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Unique virtues, unfortunate failings
on June 17, 2013
There are extensive reviews of this book already, I'll add just a few comments. What I found to be the unique contributions of the book was its extensive use of the first person accounts of soldiers, ordinary townspeople, lower rank officers, etc. This gave an important flavor of what the war was like for those who experienced it. However, Hastings suffers greatly from hindsight bias. He repeatedly uses phrases such as "it should have been obvious that" for example, Japan had been defeated already and there was no reason for the Philippine campaign. The Japanese didn't seem to know that, as, even after the atomic bombs, large numbers of their generals and soldiers in China wanted to continue the war. The book is filled with such off-hand, judgmental comments taking points of view that could not have been known to the people engaged in the war at the time. Hastings is also dismissive, with one sentence back-hands, of many generals. He is scathing in his treatment of MacArthur, admittedly a troublesome figure, but not the incompetent Hastings makes him out to be. This is one of Hastings "should have knowns..." the US should have known that the campaign through what is now Indonesia was "unnecessary." One can almost hear Hastings sneer. He is similarly dismissive of, for example, Rommel, who he routinely berates as having no interest in logistics. He never provides data to back up these one sentence condemnations. This writer has seen extensive cable traffic from Rommel, in other works, pleading for oil, planes, tanks--the logistical support he needed. Hastings dismisses this in a sentence.
Read it for the human interest contributions. Don't take Hastings judgments of the worth of various military campaigns or officers too seriously.