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Nemesis: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45 (2007)

by Max Hastings

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magnificent ( )
  michael.confoy.tamu | May 18, 2014 |
An excellent overview of the conflict in the Pacific, intricately woven, easily understood, and surprisingly fair in its view of all sides of the theater. ( )
  Luftwaffe_Flak | Feb 7, 2014 |
Superb. An excellent overview & bipartisan in the main. Some interesting information on MacArthur ( )
  aadyer | Jun 9, 2012 |
This book is a good read.
It gives a general narrative thread for the year leading up to the surrender of Japan, and uses that thread to hang a large number of anecdotes on. Max Hastings tends to be very critical in all he writes and Nemesis is no exception. Very few characters - or nations - come out of this book in a sympathetic fashion, except perhaps Bill Slim. Certainly the Americans come in for a tremendous amount of "stick" although they in fact won, at relatively low cost in (American) human life. Overall, the book is worth reading. It should be read in conjunction with one or two general American histories, with Soldiers of the Sun a Japanese-centric look at the war, and with Defeat into Victory, Slim's war memoirs. ( )
  RobertP | Aug 15, 2009 |
This is an outstanding account of the final year in the Pacific campaign of World War II. While aware of many aspects thereof, there were numerous stories and accounts with which I was not familiar. For example, the British fight to liberate Burma, with English General Bill Slim leading a largely colonial force; Japanese activities on mainland China; the details of McArthur’s campaign on the Philippine Island of Leyte; the Australian war experience; the extremely contentious relationship between the United States Army and Navy, led by MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz respectively.

As Hastings points out, by 1944 the issue had largely been decided. This did not, however, preclude both sides in the conflict from taking actions and implementing strategies which resulted in mounting casualties and continued, increasingly bloody conflicts, as the Allied forces slowly advanced upon the Japanese home islands. The Japanese becoming increasingly desperate and invoking increasingly brutal and hopeless policies in an effort to attain a more favorable peace from what they hoped would become a war weary and casualty averse enemy.

Having been raised to place our WWII military leaders on a fairly lofty pedestal, it is sometimes jarring to see them painted in a less than complimentary light. This is not the first account I’ve seen of MacArthur’s personality defects, however it’s the first I’ve seen in which Navy Admiral “Bull” Halsey is painted as a virtually incompetent, intellectually challenged, criminally reckless commander. While this may be the case, much of the author’s evidence rests on Halsey’s actions at Leyte Gulf, which in hindsight may or may not be justified.

The strength of this work is in the detail, the individual accounts and the filthy, muddy, insect infested, oppressively hot, monsoon battered landscapes featured in most of the conflict. It is hard not to be drawn into many of the stories and personal histories presented by the author, both Japanese and American. The stories documenting Allied POW treatment are particularly moving and used effectively by the author to justify many of the Allied forces responses very late in the war (including the atomic bomb debate).

Of course, as you would expect, the author writes extensively on the debate surrounding development and use of atomic weapons. While he clearly comes down in support of President Truman’s decision to employ atomic bombs in an effort to conclude the war, he covers the issue completely, marshalling arguments from every angle and source. Most impressively, he analyzes the various issues from the viewpoints of the participants, not with the benefit of historical hindsight.

In this respect, it is instructive to learn that there was virtually ZERO debate over deployment of the weapon. In fact, the military was not even required to await Presidential approval for deployment of the second bomb, it being treated as simply another weapon in the military’s arsenal. The very idea that such a weapon would be developed and not employed was so foreign a concept as to unworthy of discussion. The author dismissively states that the debate has been conducted and resolved resoundingly in favor of Truman’s decision.

All in all, a very extensively researched and well presented piece of work. I recommend it highly for anyone with an interest in history in general or World War II in particular. ( )
  santhony | May 14, 2009 |
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In memory of my son CHARLES HASTINGS 1973-2000
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307263517, Hardcover)

Hailed in Britain as “Spectacular . . . Searingly powerful” (Andrew Roberts, The Sunday Telegraph), a riveting, impeccably informed chronicle of the final year of the Pacific war. In his critically acclaimed Armageddon, Hastings detailed the last twelve months of the struggle for Germany. Here, in what can be considered a companion volume, he covers the horrific story of the war against Japan.

By the summer of 1944 it was clear that Japan’s defeat was inevitable, but how the drive to victory would be achieved remained to be seen. The ensuing drama—that ended in Japan’s utter devastation—was acted out across the vast stage of Asia, with massive clashes of naval and air forces, fighting through jungles, and barbarities by an apparently incomprehensible foe. In recounting the saga of this time and place, Max Hastings gives us incisive portraits of the theater’s key figures—MacArthur, Nimitz, Mountbatten, Chiang Kai-shek, Mao, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin. But he is equally adept in his portrayals of the ordinary soldiers and sailors—American, British, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese—caught in some of the war’s bloodiest campaigns.

With unprecedented insight, Hastings discusses Japan’s war against China, now all but forgotten in the West, MacArthur’s follies in the Philippines, the Marines at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and the Soviet blitzkrieg in Manchuria. He analyzes the decision-making process that led to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—which, he convincingly argues, ultimately saved lives. Finally, he delves into the Japanese wartime mind-set, which caused an otherwise civilized society to carry out atrocities that haunt the nation to this day.

Retribution is a brilliant telling of an epic conflict from a master military historian at the height of his powers.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:41 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Max Hastings provides in this book a chronicle of the horrific final year of the Pacific war. By the summer of 1944 it was clear that Japan's defeat was inevitable, but how the victory would be achieved remained to be seen. Hastings gives us incisive portraits of the key figures--MacArthur, Nimitz, Mountbatten, Chiang Kai-shek, Mao, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin. But he is equally adept in his portrayals of the ordinary soldiers and sailors--American, British, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese--caught in some of the war's bloodiest campaigns. Hastings discusses Japan's war against China--now all but forgotten in the West, MacArthur's follies in the Philippines, the Marines at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and the Soviet blitzkrieg in Manchuria. He analyzes the decision-making process that led to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki--which, he convincingly argues, ultimately saved lives. Finally, he delves into the Japanese wartime mind-set, which caused an otherwise civilized society to carry out atrocities that haunt the nation to this day.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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