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The Good War; New books on World War II examine Japanese American heroes, sea combat and dictators' delusions.
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Nonfiction; World War II; Japanese Americans; Books-titles -- -Multiple review
Author: Reviewed by Richard Overy
Date: Jun 4, 2006
Start Page: T.10
Section: BOOK WORLD

The descriptions of the fighting, much of it faithfully reconstructed from the accounts of survivors, is yet another reminder of how ill-matched the almost unprotected human body is against battlefield armory. One who suffered and survived these horrors was 2nd Lt. Daniel K. Inouye. Fighting against fanatical German resistance in northern Italy just before the Nazi surrender, Inouye led a hillside assault on three German machine-gun posts. Though hit in the stomach, he ran on; he was struck by a German grenade that shattered his right arm, but he still managed to prise his own primed grenade out of his severed fist and destroy the last Nazi machine-gun nest before a bullet to the right leg finally knocked him out. Inouye was lucky to survive. He arrived back in the States with a hook hand, only to be told in a San Francisco barber's shop, "You're a Jap, and we don't cut Jap hair." He went on to become a U.S. senator for Hawaii. His nation made amends. In 2000, President Clinton awarded him the Congressional Medal of Honor. [Robert Asahina] tells this staggering story, and many others, with a welcome degree of detachment and honesty. There is no sermonizing or breast- beating here, just clear facts. Just Americans is a thought- provoking book that says a great deal about the ambiguities of America's democratic legacy and the complex issues of American national identity.

The second assertion is that [Hitler]'s ultimately disastrous decision to attack the Soviet Union really was governed by his desire to defeat Britain by removing the one potential ally it had left in Europe; most German historians regard Hitler's primary motive as his embedded hatred of Jewish-Bolshevism, the sinister conspiratorial force that the Fuhrer hoped to crush by defeating Moscow. Strategic calculation no doubt played a part in Hitler's thinking, but it scarcely explains the "General Plan East," drawn up by the German leadership in 1941 to create a vast new colonial empire in the conquered regions; nor does it explain Hitler's refusal to accept the Wehrmacht's more limited plan, prepared in July 1940, for a quick strike to wound the Red Army and keep the Soviet Union in line while finishing off Britain -- a far more realistic option than the vast gamble Hitler eventually took.

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