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Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45 Paperback – October 7, 2001
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The only issue I have is that it is so well researched that it makes for sometimes fastidious reading. I am an avid reader and not one to give up easily, but I could not finish this book before reading others to get some fresh air. It is thanks to David Halberstam that I picked up this book (he mentions it in The Best and the Brightest) and I don't regret it, but it could have been made probably 100 pages shorter and still make as much sense.
Stilwell is the main character of the book, but he meets and impacts people throughout his military career. We see his service in France as a liason officer with French forces. We see his service in China over the years and the people he met and impressed. He has a tour of duty managing the Army reserve in Southern California which was likely held with little regard by his fellows. Stilwell undertook to make these citizen soldiers ready for war and took them seriously which was not lost on the reservists themselves.
His realationship with the government and rulers of China is telling and chilling. He saw what manner of eader Chaing Kai-shek was and inspite of his warnings, we see America insisting that he is the one person who can hold China together. Stilwell didn't live to see the folly of that decision and then the recriminations against those who counseled against setting too much faith in the Nationalist government.
This is a must read for anyone with an interest in China and the role and impact the United States has had on China and vice versa.
Master work "The Guns of August" in detail and nuance; she provides a most colorful yet tragic biography
of General Stilwell. A must read for anyone interested in American relations with China.
This is one of those books I just could not put down. Ms. Tuchman brilliantly incorporates a broad swath of China's history: from post Boxer Rebellion/end of the Manchus through the defeat of Japan and the final days of the Nationalists under Chiang on the Mainland. She covers the Nationalists initially flexing their muscles under Sun Yat Sen (recalling the movie: THE SAND PEBBLES here, marking the days of "gunboat diplomacy" prior to the onset of WWI when the International Powers vacated their numerous interests in China to go fight in Europe), to Japan's initial forays into China, attempting to fill the vacuum left when the Europeans departed. From there we see, all the while filtered through the experiences of General Stilwell, Japan making their all-out bid to take over China via full scale invasion. In addition to sending massive forces into China, Japan then went on to attack the United States forces in Hawaii, bringing the U.S. fully into the conflagration that was WWII. The moving narrative incorporates such historical giants of the period in the CBI (China-Burma-India Theater) as: FDR, General Marshall, Gen. Chennault, Mountbatten-Percival-Waverly on the British side, and the leaders of the Free World who were so instrumental in this massive global endeavor: FDR (again), Churchill, Stalin, and ... Stilwell's "Peanut" ... Chiang Kai Shek.
As an aside: As a very young Air Force pup stationed in Taiwan when Chiang was still alive and the Nationalists were in full control (still are), a bunch of us young airmen had a picnic on a beach in Tainan (south Taiwan). We started a fire to cook some "dogs," and were having a wonderful time. All of a sudden, two large Nationalist Army trucks screeched to a halt right near us and disgorged the numerous troops within. They ran up and encircled us ... rifles with LARGE bayonets aimed right at us. We stood and raised our hands, not knowing what the heck was going on. We attempted communicating with the young Nationalist soldiers, but they obviously did not speak English ... and none of us spoke Mandarin. We just stood that way for probably three LONG minutes, hands in the air, not knowing if they would shoot us, or use us for bayonet practice. Then a Nationalist staff car roared up and an officer emerged. He did, thank God, speak English. He asked us who we were and what the heck we were doing with a fire on the beach. We explained our innocent efforts. He had his troops immediately kill the fire and explained that such fires were interpreted as signals to the Communist forces on the Mainland and were illegal. They departed, and I think we all aged some years on that day.
After surviving the above, I went on to have a very interesting Air Force assignment in Japan. I returned to Japan again in the Foreign Service, and also had additional FS assignments in Malaysia and Beijing, China. Asia has been a burning interest in me since grade school, and the Tuchman book substantiated what I thought I knew, and filled in some gaps in what I didn't know. For those interested in WWII/Japan/China/Military History, as well as those who want to understand what happened back then and why todays China/Japan/Asia might use those experiences as a prism with which to view the world today, I would certainly recommend this great book.
a pivotal time that lives on today. General Stilwell was brilliant observer as
well as key player in some ways. This fills in a gap in Chinese history that
changed thousands of years of feudalism and dynasties.