By Carol Gluck, Rana Mitter, and Charles K. Armstrong
Editor's Introduction: This year marks the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II, an event that had profound implications for many Asian countries. This “Asia Beyond the Headlines” feature focuses on the impact that the Japanese surrender, which came several months after the German one, had across East Asia. I put a series of questions to three scholars—modern Japan historian Carol Gluck, China specialist Rana Mitter, and Koreanist Charles Armstrong—who have thought deeply about 1945 and its aftermath. Contacting them initially before the seventieth anniversary of VE Day had come and gone in early May, and then following up after that first big commemorative date had passed but well before the mid-August and early September dates associated with Japan's surrender, I invited them to reflect on the following issues: (1) how discussions associated with this year's anniversary have been and are likely to carry forward or break from those of one, two, three, or four decades ago; (2) what we should expect from the statements and other activities to come in mid-August and in early September; and (3) the varying ways that 1945 can be understood, depending on the part of the region in question, as bringing one era to a close, beginning another, or doing both of these things. Their responses, which engage to greater or lesser degrees with the three themes flagged in my initial questions, can be read as standalone short essays. They also fit together neatly to offer a collective window onto the varied meanings of the war and the wide-ranging debates that continue to swirl around how it should be understood, remembered, and commemorated.