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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The whole compass of the Pacific War explained
All I knew about the Pacific war is in the title: Pearl Harbour and Hiroshima, but with a few oft-heard locations such as Guadalcanal and Midway in between. Having recently seen "The Pacific" mini-series, and realising how abysmally ignorant I was a) about this heroic struggle and b) the geographical locations, I looked up the vast amount of related material on the web...
Published on 21 Aug 2011 by Solihull

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1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
could not get into it
Published 8 days ago by R E Sherwood


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The whole compass of the Pacific War explained, 21 Aug 2011
All I knew about the Pacific war is in the title: Pearl Harbour and Hiroshima, but with a few oft-heard locations such as Guadalcanal and Midway in between. Having recently seen "The Pacific" mini-series, and realising how abysmally ignorant I was a) about this heroic struggle and b) the geographical locations, I looked up the vast amount of related material on the web. But then I wanted more detail and looked for a book. "The Pacific War Companion" is what I chose.

I made the right decision. This collection of essays includes a study of the 19th century origins of the US Japan conflict (and at last provides me with an explanation of the attack on Pearl Harbour). It also explains how the creed of Bushido, an obdurate belief in the outdated modes of warfare like the Banzai charge (these had been successful earlier in the century), a misguided view that Americans would be unwilling to take them on and an appalling lack of fallback planning, eventually scuppered the Japanese. From there the course of the war is logically laid out, the principal characters like Yamomoto, Nimitz, Spruance etc. are introduced, decisions are justified (in some cases condemned) and the heroism abundantly (and justly) recorded.

I've heard it said that in war, the winners are the ones who make least mistakes. The Americans had an enemy who made continual tactical and strategical errors. But it is clear from this history that the Americans not only had a few Japanese bungles and an enormous military-industrial base, but that their soldiers and commanders (backed by the US population) were highly motivated, smart and courageous. And luck was on their side on several critical occasions.

I feel I've now had the whole compass of the Pacific war explained, and for anyone similarly curious, recommend it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, smooth and ejoyable to read, 24 Dec 2005
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Sergio Angel Verbo (Madrid, Spain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Pacific War Companion: From Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima (Osprey Companion) (Hardcover)
This book is highly recommened for anyone who is interested in the Pacific campaign during WWII. It is a smooth read (unlike many books by Osprey which, albeit sublime, may overwhelm the reader with too many facts, names and numbers in too few pages), and informative, nonetheless.
Perhaps they should have included more diagrams, tables and maps with facts and figures, as they usually do in their regular books, to help the reader ascertain quickly the situation, developemnt and outcome of the battles and campaigns. Someone wanting to know the names of the Japanese carriers sunk in Midway or their commanders' will have to read the article in order to know them. In the Campaign Midway 1942 Osprey book, however, the Order of Battle is present, making things easy.
Apart from that, I recommend it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!, 2 July 2010
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A. Horner "Andrew Horner" (Erskine, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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Having watched "The Pacific" series on Sky I realised how little I knew about the war against the Japanese, so I looked around for a reasonable book. There were many to choose from but this one was a great choice. Each chapter is a section in its own right written by a leading historical authority and covers all angles including Japanese foreign policy, the in-fighting between the various arms and services of the US military and some great overviews of the strategy and campaigns. The book is very factual and if you're looking for great detail about individual battles and campaigns then this is not for you, but as a summary of the whole war in the Pacific it takes a lot of beating.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Overall, an excellent and enlightening collection, 16 Feb 2013
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Mr. A. N. Kersten "Anselm" (Leicestershire, UK) - See all my reviews
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Osprey is a publisher usually associated with war gaming and modelling and their associated topics - individual campaigns, weapons and uniforms. How intriguing, then, to see them publish a collection of essays by various authors on such a wide-ranging topic. What kind of a fist would they make of it? So I flicked through the Table of Contents. A minute after I saw H.P. Willmott's name as a contributor, it was on my Kindle. More of that shortly.

This book suffers from the two almost inevitable drawbacks attendant on this genre. The first is uneven coverage of its topic. It is by no means meant to be a comprehensive history of the Pacific War, let alone an exhaustive one, but even so it could arguably have done with a couple more chapters. A previous reviewer has instanced the lack of an essay on China. I agree, but the publishers might argue that the book's subject is the Pacific War, which doesn't include the war on the Asian mainland that had been raging on and off for a decade before Pearl Harbor. Fair enough, I suppose. But this line of reasoning surely distorts the conflict by dealing only with those bits of it that concerned the Western allies. In American consciousness the war was about avenging Pearl Harbor. It was thus truly the "Pacific" war - that is to say, predominantly a naval one, whose salient actions were the ones that marked the American route across the ocean towards Japan, from Midway to Okinawa. For the British it was about empire, and primarily about India; the evocative names for them included Singapore, the Arakan, Imphal and Kohima.

But surely no conflict can make sense without considering it from the standpoint of the party that started it - that is to say, with the one that has the initiative. For the Japanese the war was about China; it started in 1931, or at the latest in 1937. The Japanese rationale for launching the Pacific War in December 1941 was to obtain the resources necessary to bring the "China Incident" to a successful conclusion and to deny them to their enemy. The principal objective was thus to seize the oilfields of the then Netherlands East Indies (NEI), and the secondary one (apart from safeguarding Japan's conquests on the Malay Peninsula) was to close the Burma Road, the route along which the West supplied the beleaguered Chinese. This, of course, meant occupying Burma. In short, the Pacific War in general, and the seizure of the NEI and Burma in particular, wouldn't have happened without Japan's self-imposed commitment in China.

This is one reason I would have liked, if not an essay on China, then at least an integrated one on the China/Burma/India (CBI) theatre. Burma in WWII doesn't make sense without China, conceptually or operationally, and the essay in this volume that deals solely with Burma thus displays the same incoherence as every other treatment of Burmese operations in isolation: Chinese armies pop up there as if by magic, and then equally miraculously vanish again when they become irrelevant to Allied post-Imphal operations. One aim of the second Chindit expedition is presented as "supporting Lieutenant-General Stilwell's advance on Myitkyina". Lieutenant-General who, and what advance? That's one of the few times we hear of either in the entire collection, never mind this essay. A treatment of the CBI as a whole would also have been useful because of the paucity of material on it, as compared with the wealth of books on its constituent parts (or at least on the C and the B).

The other area I feel might have benefited from an essay is the behind-the-scenes one of American logistics. It is well known - and was known by the Japanese before Pearl Harbor - that the U.S's industrial might would overwhelm Japan in time. This was the main reason for American success, although they vastly underestimated the extent to which it would do so. An account of how this American potential was realised in American factories, and was then transported over thousands of miles of ocean to battlefronts from New Guinea to Iwo Jima, as well as of the apparatus by which their battle fleets grew stronger - not, as conventional wisdom would have it, weaker - the further they moved from their base at Pearl Harbor, would have been most enlightening.

The second drawback of this volume is the uneven quality of the essays themselves. The Burmese one I mentioned above is mostly just chronicle of the "first-this-happened-then-that-happened" variety. As such, it should be a decent enough introduction if you're a Burma campaign novice. Should be - but the absence of a map makes it impossible to orient your way around the details of the action. I was also somewhat disappointed by the one on the Coral Sea and Midway. While adequate as a basic recap of most of the main events, it doesn't seem to incorporate the latest writings on the subject that set out to demolish several Midway myths, especially the "miraculous five minutes" that supposedly saw three Japanese aircraft carriers taken out by Dauntless dive-bombers only moments before their own devastating strike on their American opposite numbers was launched from their crowded - and thus hopelessly vulnerable - decks. Parshall and Tullys' Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway (2005) and Symond's The Battle of Midway (2011) are the latest works to re-evaluate the traditional view, but unfortunately neither of those two recent works appears in the Companion's bibliography.

It doesn't have to be like this. There's no reason why a simple summary of events shouldn't be cogent, or why it shouldn't treat historical writing on the topic, and why it shouldn't therefore be able to serve the needs both of novices needing an introduction to the subject and more seasoned hands who could do with a handy overview. The second essay demonstrates this perfectly. Not only does it coherently recite the events leading up to Pearl Harbor, but it summarises the main controversy that has raged around the battle practically since the bombs fell: did Roosevelt have prior knowledge of the Japanese attack? In the best essays of this type, these qualities are such that they naturally produce insights. Thus the fourth essay outlines the Allied response to the initial Japanese offensives, formalised in the hapless Wavell's equally hapless ABDA Command. The background is the key, and this essay gives us enough of it to be able to comprehend perfectly why, when Japan "kicked in the door, the whole rotten structure came crashing down" (to paraphrase Hitler on his impending attack on the USSR - a comment that could with more justice apply to the initial Japanese thrusts). The essay's broad scope and clear, authoritative summary permit of the overarching and perceptive conclusion that "The ultimate incoherence in British plans for a Pacific war was that they depended on a degree of American commitment there which, had it come about, Churchill himself would have deplored and fought to reverse". The execution of British preparations also left something to be desired: air power was used as a replacement for the sea power that it was recognised years before 1941 would not be forthcoming, but the siting of airfields down the length of Malaya without consulting the army meant that the latter's dispositions was dictated by the need to defend those airfields, not by the primary necessity of defending against an invasion by land. This goes a long way to explaining why the Japanese were able to scythe through the British defences so effortlessly.

Essays like this are the first of the two types in this book. The second type is characterised by a synthetic approach, as typified by H.P. Willmott's treatment of Japanese naval strategy 1942-1945. Now, call me a Willmott groupie, but it seems to me that everything that man writes is pure intellectual gold. Unlike the previous two essays I've mentioned, he assumes that you already have the basic knowledge of what happened when (the volume contains a chronology that meets this need, at least partially), and adduces only those events he needs in order to illustrate his point. What he does is far more meaningful. He has the knack of drawing out the themes that underlie the "mere chronology" of events. Until I had read his essay, for example, it hadn't struck me that the Guadalcanal campaign was the Japanese pre-war battle plan in miniature and in reverse: the Americans took a Japanese possession and held on to it, attritting their expeditionary attempts to take it back. His analytical use of statistics is masterly. For example, he illustrates the power of the American naval drive across the central Pacific, and the powerlessness of the Japanese to do anything about it, by pointing out that the American advance from Tarawa in November 1943 to the eve of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, when kamikaze operations began, cost it the princely sum of one destroyer and one destroyer escort. That includes the taking of the Gilberts and Marshalls, the destruction of 200,000 tons of Japanese merchant and naval shipping at Truk by carrier aircraft in one day, MacArthur's advance along most of the northern New Guinea coastline in two months, the invasion of Saipan and the Marianas Turkey Shoot.

Willmott's approach is telescopic - he uses a broad brush approach to discern the patterns that connect surface events. But wars consist of battles that are fought, in the main, on land by individual soldiers and squads shooting stabbing and grappling it out face to face in order to gain an ascendancy that may accrue gradually or may come suddenly when the enemy breaks. It's the microscopic approach that reveals how the large-scale trends Willmott discerns were worked out on the ground, and how the devil is quite often in the detail. Two essays, one on Okinawa and one on amphibious warfare, demonstrate this. Exactly why the Okinawan campaign unfolded as it did was down to the historically-rooted nature of both the initial Japanese preparations and of the American response to them. Those preparations and responses were very much tactical, and in order to understand the progress of the battle you have to appreciate how these worked themselves out at platoon level. And previous history also underpins the US Marines' development of amphibious warfare in the interwar years. Their analysis of Gallipoli flew in the face of conventional wisdom to conclude that those landings failed because of flawed execution rather than inherent impossibility. They consequently set out to solve the problems of that most difficult of military operations, amphibious landings on a defended coast. The essay on amphibious warfare in the Pacific tells this story in a way that explains how they succeeded, island by island, but at such terrible cost, and how the Japanese responded.

The final essay on the operations that would have ended the Pacific War if the Japanese had not surrendered early form a fitting conclusion to a collection that is in the main excellent. It is the most comprehensive account I've come across of the projected landings on southern Kyushu and the subsequent main ones on the coastline near Tokyo, including why the former was chosen and what the Japanese response was. It turns out not only that the latter had second-guessed American intentions but that they were by no means bereft of the means to counter them. The other great controversy, the ones around the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are outlined. The author comes down on Henry Stimson's side: "the atomic bombs were awful, but the alternatives were much worse". Judgment at the Smithsonian, about the controversy that raged around that institution's abortive semicentennial anniversary of the bombings, presents a more detailed view covering the debate in 1945 and the succeeding decades.

Just a word about the Kindle formatting: there's an active Table of Contents but no active linking between reference numbers and their footnotes. These latter are extensive, and using them is consequently laborious. There are also illustrations and one (yes, just one) map, but in the absence of any reference to them in the Table of Contents, you only find out about those by accident when you come across them as you're reading. These are nothing more than niggles, however. I got this essay in one of those outrageously cheap Kindle sales. For any three of the best of these essays - which is to say, 10 of the total 13 - I would gladly have paid full price.

(PS - Dear Amazon, I'd hate you to take my "gladly have paid..." comment as licence to stop with the outrageously cheap Kindle sales. Please keep `em coming!)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting, 11 Jan 2014
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A book that feels like a series of lectures rather than one long story,interesting facts and as the title suggests will be a fine companion to further Pacific war reading
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, 21 April 2011
As per the two previous reviewers, this is an excellent book.

I was tempted to give it 4 stars rather than 5 though, for a couple of reasons - 1) although it covers the war in Burma and India (clearly not in the Pacific!), it only really covers the war in China in passing. 2) I felt that whilst the superiority the Allies enjoyed in Intelligence and radar was mentioned, not enough was made of the critical difference these things made to their success.

On the positive side it explains the strategies of the opposing sides very clearly. It also does explain how the "Pacific War" was not fought in isolation, but was also influenced by events, strategies and diplomacy in the rest of the world.

If you are interested at all in this period of history, I'd definitely recommend this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good if uneven, 24 Oct 2011
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The format of this book is unusual, being a collection of essays by different authors. Obviously such an approach runs risks of being uneven or repetitive. The latter is mostly avoided and likewise there are no serious gaps except, perhaps, a review of the naval war outside the well known battle of Midway. There is an excellent introduction which describes why Japan chose war as its path forward and an excellent description of how they pulled off the first invasions. There is a refreshing depth to the review of the strategies of the protagonists as well as the tactics. The chapter on how to attack an island is very detailed and interesting. Finally, there is a review of the A bombs and why they were used. Although it avoids saying so directly, it is clear from this that the most compelling reason was Stalin's advance into Manchuria and the wish to avoid confrontation with the Soviet Union in two theatres.
There are a couple of poor chapters. The chapter on Burma, by D Marston, is impossible to follow: "the 19th battalion went here and the 24th went there etc." Without maps and an adequate explanation of why any of the areas or towns were important, the reader is completely lost. The strategic links between Burma and India/China are scarcely discussed. There are two chapters by an Australian Professor: D Horner. The first on McArthur is interesting, but inconsistent, trying to make out McArthur as incompetent and brilliant at the same time. The second is a gratuitous apologia for the qualities of Australian soldiers (it is entitled ANZACs but concentrates on Australian feats). The author claims that the aussies were braver and fought harder and didn't get the credit they deserve (compared to the Americans) and were left in the Lurch by the Brits. Well, that all seems a bit subjective to me and had already been claimed in the previous chapter by the same author.
Overall, though, it comes off quite well and gives a pretty detailed overview of ebb and swell of the campaigns.
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4.0 out of 5 stars If you are interested in this subject it is a ..., 17 Aug 2014
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If you are interested in this subject it is a book worth reading but it does jump about a little making it difficult to keep to the timeline.
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1.0 out of 5 stars One Star, 23 Aug 2014
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could not get into it
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 30 July 2014
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Very good thank you
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