Augustine Kobayashi at Massive Black Hole
Books: Japan's Pacific War - Interview with Author Augustine Kobayashi
Mr. Augustine Kobayashi is our featured guest today. We're honored to introduce him and learn more about his WWII book, Japan's Pacific War. History buffs, rejoice!
Please tell us where are you from and what’s your background?
I was originally born in Tokyo but mostly raised in one of the commuting towns just outside the city. I was always interested in world history, but Japan is unfortunately rather backward when it comes to historical studies. So I went to the UK to study history. I studied International History and then Byzantine History as my master's degree.
I love history too. Tell us a little about your book.
My book, titled Japan's Pacific War,presents history of WW2 in Asia from 1941 to 1945 from Japan's perspective. It deals with the origin of the war, briefly explaining what domestic conditions led to political development that eventually produced policies leading to Japan's war with China and then even a dangerous belief that Japan must fight the West. The war is narrated by focusing on some vital campaigns that occurred, which decided the outcome of the war.
Also, I dealt with some little known stories from the war in the Pacific, namely, the hardship of the Japanese merchant marine. This is important, as not only it was a tragedy for civilian sailors who paid the ultimate price for the cause they didn't quite understand but also their suffering epitomizes deficiency in Japan's strategic thinking and war planning.
I also included, among others, the battle for the Philippines in 1945. This is again not a very well known episode of WW2, perhaps because of world wide neglect of Asian history. The Philippines, which lost more than one million people during the war, saw some of the most brutal battles of WW2. The battle for Manila, the capital, has been compared to Stalingrad or Warsaw. The city was flattened completely because of Japan's deliberate tactics to get more people, either soldiers or civilians, killed. The Japanese had this insane hope that more bloodshed would turn US public opinion against war. Such unrealistic thinking was what made the war so bloody.
Sounds very informative. What's your target audience for the book?
I wrote this book for those who are not familiar with the subject or history in general.
History has so many different points of view, and I'm sure you had to do extensive research to write the book. So, why did you choose to write a book with this subject?
Over the years, I have encountered people who know absolutely nothing about the Pacific War, even among my historian friends. How the war in China in the 1930s directly led to the Pacific War, for example. My father had this American friend, who was a sailor during WW2 in the Pacific theatre. Upon discovering that I was a historian, the first thing he asked me was, why Japan attacked America in 1941? In the subsequent conversation, I realized that he genuinely didn't know. He was fighting out of a sense of duty, but without understanding what the war was all about. Too many people who belong to the post-war generations in the US, Europe and even Japan are mostly ignorant about the cause and course of the war in the Pacific. I was guilty of this collective ignorance myself, as I mostly study European, Roman and Byzantine history. My knowledge of WW2 was strongest in the Mediterranean theatre and Germany's war with Russia. Indeed, writing this book was also a discovery process for me too.
You can read the rest of the interview here.