WWII: The South West Pacific Area

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WWII: The South West Pacific Area

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Redigerat: mar 5, 2011, 2:30 pm

I’m always fascinated at how little interest there appears in this theatre of WWII where two Australian armies, and American army group (Sixth & Eighth Armies), New Zealand troops and Allied air and naval units contended against the Japanese in some of the most disease ridden, godforsaken terrain in the world, and where some of the nastiest fighting of the war occurred.

Many authors, some readers, have followed the story in the “Green Books” -the US Army in WWII series, Associated titles are: Victory in Papua, Cartwheel: The Reduction of Rabaul,The Approach to the Philippines, Leyte: The Return to the Philippines and Triumph in the Philippines.

More recent surveys on the New Guinea campaign include: MacArthur's New Guinea Campaign and MacArthur's Jungle War: The 1944 New Guinea Campaign. For an excellent examination of combat see Touched with Fire: The Land War in the South Pacific-really good reading! The early Kokoda, Buna & Gona battles are the subject of Bloody Buna, The Ghost Mountain Boys, and A Bastard of a Place: The Australians in Papua. (What fighting was worse than the Kokoda trail?)

Douglas MacArthur is, to say the least, a figure of controversy. Sycophants and detractors have all had their say. I like Geofffrey Perret’sOld Soldiers Never Die, others prefer Manchester’s American Caesar. A good, current, starting point is Frank’s MacArthur (Great Generals). MacArthur’s lieutenants are not a focus of much attention unfortunately. They did produce two rather dry accounts: Our Jungle Road to Tokyo, and From Down Under to Nippon. Neither volume will keep you awake at nights. A short study is We Shall Return!: MacArthur's Commanders and the Defeat of Japan, 1942-1945, General Walter Krueger: Unsung Hero of the Pacific War, Forged by Fire: Robert L. Eichelberger and the Pacific War and In Caesar's Shadow: The Life of General Robert Eichelberger. See too Eichelberger’s letters to his wife for the inner thoughts of one of MacArthur’s senior lieutenants: Dear Miss Em.

MacArthur's Amphibious Navy: Seventh Amphibious Force Operations covers the numerous assault landings in SWPA, MacArthur's Airman : General George C. Kenney and the War in the Southwest Pacific covers the air campaign, while Macarthur's Ultra: Codebreaking and the War Against Japan is a masterpiece on SIGINT’s contribution to Allied victory in SWPA.

Some short but interesting books are: Green Armor, Jungle Fighters, Hurricane at Biak, and Defending the Driniumor.

mar 20, 2014, 9:48 am

I've just stared a new study that just went to press:
The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur by Mark Perry;
certainly looks good.

mar 20, 2014, 1:57 pm

I just added that to my wish list. I have been fascinated with MacArthur since a high school teacher assigned him as a topic for a term paper. I have to mention his autobiography, written I think to further his plans to run for president, Reminiscences

mar 20, 2014, 2:12 pm

Also for the Pacific Theater I would recommend The Thousand Mile War by Brian Garfield, They Were Expendable by White, and The Lonely Ships by Hoyt

mar 20, 2014, 4:17 pm

#4, some old classics indeed. I still have a battered old copy of 1K mile.

mar 21, 2014, 8:45 am

I spent about a decade reading WWII history in the late 70s and 80s. All of mine are old and battered. I did read Vanished from the Early Reviewers recently. Very good story about those left behind and their families.

mar 21, 2014, 3:13 pm

Another great book covering this region of the conflict: MacArthur's Airman : General George C. Kenney and the War in the Southwest Pacific (Modern War Studies) by Thomas E. Jr Griffith.
(https://www.librarything.com/work/206073 )

mar 21, 2014, 5:14 pm

Please note the various titles in the first entry in this thread.

mar 22, 2014, 1:34 am

Although it's not exclusively about this theater, Marshall and His Generals by Stephen R. Taaffe has extensive discussion of the high-level commanders in this theater, especially MacArthur himself as well as Eichelberger and Krueger.

mar 24, 2014, 1:25 am

"They Were Expendable", while an enjoyable read, and the first adult book I ever read (during the Summer between 3rd and 4th Grades), and the source of my continuing fascination with history, is a fictionalized version of the activities of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3. For a more factual account refer to Morrison's "History of U. S. Naval Operations in World War Two, Vol III".

I have read a book entitled The Thousand Mile War, which is about the campaign in the Aleutians. (It was required reading for personnel stationed in the Aleutians.) Is there another book by this same title about the Southwest Pacific?

mar 24, 2014, 2:11 pm

#10 The Lonely Ships is about the Asiatic Fleet, the US Navy fleet stationed in Manila at the outbreak of WWII. It includes the story of Motor Torpedo Squadron 3 as well as stories of the rest of the fleet, some of them became mythologized in popular culture. "The Wackiest Ship in the Army" closely resembles the admiral's yacht which was disguised as a Chinese Junk and sent to spy in enemy waters, the pink submarine in the movie "Operation Petticoat" is likely inspired by the USS Seadragon which had its paint scorched off when the ship in the berth next to it burned. It served for a time "rust" colored.

It is the same book, the connection I think of with the South Pacific is that Attu and Kiska is where the island hopping strategy was born.

mar 24, 2014, 3:11 pm

I have to say as a teen I loved all those old books that Edwin P. Hoyt churned out (lord how many!).

Redigerat: mar 24, 2014, 5:28 pm

RE: 12

I still fondly remember reading Blue Skies and Blood: The Battle of the Coral Sea by Edwin Hoyt in the late 1970's when I was in high school!

mar 24, 2014, 6:19 pm

I still have a "Hoyt-full" in my German raiders collection!


apr 1, 2014, 8:57 pm

There is Leyte, 1944: The Soldiers' Battle unfortunately it is a very dense text that often reads like an after action report combined with an official history. And not a good one.

apr 2, 2014, 8:03 am

#15, concur....I found it really tough going which surprized me as I have enjoyed other works by Prefer.