Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Great Read: Retribution

After seeing a review in the WSJ, I decided to pack this on my last trip even though it is a 2.4 lb. hard cover. I'm glad I put up with the weight - I was totally absorbed for the entire 12 hour flight.

Retribution covers the last two years of the War in the Pacific - pretty much the period after the Allies turned the tide until surrender. It covers all aspects of the Japan theatre, including little known ones like Burma. Here are some observations:

  • After reading this, you can't help but think that MacArthur was a total megalomaniac who killed thousands of troops just to satisfy his own personal desire to recapture the Philippines.
  • Australia really didn't pull its weight in the war. On the domestic front, strikes held up shipping and loading since the Australian unions were more concerned about internal power than they were supporting the war (the side-by-side comparison of Australian vs. U.S. ship loading efficiency is damning)
  • I found the Asia mainland chapters a bit boring (the only parts of the book that were). England's Burmese campaign was little cared for then and virtually unknown today for good reason - it did little to advance the cause of the war. The China chapters are interesting, only because they provide the background for that country's civil war (the bottom line is that the Chinese factions were more concerned about fighting each other than they were fighting the Japanese).
  • The naval battles and island campaigns are, of course, the most fascinating parts of the book.
  • Everyone knows about Japanese brutality during WWII, but this book really hits it home. Everyone thinks the Germans were the only ones vivisecting live humans. It also covers the brutality of their occupied "colonies" and prisoner camps.
  • The book totally annihilates critics who argue against the use of the atomic bombs. All data, then and now, support the use of the devices (I always wonder why some people say we should have "demonstrated" the Bomb. Japan didn't surrender after Hiroshima - the ultimate demonstration. It took until after the SECOND bomb before Japan would surrender). The book also dramatically accounts the firebombing of Japan with conventional weapons, a tactic that killed far, far more people that both bombs put together.
If you have just a little interest in the Pacific War, you should pick up this book.

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