The second in a trilogy about the Pacific Theater during the latter part of World War II. The author provides gripping descriptions of the tactics, technology, personalities, and gruesome fighting in the island campaigns.
The book shows how after some two years at war, the Army in the Pacific held ground across nearly a third of the globe, from Alaska’s Aleutians to Burma and New Guinea. It covers the period from the invasion of the Marshall Islands in January 1944 to Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s premature declaration of victory at the Battle of Leyte in December 1944. McManus’s extensive cast of characters includes generals, commanders, officers, enlisted men, and captured soldiers. He sheds light on famous battles, such as Bougainville and Corregidor, as well as lesser-known ones, like Sanananda and Attu.
This book delivers an articulate account of the political background, strategy, and leading figures who conducted operations. McManus maintains his focus on actual accomplishments and how the war was conducted.
Elise Cooper: Did you serve in the military?
John McManus: No. I am a historian including the official historian for the Army’s 7th Regiment. I have spent my whole career making sure that what the veterans have done will never be forgotten. I want the experiences of the veterans to be appreciated and understood.
EC: Since Veteran’s Day is coming up what would you like to say?
JM: When I do give speeches on Veteran’s Day I talk about their accomplishments. But I do that 365 days in the year, making sure they are never forgotten. For example, I like to point out how those Americans who fought in Vietnam are overlooked and don’t get the tribute they deserve.
EC: You emphasize the accomplishments of the Army in the Pacific during WWII?
JM: It seems the Marines and Navy got the glory, but the vastly larger Army did most of the fighting and demonstrated no less heroism. I put in this quote, “the Army in the Pacific had matured into a professionally led citizen soldier force of singular potency, flexibility, and complexity.” The Army did most of the ground fighting against Japan. There were 18 million American ground forces, the third largest army sent overseas to fight a war. But that was overshadowed by the war in Europe that fought the Nazi monster and Fascist Italy.
EC: Do you consider the Pacific War relevant today?
JM: Yes. Economically, geographically, politically, and regarding the Cold War. These all affected American’s future in Asia. There were many islands in the Pacific where American soldiers operated a lot like the Special Forces of today.
EC: What about China?
JM: During World War II the priority went to Europe. The consequence was that America’s Pacific ally, China, only received the leftover resources. This meant that the Chinese leader remained weak, which led to the Communist take-over. In my opinion, China becoming Communist in 1945 was the single most important event of the Cold War. It directly led to two wars in Asia, Korea, and Vietnam.
EC: Japan was horrific with its war crimes?
JM: America’s enemies did not fight by the rules. For example, Japan desperately tried to kill American medics on purpose. They were horrible to the US POWs. But anyone who read the Japanese soldiers diaries found that they wanted to live and go back to their families, making plans. Their commanders and superiors were the ones that expected them to sacrifice for Japan. It is obvious the Americans had a higher priority on survival and morality.
EC: Why the dedication quote?
JM: You are referring to this one, “To the Pacific Theatre veterans, so many of whom experienced far more anonymity than glory.” The famous major battles always have anniversaries and events. But what about the poor soldier who served in some obscure place, where it is not embedded in America’s memory even though they fought just as hard? What they did is just as important to the outcome of World War II.
EC: It was also a war against the terrain?
JM: There was no infrastructure, just as in the War on Terror in Afghanistan. There was a dependency on the engineers to build the infrastructure. Also, similar was that the combat was jungle and cave warfare. They had to create a beach, harbors, and airfields carving something out of nothing. They also created boxing rings, baseball fields, and outdoor movie theaters, to make their lifestyle bearable.
EC: How would describe General MacArthur?
JM: He had a cult personality. He was an egotist who was a self-promoter and thought of himself as a military genius. He had good qualities: competent, thoughtful, courteous, courageous, and a strategic thinker. He did not separate politics from the military when he ran for President while still in the command of the Pacific.
EC: What was the best fought battle?
JM: The Battle of Guam. The soldiers had a sense of liberating the citizens there. The Marines and the Army worked as one team. There was cooperation and comradery including the face to face with the locals.
EC: What was the worst battle?
JM: The Battle of Leyte. It was bigger than the Battle of Normandy. It was a horrible war of attrition. Because of the Japanese treatment of the locals the soldiers also faced a humanitarian crisis. The locals needed to be fed and clothed.
EC: What do you want Americans to understand about this war?
JM: It was a tragedy it took place at all. American and Japanese relations saw that the two countries got along before WWII and after. It is sad that the two countries could not work out their differences because Japan was far too aggressive.
EC: What about your next book, the last of the trilogy?
JM: It takes place during 1945 in the Pacific and goes to the end of the war, including some post war comments. The working title is To the End of The Earth.