Writing War: Soldiers Record the Japanese Empire by Aaron William Moore - review by Richard Overy

Richard Overy

Kill, Kill, Kill’

Writing War: Soldiers Record the Japanese Empire


Harvard University Press 378pp £33.95

During the Second World War soldiers kept diaries. Not all soldiers did, and not necessarily all the time, since superior officers often frowned on the practice and tried to regulate it. Japanese soldiers during parade inspections tied their small diaries round their thighs to conceal them from the inspectors. American officers in the South Pacific did not always enforce the order not to write on the front line, since they had much else on their mind. Diaries full of patriotic exhortations printed on each page were even handed out by the military to the rank-and-file, but this did not stop soldiers from filling theirs with ambiguous reflections on the cruel nature of war.

Aaron William Moore has chosen to analyse hundreds of such diaries from the harsh combat environment of the war in Asia and the Pacific, using Japanese, Chinese and American examples. He argues that the evident differences between the cultures and political systems of Japan, China and the United States made

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