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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 January 2014
This is a detailed examination of the island war in the South Pacific and focusses on on the period 1942 to 1944. Bergerud does well to focus on this critical area alone, and gives full credit and time to the outstanding contribution of the Australian forces in truly appalling conditions. His inclusion of a number of personal anecdotes and quotes brings the subject to life in all of its' dreadful detail and reveals the privations and struggles of both Allied and Japanese troops in fighting a jungle war. A great introduction to a lesser known theatre of WW2 (for many people) and has encouraged me to research it further. Obviously there is a major focus on American actions, but this is understandable given their commitment of men and material to this area of conflict.

The level of detail may sometimes be a little off-putting, but does explain the aims and intentions of both sides and tries to set things in context. The non-linear style does mean that you have to pay attention, or it is easy to lose the thread of what was happening from area to area.

This may be an older publication, but is still a valid review of this area of conflict. It is also worthwhile reading his other book about this period Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific. This focusses on the air war over the same area and again benefits from many personal recollections.
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on 1 December 1997
This book covers in detail the course of the war between Guadacanal and Tarawa; strictly an analysis of combat techniques in the jungle environment. The Australian forces are given a rare forum to explain their contribution to the Pacific conflict; deservedly characterized by the author as "the best land army of the war". It was the AIF that patented guerrilla warfare, before the American material tsunami, in its most brutal, savage, and murderous aspect. Perhaps it is only the ANZAC's that had the most to loose in a Japanese victory. They clearly fought on the personal and intimate basis of hatred and survival.
This is a rare '90's book that clearly focuses on the Japanese military as a demonic cult of death. That military managed an engine of war that would not accept conditional defeat, and insured the unnecessary deaths of millions of people. Battle histories are usually one-sided efforts because the loosing side is typically dead; in this conflict the Japanese military was exterminated in total by own their design. This book contains the recollections of dozens of combat veterans who quickly adapted to a new form of warfare in a punishing environment.
Put this book up on your shelf next to your "The Pacific War" by J. Costello or close by W. Manchester's "Goodby Darkness".
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on 2 November 1998
Even if you could care less about WWII, military history, or history in general, read this book. Bergerud gives an accurate, if bare-bones, account of the grander strategic scale on which the war in the South Pacific was fought, and then precedes to the real meat of the text: a series of chapters covering the conditions in which the infantry actually fought. The book's greatest strength is the massive amounts of material that the author has gleaned from the actual veterans of the conflict, and surely in the future historians who are trying to reconstruct what actually happened on the ground in WWII will be truly grateful for this kind of research. The stories of the men who actually served in the South Pacific give the war a more human character than it could ever have without these accounts. The war is presented to the reader in all of its splender and horror and even on many occasions its comedy. If you liked the style of Stephen Ambrose's Citizen Soldiers, Bergerud does it even better. Indeed, it is a shame that Bergerud's book hasn't achieved the same kind of recognization as has Ambrose's work. He lets these veterans speak for themselves, and it is these accounts that truly make this book great.
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on 13 August 2015
This book is about every battle in the South Pacific during WW2 and also about no battle.
If you only are able to read one book on the war in the South Pacific then Eric Bergerud's Touched with Fire is the one.
It details the Terrain, the climate, the armies (American, Australian & Japanese), the weapons, the tactics, the medical aid, the morale and so on.
Heavily illustrated with passages from soldiers who were there it explains why this war was different to all of the other WW2 battles or campaigns.
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on 17 April 1999
Many people reading this review are well read concerning the European theatre and shockingly ignorant about the Pacific. I was also, until now. While Bergerud's style is not nearly as gripping as other recently popular authors on WWII his complete coverage of the savagery and confusion in the Solomons and New Guinea will grab even the hardest East Front grognard. The author gives extensive coverage of the armies, the weapons, and the brutal terrain that defined the war in the South Pacific. My only complaint about the work is its somewhat overly detailed description of the force structures and island geography that may distract the casual reader at times. Bergerud gives the Australian forces much deserved respect and completely immerses the reader in the horror that was Jungle warfare in WWII. His books about Vietnam have given him extra insight into the jungle warfare that is still so foreign to the American military. The book focuses completely on the South Pacific and does not cover the mid-Pacific campaign (Siapan, Guam, Iwo Jima, etc.) and this is also a strong point. I strongly recommend this book as an introduction to the land war in the Pacific in WWII. All European theatre fans should read it.
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on 28 June 1999
This book is detailed, well researched, nicely balanced between narrative & quotes. Indeed, it is a very full account of all the elements that went into producing the hell that was WW2 in the South Pacific. Problem to me was the decision to deal with these elements in a sort of dry, encyclopedic manner. The Author really covers everything, including artillery, drugs, hospital facilities, furlough, morale, religion, terrain, tobacco, transport, weapons, etc., etc., but deals with them as separate situations. This approach is extremely thorough. It also reveals the "blood & guts" horrors, & difficulties of combat in that theatre of war. Sadly, I feel it hinders the reader in following the actual progress & development of the campaign. The short "calander" of events at the end is no compensation. This book is fine for folk who know the history of the South Pacific Campaign & want to flesh out the details. Not too satisfactory for those readers starting at scratch!
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on 30 November 1998
This was the first book I had ever read about warfare in the South Pacific. (I have read extensively about the European and Russian theaters of WW II.) Since reading this book, I have ordered several other books about the Pacific war, all because this book engrossed me so much. I concluded that given a choice, I would have preferred to have fought the Germans in Europe over the Japanese (and the jungle) in the Pacific. (Not much of a choice, though.) A great read. I reluctantly put it down each night. After reading this, I cannot wait for movie, The Thin Red Line to come out this winter. I only hopes it lives up to the standards set by Private Ryan.
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on 21 April 2010
This, paired with Fire in The Sky (and hopefully soon Oil on the Water) gives a great overview of what combat in the Pacific was like. I'd highly recommend it as a start point to get a feel of the Pacific campaign. After much reading about the war in Europe these books have ingnited my interest in the Paciifc theatre.
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on 2 February 2016
Good well written book with lots of detail regarding the nitty gritty of that conflict. Good first hand testimony detailed. Much I was not aware of.
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on 12 November 2015
Superb analysis of WWII combat in the Pacific Theatre. A must read for anyone interested in that conflict.
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