Book One of the Liberation Trilogy, this is one of the most well written WWII history books I've ever read. Atkinson is an accomplished researcher butBook One of the Liberation Trilogy, this is one of the most well written WWII history books I've ever read. Atkinson is an accomplished researcher but also brings his research to life with well placed anecdotes, memoranda, letters and documented conversations. It's almost like reading a novel.
The only drawback is the overwhelming scope of his narrative. I sometimes had to read the same material twice to get it into proper context. I also accessed the index many times to refresh my memory on names and places that were referred to earlier in the book.
The maps helped me understand the details of the various battles but there were times I wished I had a huge map of the area being discussed so I could better follow the narrative of what Atkinson was describing.
For someone like myself, who was raised with the myths of WWII, this book was an eye-opener. Atkinson discusses the personalities and failings of all the key players, Eisenhower, Giraud, Patton, Alexander, Bradley, Montgomery, Rommel, Von Arnim, Kesselring, Darlan, etc., etc. It appears their failings, at this point in the war, far outweighed their strengths. Those failings almost always resulted in unnecessary casualties. The Generals decide; the soldiers, sailors and airmen die.
I was also able to finally understand the politics of the invasion and the resistance of the Vichy French. The French, by the way, come off as almost comic opera personalities. The North African Arabs and other native peoples in the area are characterized as thieves and opportunists as might be expected of a people under the colonial yoke of France, caught between warring Western powers.
The book is most comprehensive and I could go on for much longer describing its various facets. I would like to just say, though, for anyone interested in understanding the 1942 North African Invasion, this book is a must read.
I am looking forward to attacking Volumn Two, covering the Sicilian and Italian campaigns....more
Iris Chang committed suicide. I can't help wondering if doing the research for this book didn't create or deepen her depression. She was an obviouslyIris Chang committed suicide. I can't help wondering if doing the research for this book didn't create or deepen her depression. She was an obviously passionate person and turning that passion loose on uncovering what really happened in Nanking in December 1937 must have shook her deeply.
Just reading it shook me deeply.
As a history major in college, I was aware of the allegations against the Japanese in WWII, not just in Nanking but all over S.E. Asia. As an ongoing student of WWII and someone who has traveled all over S.E. Asia, I am even more convinced that the level of brutality that the Japanese visited on the "liberated" peoples of the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere was matched or exceeded only by the Holocaust in Europe.
I, too, have talked to survivors of the Japanese occupation in the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, and Malaysia and their stories, while not as dramatic as Chang's, were nevertheless riveting and horrifying. I stood in the hallway of what was once a Girl's high school in Manila where 400 young women were raped and eventually killed by drunken Japanese soldiers who expected to die as the Americans approached Manila. I met an old nun who still could not keep the tears from her eyes as she related the story.
So, I have no problem believing that the incidents Chang chronicles and the eyewitness and diary accounts she relates are true. I am also enough of a historian to recognize that she wrote the book as a journalist not as a historian. That belief does not lessen the importance of what she has done in trying to lift the veil from an episode the Japanese would love to have the world forget.
That some Japanese continue to deny, not only the brutality of the rape of Nanking, but also the brutality they visited on every country they occupied is a stain on the rest of the Japanese people. Ahmadinejad denying the Holocaust is a joke compared to Japanese officials and academics denying the Rape of Nanking.
This book is also a must read for anyone who believes that these kinds of brutal happenings are anomalies for as Chang points out in the epilogue, "The Rape of Nanking should be perceived as a cautionary tale...." She goes on to say that human beings are capable of the worst kind of inhuman behavior if the circumstances are right.
This book has been sitting on my shelf for years waiting to be re-read; its pages discolored, its cover cracked but its story as fresh in 2009 as it wThis book has been sitting on my shelf for years waiting to be re-read; its pages discolored, its cover cracked but its story as fresh in 2009 as it was in 1984.
Undoubtedly, the greatest military mind in the history of the United States, Douglas MacArthur can only be understood by the standards of the late 19th Century. He was a chivalric warrior who could not begin to comprehend the war on terror and the other limited wars of today. In his mind, you fought a war to conquer the enemy, completely eliminating their ability to strike back, then you treated them with the understanding and kindness due a gallant foe.
His conduct in WWII and his treatment of the Japanese at its conclusion is a model of how to win a war with as few casualties as possible and how to win the respect of your former enemy after you occupy their lands. His conduct during the Korean War was totally consistent with his philosophy and in the end caused his firing by President Truman. He could not understand nor could he remain silent about his conviction of what it would take to defeat and occupy North Korea and eliminate China's ability to strike back.
In many ways he was his own worst enemy and never understood the subtleties of politics. He blew his own horn but, as brilliant as he was, he lacked the humility to see himself as others might see him. To those who did not know him, he was either an unblemished hero, an enigma, or a power hungry demagogue. To those who did know him he was a military genius and a great leader.
Did he ever make a mistake? Of course he did, many of them, but the balance sheet was heavily weighted on the positive side. His bravery was legendary and drove his staff crazy. It was almost as if he knew he was fore-ordained to die in bed, not on a battlefield. His nickname in WWII of "Dugout Doug" was totally inappropriate and just plain wrong.
Manchester does a masterful job of building the story so that the reader can see how the child foretold the man. Many of his actions later in life are revealing of how he was brought up. Manchester's skill as a biographer is to let those conclusions come to the reader as implications and doesn't hit us over the head with them.
As we all struggle with our own attitudes towards the "War on Terror", this book provides a clear picture of a man and a time when there were far fewer gray areas and when far more events were seen in black and white then is possible today.
It's a long book of 960 pages including footnotes and an extensive bibliography but it is worth reading if only to try and understand the differences between the world MacArthur lived in and the one we are faced with today....more