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The Pacific War
on 9 March 2014
"The Pacific War" by John Costello is a good serviceable history of the Second World War in the Pacific. The writing style is clear and readable if not particularly exciting. As a narrative history of the war it covers all the major events, starting with a discussion of the development of politics and naval tactics before the war and the build up to Pearl Harbour.
Despite its size however this book fails to provide any real detail. Most of the coverage is of the naval campaign and little or no time is spent describing the weapons and tactics of the opposing armies. Similarly there are very few quotes or first hand accounts from those who fought in the war. Occasionally there is a snippet of detail, such as the stench of rotting vegetation on Guadalcanal but this does not even begin to describe the horrendous experience of fighting there.
Some effort is made to describe the numerous wartime conferences between the Allied leaders as a necessity of understanding the way the Pacific War was fought. Political considerations dictated the resources available. But there are very few descriptions of the weapons, vehicles and aircraft used, their relative strengths and weaknesses.
The focus is very much on the Allied perspective which is fairly common but no effort seems to be made to describe the psychology of the Japanese nation and the soldiers it produced. The Pacific War was one of the most brutal wars ever fought due to the inherent racism displayed by both sides. At no point does John Costello really address this except to say that the Japanese soldiers brutal training produced brutal soldiers.
All in all this book does provide a good introduction to the subject of the Pacific War but for a book of this size I really expected a lot more. Perhaps this is best read in conjunction with another author - Laurence Rees or Max Hastings perhaps, who really deal with the issues involved and not just the basic facts.