Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45

Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45

by Max Hastings
3.8 24

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Retribution 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Retribution is a history of the last year of the war in the Pacific. Hastings is British and right from the beginning his English writing style is on prominent display -- early on he actually writes that a British soldier ¿smote¿ a Japanese soldier!! On the positive side, Hastings provides fairly comprehensive coverage of the land and sea battles from both sides¿ perspective without delving too far into the details of any single battle. He describes the personalities of the military and civilian leaders and how their personal foibles shaped their respective forces¿ strategies (he is far and away particularly critical of MacArthur¿s military leadership). Above all, I was most impressed with his effort to remain objective throughout the book. He constantly challenges those who have had the hindsight of fifty plus years to question allied actions and never excuses Japanese or Russian barbarity. While it is clear that he does accept that some American and British actions were arguably barbaric (but almost inevitable), he points out, for example, that there really wasn`t any difference between the destruction that resulted from fire bombing and atomic bombing. On the negative side, Hastings largely ignores the battles in the air unless it involved US Navy aircraft or Army Air Corp B-29`s. But the most important negative of the book is his confusing conclusion that the Japanese would have surrendered regardless of many of the allied actions (such as the invasion of the Philippines or the dropping of the atomic bombs). On one hand he recognizes that allied leaders did not have the luxury of knowing whether the Japanese were on the verge of collapse, but on the other, he asserts that surrender would have occurred at roughly the same time due to the country¿s rate of logistical strangulation. This is difficult to accept when Hastings provides example after example of both Japanese military and civilian intransigence. Still, this is a very good book and I recommend it to anyone that wishes to gain a general level of knowledge about the closing phase of the war.
JGreen More than 1 year ago
British historian Max Hastings relates a story during his account of the battle in the Philippines that illustrates the frustration Japanese soldiers felt at seeing how much better equipped and supported Americans were than they. One Japanese soldier found American gum wrappers by a road and a wad of gum stuck to a weed. The soldier related: "Here we were, holding on for dear life, and these characters were chewing gum while they fought! I felt more sad than angry. The chewing gum tinfoil told me just how miserably we had been beaten." (pg 241) That is a common theme throughout this detailed and thorough look at the war with Japan during 1944 and 45 - that Japan's chances to beat such an industrial giant were slim from the beginning. In spite of some early successes, Japanese leadership relied too heavily upon "fighting spirit" and fanaticism to achieve victories rather than supporting their armies and providing them with improving technologies. The warped Bushido code of honor achieved much but at a huge moral, psychological, and human cost. Japanese soldiers fought like tigers to maintain ground and honor but they also died in much greater numbers than did their enemies in nearly every battle. And in those last years of the war it was very much a lost cause and their leaders showed a callous disregard for their people. Hastings also discusses the moral aspects of many incidents, and details the Japanese inhumanities toward enemy soldiers, prisoners, and civilians. War crimes were committed by all sides in the conflict, but Japanese murders, rapes, and other atrocities were institutionalized and systematic rather than occurring as more isolated and individual events, as was the case with other belligerents (excepting perhaps the Soviets). Hastings also discusses the morality of LeMay's fire bombing tactics, and includes horrific accounts by some Tokyo survivors. He covers in detail the morality of using atomic weapons (including numerous arguments against), and he makes a very strong argument that, particularly because of the duplicitous manner in which Japan started the conflict and the inhumane way they conducted it, Japan essentially forfeited any claims for humane treatment after defeat (it's a lot more convincing the way he explains it!). Basically, they got a just "retribution." This is an amazing and compelling history, covering not only the Americans but also the British, Australians, Chinese, Soviets, etc. Hastings discusses how the European nations were seen unsympatheticly as trying to maintain their Asian empires, and the Australians were viewed as less committed (and why) and usually given the task of "mopping up." To me these parts of the book weren't as interesting even though I'd always wondered what role they played. I also felt that the account of the invasion of Okinawa was somewhat inadequate given the impact it had on public perception and tolerance for the war. Nonetheless, a wonderful and highly recommended book for those interested in the subject.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Extensive researh but too many unimportant stories make the reading boring at times. Find the comparison between Chiang Kai-shek and the "benelovent" but murderer of dozens of millions of his country men Mao Zedong unfair, unjust and naive. Also, do not appreciate so many (too many to detail here) negative remarks about Mac Arthur, possibly one of the best and most loved USA generals ever. E. Cosio
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an incredibly excellent piece of Second World War history. For a reader who prefers to focus in depth on a specific part of the war, I really enjoyed too the broad depth of research, the refreshingly concise narrative, and the diversity of the chapters. The Pacific War is covered in multiple ways: there are chapters about China, Chinese communists, the Burma Road, the Burma Campaign, the...already you can tell that the narrative is not Anglo-American-centric. But the chapters on America's essential role in the Pacific Theater are well written too. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and any novice historian who wants a good introduction to the Second World War, and any bookworm who thinks they know enough about the war that reshaped humanity, should read this book.
Edward Bailey More than 1 year ago
Max Hastings has put together a bewilderring number of mind numbing stories of beastality during the Asian war 1931-1945. I found it interesting though a little overwhelming! This is the first book I've read of his and I plan to read another, but not right away!
ThomasHill More than 1 year ago
Retribution is the first book I have read by Max Hastings, and I highly recommend it. It is an impressive work that provides a balanced account of the events and people involved in all the theaters of the Pacific War in 1944 and 1945, including many areas often neglected, e.g., China and Burma. Hastings writes well and clearly -- though, as another reviewer has noted, he chooses some odd words at times -- and he never seems shy about voicing his opinion either of the those who fought the war or of later historians who judge the way the war was fought. As broad as the scope of his narrative is, it is also quite deep. He not only discusses and evaluates the famous leaders -- MacArthur, Stalin, Mao, Nimitz, and dozens of others -- but also spends time with many of the individual soldiers, sailors, airmen, and prisoners of war on both sides. He quotes often and extensively from their firsthand accounts and memories, which gives their stories an immediacy and emotional impact it could not have otherwise. What they went through, what they did, what they felt, are by turns breathtaking, horrifying, inspiring. In the end it is this breadth and depth that make this book so good and worth reading. Others have written and will write again that, for example, it was wrong or right to drop the atomic bombs; others have criticized MacArthur or praised him. Those arguments are nothing new and will never be settled. Hastings has his opinions on the bomb and MacArthur, too. They will not be what I remember from this book. I will remember what I learned about the size of the war in China and Burma, and what I learned about the people who fought the war and how they felt about what they did and saw. This is a good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'retribution' is a very remarkable bestseller. the arthur documents how and why japan got defeated in the second world war. this book is very hard to put down cause of all the intresting background on the allied commanders and what their roles were in shaping the defeat of the empire of japan but even more intresting is max hastings look at the every day soldier sailer and marine and what there courage was in bringing defeat to this tyranny.
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anti american
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