John McManus Presses through Pacific Fighting in Fine World War II Book

By Levins, Harry | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), July 28, 2019 | Go to article overview

John McManus Presses through Pacific Fighting in Fine World War II Book


Levins, Harry, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


When - 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where - St. Louis County Library, 1640 South Lindbergh Boulevard

How much - Free 

More info - 314-994-3300

A decade back, popular historian Rick Atkinson told the story of the Army's war against Nazi Germany with a well-received trilogy -- "An Army at Dawn" (North Africa), "The Day of Battle" (Sicily and Italy) and "The Guns at Last Light" (northwestern Europe).

Now, the Army's war against Japan is getting similar treatment from John C. McManus of Ballwin, who teaches military history at the Missouri University of Science and Technology and already has an armload of World War II works to his credit.

His latest, on sale Tuesday, is "Fire and Fortitude," which follows the Army in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor through to the capture of Makin in November 1943. McManus plans a second volume to carry his account through the war's end in September 1945.

Like Atkinson before him, McManus often steps away from the generals' headquarters to describe what the war was like at the foxhole level. And he emphasizes the factors that made the Pacific War so miserable in so many ways. Among them:

- The Pacific's place at the back of the urgency line. McManus writes: "Cole Kingseed once argued persuasively that five factors contributed to the greater prominence of the Army's war in Europe over the Pacific: the Germany-first strategy that dictated Allied priority of resources and thus the entire course of World War II; the maritime nature of the Pacific struggle, leading historians to a naval-dominated narrative; the cult of personality surrounding General Douglas MacArthur, who, by his own design, absorbed almost all accolades to himself rather than to the soldiers who did the real fighting; unbalanced press coverage by correspondents who found Europe a far easier, and more hospitable, place from which to report than the wilds of the Pacific; and the troubling racial savagery that characterized the war from start to finish."

- The logistical logjams formed by the terrain and the constant shortage of shipping space. McManus devotes much of a chapter to the crucial but little-known struggle to build primitive roads through Burma to China to supply the Chinese Nationalists. …

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