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Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45 Paperback – March 10, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 194 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“[A] masterly account of the climax of the conflict against Japan. . . . Hastings is a military historian in the grand tradition.” —The New York Times Book Review“Compelling. . . . To the broad sweep of military events Hastings adds myriad human stories . . . and he does not hesitate to offer his own keen analysis along the way.” —The Wall Street Journal“Through the imaginative power of his writing, we get an inkling . . . of what it must have been like to slog one's way up a cliff at Iwo Jima, or be firebombed in Tokyo.” —The New York Review of Books“A triumph. . . . The key to the book's success lies not in its accessibility, nor in its vivid portraits of the key figures in the drama—although it has both—but in something else entirely: the author's supremely confident ambition.” —The Sunday Times (London)"Hastings has another winner . . . This book is first-rate popular history, stiffened with a strongly stated point of view . . . A close-up and personal look at war as it affected real people, and how it felt to them at the time."—Harry Levins, St. Louis Post-Dispatch"Explosive, argumentative, intensely researched . . . Demands to be read. A book of stunning disclosures."—Tom Mackin, Sunday Star-Ledger"[A] masterful interpretive narrative . . . Hastings is both comprehensive and finely acute."—Booklist"Spectacular . . . Searingly powerful. Hastings makes important points about the war in the East that have been all too rarely heard." —Andrew Roberts, The Sunday Telegraph"Extraordinary . . . Anyone who believes that we're all living through a uniquely troubled time should read this . . . book." —Georgie Rose, The Sunday Herald"This is a book not only for military history buffs but for anyone who wants to understand what happened in half the world during one of the bloodiest periods of the blood-soaked 20th century."—The Spectator"Highly readable . . . An admirably balanced re-examination of the last phases of a conflict that it is not fashionable to remember."—Dan van der Vat, The Guardian"Engrossing . . . Its originality lies in the meticulousness of the author's research and the amazing witnesses he has found."—Murray Sayle, The Evening Standard"Hastings is . . . a master of the sort of detail that illuminates the human cost. It is the way he leaps so adeptly to and fro between the vast panorama and the tiny snapshot pictures that makes him such a readable historian."—Mail on Sunday

About the Author

Sir Max Hastings was a foreign correspondent for many years, reporting from more than 60 countries for BBC TV and the London Evening Standard. He reported conflict in the Middle East, Indochina, Angola, India, Zimbabwe and finally the 1982 Falklands War. He has presented historical documentaries for television, including series on the Korean War and on Churchill and his generals. He is the recipient of numerous British awards for his books and journalism, including Journalist of the Year (1982), and Editor of the Year (1988). He has written 18 books on military history and current events. Some notables are Bomber Command, which earned the Somerset Maugham Prize for nonfiction, The Battle for the Falklands, Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy, both of which also received awards. For 16 years, he was successively editor-in-chief of the British Daily Telegraph and Evening Standard, from which he retired in 2002. He has published two memoirs, Going To The Wars (2000) about his experiences as a war correspondent, and Editor (2003) about his time running newspapers. He lives outside London.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307275361
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307275363
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (194 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kerry Walters on March 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
With age comes a bit of weariness, and I confess that huge books with small print have begun to intimidate me just a bit. But some of them are so well-written and so interesting that page-anxiety drops away after the first couple of chapters. So it was for me with Max Hastings' Retribution.

Retribution, which chronicles the final year of World War II's Pacific Theatre, is a companion to Hasting's Armageddon, a history of the European Theatre's final year. The new volume begins with General MacArthur's plans to retake the Philippines and ends with a quick summary of the war's effects on Japanese society and culture. In between, Hastings examines the infiltration of total warfare into everyday Japanese life; the battle for control of the sea corridors, the Burma campaign and the Aussies who fought it (which I found particularly fascinating, knowing virtually nothing about it); the air campaign over Japan, masterminded by Curtis LeMay (also an especially intriguing chapter, particularly for those who presume that the only big bomb damage in Japan were the nuclear blasts over Hiroshima and Nagasaki); the unspeakably horrific Japanese treatment of China and Manchuria; the ferocious battles on Iwo Jima (to which Hastings devotes an entire chapter); and the behind-the-scenes negotiations that led up to Japan's final surrender.

Hastings punctuates his history of the Pacific Theatre's final year with dozens of stories about individual people whose lives were affected--GIs, sailors, Japanese infantrymen and pilots, Chinese "comfort girls," generals, admirals, statesmen--and this is part of what makes his book such a fascinating read. Moreover, Hastings doesn't pull any punches in his estimation of the war's leaders.
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Format: Hardcover
Interested readers should not be put off by Kai Bird's misleading review for the Washington Post, which features on Amazon.com's page for this book, which, incidentally, is published under the title Nemesis in the UK. This is an excellent study of the last years of events in the pacific theatre during the second world war.

Kai Bird says that Hastings "abandons his critical faculties" when it comes to the book's "central theme", namely that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was wholly justified.

Bird is mistaken on one account and deliberately misleading on another. Hasting's 600 page book naturally deals with the events at hand in chronological fashion and it is not until the very final chapters that he comes to discuss the dropping of the bombs. Reading the book, I did not identify the contents of these 2 chapters as either presenting or encapsulating a "central theme" in it. In these chapters, Hastings addresses both sides of the argument as to whether the decision to drop Little Boy and Fat Man was justifiable. He is of the opinion that it was, but far from abandoning his critical faculties he reasonably presents the opposing argument and then goes on to expose the holes that he sees in it. While he acknowledges that giving the Russians a display of US might was seen as a very useful added bonus of the atomic drop, to put it crudely, he rejects the argument that this was foremost in the minds of the members of the war cabinet and the top brass when planning the drop. He also shows how, far from there being any soul searching amongs decision makers, the atomic bomb drop was more a military project that had been put in place a few years back and was at this point running its course.
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Format: Hardcover
I became aware of this book on the brink of its UK pubication. The UK title is: Nemesis: The Battle for Japan 1944-1945. I ended up getting the UK edition. I just didn't want to wait for the US edition, so I got it (and I live in Wyoming!). I'm glad I did. Hastings brings forth all his formidable powers, both in research, analysis and in his writing abilities.
Hastings praises the US Navy (especially the Submarine Service), condemns MacArthur (or more correctly, his oversized ego), Bill Slim is seen as one of the war's great captains (though Hastings believes Burma did little to contribute to the defeat of Japan), praises the courage of the Japanese, but damns their cruelty and their leadership's poor decisions.

Retribution is the companion volume to Armageddon. As is typical of Hastings, readers probably won't agree with 100% of his judgements and opinions. But the way he organizes his facts and presents his narrative, he presents a formidable case that's hard to deny.

What sets this book apart from the clear majority of Pacific war books, is that Hastings also has chapters on the war's neglected theaters, China and we see the war as both the Communists and Kuomintang, the Australians and of course, the Soviets. It's not just about the Americans, Japanese and to a lesser extent, the British. American readers may not agree with everything Mr. Hastings writes, but part of what makes him so interesting is that he's brilliantly provocative.
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Format: Hardcover
Relatively few people are alive today who experienced any aspect of WWII as a teenager or older. Fewer still live in countries where the WWII experience can be freely discussed, as in the United States and UK. The Soviet Union considered the war to be a people's war and only recently have stories of individual experiences been forthcoming. In Germany, less and less attention is paid to the horrendous crimes of the German people. France dramatizes its miniscule, if even existent, role. And in Japan, as Hastings points, out widespread denial is still the norm. As a result, accurate knowledge of WWII and its horrors and few glories is rapidly fading from human consciousness - and with that forgetfulness comes the danager of new and even more horrible wars.

Max Hastings writes highly readable military histories. He eschews footnotes and the minutia of academic writing in favor of a friendly narrative style. There is considerable depth, however. In its 550 pages, Hastings covers a war that spanned the years 1931 - 1945 and a bit beyond. It covered a larger geographic area than any other conflict in history, though most of the area was the Pacific Ocean.

The book opens on the saddest possible note: the dedication is to Max Hasting's son who apparently died at age 27 in 2000. And on that sad note, the deaths of millions and unspeakable cruelties at the hands of the Japanese are chronicled in the following pages.

In twenty-two chapters, Hastings treats every major aspect of the war against the Japanese by the primary combatants: the United States, Britain, China and late in the game, the Soviet Union.

Hastings begins with a look at the motivation and goals of the United States. President Roosevelt had announced the goal was unconditional surrender.
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