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Macarthur's War: A Novel of the Invasion of Japan [Mass Market Paperback]

Douglas Niles , Michael Dobson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

23 Sep 2008
Just as "Fox on the Rhine" and "Fox at the Front" showed readers an alternate Europe in which Hitler had been killed, thereby radically changing the course of World War II, Douglas Niles and Michael Dobson bring us the Battle of Midway with a very different outcome. The Allies are wildly out manoeuvred and sent home in disgrace. Back in the States things are looking rather grim as the ultra-secret Manhattan Project runs into snafus that greatly delay the final production of the atomic bomb.President Roosevelt's approval ratings drop dramatically. Congress is desperate and the country cries out for a hero. That hero might just be Douglas MacArthur, who vowed that he would return to his beloved Philippines. He plans to do so with the backing of the entire US Armed Forces. MacArthur's plan of action is simple: take the war back to the Japanese, island by bloody island, until standing on the shores of Japan, he can proclaim victory. And possibly gain the leadership of the United States as well.

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Forge; Reprint edition (23 Sep 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765351420
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765351425
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 10 x 16.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 943,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Praise for the "Fox" duology: "Outstanding ...must reading for imaginative WWII buffs"--"Booklist " "The authors' attention to military detail and maneuvers would satisfy any drill instructor, and they imbue even minor historical characters with authenticity and personality, demonstrating how an individual's actions and reactions shape history."--"Publishers Weekly"

About the Author

Douglas Niles is an award winning game designer and the co-author of the alternate WWII duology "Fox on the Rhine "and "Fox at the Front." He lives in Wisconsin. Michael Dobson is also an award-winning game designer and co-author of "Fox on the Rhine" and "Fox at the Front." He served as a member of the team that built the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Marshall Lord TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
"MacArthur's War - a novel of the invasion of Japan" is the third foray into alternate history by Douglas Niles and Michael Dobson.

As explained in the author's notes at the back, although the Americans at Midway pretty much did everything right they were also very lucky. One of the keys to success in the battles between carrier fleets which took place during WWII was finding the enemy first. It takes nothing away from the courage and sacrifice of the US pilots who cripped the Japanese carrier force at Midway to recognise that the battle could have easily had a different outcome if the Japanese had found the US carriers earlier or the Americans had found the Japanese later.

In the real historic battle the US navy found the Japanese carriers quickly and launched an attack, which arrived at the worst possible moment for the Japanese, while they had a strike force of planes loaded with fuel, torpedoes and bombs on their deck ready to launch - or to blow their own carriers to bits if they got hit while waiting to take off. Which is what happened.

That perfect timing enabled the US planes to wreck the Japanese carriers and deprive the Imperial Japanese Navy of the strategic initiative for the rest of the war.

See the comments to this review for a challenge to the specific change relating to the fourth scout plane launched by he IJN cruiser Tone, which the authors of "MacArthur's War" suggest might have made the outcome of Midway less favourable to the American side.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Having read the previous 2 alternatives from the same authors I had high expectations for this book. In the majority I was not let down. It is again well written with a reasonable factual base and plausible alternative to make it interesting. Obviously MacArthur is the central character but the sub-plots are interesting as well. It does skip over a lot of time to get to the end and this for me was was the biggest letdown. The authors seemed to have realised it was a long book and then glossed over or quickened the pace just to get to the end. I would rather they had edited in the middle more and offered a greater amount for the invasion.

However for the price and to pass away a few evenings I would recommemd this book. Remember though it is an alternative "novel" rather than alternative history. Whilst these are broadly the same the academic alternative history books tend to cover shorter events that may have made significnat differences. This uses an alternative situation to create an alternative novel.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars from bataan to japan 6 Nov 2008
Format:Mass Market Paperback
an alternate history novel, running for approx 562 pages. this speculates what might have happened if the battle of midway had gone better for the japanese [writer's notes at the end reveal how it could have, and it's quite fascinating], and how as a result general macarthur of the us army gets a bit more latitude in the fight against the japanese forces than he might have otherwise. as uaual with alternate history booksn there are lots of viewpoint characters, some real people and some fictional.

macarthur was not an historical figure I knew too much about prior to this, but the book does paint an interesting picture of a man on the borderline between genius and madness. a very smart commander but with a huge ego as well.

It's a little difficult to get into though because what follows the immediate aftermath of midway does rather require you to know the subject to get the most out of it. however things do start to grab around page 114 with a gripping description of a huge naval battle.

but then time passes rapidly and a fair few things happen off stage. this is all - and none of this is a spoiler, since the book is subtitled 'a novel of the invasion of japan' so you know it's coming, to get us through several years to the point where america, which has no atom bombs due to a problem at the project making them, has to invade japan.

a very convincing and involving description of what the main characters go through as a result of being caught up in that follows, and if you like alternate history, or even just military stories, then this should well appeal, thanks to strong characterisation and good prose.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  35 reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars well researched, but slow buildup 4 Jun 2007
By W Boudville - Published on
This appears to be only the second book in English that describes a fictional invasion of Japan in the Second World War. The book has two points of departure. The first is where the US loses the Battle of Midway. Very plausible, because the actual US victory in our history was arguably a freakish event. The Americans had very good and improbable luck. But, as the text logically posits, even after losing at Midway, the Americans would still claw their way back, with immensely greater material.

The main point of departure is when the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos undergoes a meltdown. So the Trinity test at Alamogordo never happens, and atomic bombs are never developed. As an aside, there are two references to a White House meeting, where a fat, one star general shakes hands with Roosevelt. The general is never mentioned by name. However he is Leslie Groves, in charge of the Manhattan Project. The authors show good research in doing this, and knowledgable readers will pick up on it.

The Los Alamos accident is plausible. There was one actual instance in our history when a meltdown came close to happening. What stretches credulity is that the incident depicted in the text would cause the entire Project to fail. Oppenheimer, Feynman and Frisch are mentioned as being at that accident, in what are essentially cameo appearances. Even if all 3 had died (and this is not made explicit), the Project might still have chugged along, albeit delayed. Perhaps sufficient to cause an invasion. Without needing a delay long enough that atomic bombs were never made.

The invasion follows actual contingency plans drawn up by the American high command. These plans were declassified decades ago. They used code names based on American cars. Hence invasion beaches like Buick, Roadster, Pontiac. If the invasion had really occurred, these beach names would be as familiar to you as Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno and Sword. Some American readers wouldn't be here, because your fathers or grandfathers would have perished on the Japanese beaches.

The biggest problem with the book is that the titled "Invasion of Japan" only really happens in the second half. The first half does a thorough job of laying the groundwork. Especially in describing the internecine squabbles between the US army (aka. MacArthur) and the US navy. But in some ways, the groundwork is almost too thorough. A reader could well get impatient at the slow methodical buildup.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the struggle 29 May 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Two things to state up front: (1) this book is worth the time and the money and (2) the first half of the book is a struggle.

This is a well-written and exhaustively researched novel on the invasion of Japan by the United States. The first half of the book is focused on setting up the premise as to why we had to invade. There are a mix of characters who provide the viewpoint throughout the book, as well as some who appear and disappear. Many of these characters are very well-known historically (MacArthur; Roosevelt; King; Nimitz) others not so well known, but equally as significant historically (Vinson; Spruance; Halsey). The real "meat" of the story comes from the viewpoint of the "invented" people who have to carry out the biddings of the men in charge. The first half of the book is spent on intra-service rivalries and politics, and national politics to a lesser degree. To be honest, it dragged a good deal of the time.

The second half of the book made up for the first half (which was historically interesting, if not always exciting). The actual invasion of Japan was well-done, and the characters gained more depth and dimension. The combat scenes are very well written. The focus on a number of Japaneses characters was a welcome expansion of what is typically done, and it was also done with a great deal of dimension. There are very few cardboard characters in this book. (MacArthur's Chief of Staff, Sutherland, being a notable exception). The inclusion of Emporer Hirohito, as well as Japanese military and civilian characters, added a great deal to the book.

There is only one major shortcoming as far as I was concerned. The authors in a note following the text point to the Battle of Midway as being the point of departure in this alternate history. I know it's their book and they are in the best position to know, but I have to disagree. In the book, Japan wins the Battle of Midway. However, the United States achieves at least a strategic victory later in the mythical Battle of the Solomon Sea, so things are pretty much back to where they were historically at that point (1944). The true point of departure is when a catastrophic failure in New Mexico literally blows the Manhattan Project to pieces. That is why the invasion was necessary. If we had still developed the atomic bomb, the previous battles would have been largely irrelevant. The Manhattan Project is dealt with, and ended, in a few pages, and in a way that was completely unrealistic. I don't care how technologically ignorant we were in 1944 and 1945, no scientist would have done what the greatest physicists in the world did to cause the "oops" that ended the development of atomic weapons. It's a small point, but still one that is bothersome.

All in all, this is definitely worth your time.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yesterday and Today 5 April 2008
By M. Alexander Jurkat - Published on
When I was a teenager, I was fascinated by the early 20th century, particularly the period just before WWI and continuing through WWII. Although I read other history and fantasy/sci fi, the sheer magnitude and the compelling nature of the stories during that period kept me coming back. Completely identifying with the Allies and the Americans, both wars involved extreme hardship, were filled with larger-than-life characters, had masterful and (in the case of WWII) truly villainous enemies, and ended in victory (the good guys won). While WWI was not as satisfying to me at the time as WWII, it was the perfect set up to explain the events that lead to WWII, and the first war set up the victory in WWII as so much sweeter. So I read biographies, histories, technical discussions -- indeed, it got so bad that my grandmother, who lived through and lost much in the war, berated me for reading so much about Hitler.

Later, as I came to study history and dig a bit deeper, I started learning about, and exploring the darker side of American involvement in the wars. I began to understand the true horror of global war. While the stories remained compelling in the sense of how humans respond to far more trying times, my boyhood enthusiasm was significantly tempered. A deeper understanding made me question things a bit more. In time, I discovered alternative history and became fascinated by historical twists and their repercussions.

With this background, I thoroughly enjoyed Michael's and Doug's (the books are truly co-creations of both men) Fox on the Rhine and Fox at the Front duology. That appreciation continued unabated in their latest, MacArthur's War. I could revisit my youthful enjoyment of an epic and compelling story of good vs. evil. I was also given some insight into the humanity of the enemy, the horror of the Japanese treatment of prisoners (while also getting a window into why they acted as they did), the sheer panic and mind-boggling bravery/stubbornness of soldiers, and the darkness inherent in all of us, even the "good guys." Finally, I could explore an interesting series of events, alternative to what actually happened. Kudos to both authors for the nostalgia they awoke.

The compelling story lines, both political- and combat-oriented, were highly entertaining. While not as action-packed as the combat, I found the beginning political maneuverings to be more interesting. I've read many, many fight/combat scenes. As I get older, they hold less attraction. The interplay of personalities, motivations, societal forces, and luck that occurs in the political arena, both in the halls of power of the Americans and the Japanese, presented me with something novel and unique. I enjoyed the portrayal of the various personalities of the major historical figures, and seeing their impact on the nameless, faceless support personnel (who were given both names and faces in this book). No portrayal of a historical figure is going to be 100% accurate, or without some kind of coloring. The question is whether the characters are grounded, interesting, and serve the story. I found those answers in the affirmative in MacArthur's War.

The slice-of-life aspects, exploring what day-to-day life was like for common and uncommon folks in those days, are also a special part of this book. The impact of nascent sci-fi on a few of the soldiers, the origin of skip bombing, the lot of Japanese citizens (particular when faced with the horror of the American fire bombing), how a combat veteran brings himself to return to battle again and again, the crucial part that Roosevelt's evening soirees played in policy formation -- all these were fascinating glimpses of another time and another way of life.

Finally, despite the numerous books I've read about WWII, I've never undertaken any systematic study of the time, its tech, or its events. I do know that Doug and Michael are pretty serious about their research, and the impression given by MacArthur's War is one of accuracy and precision. No doubt they got some things wrong, and perhaps even purposely adjusted some facts to better fit the storyline. None of that lessened this book's enjoyment for me. The details are interesting, none of them struck me as ridiculous, and they helped enrich the larger story. All good, in my view.

As a final note, like Matt, I have a disclaimer to make. I have been good friends with Michael for longer than either of us care to remember. I've spoken to him on several occasions about the book, and its drafting process. It took me a while to clear my plate enough to read this book, and a bit longer still to write this review, but it wasn't for a lack of positive impressions. If I didn't think so highly of the book, I simply would have kept my peace. In this case, that alternative never crossed my mind.

Thanks for an enjoyable read, gentlemen. I recommend it to all.

Alex Jurkat
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Who Would Be the "Conqueror of Japan" 31 Aug 2008
By Grey Wolffe - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In this alternate history of the Pacific Theater of World War 2, Dobson/ Niles speculate that MacArthur would have been the primary mover. In his own mind MacArthur always was...but such is the man. (My Dad and many of his fellow veterans, never forgave MacArthur for leaving General Wainwright on Corregidor to surrender to the Japanese. What galled them the most was that he not only took his son's Amah (nanny) but also his Fillopino 'house boy', when he could have taken two more military men.)

Many Vets have said that the reason that MacArthur stayed in the Pacific was because there wasn't room for his ego in Europe along with Paton and Montgomery. It's odd but true that MacArthur thought of himself as being infallible and spoke of himself in the 'third person'.

Though the first 200 pages are truly a recap of the beginning of the war, after Midway there really aren't that many changes. The biggest was the by-passing of the Mariana and Caroline Island, Iwo Jima and the capture of only half of Okinawa. This would have saved an enormous amount of casualties. What is missing is that troops from the European Theater were being prepared to be sent to the Pacific by way of the Suez Canal or that the Russians attacked directly after the Potsdam Conference.

For anyone who has seen the pictures of the Japanese Kamikaze attacks during Iwo and Okinawa, it is unthinkable that the reaction to the invasion of one of the 'Home Islands' wouldn't have been worse. They would have made the 'suicide bombers' of Iraq look like amateurs. The use of the two nuclear weapons on Japan, probably saved hundreds of thousands if not millions of civilian casualties among the Japanese.

Zeb Kantrowitz
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deus Ex Natura? 13 July 2007
By Johnny L. Wilson - Published on
Anyone looking for a Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos or Sgt. Rock and Our Army at War view of the hypothetical invasion of Japan is likely to be disappointed in this book. If you're a Don Pendleton aficionado and expect a Stony Man version of WWII, you're not going to get it in MacArthur's War: A Novel of the Invasion of Japan. This novel is more about the war within the war, the political whirlwind of the politics behind the way that war was waged, and the ripples sent from that inner war to what we think of as the real war than it is about combat scenes per se.

But it does have combat scenes--scenes that make sense and ring true on the basis of what I know of human nature and have read from survivor's accounts. Not being a combat veteran, I can't certify the accuracy. It just reads right to me. Although the initial pacing for the first 100 pages or so may seem like anything but the aforementioned whirlwind, the carefully planted minefield of events is extremely significant for what happens from roughly 1/3 of the way into the book up to the end. The explosive scenes are definitely worth the build-up. And considering both the twofold pun of the Kami Kaze (Divine Wind) as both a natural force and a military "weapon," political whirlwind seems apt, as well.

I loved the delicate touches of the time--references to Astounding Science Fiction and Amazing (Stories) magazines (as well as E.E. "Doc" Smith's seminal trilogy), the cheesecake art style of Earl S. Begley emulated in the nose art of combat planes, the horrific condition of the White House during the FDR and Truman years, the derogatory songs directed at MacArthur, the Japanese deathships, the early war torpedo problem, the emperor's love of haiku, the geisha nicknames for Yamamoto and Anami, and more.

Though another reviewer may have spoiled the climax in a previous review, let me just state that I didn't anticipate the ending until very late in the book. Even then, I only hoped that the book would wrap up with some of the tidy knots that it did. I loved both the poetic justice of some aspects and the "adjustments" with regard to the occupation as opposed to the historical account.

Certainly, anyone who enjoyed James Webb's The Emperor's General will find the MacArthur of this book to be similar. For me, it was refreshing to read a book on MacArthur that was focused on WWII rather than the occupation or the Korean War (called MacArthur's War in the old SSG computer game on the Korean Conflict).

It was also a little eerie to see military masterminds acting like the pointy-haired bosses in Dilbert. Frankly, it was sad, but very credible.

Finally, I offer my apology to the authors. There was a point in the book where a typhoon is vividly described as a Kami Kaze (Divine Wind). At that point, I thought they were creating a "god out of nature" to solve a plotting issue. I wrote "Deus ex Natura" across the start of that chapter. When I read the historical notes and realized that there had been not one, but two typhoons within the historical period, I bowed to acknowledge my unworthiness.

Frankly, as a former software reviewer, I very rarely gave 5-star reviews. However, outside of the slow pacing at the beginning of the book (for which I've already suggested the necessity), I can't think of anything I would rather have had than the book that I read. Well, as a former publisher of Amazing Stories, I could have wished for more references to Amazing than to Astounding. (chuckle)
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