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The Emperor's General by James H. Webb

The Emperor's General

by James H. Webb

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Substance: MacArthur and the occupation of Japan, centered around the prosecution of Japanese general Yamashita for massacres in Manila, of which he appeared to be innocent. Intrigue and ego abound. Yamashita's position is similar to Thomas More's: despite doing what is right, if the kIng wants your head that's what happens. Detailed account of the rigging of the trial, the political reasons for it, MacArthur's personal vendetta, and the dilemmas of the junior staff.
Yamashita comes off best of all the characters, even though MacArthur's flaws are probably inseparable from his genius (although that doesn't excuse his illegal and unethical actions).

Yamashita's trial is mirrored by the forced resignation of the Emperor's minister who took the fall for the court, regarding the prosecution of the war.

Webb knows his material thoroughly and gives an insider's view of the Japanese culture and mindset contrasted with the Western viewpoint. He claims that all historical events are accurate, and reveals some that are not common knowledge except to students of the period. He clearly thinks MacArthur is an arrogant, vindictive skunk who could have done a better job before leaving the Philippines in the first place, and at points afterward.

Style: Straightforward and intelligible. Some personal digressions make Webb's own views clear. Narrator reminds me of Nick Gatsby: too self-centered to be truly sympathetic.

p. 111: the politics of surrender.
p. 132: quoting Goethe, "Whenever one is polite in German, one lies."
p. 148: religious differences - shame is not the same as conscience; see p. 254 also.
p. 151: "Never give an order tha cannot be enforced."
p. 167: a scale of atrocities (3 types), see also 169-172
p. 180: Japan has a different style of politics, but there are still manipulators.

p. ( )
  librisissimo | Jan 21, 2011 |
3903. The Emperor's General a Novel by James Webb (read 25 June 2004) I was much impressed by Webb's first two books, Fields of Fire (read 5 Mar 2001) and A Sense of Honor (read 20 Mar 2001) but this is the first I have read by him since then. This tells of General MacArthur when the central character becomes his aide in 1944 and stays with him in the first days of his time in Japan. While one is not sure how much is true, much seems accurate. If you read the Supreme Court opinion in Application of Yamashito, 327 U.S. 1 (1946) and the dissents therein you will have a good background for the book. There is a love story which is soap operay but not too distracting from the interesting parts of the book. I think Webb is a good writer, myself. ( )
  Schmerguls | Nov 5, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553578545, Mass Market Paperback)

Despite popular sentiments that World War II was in fact a good war, there was some disagreement about that immediately following the conflict. After the Marshall Plan and the "democratization" of Japan, conspiracy mongers accused forces in the U.S. government of assisting our former enemies in rebuilding their economic powers at the expense of our national interest. At their worst, these suspicions aided the rise of McCarthyism; at their best, they give us snappy espionage novels such as James Webb's The Emperor's General, which speculates that Douglas MacArthur lost the peace by allowing Japan to regain its sphere of influence in the Pacific Rim.

This hypothesis is presented by the book's protagonist, Jay Marsh, an inexperienced captain serving as one of MacArthur's aides. Throughout the course of the novel, young Marsh suspects that the general is shielding Japan's imperial elite from war-crimes trials being undertaken by various military commissions. He soon sheds his naïveté, becoming both seduced and appalled by the Japanese-U.S. alliance of global hegemony. Webb avoids the Grishamesque hit-and-run action sequences that sacrifice the "reality" of many conspiratorial novels, making Marsh into MacArthur's doppelgänger, a character whose intense love of the East is entangled with a sense of compromised honor. The general's loss of the Philippines is matched with Marsh's betrayal of his Filipina fiancée, propelling all the characters towards their destiny. The fact that the U.S. secured its military objectives by protecting Japan's leaders should come as no surprise to the historically informed, but the all too human motivations that Webb gives to MacArthur's actions ought to keep the reader hooked to the last page. --John M. Anderson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:31 -0400)

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An evocation of ego, greed, and imperial politics in post-World War II Japan follows a young captain involved in a plot between General MacArthur and the Japanese emperor to seize total control.

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