Japan's Imperial Army
Its Rise and Fall, 1853–1945
Edward J. Drea
Society for Military History Distinguished Book Award
Popular impressions of the imperial Japanese army still promote images of suicidal banzai charges and fanatical leaders blindly devoted to their emperor. Edward Drea looks well past those stereotypes to unfold the more complex story of how that army came to power and extended its influence at home and abroad to become one of the world's dominant fighting forces.
“Far exceeds the expectations for ‘reference works’ in the sophistication of its historical argumentation. . . . For anyone considering the historiography of Japan's road to war in the 1930s, Drea’s work will become required reading.”
“An impressive and important piece of scholarship that addresses the first modern U.S. enemy to institutionalize suicide tactics as a mechanism to exhaust the will of the American people and to obtain a less-severe peace. . . . Highly recommended for command and staff students, undergraduate survey courses on modern Japan, and anyone interested in the pathology of militarism and how it can derail national policymaking.”
—Military ReviewSee all reviews...
“This is the perfect meeting of author and subject: Edward J. Drea, the preeminent American authority on the Japanese Imperial Army, provides what is by far the most incisive English-language examination of that force. Drawing upon decades of his own work and recent Japanese scholarship, he dissects the tortured history of an institution that evolved from servant to master of an emerging modern Japan. . . . What Drea delivers is an intricate institutional history of clashing visions embodied by an array of diverse personalities. . . . In short, Drea’s rich book is not just a brilliant piece of military history; it is of enduring value for understanding Japan’s modern history.”
—World War II
“A magisterial inside history of the army. Edward Drea explains in language easily accessible to scholars, students, or general readers, and always maintaining a sure balance between detail and analysis, the army’s institutions, personalities, policies, strategy and tactics, its values in peace and its performance in battle, its relation to the emperor and the public, the education and training of its officers, as well as the conscription system and life in the barracks. . . . Anyone wishing to understand the Japanese army, or simply with an interest in following the entire life course of a nation's army, should read this outstanding (and handsomely produced) book: I have seen nothing to rival it for authority, comprehensiveness, and readability, either in English or Japanese.”
—Journal of Military History
“This publication is meaningful as the first English-language source to analyze [many topics] from a Western viewpoint. Highly recommended.”
“A persuasive, well balanced, and readable history that makes an important contribution to understanding not only prewar and wartime Japanese militarism but also its residues since the war.”
—Akira Iriye, author of Power and Culture: The Japanese-American War, 1941–1945
“A sweeping survey, written in a forceful yet simple style, that will become the standard reference work in English for years to come.”
—Theodore F. Cook, coauthor of Japan at War: An Oral History
“Drea deserves his place as the chronicler and analyst of one of the most feared military forces of modern times.”
—Mark R. Peattie, author of Sunburst: The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power
“An impressive synthesis of the best Japanese and western scholarship on the Imperial Army over the past half century, Drea’s survey, from the army’s controversial origins to its gripping demise, will be indispensable to students of modern militaries and Imperial Japan alike.”
—Michael A. Barnhart, author of Japan Prepares for Total War: The Search for Economic Security, 1919–1941
“Drea’s fluency in Japanese, enabling him to tap original Japanese-language sources to a far greater extent than any other Western writer on the subject, makes this impressive book a unique work of lasting value.”
—Stanley L. Falk, former Chief Historian, U.S. Air Force, and author of Bataan: The March of Death
“Destined to be the standard volume on the history of the Imperial Japanese army for generations of scholars and students to come.”
—Roger Jeans, author of Democracy and Socialism in Republican ChinaSee fewer reviews...
This first comprehensive English-language history of the Japanese army traces its origins, evolution, and impact as an engine of the country's regional and global ambitions and as a catalyst for the militarization of the Japanese homeland from mid-nineteenth-century incursions through the end of World War II. Demonstrating his mastery of Japanese-language sources, Drea explains how the Japanese style of warfare, burnished by samurai legends, shaped the army, narrowed its options, influenced its decisions, and made it the institution that conquered most of Asia. He also tells how the army's intellectual foundations shifted as it reinvented itself to fulfill the changing imperatives of Japanese society-and how the army in turn decisively shaped the nation's political, social, cultural, and strategic course.
Drea recounts how Japan devoted an inordinate amount of its treasury toward modernizing, professionalizing, and training its army—which grew larger, more powerful, and politically more influential with each passing decade. Along the way, it produced an efficient military schooling system, a well-organized active duty and reserve force, a professional officer corps that thought in terms of regional threat, and well-trained soldiers armed with appropriate weapons.
Encompassing doctrine, strategy, weaponry, and civil-military relations, Drea's expert study also captures the dominant personalities who shaped the imperial army, from Yamagata Aritomo, an incisive geopolitical strategist, to Anami Korechika, who exhorted the troops to fight to the death during the final days of World War II. Summing up, Drea also suggests that an army that places itself above its nation's interests is doomed to failure.