Robert Joseph Charles Butow (March 19, 1924 - October 17, 2017) was a professor emeritus of Japanese history at the University of Washington in Seattle. An author of several books, he was a leading authority on Japan during World War II.
Robert Butow was born in San Mateo, California. As a boy, he moved with his family to Menlo Park, California. He subsequently attended college at Stanford University, where he was a member of the Army Reserve, and a student of the Japanese language. When his Army Reserve unit was activated, he was selected to attend the Army Japanese Language School.
Butow served in the United States Army during the early months of the occupation of Japan in 1945 and 1946, and became interested in Japanese history and culture. Upon his discharge as a second lieutenant, he returned to Stanford.
His third book (The John Doe Associates: Backdoor Diplomacy for Peace, 1941) was about a small group of Americans who, without diplomatic authority, tried to promote peace with Japan before 1941, but only ended up worsening relations between the two nations.