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The Little Men [Paperback]

K.W. Cooper
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb 1992
The Burma campaign, in which General Slim's 14th Army halted the Japanese at the mountain passes into India and finally drove them back across the Irrawaddy, destroying them in the process, was among the last Allied victories in World War II. The author of this book served as an infantry platoon and company commander in this historic campaign and this book is based on the notes he made in 1945. He describes patrol engagements, night fighting, company and battalion attacks, and the crossing of the vast Irrawaddy.

Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Robert Hale Ltd; New edition edition (Feb 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 070904710X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0709047100
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 13.6 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,037,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War at the Sharp End 22 Aug 2010
I bought this book soon after the paperback edition was published in 1975 (and paid the princely sum of 10p in Woolworth for it). It was a real eye-opener. This was the first book I had read from the Second World War that told me just how terrifying infantry combat was and how terrible the conditions under which it was fought.

Ken Cooper was a platoon officer in the 2nd Battalion, the Border Regiment, 20th Division in the XIVth Army; the "Forgotten Army" which recaptured Burma from the Japanese in the latter years of the War.

No written account can convey the reality of close combat, but Cooper's graphic description of a ferocious firefight in a Jap-held village comes close: the numbing effect of the bedlam of noise, the flash of explosions and automatic weapons, the bewildering effect of smoke, the choking fumes, the confusion of figures dodging and weaving amongst the foxholes, bomb craters, trees and burning huts, men killed and horribly wounded, "I struggled to force my mind through the swamp of numbness, fighting desperately to think clearly."

Cooper was a competent platoon officer and demonstrates how forethought and sensible planning could minimise risks and casualties, but he also had to endure some sloppy leadership. After one bloody repulse, "even some of the NCOs had turned `bolshie' and were threatening to soldier no more if we couldn't handle them better than we had that morning."

Another surprise for the 1970s is that the language of this book is unexpurgated. The f*** word and other choice expressions are much in evidence.

If you read General William Slim's account of the fighting in Burma "Defeat into Victory", you should certainly read Ken Cooper as a companion volume.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great book,well written,these guys went through hell.Apart from that thee is a photo of my Dad in it! Cant recommend it enough.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Face to face fighting in Burma 16 Aug 2013
By John E. Larsen - Published on
Cooper is a former RAF man, who following an accident becomes an infantryman. While he does not write of this, or any other combat service, his book is very full of action in the drive to recapture Burma in 1945. For this he is principally a platoon leader in the 2nd Battalion the Border Regt, the British element of the 100th Brigade of 20th Indian Division.

This is very much a combat account. Cooper is prominently involved in all the usual light infantry actions. He patrols, sets defences and leads attacks. At this point in the campaign the Japanese were still a formidable force. Many of the actions described are very willing affairs indeed. There is to me, something particularly oppressive about jungle fighting. The thick foliage makes identification of enemy positions extremely difficult and Japanese tactics accentuated this. Supply is haphazard, with no scope for any comforts and there is a complete lack of recreation options. The only thing to do is to advance on the enemy. In this book, this happens a lot.

Sometimes the Japanese in Burma are described as disorganized and clumsy. This is not the case here. Positions are defended with grim determination and attacks launched, often predictably but with absolute ferocity. There are some very horrible fates for soldiers on both sides and Cooper doesn't spare too many details. The crash of battle, with smoke and fire and hellish noises could stun the senses. The night fighting seemed to me the worst. The tension of manning a foxhole while the Japanese searched for you in the dark must have been nigh on unbearable. Not all made it through. But there were many ways to die, including drowning during river crossings.

The Fourteenth Army is often referred to as the Forgotten Army. Cooper's story explains the ordinary soldier's experience of being on the end of a very long supply chain. Indeed, the demands on the troops in this extreme theatre are hard to believe. Men were unable to go on, NCOs refused orders but still the advance continued relentlessly. Cooper's perspective as a commander is compelling. He details his plans and actions and writes painfully of men lost. I did read once that elements of his account are slightly exaggerated, but be that as it may, it is at face value a very hard fighting account. I think this memoir is a must read if you want to see what jungle fighting was about. Highly recommended 4 1/2 stars
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