John Willard Toland (June 29, 1912 – January 4, 2004) was an American writer and historian. He is best known for a biography of Adolf Hitler and for his Pulitzer Prize-winning World War II history of Japan, The Rising Sun.
Toland was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He was a graduate of Williams College, and he also attended the Yale School of Drama for a time. His original goal was to become a playwright. In the summers between his college years, he travelled with hobos and wrote several plays with hobos as central characters, none of which achieved the stage. In 1961, Toland said that in his early years as a writer he had been "about as big a failure as a man can be". He claimed to have written six complete novels, 26 plays, and a hundred short stories before successfully completing his first sale, a short story he sold to The American Magazine in 1954 for $165. At one point he managed to publish an article on dirigibles in Look magazine; it proved extremely popular and led to his career as a historian. Dirigibles were also the subject of his first full published book, entitled Ships in the Sky and published in 1957.
Perhaps his most important work, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1971, is The Rising Sun. Based on original and extensive interviews with high Japanese officials who survived the war, the book chronicles the Empire of Japan from the military rebellion of February 1936 to the end of World War II. The book won the Pulitzer because it was the first book in English to tell the history of the Pacific War from the Japanese point of view, rather than from an American perspective.
Toland tried to write history as a straightforward narrative, with minimal analysis or judgment.
One exception to his general approach is his Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath about the Pearl Harbor attack and the investigations of it, in which he wrote about evidence that President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew in advance of plans to attack the naval base but remained silent. The book was widely criticized at the time. Since the original publication, Toland added new evidence and rebutted early critics. Also, an anonymous source, known as "Seaman Z" (Robert D. Ogg) has since come forth to publicly tell his story.
While predominantly a non-fiction author, Toland also wrote two historical novels, Gods of War and Occupation. He says in his autobiography that he earned little money from his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Rising Sun, but was set for life from the earnings of his biography of Hitler, for which he also did original research.
- Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography, 1976, ISBN 0-385-42053-6.
- Battle: The Story of the Bulge, 1959, ISBN 0-8032-9437-9.
- But Not in Shame: The Six Months After Pearl Harbor, 1962, ISBN 0-345-25748-0
- Captured by History: One Man's Vision of Our Tumultuous Century, 1997, ISBN 0-312-15490-9
- The Dillinger Days, 1963, ISBN 0-306-80626-6.
- Gods of War, 1985, ISBN 0-385-18007-1.
- The Great Dirigibles: Their Triumphs & Disasters, 1972, ISBN 0-486-21397-8.
- In Mortal Combat: Korea 1950-1953, 1991, ISBN 0-688-10079-1
- Infamy: Pearl Harbor And Its Aftermath, 1982, ISBN 0-385-42051-X
- The Last 100 Days: The Tumultuous and Controversial Story of the Final Days of World War II in Europe, 2003, reprint ISBN 0-8129-6859-X
- No Man's Land: 1918, The Last Year of the Great War, 1980, ISBN 0-385-11291-2
- Occupation, 1987, ISBN 0-385-19819-1
- The Flying Tigers - Copyrighted 1963 First Printing From Laurel-Leaf Books 1979. Published by Dell Publishing ISBN 0-440-92621-1
- The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945, HC ISBN 0-394-44311-X, reprint ISBN 0-8129-6858-1.
- Ships in the Sky", 1957
- Interview of Toland about Captured By History, Booknotes, September 14, 1997
- "Living History" by Toland from remarks to the Tenth International Revisionist Conference, October 1990
- John Toland at Library of Congress Authorities, with 36 catalog records
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