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Post WWII History Earns Dower Honor

By Mike Hall

MIT professor John W. Dower received the prestigious National Book Award for his provocative examination of post-World War II Japan.

Dower’s newest honor highlights a career in the spotlight -- he has received numerous honors including an Academy Award nomination.

Dower’s award-winning book, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II offers an innovative look into Japan’s transformation to democracy while under American occupation. The book is the latest in Dower’s collection of works on the Japanese experience, including War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War and Empire and Aftermath.

“It’s a tremendous honor for MIT,” said professor Harriet Ritvo, the head of MIT’s history faculty. Ritvo praised Dower’s painstaking research and detailed account of post-World War II Japan, calling his book “superior by research standards, yet also suitable for a larger audience outside of his particular focus.”

“Dower is a towering figure in the study of Japan. He is an outstanding citizen of the Institute. ... This latest honor reminds us all of the excellence that resides within our School of Humanities and Social Sciences,” said President Charles M. Vest.

Dower earned his PhD in 1972 from Harvard in history and Far Eastern languages. Before coming to MIT in 1991, Dower was a professor at the University of California, San Diego.

In addition to his literary accomplishments, Dower also received an Academy Award nomination in 1988 while serving as executive producer of Hellfire: A Journey from Hiroshima, a documentary about life after the use of atomic weapons by the United States.

The National Book Award is offered annually by the National Book Foundation. Awards are given in the categories of nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and young people's literature.