THE ROAD TO PEARL HARBOR: 1941 by Richard Collier


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A kaleidoscopic reconstruction of the course of the war in '41--with some emphasis on the events leading to US entry--that follows naturally after military-historian Collier's 1940: Avalanche (1979). It's all here--from Roosevelt struggling with isolationists to get Lend-Lease through Congress, to Churchill threatening to shoot some generals if they lose Egypt, to Hitler plotting the invasion of Russia (while Stalin plays desperately for time). . . and so on through the Japanese decision to go to war with the US, and its immediate aftermath. Collier provides quite credible accounts, too, of lesser happenings: the ""Golden Square"" movement in Iraq, the activities of Norwegian coastwatchers, the workings of a Belgian underground cell devoted to rescuing downed Allied pilots. And less-celebrated individuals also turn up--including a 19-year-old RAF mechanic who deserts his unit in Egypt to get into the fray in Greece and an idealistic, newly-commissioned SS officer who gradually learns the full implications of Nazi theories. The quick-cut vignettes take us, in one twelve-page sequence, from Greece to Hyde Park, Iraq, North Africa, Yugoslavia, Moscow, Berlin, and London; but Collier manages to weave the disparate strands into a generally taut web. There is little critical analysis, of course; and there are occasional technical errors (e.g., re the defense of Singapore--about which Collier repeats a long-held myth), as well as some unfortunate stabs at mind-reading (Collier has Hitler observing the spring scenery at Obersalzberg with deep feelings ""in his blood and bones""). But on the whole this is a lively, involving encapsulation of events--not, however, ""a totally fresh perspective"" nor nearly the equivalent, as serious history, of Herbert Feis' The Road to Pearl Harbor.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1981
Publisher: Atheneum