The Burma Campaign: Disaster into Triumph, 1942-45

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Overview

This book, in essence a quadruple biography, tells the story of the four larger-than-life Allied commanders whose lives collided in the Burma campaign, one of the most punishing and protracted military adventures of World War II. Ranging from 1942, when the British suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the Empire, through the crucial battles of Imphal and Kohima ("the Stalingrad of the East"), and on to ultimate victory in 1945, this account is vivid, brutal, and ...

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The Burma Campaign: Disaster into Triumph, 1942-45

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Overview

This book, in essence a quadruple biography, tells the story of the four larger-than-life Allied commanders whose lives collided in the Burma campaign, one of the most punishing and protracted military adventures of World War II. Ranging from 1942, when the British suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the Empire, through the crucial battles of Imphal and Kohima ("the Stalingrad of the East"), and on to ultimate victory in 1945, this account is vivid, brutal, and enthralling.

Frank McLynn opens a new window on the Burma Campaign, focusing on the interactions and antagonisms of its principal players: William Slim, the brilliant general commanding the British 14th Army; Orde Wingate, the ambitious and idiosyncratic commander of the Chindits, a British force of irregulars; Louis Mountbatten, one of Churchill's favorites, overpromoted to the position of Supreme Commander, S.E. Asia; and Joseph Stilwell ("Vinegar Joe"), a hard-line U.S. general, also a martinet and Anglophobe. McLynn draws careful portraits of each of these men, neglecting neither strengths nor flaws, and shows with new clarity how the plans, designs, and strategies of generals and politicians were translated into a hideous reality for soldiers on the ground.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
To honor the one million Burmese who perished in WWII, historian McLynn Captain Cook offers a meticulously researched account of the struggle between Japan and the Allied forces in Burma, the present-day Myanmar. Opening with a description of the geographically diverse nation and its impressive wildlife, McLynn focuses on the four Allied leaders who ultimately led the troops to victory. Providing comic relief are excerpts from the diary of U.S. General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, a West Point alumnus with a facility for languages who slams the colonialist "Limeys" as well as Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. McLynn considers Stilwell a modern Musketeer along with his British colleagues General William Slim and Orde Wingate, commander of the Chindits, or the Indian Infantry Brigade. He casts the uncle of Prince Philip, Louis Mountbatten whom Churchill appointed Supreme Commander of Southeast Asia in 1943, in the role of d'Artagnan. Although Burma earned its independence in 1948, McLynn laments the despotic regime that has ruled in the postwar years. Maps help the reader to locate remote battle sites, and a section of photos provides a break from the action.Oct.
Library Journal
Prodigious biographer and military historian McLynn (Captain Cook: Master of the Seas) has turned his attention to what he considers one of the great epics of British imperial history, the World War II campaign in Burma against the Japanese. McLynn recounts the struggle for Burma from the viewpoint of four "larger-than-life" personalities: William Slim, Louis Mountbatten, Orde Wingate, and the American Joseph Stilwell. VERDICT While McLynn extends his scope beyond the conflict itself to the larger issues of Japanese aggression, American miscalculations, and Churchill's greatness, this is a personalized account of warfare that fans of E.B. Sledge's With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa will enjoy.—Brian Odom, Pelham P.L., AL
Kirkus Reviews

A highly opinionated history of the bloody, half-forgotten World War II jungle campaign.

After Pearl Harbor, British leaders were shocked by Japan's easy capture of Hong Kong, Malaya and Singapore. They did not expect an invasion of Burma and were equally shocked when it occurred in January 1942, writes veteran British historian McLynn (Captain Cook: Master of the Seas, 2011, etc.). Although outnumbered, aggressive Japanese forces repeatedly defeated poorly led British, Indian and Chinese troops in a four-month campaign that ended with their long, brutal retreat. There followed two years of rebuilding, minor engagements and political fireworks between the allies before a reorganized British and Colonial army led by the widely admired General William Joseph Slim routed the Japanese. McLynn divides the narrative between military events and accounts of half-a-dozen colorful but sadly mismatched Allied leaders. Only Slim emerges unscathed. The commander of American forces, General Joseph ("Vinegar Joe") Stillwell, did not conceal his detestation of the British (Slim excepted) and of Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, whose troops were purportedly under Stillwell's control. McLynn describes supreme commanders General Archibald Wavell and, after 1943, Louis Mountbatten as "overpromoted" men who lived up to their mediocre talents. British commander Orde Wingate, a media darling after leading a costly 1943 large-scale raid into Japanese-occupied Burma, seems psychotically eccentric. None of the author's unflattering portraits will surprise educated readers, although recent historians have been more understanding.

Clumsily managed, the Burma campaign was also a sideshow that contributed little to Japan's defeat, but McLynn's fiercely partisan judgments and lucid accounts of both military and political bloodletting provide a thoroughly satisfying experience.

World War II Magazine
"The China-Burma-India Theater is one of the most overlooked and least understood—at least for Americans. McLynn traces the complex dance of the four main military actors (Vinegar Joe Stillwell, Bill Slim, Orde Wingate, and Lord Mountbatten) through brutal jungle logistics and battles."—World War II Magazine
Greenwich Times

“A sad sequel to great sacrifice is to have it more or less forgotten; think of the veterans of Korea, our ‘forgotten war.’ But even amid the colossal struggles of World War II, some have been unjustly neglected by many historians. Today’s excellent book The Burma Campaign, aptly subtitled Disaster in Triumph, 1942-45, by the prominent military historian and biographer Frank McLynn, remedies this neglect."—John Linsenmeyer, Greenwich Times

— John Linsenmeyer

New York Book Festival

Won Honorable Mention in the 2012 New York Book Festival History category, sponsored by the New York Book Festival

— History Honorable Mention

Greenwich Patch

“A sad sequel to great sacrifice is to have it more or less forgotten; think of the veterans of Korea, our ‘forgotten war.’ But even amid the colossal struggles of World War II, some have been unjustly neglected by many historians. Today’s excellent book The Burma Campaign, aptly subtitled Disaster in Triumph, 1942-45, by the prominent military historian and biographer Frank McLynn, remedies this neglect."—John Linsenmeyer, Greenwich Patch

— John Linsenmeyer

Greenwich Patch - John Linsenmeyer
“A sad sequel to great sacrifice is to have it more or less forgotten; think of the veterans of Korea, our ‘forgotten war.’ But even amid the colossal struggles of World War II, some have been unjustly neglected by many historians. Today’s excellent book The Burma Campaign, aptly subtitled Disaster in Triumph, 1942-45, by the prominent military historian and biographer Frank McLynn, remedies this neglect."—John Linsenmeyer, Greenwich Patch
Dennis Showalter
“This is in my judgment the best survey of the south Asian campaign in existence. . . . The work is original, well researched, and provocative without being polemical.”—Dennis Showalter, Colorado College
New York Book Festival - History Honorable Mention
Won Honorable Mention in the 2012 New York Book Festival History category, sponsored by the New York Book Festival
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300171624
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2011
  • Series: Yale Library of Military History Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 552
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Frank McLynn is a highly regarded historian who specializes in biographies and military history. He is the author of more than thirty books, including critically acclaimed biographies of Napoleon and Richard the Lionheart. He lives in Surrey, UK.

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