War Without Mercy Book Review
The book “War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War” by John W. Dower begins by explaining the racism, prejudice, and bias deepened the war.
Part one of the consist of three chapters and speaks upon the matter of race war and WWII generally. He speaks of how the two countries, Japan and America, has common hatred for each other. Begins to speak about how race plays a piece in war and allows for a general idea of how it played a role in WWII. It begins to explain WWII and its significance in the globe as well as the changes it brought. Dower explains that “control of territory, markets, natural resources, and other peoples always lay close to the heart of prewar (Page 4)” and were at stake in WWII as with any war. Part one leads into the fact that WWII, “exposed raw prejudices and was fueled by racial pride, arrogance, and rage on many sides (Page 5).” This part explains further that racism and prejudice that was exposed during WWII is still active and is still strong in many mindsets today. Part one also took the whole second chapter to speak on war crimes that occurred throughout the war. In this second chapter it is explained that war crimes were perceived differently towards the Japanese compared to the Germans and this was, ‘in large part racial (Page 34).” This was clear because German crimes were described as, “‘Nazi’ crimes rather than behavior rooted in German culture or personality structure (Page 34).” Whereas for Japanese war crimes it was brought down to their race as well as in their nature to act violently. It briefly generalized the topics that led to the prejudice and racism in the war as, “historical forgetfulness, selective reporting, centralized propaganda, and a truly savage war, atrocities and war crimes played a major role in the propagation of racial and cultural stereotypes (Page 73).” This is a brief explanation to what is coming in the following parts where it gets more in detail.
Part two consist of four chapters and speaks upon how westerners/Americans viewed the Japanese. It also highlights their propaganda throughout the war which fueled their racism and explains how it contributed to the war. Part two dug deep into the propaganda and went further to give an example which was that magazines, “frequently referring to ‘the jap’ rather than ‘japs,’ thereby denying the enemy even the merest semblance of pluralism (Page 79).” The media presented out right racism towards the Japanese as well as high ranking officials which helped to instill a racist mindset in many Americans. The hatred was normalized and encouraged to make sure America was supported in the war. The racism was taken further when, “blood-will-tell racism was encoded in variety of formulaic images and expressions (Page 80).” By depicting that the Japnese where bad because it was in their blood to be so, it gave a sense of generalization towards them. By creating this generalized environment Americans learned to have hate for all Japanese since it was told that all were a certain way. But Part two also dives into the matter of why the Americans held hatred towards the Japanese which extended past war. Americans racist outlook, “against Japanese coincided with a deeper white supremacist outlook (Page 146).” Part two explains that white Americans saw themselves as superior to all and wanted to make sure to uphold this ideology. But despite, “such differences, however, the end result of racial thinking on both sides were virtually identical-being hierarchy, arrogance, viciousness, atrocity, and death (Page 180).” The encouragement of propaganda, racism, the practice to keep white supremacy alive upheld their racism and drive for the Americans in the war.
Part three consisted of three chapters and presented how the Japanese viewed the westerner/Americans. It also speaks about their propaganda and how their biases contributed to the war. In the beginning of the part Dower explains that “the Japenesse referred to themselves as the leading race (shidō minzocu) of the world (Page 203).” This ideology is what led into many other factors of their hatred. But during the war it also led into the propaganda used to influence those mindsets of the Japanese. To also instill the ideas from a young age over, “two million copies of Cardinal Principle of the National Polity were published and the text was required reading in the schools (Page 228).” This text presented the idea of purification which, “was understood to mean (1) expunging foreign influences, (2) living austerely, and (3) fighting and, if need be, dying for the emperor (Page 228).” This idea of purification was a goal of the Japanese and now every student alike would know of it. This led to the description of Anglo-Americans, “as demons (oui), devils (kichiku), fiends (akki and akuma), and monsters (kaibutsu) (Page 244).” But in the end the goal of the Japanese was to bring Asia under one body which was shown in a “report entailed ‘Stages in the Enlargement of the Sphere of East Asia Cooperative body’ (Page 273)” which outlined the stages the countries would join. Through all part 3 explained the complicate place of Japan and how they went about the war as well as their propaganda and stereotypes.
Part four is the epilogue but hold one-chapter named “From War to Peace” which provides for insight about the end of the war. The one-chapter part speaks on how the war ends as well as how racism remained prominent even after the war. The part also speaks about, “psychological factors which made ending wars difficult- pride on all sides, desperation and mental paralysis on the part of the losers, the winners’ drive for revenge and unequivocal victory- were now wedded to unprecedented forces of destruction (Page 294).” The brutality seen at the end of the war was eye opening and was so viscous due to the subhuman vision of the other side. At the end both sides lose many but, “Japan lay in ruins; but even amidst a shattered landscape, racial pride and determination held strong (Page 301)” The part speaks about how the realization of the stereotypes were also wrong on both sides as well as the propaganda. The part also speaks about the “transition from a merciless racist war to an amicable postwar relationship” which was, “facilitated by the fact that the same stereotypes that fed superpatriotism and outright hate were adaptable to cooperation (Page 302).” The part wraps the book and points that, “World War Two in Asia has become central to our understanding not only of the past, but of the present as well (Page 317).” Overall, part four wraps up not only the book but also WWII along with how the racist viewpoints were shifted to help the countries as well as remained prevalent.
Throughout the book the author, John W. Dower presents the argument that both sides instilled propaganda that effected the perspective in the war and created more resentment as well as bias towards the other side which fueled the war. Essentially how much the war was impacted by race. Without the idea of race from both sides the countries wouldn’t have been as harsh nor would have had the morale to keep going. Through it all Dower argues that the bias and propaganda were incorrect but used as a tool to help instill morale for the war and create a more brutality throughout.
Race played a major part in the war and Dower proved this by explaining through the stereotypes created as well as propaganda created and its influence on the mindsets of citizens. Everyone was out right racist towards the other and the war exposed these racist mindsets as stated in part one. At the end Dower explains that both sides thought they were superior and because of this they felt the other was inferior. But this racist superior outlook fuels morale even after both sides knew Japan would lose. On the propaganda side the ads presented both the Western view and the Japenesse viewpoint. The western aids depicted the Japenesse as gorillas and more which was supposed to prove that they were vicious and brutal which in turn made the citizens think they needed to be taken down. The Japanese ads pointed out that Americans were demons and painted them as such to reflect the true vision of the Americans. However, stereotypes and propaganda on both sides were wrong and “the Americans were not demons, as the Japanese discovered when they were not raped, tortured, and murdered as wartime propaganda and rumors had forecasted (Page 301).” Which was also true on both sides when the Americans learned the truth. However, regardless at the end of the war Japan laid in ruins as stated before and the death toll was high. Dower explains that many innocent lives were taken as well as brutally killed on both sides.
To me I saw the book was immensely powerful and important on the information spoken of and feel a lot of people need to read it. The text conveys a message that many might never know or hear about through their lifetime. However, I felt the text was a little repetitive in its speech which made it a little hard to sit through. Overall, the book offered great insight to the mindset of the competitors however, I feel it lacked a little organization in terms of details. The structure was well put by breaking up the two perspectives and ending with an explanation as why World War II was important in Asia. It also importantly stated why race played such a big role in war during the time.