A Summer of War and its Aftermath: Over the summer, I read through four very thick, Pulitzer Prize-winning books regarding World War II, the reasons for it, and the impacts from it. There were a lot of causes for the war, a lot more than I suspected, and these varied tremendously depending on the country. Sadly, one thing that is also clear is World War II had so many threads of accidental causes woven through it.
The hates that came into full flower and wrought such terrible evils upon vast numbers of people only blossomed to full flower because critical choices weren’t made at critical times. Oppose an action here instead of here – no war. Clarify an offer of peace with just a few different words, maybe draw a picture instead of relying on translated text – no war. Enforce the rule of law instead of being bought off – no war. Burn away political pride and ego to step back from brink – no war. Use one telegraph service instead of another – no war. It was amazing to see how that pattern repeated.
So, in that light, I would recommend all four of these books to you.
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – A stunning account directly from the personal notes, diaries, and records of those in the Third Reich. Anyone with a desire to know the real story and see a clear picture of Germany’s leadership in World War II needs to read this cover to cover.
The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire – A deep and thoughtful account of the steps and missteps which led Japan into a war it could not win and could not quit. I was stunned to read how close Japan came to NOT surrendering after Nagasaki! This is a very insightful piece of literature.
Embracing Defeat: Japan in the wake of WW II – After reading The Rising Sun, I actually wanted more. I wanted to see how the Japanese Empire became the Japan we know (and many of us love) today. While the reading sometimes makes it seem like over 20 hours of bulleted lists, I think the book accomplishes its goal very well.
Oh, Jerusalem – One of the outcomes of World War II was the creation of the Jewish state. So many of the problems we see in the Middle East arise from the actions taken directly after the war, and again, one is struck by the various steps and missteps of the players. The book will leave you unsatisfied, and I think that in many different ways, such is the point of it. You see the new country reach a point of tenuous stability, and there it ends. That matches well with the situation we see in the news today, doesn’t it?