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Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45
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Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  1,532 ratings  ·  78 reviews
Barbara W. Tuchman won the Pulitzer Prize for Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45 in 1972. She uses the life of Joseph Stilwell, the military attache to China in 1935-39 and commander of United States forces and allied chief of staff to Chiang Kai-shek in 1942-44, to explore the history of China from the revolution of 1911 to the turmoil of World War II, ...more
Hardcover, 624 pages
Published October 10th 2001 by Grove Press (first published January 1st 1951)
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All the previous books of Barbara Tuchman that I’ve read have had a picture of the author, looking something like this:


Older, with the Sandra Day O’Connor hairdo, well-heeled, professorial even. Nothing wrong with that, of course; but it does conjure up a certain delicacy, a life lived in equal parts libraries and privilege.

But on the back of this book, Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45, the author looks out at me from atop a burro, her means of transportation in the 1930s i
Mikey B.
This book illustrates well the dangers of involvement in a foreign country – even during wartime when the cause appears justified.

Stillwell was obviously a good candidate to be America’s representative; he had already spent several years in China and spoke the language. He certainly was not someone, common in this day and age, who arrives at the airport hotel and is surrounded by an entourage of well-wishers. Stillwell was independent-minded and often clashed with both the Chinese government an
I first read this book about 25 years ago. I recently read the Fenby biography of Chiang Kai Shek, and really felt the need to go back and re-read the Stilwell biography. Along with McCullough's Truman, this is one of the finest biographies I have ever read. The Stilwell biography relentlessly pounds home the lesson that we as Americans can never expect members of alien cultures to have the same goals and motivations that we have. Stilwell tried mightily to get Chiang to fight China's Japanese i ...more
Erik Graff
Aug 28, 2012 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Tom Kosinski
Shelves: biography
It is difficult to decide whether this title is best categorized as history, for it is about China, or biography, for it China as seen through the career of Joseph Stilwell. Indeed, it is often through his eyes as Tuchman had access through his surviving family to Stilwell's correspondence, notes and voluminous journals.

In any case, you will learn about the man, the nation and about the eastern theatre of the second world war from reading this book. You will not have to know much in advance. Tuc
WWII was Eurocentric. That is, American policy and conduct of the war in the Far East was largely determined by events in Europe. While Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, and MacArthur became household names, folks either have to go to a war museum or read this book to learn about General Joseph (Vinegar Joe) Stilwell. Stilwell fought not only the Japanese, but all the maladies and dangers of jungle fighting. He did so with secondary or even tertiary priority for both troops and supplies, with mountin ...more
Oct 30, 2012 Bob rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Bob by: Paul Merrigan
David Halberstam mentions this book in The Best and The Brightest as a detailed study of the background in China that drove American decision-making in the 1950s and 1960s. Tuchman is an excellent writer (won the Pulitzer for this one), and the story follows the career of General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell in China from 1911-1945. Much of Tuchman's focus is on the flaws in American foreign and military policy in China during this period; despite the continual warnings from Stilwell and others ...more
This is very large book covering history I knew almost nothing about. World war II in China and Burma. A key reason I knew nothing about it is, I suppose, because it was so unimportant to the overall prosecution of the war and victory. After reading the book, I now realize that it was very important in a terrible sort of way.
The fact is that the huge amount of war material that was sent to China, in the belief that China would fight the Japs, was totally and completely wasted. The loss of this
Ann Mcelligott
A fascinating book about an world war II general, "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, about China and Chang Kai Shek, and about American policy in the Far East. And I knew next to nothing about any of this history.

Stilwell spent the majority of his military career in China including leading the Burma campaign. He and Chang Kai Shek were at constant loggerheads as to military strategy and tactics. Chang was seeking to be as well equipped after the war in order to face the Cpolommunists after the war. But he
Erez Davidi
General "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell was an extraordinary person. His unique character, sharp mind and impatience toward arrogant people constantly caused conflicts with the people he worked with. He was also fully immersed in Chinese culture, mannerism, and as well, a fluent Mandarin speaker - he understood China like very few in the West do.

In this book, Tuchman combines a comprehensive description of U.S. - China relations from 1911-1945 along with a detailed biography of "Vinegar Joe" from his fir
Au Yong Chee Tuck
The title in the 1970 Macmillan edition was "Sand Against the Wind: Stilwell & the American Experience in China 1911-45". Unfortunately, the new editions have eliminated the phrase "Sand Against the Wind."
This phrase cogently summed up what Stilwell was desperately trying to achieve in China working with or without the co-operation of Chiang Kai-shek.
It is rare to find female historians writing about what is essentially military history. The late Ms Tuchman has raised the bar for military hi
An account of General Joseph Stilwell and the Nationalist China that he vainly tried to save. This book gives a good rendition of the illusions that America held over China and the bankrupt rule of Chiang Kai-shek.

The author's conclusion:

"In great things, wrote Erasmus, it is enough to have tried. Stilwell's mission was America's supreme try in China. He made the maximum effort because his temperament permitted no less; he never slackened and he never gave up. Yet the mission failed in its ultim
Dana Stabenow
Americans screwing up in Asia is a long tradition.
Fausto Betances
This is an amazing book which brings a perspective on US - China relations hard to imagine these days. Part of the beauty of this book is that it was written by an eye witness who happen to be a pulitzer prize caliber (and winner) writer. It is a masterfully done job and deserves every one of the many accolades it has received.
It explains in good detail how things started between the US and China in what pertains to the preamble of the current status of things. Why China distrust everyone and wh
Tuchman illuminates the distinguished, dispiriting career of one of America's greatest WWII commanders, General Joseph Stilwell, with both fairness and compassion. Duty defines the life of a man who slogged through China, fought through northern Burma to support China, and persisted through a tortuous relationship with the moribund government of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek. Stilwell may have retreated in life, but he never surrendered, and his legacy is one of immense trial and impossible circ ...more
I'm was not surprised to discover that Tuchman won her second Pulitzer for this book. A biography of General Joseph Stilwell as well as a chronicle of official American interaction with China, focused primarily on WWII. It's a very complex story which Tuchman makes extremely readable and interesting, and which sheds light on the military and political problems of our own time in Iraq and Afghanistan. First, the US always wants to promote democracy but ends up supporting regimes which cannot sust ...more
China; new or just a new face? The transformation, even if just form is remarkable, in fact, old China experts of a generation ago would say, impossible. Looking for more information I picked up “Stilwell and the American….”. Unlike “Guns of August” which I read to fill a gap in my history I thought I knew a lot about WWII in the Pacific and have read quite a bit about China, but Barbara Tuchman is such a great historian I figured she would expand my knowledge. Wow! I was dumbstruck by this book ...more
Raise your hand if you ever heard the name Joseph Stilwell? How about Eisenhower? McArthur? George Marshall? Chester Nimitz? Yah, Stilwell was right up there with them as a 4-star general and commander of the China-Burma-India theater during World War II. He didn't become president (in fact, he died a year after the war ended). He didn't become Secretary of State like Marshall. He wasn't a demigod like McArthur. There's no nuclear-powered aircraft carrier named after him. Why?

Interesting story,
Tuchman's survey of the Sino-American relationship from the fall of the Manchu Dynasty to the conclusion of the second World War is a vivid illustration of 'ab origine.' Written through General Joseph Stilwell's experiences she shows how cultural misconception of the East by the West led to the emergence of Communism in China. She offers insight into how the United States was the first nation in the world to gain China's respect - and also the first to lose what it had gained.

In a day and age w
Tuchman allows herself to be distracted by Stilwell's numerous charms and is blinded to his many faults in this well-written but sadly unincisive and obfuscatory work on Stilwell and his experiences within the tangled skeins of the Chinese and SEA commands.

Tuchman unfortunately overlooks Stilwell's greatest failing: despite a faculty for their language and a keen understanding of Chinese psychology, he was never able to think realistically about Chinese capabilities and often derided those who
Derotha Ann
This is one of a series of books that I began reading after I graduated from UNR. I spent ten years getting my BA, and I was somewhat sick of reading after finally graduating. I was tired. I had spent the last few years working full time while going to school. With a degree in English, and a minor in social studies, including sociology, psychology, social psychology, history, and political science. . . and throw in a lot of work over the years in the University theater, with one summer spent as ...more
This is a tremendous work. Joe Stillwell is the lost general of WWII. Mired, due to his diligence, integrity, and most importantly, ability to speak Chinese, in the China Theatre of WWII, Stillwell is a tragic figure, an island of reason and ingenuity in a sea of mad characters like Chiang Kaishek, Claire Chennault, Mao Tse-Tung and the entire British military heirarchy of South-east asia (the worst of which: gave up 80,000 men without a fight in Singapore).
Tuchman's writing is both meticulousl
Barbara Tuchman’s Stilwell and the American Experience in China is wonderful historical writing; it quickly becomes obvious why it earned the Pulitzer for General Non-fiction in 1972. Ostensibly about American Joseph Stilwell, a West Point graduate who spent years in China on-and-off between 1911 and 1945 as a visitor, as military attaché, and finally as theatre commander during World War II, it really is the underlying story of China’s evolution from the rule of dynasties to a struggle for the ...more
Another good history by Tuchman. I was unfamiliar with the history the United States had with China at the turn and first half of the 20th century and Stilwell's life is a good lens to see it through. Tuchman distills the personal records of Stilwell and brings him to life on the page through judicious use of his own words and memories. She also grounds this personal narrative in the flow of history and provides a lot of context for less knowledgeable readers like me.

If you are looking to unders
Well written, and very honest and straight-forward--just like the man depicted in the book. Personally, it is a fresh experience to look at the history of this most difficult period for China from a different perspective, especially in contrast to what had been taught during school times. But the most revealing part is not how much it differs but the fact that they share surprisingly amount of similarity on the view about the Kuomingtang Party and the ineffective ruling of Chiang Kai Shi-- sure, ...more
Not as well integrated or, at times as coherent, as her European histories. A tangle of connections and relationships only half untied. Central characters sometimes seem to make cameos than fill true biographical roles.

Nevertheless Tuchman's prose is immensely readable and she does a much better job than most in explaining to the Eurocentric the consequences (not the causes) of the 19th century European and early 20th century American policies toward Asia's sick man.

Stilwell, like America, emer
Took me forever to get all the way through this book the first time, but it was well worth it in the end, and I've re-read it several times since while still in the service. If you ever think you're having a bad day or a tough career, you should see what Stilwell went through as our senior officer in China-Burma-India between 1942 and 1944. A very interesting story that could use another look by a historian of more recent vintage than Tuchman, who published this in 1971. And we could use a stand ...more
Michael Nash
I was tempted to drop a star on this book because of A. methodological issues (i.e. telling a history of China from the point of view of an American general) and B. she's obviously not a Sinologist (at one point, she refers to Feng Shui as the name of the demons that are thwarted by the ghost gates in Chinese houses). However, Tuchman's analysis is too spot-on, her story to poignant and well-presented to give her less than five stars. Like Fairbank, her excellence of analysis, despite the potent ...more
Jason Pym
Most critical view of Chiang Kai-shek I've read, and Claire Chennault (Flying Tigers) doesn't come out of it much better.
When I started this book (when I acquired this book) I didn't know what to expect. I only thought it had something to do with China & since China is (again) such a powerful nation I thought: "why not read it". My hunch was correct. One interested in the history of China, how it is intertwined with USA political decisions will enjoy Tuchman's short history. I really did.
Andrew Obrigewitsch
Another great book by Tuchman. This one is about China from 1911-45, which is when their ruling dynasty fell and Japan invaded, Japan controlled a large chunk of China before the U.S. entered into WW II. I have never seen anything else about the war in China, it seems to be totally forgotten. And I found that even though the current government in China is very oppressive, it was actually a huge step up from what they had before. They where literally in the Dark ages, where the people in charge c ...more
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Barbara Wertheim Tuchman was an American self-trained historian and author. She became best known for The Guns of August, a history of the prelude and first month of World War I.

As an author, Tuchman focused on producing popular history. Her clear, dramatic storytelling covered topics as diverse as the 14th century and World War I, and sold millions of copies.
More about Barbara W. Tuchman...
The Guns of August A Distant Mirror:  The Calamitous 14th Century The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914 The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam The Zimmermann Telegram

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