Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945” as Want to Read:
Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,277 ratings  ·  154 reviews
The epic, untold story of China’s devastating eight-year war of resistance against Japan

For decades, a major piece of World War II history has gone virtually unwritten. The war began in China, two years before Hitler invaded Poland, and China eventually became the fourth great ally, partner to the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain. Yet its drama of
Paperback, 480 pages
Published September 2nd 2014 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2013)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Forgotten Ally, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Forgotten Ally

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,277 ratings  ·  154 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945
Aug 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-two
A solid overview of the "War of Resistance". Ritter argues convincingly on why the Chinese-Japanese deserves to be better-known in the West, but his exclusive attention to politics, with no room to discuss battles or armies, fails to hold my attention...if it's any comfort to Ritter's effort, I already fully acknowledged the significance of 1931-1945 for the modern People's Republic of China...
Chin Joo
Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, ww2
This book is published in two different titles: 1) China's War with Japan 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival, and 2) Forgotten Ally: China's World War II 1937-1945. This review is made with reference to the latter.

The use of the first title conjures an impression of a chronicle, recording the events that took place in China between 1937 and 1945. In this, the author has exceeded the promise of the title. In fact, to his credit, Dr Mitter even went way back to the Sino-Japanese War (1894-5)
Tim Pendry

This is a useful but flawed account of an important theatre of war in the struggle of liberal internationalism (Western imperialism) and socialism against the attempted imperialisms of rising powers.

The story has two contemporary sets of resonance - the obvious one is the tricky current state of Sino-Japanese relations that has Westerners rushing to books like this. The less obvious is the attempt by the West to answer the question, 'what to do with rising powers?'

On the surface it is
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The English-language bibliography of the Second World War is faced with an odd contradiction: while there is no shortage of books about the conflict, there are still not enough of them. This is because for all of the thousands of tomes weighing down the shelves of libraries and bookstores the majority of them are concentrated in a few key areas, namely the war in Europe (particularly in Western Europe) and in the Pacific. As a result, English-language readers have an often distorted view of the ...more
Mikey B.
Jun 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-ii, japan, china
This book gives a history of China covering mainly events from 1937 when Japan invaded China. The Japanese were in Manchukuo (Manchuria) prior, but this was seen as being peripheral to China proper. We are given the Chinese viewpoint on how western powers (mainly England and the U.S.), and then the Japanese, constantly treated China as a “territory” to be exploited. Chinese sovereignty was hardly recognized by any outside power.

There are three main characters focused on: Chiang Kai-shek, the
Mal Warwick
Dec 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Read just about any popular history of World War II, and you’ll find any number of references to the Allies as the Big Three of Britain, the US, and the Soviet Union. What’s missing is recognition that China bore nearly as high a price as the USSR, with an estimated fourteen to twenty million dead compared to fewer than half a million for the UK and the US. (The Soviet Union lost as many as twenty-four million dead.) On that basis alone, Oxford University historian Rana Mitter is justified in ...more
Jan 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone seriously interested in US-China relations.
This book was both an enlightening and a depressing experience to read: enlightening, because I learned much I did not know before of this phase of the World War II theatre, and depressing, because Mr. Mitter’s narrative vividly portrays the continuously unfolding horrors visited upon the Chinese people during these years. While I have been aware since my graduate student days of the multiple millions of deaths suffered by the Russian people during World War II, I was stunned to learn that ...more
Jimmy Fahey
Aug 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is up there with Fear Itself as one of the best history books of 2013. I bet that you can line kilometres of shelves with books about the war in the Pacific and three times as many about the war in Europe. And yet so little has been written about the catastrophic war between China and Japan. Mitter's extensively researched and eloquently written account of the war does a lot for even one book to readdress this gross imbalance.

What I like about Mitter is that he frames the war in terms of
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, military
This is an update of an earlier review, completed following a second reading of Rana Mitter's Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-45

The literature on WWII and its preceding conflicts has largely focused on Hitler’s rise and on increased militarism in Japan, all culminating in the invasion of France in 1940 and the arrival of the second “war to end all wars.” The Sino-Japanese conflicts that preceded the full-scale Second Sino-Japanese War, and the history of that war, have received far
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you were brought up in the 1970's you thought you knew about the second world war, it was on the telly every sunday afternoon if not more frequently. You knew someone who had a relative who fought in it. It was about the Battle of Britain, D-Day, Dunkirk and desert rats. If you watched American films you probably found out that there was a war in the Pacific, which was fought by the US navy and by marines. You got a bit older and you found out something about the holocaust.
You didn't yet know
Jul 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: china
This book provides an overview of China's pivotal role in WWII, and to the extent that readers are unfamiliar with that history, it is a useful corrective.

But its true aims lie deeper: it is unapologetically a revisionist history, designed to rehabilitate the image of Chiang Kai-shek and emphasize the role of the Nationalists in resisting the Japanese invasion. In doing so, the author also makes clear the relatively small contributions of the Communist forces and goes to great lengths to
Sep 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rana Mitter's 'Forgotten Ally' is a page-turner, well-written, and well-organized. Of the three leading male figures cited by Rana_Mao Zedong, Wang Jing Wei and Chiang Kai-Shek_Chiang takes up the most real estate in the book; that is not surprising since it was Chiang who did most of the heavy lifting when it came to resisting and fighting the Japanese and Japanese imperialism during eight long years of battle from 1937-1945. The book gives credit to Chiang's efforts, albeit flawed, troubled, ...more
Aug 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Forgotten Ally recounts the history of China’s role in World War II from both an external power perspective and the internal struggle between the nationalists and the communists. Covering the year of 1937-1945 (invasion of Manchuria until the peace treaty) the book looks at how China was the sole defender against Axis aggression before the war began. Mitter also makes the case that despite the desperate hour of Great Britain standing alone during the Blitz; China stood alone far longer and was ...more
R.M.F Brown
Aug 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you've never read a book about the Sino - Japanese war of 1937-45, then this is an excellent book for the layman - clear, concise, easy to read, without ever being simplistic - no mean feat.

If you have read about this period, then this is still a good book, but Fenby in his autobiography about Chiang Kai-Shek covers the same ground in more detail.

That being said, the bibliography and source material the author drew upon is first rate (as you would expect from a historian of his standing)
Peter Corrigan
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, a pretty solid account of the Sino-Japanese conflict. I read Barbara Tuchman's book on Stilwell and China years ago but the details in that account have long since dissipated from my mind, other than it was quite interesting like all her books. Rana Mitter's account is much fuller and does a good job of presenting the war from a variety of perspectives. There are some be interesting, albeit horrifying episodes, that I never knew a thing about such as the destruction of the Yellow River ...more
Dec 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, asia, china, ww2, japan
Two years before a mad painter's schemes plunged the world into war, China was fighting for its life. It began the 20th century at a crossroads; the old imperial order had faded away, and in the vacuum that followed, the great land was fair play to a variety of ambitious men from both within and without. Idealists dreaming of building a better future for themselves struggled against opposing visionaries, petty warlords and would-be-colonizers. Scarcely had the young Republic of China begun ...more
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An important addition to my understanding of WWII, and of the formation of modern China.
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very lively read on a subject often neglected--China's fight against Japan during World War Two. Forgotten Ally examines the enormous cost that China paid for the war itself and in particular for the Nationalists afterwards. It corrects some of the thinking that Nationalist China was an ineffective force, propped up only by the US and British support. Mitter discusses how Chiang Kai-Shek had to contend with western condescension and ultimately a lack of effective material support throughout ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredible detail without overarching judgement. If you have an interest in the dynamics of China's role in WWII, it is worth the time to read!!
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When Churchill talked of the “Big Three” (Britain, USA, Russia) at the 1943 Tehran Conference, Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek was furious. China had been fighting a vital battle against the Japanese since 1937. Was China just the “meat on the chopping board,” he asked himself in his diary? “It’s as if a weak person has met a kidnapper, a hooligan, and a bully,” he wrote.

In this excellent book Mitter shows how – for the Chinese – the Second World War started not in 1939, but two years earlier
Eric Means
Jan 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let me start off by saying that this book wasn't quite what I was expecting. The book is an overview of China's experience of World War II, from a largely social/political perspective -- the evolution of the Nationalist/Communist (and collaborationist) organizations; the almost accidental beginning of the actual conflict; the social impact of the Nationalist government moving south and west away from the traditional centers of Chinese power; the Communist Long March and new center of power in ...more
Rob Hocking
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
China's War with Japan: 1937-1945 the struggle for survival

Why read yet another book on China's war with Japan? What do I gain? Well, there are two things that are beginning to happen now as I read more and more books on this topic. Firstly, reading continuously on this topic prevents me from forgetting what I have learnt, and as each book focuses on different aspects of the war, gaps in my knowledge get filled with each new book. In particular, this book went into greater detail in three areas
Aug 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really good one volume overview of the war in China from 1937 to 1945.

It offers so many perspectives that are unfamiliar to people living in the West. Some examples include:
** China was in a terrible state when Japan invaded. It wasn't really one nation - yet. The Nationalist government was trying to create a nation out of fragments dominated by warlords. China was underdeveloped and in poor shape for war;
** China fought alone from 1937 to 1941;
** By the time World War 2 started for
David Steece, Jr.
Aug 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war-2, history
You know its good when its got me sympathizing with the anti-Communists. This was a great book, telling the sadly obscure story of China in WWII as a narrative with Chinese as the main characters: Chiang Kai-shek, Mao, and a figure I was unfamiliar with, Wang Jingwei—who represented the "collaborationist" side of a triangle that forms the heart of the author's thesis: that War 2 in China was central to its modernization and that those three figures each represented co-equal efforts toward that ...more
Will Elliott
Rana Mitter has written an excellent book and an important account on a comparatively little known area of the Second World War. I was indeed initially drawn to this title through a desire to know more about this period of Chinese history, having recently read a few books which deal with twentieth-century China. Whether biographies or narrative histories, they all glossed over the years 1937-1945. Rana Mitter has now filled a gap in my knowledge and provided a very good foundation for further ...more
Marcel Patulacci
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: china, ww2
I actually borrowed this book at my university's library after the release of the game "Hearts of Iron 4: waking the tiger" after I realized that I, as most westerners, did not know much about the Pacific Front of the WW2 and even less about the Chinese theater of this conflict. I had a great time reading this book, which was at the same time pleasant and informative. I also appreciated the fair treatment of each belligerent, Rana Mitter successfully depicted in his work the complex Chinese ...more
An exhaustively researched book, and a useful corrective to the neglect which China's part in the Second World War usually suffers from in the West. Unfortunately, Mitter's depth of research frequently results in a less than enthralling narrative. Any account of this time of immense upheaval and bloodshed - largely unknown in the West -ought to be exciting, but here the story of the war and the Nationalist-Communist rivalry is retold in a rather lifeless fashion. Mitter's main achievement is his ...more
Brian Pacini
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
I would have liked to see more details regarding the military side of the war--impact of battles, casualty rates, etc. Overall, what was the drain on Japan in terms of men and resources.
Also, book seemed to focus more on the Nationalists and not the Communists.
Edward Sullivan
An excellent chronicle of World War II from the often overlooked perspective of China where it all began.
I thought this book was called, "Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945." Hmmm . . .
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957
  • Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II
  • Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War
  • The Rising Sun: The Decline & Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-45
  • Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China
  • The Cultural Revolution: A People's History, 1962-1976
  • A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949
  • River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze
  • Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China's Last Golden Age
  • Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China
  • Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China's Past and Present
  • Four Princes: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent and the Obsessions that Forged Modern Europe
  • Maigret Goes to School
  • The World in 1776
  • The Roman Empire and the Silk Routes: The Ancient World Economy and the Empires of Parthia, Central Asia and Han China
  • Halsey's Typhoon: The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue
  • Mao's Great Famine: The History Of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62
  • Eichmann in My Hands: A First-Person Account by the Israeli Agent Who Captured Hitler's Chief Executioner
See similar books…
RANA MITTER is a professor of modern Chinese history at the University of Oxford and the author of several books including A Bitter Revolution. He is a regular contributor to British television and radio. His writing has appeared in the Financial Times, the Guardian, and elsewhere.
“If we wish to understand the role of China in today's global society, we would do well to remind ourselves of the tragic, titanic struggle which that country waged in the 1930s and 1940s not just for its own national dignity and survival, but for the victory of all the Allies, west and east, against some of the darkest forces that history has ever produced.” 3 likes
“Contemporary China is thought of as the inheritor of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, or even of the humiliation incurred by the Opium Wars of the nineteenth century, but rarely as the product of the war against Japan.” 0 likes
More quotes…