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Enjoyable and authoritative.
on 5 December 2013
A fine book of one of the most impressive feats of the latest world war, an event that, besides marking the weakness of the foundations of the British Empire, started a process of awareness amongst Asian people that brought to independence and self government after Indochina wars.
After the fall of the city of the lion and even if the war was won, Great Britain and France had to come to terms with a completely different situation, one where all the assumptions that were at the basis of their colonial power, were no longer accepted and led to the dismemberment of their old empires. It is very ironic that this process was started by a war of aggression from Japan that at the end just wished to replace the old powers and proceed to a ruthless exploitation of other Asian countries, considered as inhabited by sub-humans.
The book provides a convincing and well documented picture of the state of unpreparedness and the general underestimation of the strength and willingness of Japanese armed forces that was prevalent in the colony and that played a great role in setting wholly inadequate defences in front of General Yamashita's troops. This underestimation was a trait that continued all along ww2 bordering into open racism but at the end of the day stereotyping was widespread in those years. When it combined itself with arrogance, it brought to unprecedented disasters like the sinking of two British battleships on December, 10 1941.
There is a remarkable change of pace in the book between the pre war situation, where the description of stylish colonial life is vividly rendered and the subsequent grittiness of the Malayan campaign and the siege of Singapore. The passage from the golden days of colonial rule to the horrors of war is perfectly expressed.
One aspect that I found not wholly convincing is the description of fighting as usually one sided, with Empire troops always heroically confronting much superior Japanese troops and inflicting grievous losses to them, but at the end of the day the body count tells a different story and Empire troops had twice the amount of casualties of General Yamashita's troops.