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

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

Steve Kemper. Mariner, $29.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-358-06474-9

The high stakes of international diplomacy are revealed in this captivating history from journalist Kemper (A Splendid Savage). Appointed U.S. ambassador to Japan in 1932, Joseph Grew spent nearly a decade in a doomed effort to maintain peace between the two nations. Following the invasion of China in 1931, the hard-right tilt of Japanese politics urging military conquest became relentless, Kemper explains, infecting all levels of government and insinuating itself into Emperor Hirohito’s court. Though he never learned to speak Japanese, Grew was popular in Japan, and grasped that neither the moderate, pro-Western politicians with whom he forged close relationships, nor the vast majority of Japanese people, desired the cataclysmic endgame promised by the country’s rabid militarists. His diplomatic efforts were hamstrung, however, by U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull’s “foreordained certainty that the Japanese were incapable of anything except treachery.” Despite the tumult of Japanese politics, which included coup attempts, assassinations, and increasingly repressive domestic laws, Grew refused to give up on the idea that war could be averted, and made a “last-minute appeal” to the Japanese foreign minister just hours before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Expertly marshaled from Grew’s diaries and reports, this is a poignant and profound look at diplomacy in action. (Nov.)