WHEN TIGERS FIGHT:The Story of the Sine-Japanese War 1937-45 by Dick Wilson

WHEN TIGERS FIGHT:The Story of the Sine-Japanese War 1937-45

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In July 1937, six years after the spurious ""Manchurian Incident"" and the start of Japanese penetration into China, a genuine incident on Peking's Marco Polo Bridge touched off open warfare between the opposing forces--that undeclared, unwinnable war usually treated (for some good, some circumstantial reasons) as part of overall Japanese expansion, the Pacific War as a whole, or Kuomintang-Communist-Japanese conflict. This is, in fact, the first unitary account--but that's about all it is. Wilson, though a veteran journalist and author (The Long March, 1935; The People's Emperor Mae), is not a military historian and he has done no first-hand research; the book is based largely on long-available, predominantly Western sources (including the reports of Edgar Mowrer et al.), and could almost be taken as a work of the time, so little insight or perspective is evidenced. Wilson writes of the Japanese, routinely, as Samurai nationalists. He writes approvingly of Chiang (""an extraordinary figure"") and not disapprovingly of Mao--thereby mooting Kuomintang failings without acknowledging Communist strengths. He is strongly anti-Stilwell--both as regards the Stilwell-Chiang wrangles and the Stilwell-Chennault feud--with the result that his assessment of the US military role (and, specifically, of the advisibility and conduct of the Burma campaigns) diverges sharply from the norm. On Chinese events, he can be trusted only to the point of interpretation. What we have, in sum, is a superficial account of the troop movements, the major engagements, the strategic coups and blunders; brief characterizations of the key figures; many, many (harrowing) eyewitness reports of Japanese atrocities and terrorism. Readers will lean (as they might more expeditiously from an encyclopedia) that the Japanese seized the major cities the first year, were surprised at the Chinese ""spirit of resistance"" (and guemlla aggressiveness), and could not conquer China--it was simply too vast and too populous. By frequently consulting the maps, one can follow the battle-action; since all the names are in Pinyin (only once given as heretofore), places are otherwise difficult to identify--and persons generally so. A nominal ""first,"" then, that does little for written history or for the interested reader.

Pub Date: June 7th, 1982
Publisher: Viking