Charles Wheeler

After The Bomb

American Shogun: MacArthur, Hirohito and the American Duel with Japan

By

John Murray 480pp £25 order from our bookshop

According to the author, American Shogun is an attempt to weave the lives of two leaders, General Douglas MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito of Japan, into a single narrative ‘told from both sides’. Readers, he says, should judge whether he has succeeded. It was never likely to be an easy assignment. MacArthur left behind him a long trail of heavy footprints and Robert Harvey’s book is primarily a cradle-to-grave biography of America’s most controversial soldier, covering his many heroic campaigns, his clashes with Roosevelt and Truman, and his remarkably enlightened treatment of the Japanese as supreme commander of the occupation. What makes the narrative unbalanced is the impossibility of giving anything like equal exposure to the self-effacing, tentative Hirohito, who – in this account at least – seems to have tiptoed through life in a state of bemusement, habitually expressing his wishes in bursts of ambiguous verse. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,
    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,
    • RT : A magnificent demolition job on this "acid laced tirade...unpleasantly self-obsessed...self pitying polemic...book… ,
    • 'Seventy years on, the time we have left to gather such first-hand testimony is running out.' John Keay on the sig… ,
    • The author 'seethes with contemptuous indignation at the shiny junk that an unregulated construction industry dumps… ,
    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,