Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan (2016)

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Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard, Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016, 284 pp. $18.00

Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard continue to mesmerize their reading audience with a new title in the ever-popular “killing series.” Unlike the other killing books which focused on specific individuals, O’Reilly and Dugard focus on a critical juncture in American history, a point where indecisive leadership or a policy of appeasement would have not only changed the face of America; it would have charted a new and tragic course in the history of the world.

Killing the Rising Sun explores the roles of a handful of American icons who faced a ruthless enemy, namely, the Imperial Japanese Army. Most Americans, it seems, simply do not know this story. They certainly do not understand the vicious nature of the enemy and the threat that the empire of Japan posed and the horrible consequences of defeat. Thankfully, under the leadership of FDR and Truman, America prevailed and effectively ended a 2,500-year-old dynasty.

A few features of this book are worth noting. First, the authors tell a fascinating story which is rooted in historical reality. One of the reasons that modern-day students recoil at the prospect of studying history is that many teachers and books are just plain boring. This is where O’Reilly and Dugard shine the brightest. They have an uncanny ability of weaving in the pertinent historical detail and simultaneously keeping the attention of readers. This feature runs through the other killing books and has proven to be a mighty boon for readers who might otherwise turn away from reading about history.

Second, the authors paint clear portraits of the key players during this period of history. They show the steadfastness of FDR, the bold resolve of Truman, and the courage of General MacArthur. But they also show the evil nature of the Japanese leader, Hirohito. Here is a man who portrayed himself as a “god-man” to the Japanese people, and in the final analysis, led them to the point of no return, which resulted in a decisive and historical defeat.

Finally, the authors help readers understand the importance of freedom; the priceless reality that Americans enjoy. We live in a country where the gift of freedom is taken for granted and even scoffed at by some social progressives. Killing the Rising Sun is a stark reminder of the sacrifice, bravery, and devotion of the American soldier. While much of the attention is focused on Truman and MacArthur, the real hero is the valiant American military man. Many of these brave soldiers paid the ultimate price of death. Some of them survived and bore the pain, either physically or emotionally which is associated with war. Now each American is the beneficiary of their devoted service. May we cherish the freedom we enjoy as American citizens and pay homage to those who went before us. They killed the rising sun. The world is a better place because of them.

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