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Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45 Paperback – March 10, 2009
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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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Hastings covers the end of the War in the Pacific with his usual crisp and accurate style. Especially valuable is the coverage of the Russian assault, which combined with the... Read morePublished 29 days ago by Hal C. Elrod
This book is not always an easy read for me but it offered an enlightening look at events, participants and decision makers in WWII's war of the Pacific. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Mathias
I've read several books by Max Hastings and enjoyed them all. This one was no different.Published 3 months ago by Brian K.
Of all the books on WWII, Max Hasting explains it the best.Published 4 months ago by Daniel Wroblewski
Wonderfully written and researched history of WW2! Highly recommended!Published 4 months ago by Leopardtwo
So you think you know WWII history?
Read this very important account of why the war in the Pacific was so different. Read more