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Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45

4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  2,673 Ratings  ·  183 Reviews
By the summer of 1944 it was clear that Japan's defeat was inevitable, but how the drive to victory would be achieved remained unclear. The ensuing drama—that ended in Japan's utter devastation—was acted out across the vast theater of Asia in massive clashes between army, air, and naval forces.

In recounting these extraordinary events, Max Hastings draws incisive portraits
Kindle Edition, 656 pages
Published March 18th 2008 by Vintage (first published 2007)
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When I was a kid - but a kid who loved history - my mom got me a ticket for a dinner and lecture featuring World War II pilots speaking about their experiences. The thing that struck me then, as it does now, was how hard it was to imagine these old, frail, wrinkled, stooped men as heroes, hale and true. One of these men was Chuck Albury, co-pilot of a B-29 Superfortress called "Bock's Car." On August 9, 1945, shortly after 11:00, Bock's Car dropped a single bomb - Fat Man - from its belly. Fat M ...more
Mikey B.
This is an engrossing book focusing on the last year of the war with Japan. At times, there is even some sardonic humour.

Mr. Hastings makes a strong case for Japan being at fault for needlessly prolonging the war. Every battle was to be the last and determining one – Saipan, then the Philippines, followed by Iwo Jima then Okinawa. The last one would have been Japan proper, where the Japanese people were to drive the invaders from the homeland. He also cites the kamikaze volunteers, of which ther
Hastings has much excellent research to present, though too much of it went into the writing and not enough of it into thinking about humanity in general. He argues for the true historian's creed, to judge the past based only on what those of the past were presented with, not with what we think they should have done, then proceeds to disgrace this creed by making judgments on some of the most controversial aspects of the American defeat of Japan, the fire-bombing of civilians on a mass scale, th ...more
Σωτήρης  Αδαμαρέτσος
Ένα βιβλίο που τιμά για άλλη μια φορά την εικόνα των Αγγλων ιστορικών στην χώρα μας! Ένα καταπληκτικό αφηγημα και μια πραγματικά αξιόπιστη ιστορική περιγραφή! Αν κάποιος έχει διαβάσει Ρανσιμαν ή Μπηβορ ή Τονυ Τζαντ (με το μνημειωδες έργο του Postwar) καταλαβαίνει την ιστορική αξία και την αναγνωστικη ποιότητα του έργου... Μετά το Αρμαγεδδων και την περιγραφή του τελευταίου έτους του πολέμου στην Ευρώπη, ο Χαστινγκς αποφασίζει να γράψει κάτι παρόμοιο για το τελευταίο έτος του πολέμου στον... Ειρη ...more
Nick Black
highly idiosyncratic for sure. hastings *hates* douglas macarthur, chiang kai-shek and "bull" halsey (and most japanese people), loves william slim, and (like the rest of us) feels a reverent but dirty awe for "hap" arnold, the same awe one feels regarding jose canseco(**) or kim kardashian(*). great vocabulary, though it's marred by repeated, clustered use of "guesstimate" and gratuitous puns involving "haversack". more deeply scarring are at least a dozen grotesque grammatical errors (they see ...more
Jul 17, 2015 G.G. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, world-war-ii
The Sunday Times review quoted on the cover of my copy--"compassionate but unsparing in its judgements"--is about right. Hastings is compassionate towards civilians on both sides whose lives were destroyed by the war, as well as common soldiers on both sides exposed to "the demented culture of bushido" (p. 465); and unsparing in his criticisms of leaders, also on both sides, who showed such contempt for human suffering.

Hastings' account of the last year of the Asia-Pacific War is comprehensive.
Sep 24, 2011 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I believe this is the first World War II history I've read that was written by a non-American author. It was a revelation to me. Max Hastings confines himself to the last year of WWII in the Pacific, the campaign against Japan. But when I say "confines," I don't wish to be misleading -- this history is enormous in scope, because Hastings doesn't limit himself to the history most Americans know. He explores the entirety of the final year of the war in the Pacific, from mid-1944 to the war's end i ...more
Let me start by pointing out that this is not a book dedicated to a detailed study of offensives, battles and orders of battles. This is not this kind of book. Instead, Max Hastings dedicates this volume to a sweeping narrative of the last twelve months or so of Second World War in the Pacific in Asia. By weaving together a mosaic of personal recollections, accounts of key events and descriptions of prominent personalities he somehow manages to present a surprisingly complete, but perhaps even m ...more
“How much bad news will pampered European and American voters take? Not that much, I suspect, in the absence of bombs raining down around their heads, figuratively or literally. We get the political leaders we deserve. Recent evidence suggests that in America, especially, charlatans prosper on the hustings, while good people flinch from exposing themselves to the humiliations and deceits essential to secure public office. Unless or until electorates become more rational, I doubt we shall see lea ...more
Apr 12, 2012 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Add Bill Slim to my very short list of officers I admire.

The blurb on the jacket of my edition of Nemesis says that the Pacific theatre had the most extraordinary cast of characters and having just finished the book I would have to say I agree. Hastings uses the by-now familiar device of interweaving the stories of ordinary people into the broader context of strategic and political decisions by generals and statesmen. And it works a treat, shining the light on the human consequences of warfare.

Michael Gerald
Aug 27, 2016 Michael Gerald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first time I made a review of this book years ago, I didn't like it. But upon rereading it and cross-checking with other references, this turns out to be a decent book.
Mar 12, 2009 Tripp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Max Hasting's Armageddon is a bleak, but brilliant history of the last years of the European Theater of World War 2. He has followed up that book with Retribution, a book about the last years of the Pacific Theater. Just as in the first volume, Hastings emphasizes the utter brutality and waste of war as well as providing frank criticism of the failures of leadership.

His biggest target is MacArthur who he blames for many mistakes, perhaps most of all the invasion of the Philippines. This invasion
Mike Harbert
Jun 10, 2014 Mike Harbert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-history
Max Hastings has written a comprehensive history of the last year of the war against Japan. I thoroughly enjoyed Retribution as I found it well researched, well written, and very readable despite its scope. Hastings provides enough history to put each section in context without getting bogged down in irrelevant detail. Without giving a summary of the book, let me say why I liked it.

1. As a Brit, Hastings challenges the American centric view that normally flavors histories of the Pacific war. He
Jul 08, 2015 Joe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history

For whatever reason my reading of World War II history is heavily weighted towards the European conflict against the Nazis to the neglect of the Pacific theater. Therefore while I can follow the timeline and personalities of the Allied war against Hitler's Germany, the history from Pearl Harbor to Nagasaki and Hiroshima is somewhat of a blur. Retribution chronicles the final twelve months - give or take - of the war against Japan. And just like the author's previous book, Armage
Sep 07, 2012 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I chose this book after reading 'All Hell Let Loose' by Max Hastings. While I've read numerous books on the Second World War, the reading of that book made me realise that I'd missed a huge chapter in the war, let being the Eastern Campaigns, the Pacific, Japan, China and America's involvement.

Therefore I started this book with very limited knowledge of the campaigns in this area. Max Hastings though yet again does an amazing job with his writing, knowledge and detailed research to bring to life
Christopher Carbone
Apr 15, 2009 Christopher Carbone rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to know more about the last months of WWII
THis book is a very specific look at the end of WWII, more specifically, the pacific war against Japan. The book does an exceptional job describing what the US was trying to do v. what the Japanese were trying to do. All in all these chapters would have been a great book all on its own.

But the best parts of the book are the lesser known entities of the Pacific theater. The Australians (and their relatively shabby record); the two Chinas (the Nationalists and the Communists) and the British and h
Jan 18, 2010 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The problem with Retribution is that Hastings seems to believe that "they started it" provides a compelling moral justification for the various types of bad behaviors engaged in by the United States during the war (such as the firebombing of Tokyo). "They started it" may explain the virtual absence of opposition to these sorts of violations of the international norms of warfare and blatant attacks on the civilian population, and it may even be the case that, say, the Rape of Nanking was in some ...more
Emmanuel Gustin
With Nemesis, Max Hastings has contributed a very well written history of the last year of the war, on all fronts where the Japanese were fighting, and by this stage, also certainly losing the war. Deftly mixing grand strategy with personal anecdote, he manages to convey the grim reality of this savage conflict as well as any writer could. Not least of the many merits of this book is the attention that it gives to many secondary, and now forgotten, but often just as bloody fronts. Few people kno ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Hastings details Japan's atrocities in the last days of the war and America's role in the "retribution" against Japan with an unblinking eye and the meticulous research of a first-rank historian, drawing on interviews and firsthand accounts from both sides of the fighting. Hastings, known for "military history as told from the foxhole" (Washington Post), combines intimate portraits of unknown individuals with expert analysis of the long view to bring the true horror of the Pacific theatre into f

Jan 27, 2014 Gerry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you read "Armageddon the Battle for Germany 1944-45" then this book follows in that fashion and this should be a must read for Military Historians. Sir Max Hastings holds nothing back and isn't scared or prohibited from calling a "duck a duck" so to speak. His works in my view are the most important for only several others during the last half of the 20th century and into the early beginnings of the 21st century have dared to tackle and confront history for what it truly states for the masses ...more
Mar 03, 2014 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2-pacific
This book covers the last year of World War Two in the Pacific and contains a lot of information that may not be known to the average reader. Max Hastings writes from a global perspective and not just from the American perspective normally covered by most writers. He is able to incorporate the experiences of the main combatants, America, England, China, Russia and Japan while also adding insight into the Dutch and the French. For a lot of readers this book will enlighten them to the Russian invo ...more
May 11, 2010 Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Naval and Military Historians
This was an interesting book to read. I am not expicitly knowledgeably about the Pacific Theatre during world War II so this book contained a bountiful amount of information for me. I enjoyed the authors background information on key figures in the book. The author perception of General MacArthurs leadership capabilities is very evident through the book. The book goes into the various battle grounds in the Pacific (i.e. India, Burma, China, Manchuria, Philippines, etc.). It is a good book if you ...more
Geoff Smith
Aug 17, 2013 Geoff Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had just finished my lunch at Arby's in Cedar Rapids, IA, when I finished this book. I said out loud (but quietly), "Dammit that was a good book." If one were handy, I would have grabbed another Max Hastings title and started it on the spot. Hastings is an excellent historian with an exquisite gift for narrative. He seamlessly blends big picture events with the personal recollections of those who participated in them--on all sides. I can't recommend this book highly enough. It is so human.
Sep 26, 2014 Jur rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii, own
Reads smooth like sunshine. Broad strokes narrative. Adds the touching anecdote. A bit of biography a dint of analysis. History for the lazy chair.
Sep 29, 2009 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible, detailed depiction of the Pacific War. Eminently readable.
Charles H Berlemann Jr
This is a book that lays out the last year and realistically the last 18-20 months of WW2. As it states it is about the Pacific Campaign. The interesting bit Max Hastings does here is that he spends a good amount of time on a couple of campaigns and events which other authors have glossed over. From the failures of the MacArthur camp made during the return to the Philippines, to the failure of the US (and by extension the UK) Nationalist China campaign, the USAAF Campaign over Japan, and the Rus ...more
Dec 15, 2016 Iain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical-wwii
Having read selected chapters.

Max Hastings has a gift for blending analysis of historical events with first person accounts. I know it sounds common, but really, few historians present the breadth of analysis, of critical thinking that Hastings provides. He does so in part by avoiding rout coverage of events choosing instead to cover highlights, general trends, and overall impacts. He then supports his contentions with relevant first person accounts and detailed discussions of weapons and weapon
David Glad
Pretty good (audio)book, even as a bedtime story.

I do find it quite striking, as many should, that we were bombed by Japan, yet gave that part of the war a second-rate priority, and this book does do a great job of reminding us of what conditions were like at sea and to be occupied by the Japanese who (still) refuse to acknowledge the abuses of their soldiers. (Read: No air conditioning)

The book does profile a variety of perspectives, from the Chinese women who were used (frequently against thei
Dec 16, 2016 CALVIN REAMES rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent review of the end of WWII as it related to the war with Japan. Being a submariner, I especially liked the writings that showed how much the US submarine service accomplished in the defeat of the Japanese empire. The discussion of the dropping of the weapons of mass destruction left a bit to be desired considering how little impact they played in the Japanese surrender and how much impact Russia entering the war had on the Japanese decision to surrender.
Marlon Clark
Oct 13, 2016 Marlon Clark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Exceptional book that focused on the mindset and environment of the last two years of the Pacific War. With chapters about Burma, China and the Russian invasion of Manchuria, the book doesn't focus only on the United States. Note that, except for Leyte Gulf, most battles are not described in detail. Hastings comes down on the side that dropping the bombs were necessary to force Japan to surrender before a general invasion, and supports his position well. Overall an excellent history and awesome ...more
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Sir Max Hugh Macdonald Hastings, FRSL, FRHistS is a British journalist, editor, historian and author. His parents were Macdonald Hastings, a journalist and war correspondent, and Anne Scott-James, sometime editor of Harper's Bazaar.

Hastings was educated at Charterhouse School and University College, Oxford, which he left after a year.After leaving Oxford University, Max Hastings became a foreign c
More about Max Hastings...

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“dominant feeling of the battlefield is loneliness, gentlemen.” 1 likes
“In Japan, no one could dictate effectively to either army or navy. To an extraordinary degree, the two services—each with its own air force—pursued independent war policies, though the soldiers wielded much greater clout. The foremost characteristic of the army general staff, and especially of its dominant operations department, the First Bureau, was absolute indifference to the diplomatic or economic consequences of any military action. Mamoru” 0 likes
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