- Series: Modern War Studies (Hardcover)
- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: University Press of Kansas; 1st Edition edition (April 18, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0700619097
- ISBN-13: 978-0700619092
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,616,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The OSS in Burma: Jungle War against the Japanese (Modern War Studies (Hardcover)) Hardcover – April 18, 2013
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“Sacquety’s vivid and fascinating tale depicts Detachment 101’s evolution from an idiosyncratic, dysfunctional outfit conducting small-scale sabotage to a disciplined and effective clandestine organization running major guerrilla operations behind Japanese lines.”—Edward J. Drea, author of Japan’s Imperial Army: Its Rise and Fall, 1853–1945 “An excellent account that finally gives this overlooked yet important chapter of the Pacific War the recognition it deserves.”—Dixee Bartholomew-Feis, author of The OSS and Ho Chi Minh: Unexpected Allies in the War against Japan “Sacquety’s wide-ranging research, insightful analysis, and entertaining writing make for a great read.”—Brian McAllister Linn, author The Philippine War, 1899–1902
"This outstanding book provides long overdue recognition to this underappreciated and little-known aspect of World War II and the OSS."—OSS Society Journal
"The OSS in Burma is an outstanding contribution to the history of special operations, the China-Burma-India Theater, and the Second World War."—Army History
“Sacquety’s wide-ranging research, insightful analysis, and entertaining writing make for a great read.”—Brian McAllister Linn, author The Philippine War, 1899–1902
“An excellent account that finally gives this overlooked yet important chapter of the Pacific War the recognition it deserves.”—Dixee Bartholomew-Feis, author of The OSS and Ho Chi Minh: Unexpected Allies in the War against Japan
“Sacquety’s vivid and fascinating tale depicts Detachment 101’s evolution from an idiosyncratic, dysfunctional outfit conducting small-scale sabotage to a disciplined and effective clandestine organization running major guerrilla operations behind Japanese lines.”—Edward J. Drea, author of Japan’s Imperial Army: Its Rise and Fall, 1853–1945
About the Author
Troy J. Sacquety is a historian with the United States Army Special Operations Command. He previously worked for the CIA and has been the historian for the OSS Detachment 101 Association for many years.
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Top Customer Reviews
But that joke would never work if the fish were, say, a fresh, succulent trout. And therein lies the problem with "The OSS in Burma: Jungle War against the Japanese," by Troy J. Sacquety. Sacquety caught himself a fresh, succulent trout and cooked it up right, but has tried to feed us the board instead.
Let me explain what I mean. "The OSS in Burma" is a history, of sorts, of Detachment 101, an OSS unit that successfully raised and organized a massive force of guerrilla fighters in Burma. At first, the guerrillas consisted of Kachins, but more ethnicities were eventually brought into the force composition as time went on and the unit's campaigns left the main Kachin areas of Burma. By 1945, Detachment 101's guerrillas were so successful that they were actually able to transition from guerrilla to conventional warfare and engage in offensive battles against the Japanese Army in northeast and eastern Burma. It was one of the remarkable guerrilla warfare successes of World War II, equaled in the Pacific only by some of the best of the Fil-American guerrilla forces on Luzon in the Philippines (primarily those under Russell Volckmann).
The U.S. Army's Official History volumes of the China-Burma-India theater neglect these guerrillas, as do many other accounts of fighting in Burma. There have been several good memoirs written by participants in these struggles, notably Roger Hilsman's American Guerrilla, Richard Dunlap's Behind Japanese Lines, and William Peers' Behind the Burma Road, but no overall history based on original records. Thus "The OSS in Burma" had the potential to fill a large gap on a fascinating subject.
Does it fill such a gap, however? Sadly, no. "The OSS in Burma" has one massive, fatal flaw. It is not a general history of Detachment 101 or even a combat history of Detachment 101. It is, rather, an organizational or bureaucratic history of the unit.
Think about that for a second. Imagine how you might feel, purchasing a book about, say, the Flying Tigers or Merrill's Marauders or the Chindits (to give some other Burma-related famous units), only to find out that the book doesn't really talk about the unit's operations at all, but only about its organizational structure. Would you be disappointed? In all likelihood you would, whether you are a casual reader or a scholar. That is, however, what we have here. Sacquety has taken a fascinating unit that engaged in combat that, if not unique, was quite rare in the Pacific War, and then not given the reader any of that.
Obviously, some organizational history is important in a history of any unit. And it certainly is appropriate for starting off a history of Detachment 101, which took a long time to form and find its way. Explaining to the reader how it was structured and how the structure changed over time is quite important.
Eventually, however, the reader begins to discover that Sacquety never actually stops discussing organization and structure and starts discussing what the unit actually did and how it operated. The subtitle of the book is "Jungle War against the Japanese," but "war," or even whiffs of gunfire, come far and few between in this account. I say this from memory, as I do not have the book at hand at the moment, so I hope that I am not misremembering, but I believe the book does not have a single map in it.
Oh, the reader will get the *impression* that stuff is going on. Sacquety does mention the first few failed attempts at long range penetration. But by and large, Sacquety simply asserts to the reader that Detachment 101 is doing things, while not actually describing or analyzing those things. For example, the reader learns that part of Detachment 101 was decoding large numbers of Japanese messages. What any of those messages were, how those messages were used, and whether or not they were useful (or what portion of them might have been), is simply not discussed.
More importantly, Sacquety almost entirely leaves out description or analysis of the military operations engaged in by the guerrillas of Detachment 101, whether the early small-scale guerrilla forays, or the much larger conventional actions of 1945. This is really unforgivable. The reader learns about extremely few Detachment 101 officers (including their background or their performance [other than Eiffler, the first commander, or Peers, his successor]), much less the Kachins. I think there may have been only one named Kachin in the entire book. Perhaps there were one or two more, but the Kachins (and all the other guerrillas) are largely non-existent.
This is particularly disappointing, since there is so much to say about these things. Detachment 101 allowed relatively junior officers to organize and lead large numbers of men in combat (more than they typically would have with a regular army unit). Did they rise to the occasion? Were they good or bad? What problems did they encounter? How did they solve them? Detachment 101 also had the unusual situation of American officers commanding men of very different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. How did they do this? How were they effective? What problems emerged?
Then, too, there are the questions about how Detachment 101 fought. How was it armed, to begin with? How was it able to transition into more conventional warfare? In so doing, did its tactics and armaments change? From OTHER sources, but not this book, we learn about how inventive they were, such as airdropping "disposable" 4.2" chemical mortars to use as on-the-spot artillery when needed.
And Sacquety does little more than provide the barest of outlines (again, with no maps) about the Detachment's 1945 campaign. Instead of tracing the history of this rather intriguing military campaign, he almost ignores it, tracing it in a most sketchy and rudimentary fashion.
I would like very much to have been able to recommend this book. The subject, Detachment 101, is a fascinating subject well worthy of a history. That history, alas, remains to be written. All this book does is provide the structural/organizational framework of the unit that may help inform some future historian who will write a true history. The sooner, the better. In the meantime, readers interested in this subject will be far better off seeking some of the memoirs mentioned above than purchasing this volume.
For the sake of transparency, I must disclose that I am an Officer of the OSS-101 Association and a friend of the author. I am also a former journalist, editor, and media critic who can provide a balanced, impartial review here. It is my intention to provide the opinion of a fan of historical non-fiction.
Sacquety portrays the compelling story of Detachment 101 and the Burma fight by showing the reader the hierarchal, logistical, and operational complexities within the CBI Theater. These complexities were not only felt by Detachment 101's commanders Eifler and Peers, but by each and every one of its agents working at headquarters or behind enemy lines. Sacquety details the lack of direction or prioritization that 101 experienced from COI/OSS headquarters; an attitude that not only affected the way the unit was to operate, but the ways they were - and more often were not - provided with funding, armaments, staff, and supplies. "The OSS in Burma" is the story of a unit that defied all odds to become the best OSS detachment of the war and the example from which today's CIA and Army Special Forces indirectly draw their lineage.
As Sacquety explains in the book's introduction, the story and exploits of Detachment 101 are commonly overlooked or minimized. Further, Sacquety states in the introduction that his book aims to be an academic study of the Detachment, which has "previously not received" such. He concludes his introduction, "What follows is a study of the operations and organization of Detachment 101." Sacquety goes to great lengths to research and annotate from where he gets his facts - not only to remain impartial (his book is not a critical analysis of 101) but to allow readers, many of whom will be descendants of 101 veterans and source-hungry history buffs, to follow his paper trail through the nation's voluminous archives.
This last point is critical to readers who purchase "The OSS in Burma" and stands in contrast to M. Pitcavage's allegations against this book. Sacquety, writing nearly 70 years after the conclusion of World War II, does not aim to offer a blow-by-blow description of firefights in Burma, as told by those on the ground. Such an account has never been compiled and may never be, as not only have many of these stories been lost with the veterans themselves, but the overwhelming majority of Detachment 101 agents operated without knowledge of where other units were, what they were doing, and which of their fellow 101ers were doing it. They were focused almost solely on their task at hand. The only people with that kind of "bird's eye view" were Eifler, later Peers, their superiors, and those closest to them. This is one of the reasons Sacquety's work is such an important contribution.
Because of this, "The OSS in Burma" is really just one component that tells the story of Detachment 101. It is best appreciated when read in conjunction with Peers and Brelis' "Behind the Burma Road," Eifler's "The Deadliest Colonel," and other memoirs like Hilsman's "American Guerilla." Each offers a unique perspective that - by itself - doesn't tell the full story of 101's trials, tribulations, and accomplishments.
M. Pitcavage is entitled to his / her opinions. Like them, I would also have loved more maps (it has one), which I feel many history books lack. Perhaps a few more direct quotes from the author's interviews with veterans would have been appropriate. However, it is wholly inaccurate to say that "Sacquety never actually stops discussing organization and structure and starts discussing what the unit actually did or how it operated," or that "the reader learns about extremely few Detachment 101 officers (including their background or their performance [other than Eifler, the first commander, or Peers, his successor]), much less the Kachins."
"The OSS in Burma" discusses, in much detail, the complexity of supplying agents operating hundreds of miles from airbases and who are utilizing dozens of different weapons (including some Kachins who prefer fighting with Civil War-era Springfield muskets), Theater-made radios, and other supplies unique to their area of operations. Though he doesn't quote them directly, Sacquety's writing depends on the first-person perspective provided by - and attributed to - officers, agents, and allies alike, including Sam Spector, Allen Richter, Peter Lutken, Bud Banker, Father James Stewart, Zhing Htaw Naw, James Luce, Hugh Conklin, Vincent Curl, Frank Devlin, Lazum Tang, and Joe Lazarsky.
I give "The OSS in Burma" four stars because of the points I mention earlier, regarding the need to take Sacquety's overview with the details provided by several 101 memoirs. This doesn't reflect a shortcoming of the author - I rarely give five-star reviews - as much as the need to obtain perspectives from multiple sources before anyone can get a true picture of history; for Detachment 101 or otherwise.