Lew Paper – In the Cauldron

This is not just another book about Pearl Harbor. It is the story of Joseph Grew, Americas ambassador to Japan, and his frantic effort in the months before the Pearl Harbor attack to orchestrate an agreement between Japan and the United States to avoid the war he saw coming. It is a story filled with hope and heartache, with complex and fascinating characters, and with a drama befitting the momentous decisions at stake.

And more than that, it is a story that has never been told.

In those months before the Pearl Harbor attack, Japan and the United States were locked in a battle of wills. President Franklin D. Roosevelts economic sanctions were crippling Japan. Americas noose was tightening around Japans neck – but the countrys leaders refused to yield to American demands.

In this cauldron of boiling tensions, Joseph Grew offered many recommendations to break the deadlock. Having resided and worked in Tokyo for almost 10 years, Grew understood what Roosevelt and his administration back home did not: that the Japanese would rather face annihilation than endure the humiliation of surrendering to American pressure.

The President and his administration saw little need to accept their ambassadors recommendations. The administrations policies, they believed, were sure to succeed. And so, with increasing urgency, Grew tried to explain to the President and his administration that Japans mindset could not be gauged by Western standards of logic and that the administrations policies could lead Japan to embark on a suicidal war with the United States with dangerous and dramatic suddenness.

Relying on Grews diaries, letters and memos, interviews with members of the families of Grew and his staff, and an abundance of other primary source materials, Lew Paper presents the gripping story of Grews effort to halt the downward spiral of Japans relations with the United States. Grew had to wrestle with an American government that would not listen to him – and simultaneously confront an increasingly hostile environment in Japan, where pervasive surveillance, arbitrary arrest, and even unspeakable torture by Japans secret police were constant threats.

In the Cauldron reads like a novel, but it is based on fact. And it is sure to raise questions whether the Pearl Harbor attack could have been avoided.

Author: Lew Paper
Narrator: Robertson Dean
Duration: 14 hours 59 minutes
Released: 19 May 2011
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Language: English

User Review:

raincoat flushed

I picked this book in part because there are so few on presidents from roughly Harrison through Pierce. It is read very very well, and the author has a dry sense of humor that comes from time to time. It’s clearly an academic work of a professor (or perhaps deriving from a PhD dissertation), but the text is well written and with as good as narrative as one can imagine for the topic. The strength and weakness is how well the book adheres to the the subtitle.

Anyone really interested in Indian policy in the early 19th century will love the detail here. As one with more casual interest in that topic in particular, I was pleased to learn the big picture particularly well, but I got a little bogged down here and there with all the names, etc. A more general interest study of Harrison would have spent some more time on the latter part of his life, for example.

In any case, I can strongly recommend this book to anyone who finds the title intriguing … others looking for a more general biography of Harrison should just be aware of what they are getting into.