“Embracing Defeat,” the title of John Dower’s landmark study of how Japan reformed and rebuilt during the U.S. Occupation, raises an interesting question: What about remorse and responsibility? It’s a timely question as 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the end of a war that continues to divide East Asia.
Dower’s remarkable and penetrating analysis of the Occupation makes great use of documentary evidence. He references best-selling postwar English conversation books, which explained how Japanese should meet and greet their conquerors: “Thank you! Thank you, awfully! How do you do?” Dower reveals heartfelt and bitter letters written to newspapers, postwar pop songs made in a time of desperation, and even takes us inside the cabaret shows where girls posed half-naked to recreate famous Western artworks, and be admired by American servicemen.