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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly gripping and intelligent modern history, 22 Jan. 2008
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Fiona Hook (London England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Kokoda (Paperback)
This is a fantastic book. The author, who in a former life was a financial journalist for the Sunday Times combines a historian's passion for accuracy with the newspaperman's ability to tell a good story by clothing his framework with the testimonies of those who were actually there. Strangely enough, the Japanese do not emerge as monsters.

It's all horribly vivid. Makes you glad you weren't actually there.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on Kokoda Campaign, 20 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Kokoda (Kindle Edition)
Military history is a difficult balancing act. The author must convey the horror of war, with any especial factors relevant to the campaign, but they also must convey the larger picture. A book that only says 'war is hell' respects the soldiers who fought in one regard, but it is strangely disrespectful in assuming that they were there as happy robots, fighting and dying for no particular reason. Paul Ham avoids this basic error, despite the fact that the Kokoda campaign could easily qualify as one of the most harrowing of World War Two, which is saying something given the vast scope of the conflict. Instead, we get a beautifully balanced work that sources from the Japanese perspective as well as the Allied. Paul is great with sources, and the key ones are directly referenced in the relevant chapters as well as in the traditional end notes. When fighting is described then we know why the action was fought and there are chapters that deal with the highest levels of command, including Britain and Churchill's role against the steely determination by the Austrailian government to get its professional army home from the Middle East. One example is the infamous Rabbit speech by General Blamey to the Austrailian Brigade that performed the fighting retreat into Port Moresby. Most authors describe the incident with a withering contempt for the General. Paul Ham places it in context and raises the possibility that it was really a public speaking disaster, but no more than that, and backs the possibility with referenced sources.

The maps are excellent, and on the Kindle edition are easy to enlarge and study. Crucially, they are in the right place relative to the text and so greatly add to the understanding of the work. This is easily the best book available on this absolutely critical campaign. It is quite expensive in print, and even the Kindle price is quite high. However, you get what you pay for in this case, which is a comprehensive, yet gripping read that unravels a complex conflict that ultimately had a huge strategic impact on the Pacific War. The simultaneous Guadalcanal campaign was a close run thing for example. What would have happened there if the Australians had collapsed, freeing up men and supplies for the Japanese in that desperate battle? Well, they didn't collapse and the rest, as they say, is history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent history of an horrific campaign, 19 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: Kokoda (Kindle Edition)
I bought this book in anticipation of walking the Kokoda Trail myself and only having the faintest of ideas of what the campaign involved.
The book provided extremely informative descriptions from the build-up to the campaign through to its conclusion. It also provides accounts from all perspectives: the politicians, high command, through the ranks to the soldiers on the ground from both the Australian and Japanese sides. It quotes extensively from diaries and papers from the campaign and integrates these well into the history. The writing is gripping without being sensationalist.
It is an excellent read for anyone interested in the Pacific Campaigns of World War II or in walking the Kokoda Trail.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very easy to read..........., 8 Nov. 2011
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This review is from: Kokoda (Paperback)
This seems to a very difficult book to get in Europe at a reasonable price. However, I found it an excellent read with I believe adequate detail for the professional historian but also easy enough to read for a more casual reader. The maps aren't brilliant and at times there are references within the text to places that are not visible on maps which can lead to slight confusion. This doesn't detract from the overall quality of the read which makes use of accounts of veterans who were in New Guinea and Papua to paint the misery that the soldiers faced. Paul Ham also doesn't sit on the fence with his views on some of the Allied commanders in the campaign.
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Kokoda
Kokoda by Paul Ham (Hardcover - 27 Oct. 2004)
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