the focus of the Japanese military was on China and the Soviet Union. Iguchi rejects the thesis that American economic sanctions and demands for a complete withdrawal of Japanese forces from China forced Japan into war. Iguchi identifies powerful Japanese strategic thinkers who believed that the only way resource-poor Japan could win a war against the United States and Great Britain was by a quick and devastating surprise attack. Iguchi also documents contrary views held by influential Japanese leaders at the time who tried to halt the momentum for war.

Iguchi does not believe there was an American conspiracy to provoke war with Japan. He also rejects such myths as that Roosevelt knew in advance of the Pearl Harbor attack or that Churchill was responsible, meaning to draw the United States into war against Hitler.

The value of this book is in how candidly and accurately Iguchi documents the historical context for the Pacific War. He explains Japanese motives based on his unique personal experiences, reinforced by formerly classified internal Japanese records. There is no forgiving Japan's cowardly attack on Pearl Harbor, but there is much to admire about a senior Japanese diplomat who courageously does his best to set the record straight.


University of Virginia School of Law

Charlottesville, Virginia

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Author:Nordquist, Myron H.
Publication:Naval War College Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2011
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