John W. Dower

American historian

John W. Dower (born June 21, 1938, in Providence, Rhode Island) is an American author and historian.


  • In the wake of Pearl Harbor, a single word favored above all others by Americans as best characterizing the Japanese people was "treacherous," and for the duration of the war the surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific fleet remained the preeminent symbol of the enemy's inherent treachery. The attack also inspired a thirst for revenge among Americans that the Japanese, with their own racial blinders, had failed to anticipate. In one of his earliest presentations of the plan to attack Pearl Harbor, even Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, who presumedly knew the American temperament firsthand from his years as a naval attache in Washington, expressed hope that shattering opening blow against the Pacific Fleet would render both the U.S. Navy and the American people "so dispirited that they will not be able to recover."
    • p. 36
  • Even after they were checked at Midway and Guadalcanal in 1942, many Japanese remained convinced that the Anglo-American enemy was indeed psychologically incapable of recovering In actuality, the contrary was true, for the surprise attack provoked a rage bordering on the genocidal among Americans. Thus, Admiral William Halsey, soon to become commander of the South Pacific Force, vowed after Pearl Harbor that by the end of the war the Japanese language would be spoken only in hell, and rallied his men thereafter under such slogans as "Kill Japs, kill Japs, kill more Jap." Or as the U.S. Marines put it in a well-known variation on Halsey's motto: "Remember Pearl Harbor- keep 'em dying."
    • p. 37
  • Indeed, in wartime jargon, the notion of "good Japanese" came to take on an entirely different meaning than that of "good Germans," as Admiral William F. Halsey emphasized at a news conference early in 1944. "The only good Jap is a Jap who's been dead for six months," the commander of the U.S. South Pacific Force declared, and he did not mean just combatants. "When we get to Tokyo, where we're bound to get eventually," Halsey went on, "we'll have a little celebration where Tokyo was." Halsey was improvising on a popular wartime saying, "the only good Jap is a dead Jap," and his colleagues in the military often endorsed this sentiment in their own fashion.
    • p. 79
  • Among the Allied war leaders, Admiral Halsey was the most notorious for making outrageous and virulently racist remarks about the Japanese enemy in public. Many of his slogans and pronouncements bordered on advocacy of genocide. Although he came under criticism for his intemperate remarks, and was even accused of being drunk in public, Halsey was immensely popular among his men and naturally attracted good press coverage. His favorite phrase for the Japanese was "yellow bastards," and in general he found the color allusion irresistible.
    • p. 85
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