Books by Anne Sharp Wells

Released: March 3, 1995

A succinct account of America's wide-ranging involvement in WW II from a distinguished duo. Eschewing a chronological format, James (Military History/Virginia Military Institute) and his longtime collaborator Wells (Refighting the Last War, 1992, etc.) provide discrete perspectives on how and where the US was engaged. To begin with, they assess the prePearl Harbor preparedness of America's armed forces and the industrial complex that soon became (in FDR's felicitous phrase) ``the arsenal of democracy.'' Covered as well are such other aspects of home-front activities as the effective conscription of scientists who worked on weapons-related projects, domestic race relations, the remote camps established for Axis POWs, rationing, and the Servicemen's Readjustment Act (a.k.a. the GI Bill of Rights). The authors go on to deliver concise briefings on the major campaigns in which US airmen, marines, sailors, and soldiers participated. Starting with the Battle of the Atlantic, they review all of the important Allied offensives in the European and Mediterranean theaters, which by the spring of 1945 resulted in Nazi Germany's capitulation. James and Wells then examine how American naval and ground forces turned a series of initial defeats into a decisive triumph over the Japanese across the vast reaches of the Pacific. At the close, they offer a moving tribute to the enlisted men who did most of the fighting and dying on foreign fields. In a final reckoning of costs and casualties, moreover, the authors insist that WW II was not, as popularly supposed, a good or glorious war but the most brutal and murderous conflict in the blood-soaked annals of a weary world. As inclusive and compact a rundown as general readers are likely to get any time soon. The consistently absorbing text has 11 useful maps, an index, and a savvy discussion of sources. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 7, 1992

Perceptive perspectives on the Korean War from James (Military History/Virginia Military Institute), author of the three-volume The Years of MacArthur (1970-85). Eschewing a conventional format, James focuses on America's senior commanders and their most consequential decisions during the three-year conflict that, despite being confined to a remote Asian venue, bore the imprint of its global predecessor. He includes separate chapters on Truman, MacArthur, MacArthur's two successors (Matthew Ridgway and Mark Clark), and the often-overlooked Admiral C. Turner Joy (the top US naval officer in the Far East). James then assesses a half dozen critical events and their implications, covering, among other matters, the initial determination to send US troops to fight; the risky Inchon landing; MacArthur's dismissal; and the resolve to limit the scope of the stalemated battle. While James's essaylike approach makes for a somewhat kaleidoscopic and modestly redundant narrative, it allows the author to examine key individuals and developments from diverse viewpoints. He shows, for example, how MacArthur's experiences in WW II's Pacific theater influenced US/UN strategy during the war's first year of combat. At the same time, he is able to convey the concurrent (and unwarranted) euphoria of civilian Washington, which briefly believed that decisive victory was at hand for coalition forces. As James makes clear, however, the entry of Chinese ``volunteers'' changed the rules of engagement—an outcome accepted with varying degrees of grace up and down the chain of command. A fine addition to the literature of what can no longer be deemed a forgotten war. Read full book review >