The Imperial Cruise By James Bradley

World War II holds a certain interest for me. I have to wonder if it is because I would be speaking a completely different language and my country would be a little red blip on the world map if events had turned out otherwise. Anyway whatever the reason I do read the occasional book on that era. This book is about the previous 100 years and the reasons why Japan bombed Pearl Harbour on that fateful morning of December 7th, 1941. Now after saying that you won’t necessarily like the answers that this book holds.

Bradley is also the author of Flags of Our Fathers – the book about his father’s role in raising the flag at Iwo Jima and how no one knew about his level of his involvement until after he had died. The humility of that generation coined the Greatest by Tom Brokaw is exemplified by his behaviour in the Pacific. Bradley probably was intrigued by the attack of the Japanese as that changed his family’s history dramatically. He researches the presidencies of McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt and also the involvement of Taft and his work with Roosevelt out in Asia specifically with this subject in mind.

Just about everything I knew about Teddy Roosevelt was a fallacy. As a heads-up, this book was incredibly hard to read with respect to the way that many people were treated. Roosevelt wanted the world to view him in a certain way and never was photographed in some situations and always in others. He was the original media and public relations junkie. He often would have one conversation with a world leader but then relay a completely different notion to the American press.

In the summer of 1905 Roosevelt sent then Secretary of War William Howard Taft and his oldest daughter, Alice on a diplomatic mission across the Pacific. Alice was hugely popular as she lived a relatively wild life and the press and people of the US loved her. Alice was to keep the reporters and photographers busy while Taft met secretly with several leaders. Civilizing the Asian people was the idea of the trip for Roosevelt. These meetings would set up the groundwork for America’s Pacific engagement but would come back to bite the people of the US less than 40 years later.

Bradley never gives his opinion throughout the book which is admirable. He just writes how history went down and who met with whom and why America was so interested in Asia and the Pacific. Personally I found the chapter on the opium wars very interesting with Queen Victoria being the most notorious ‘dealer’ along with some pretty heavy hitting names from American history. Worth your time especially if you are at all interested in world politics.

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