Hirohito: Behind the Myth

Edward Behr, Author Villard Books $22.5 (437p) ISBN 978-0-394-58072-2
Along with Hitler and Mussolini, he was one of the ``three most hated men'' of WW II, but Emperor Hirohito of Japan became an internationally respected figure during his 63-year reign, which ended with his death in early 1989. Armed with new evidence, however, Behr ( The Last Emperor ) convincingly argues that Hirohito, far from being an innocent tool of the Japanese military, actually sanctioned military expansionism in the 1930s; did little to reverse a tendency toward battlefield confrontation with the U.S.; was fully informed of preparations for the attack on Pearl Harbor; and, in fact, presided over the war to the end. Describing how the Emperor later extricated himself from responsibility for the wartime deaths of millions, Behr concludes that Hirohito was ``without doubt the ultimate survivor of all time.'' And, suggests the author, he set an example of slippery diplomacy that continues to reverberate: Japanese teachers, according to Behr, continue to relate to students a version of military events that characterizes their country as blameless victims of WW II. Photos. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1989
Release date: 09/01/1989
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