Book Report (War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War)

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Maria Lendor
Book Report (War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War)

Throughout the course of history it is apparent that racism is present in most societies. During times of war people of a certain race may choose to segregate themselves in order to become the leading power in their society. In his book, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War published in New York by Pantheon books and copyrighted in 1986, John W. Dower presents arguments for both the United States and Japan which constitute similarities in the belief of a superior race as well as illustrates contradictions on how each side viewed the war. The book begins with “Part I: Enemies” which is made up of the first 3 chapters. Part I starts off with a summary of the idea of a race war because of the race issues that erupted everywhere in World War II. Dower mentions that “apart from the genocide of the Jews, racism remains one of the great neglected subjects of World War Two.”(page 4) Dower swiftly narrows focus to just the American and Japanese race conflicts. The first chapter briefly discusses the stereotypes each country had for one another, like the “subhuman” interpretation that western allies had towards the Japanese and the “demons and monsters” interpretation the Japanese had towards Americans. (pages 9-10) Dower also briefly touches on the similarities of both the Japanese and American racism, like when he suggests that “The propagandistic deception often lies, not in the false claims of the enemy atrocities, but in the pious depiction of such behavior as peculiar to the other side.” (page 12) Chapter 2 looks into the 7 documentaries by Frank Capra titled Why We Fight. These films were very controversial in America though originally intended for orientating new soldiers. Know Your Enemy-Japan was the most controversial. What was interesting about this film is that it was not released until after 3 years because the government did not like the way the Japanese were portrayed. They did not want the public to see Japanese as “free thinking” because it would evoke “too much sympathy for the Jap people.”(page19) The government wanted to paint the picture to the American people that the Japanese acted out of obedience. After the Japanese got hold of these films they decided to look at western and American History in the same way that Americans were looking at the Japanese history: “as a chronicle of destructive values, exploitative practices, and brutal wars.” (Page 24) Dower argues that both the Japanese and the Americans painted their enemy as the complete opposite of themselves in order promote propaganda. In chapter 3, the last chapter of Part I, John Dower answers the question of why the Japanese were seen as worst than the Germans. He reflects on the fact that the Americans only saw the Japanese as the “Japs” whereas they saw the Germans as either “Nazi or German,” meaning they believed there were still some good Germans. Dower brings up the war bombings and the 2 sided views the American people had of it. Pearl Harbor was seen as “the arch symbol of the stab in the back” to the U.S. by the Japanese. Dower suggests that because there was a direct attack of the American people by the Japanese that that is what led to the different feelings towards them and the Germans. Dower shines light on how the Americans did not think badly of themselves though they did send bombs just like the Japanese did in Pearl Harbor, to American’s this was a way to halt the spread of communism and for the Japanese this was an attempt to move towards Nationalism and Independence. Part II: The War in the Western Eyes consists of chapters 4-7. In this part the author restates the dehumanization of the Japanese. He argues that the American propaganda directly subjected the Japanese people and made them subhuman and almost animal like. Dower gives many examples of this dehumanization taking place, like when the Marines would tell sailors when they...
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