THE PACIFIC WAR by John Costello


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From a coauthor of The Battle of the Atlantic (and others): a comprehensive and generally accurate account of the Pacific War, its causes and course--with emphasis on the Pearl Harbor attack and the turnaround year immediately following. Costello first traces Western activity in the Far East from the first contacts to 1940. He then scrutinizes the political and military events of 1940-41 in detail, devoting more attention than usual to China's role and laying out the many minor miscalculations and misunderstandings that triggered a war neither side wanted. This portion of the book, as well as the treatment of Pearl Harbor per se, benefits from the use of some newly declassified materials--which, however, serve to buttress rather than discredit the accepted explanations. Once the fighting is underway, the narrative is filled out with vignettes of the participants on both sides: we see MacArthur accepting a half-million dollar gift from the Philippine government (part of a generally unflattering portrait); Yamamoto planning a war he knows Japan cannot win; common seamen desperately fighting in a score of engagements. The sweep is broad, taking in developments in the East Indies, China, Malaya, and Burma, as well as the Central Pacific. That, indeed, is the book's chief claim to distinction--along with the wide-ranging research on which it's based. It's not analytical (and might, in fact, have benefited from an explanation of the status of forces at the start of the war); neither is the writing anything but serviceable. But there's no other general history that's as thorough--and the 200-or-so photos should be a big attraction, too, for a general audience.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Rawson, Wade--dist. by Atheneum