The Burma Campaign: Disaster Into Triumph, 1942-45
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.
What people are saying - Write a review
This is not a good book. It is poorly organized, based more on opinion than factually supported interpretation; is full of historical inaccuracies; and, clearly reflects the author's personal and distorted views of events. There is no bibliography and there are no footnotes - red flags for any historian. There is also no table of contents and no chapter headings to help the reader understand the narrative. The maps are hardly useful in aiding in understanding. The writing is terrible, containing lengthy run-on sentences and paragraphs that contain a cacophony of disparate thoughts.
As an historian, the biggest problem is the number of historical inaccuracies. These lead one to assume that the author doesn't actually know his topic particularly well. The logical outcome is to discount the author's conclusions. In a book so filled with opinion, these historical inaccuracies completely undermine his point of view.
If one reads reviews of other books by McLynn, it is apparent that these criticisms are often repeated for his writing. He could benefit strongly from an intelligent editor who cleans up his writing, insists on organization, eliminates inaccuracies and demands some level of substantiation in the form of footnotes and bibliography. I got the sense reading this book that it was a dictated first draft; after the dictation was transcribed he was bored and said "publish it as it is."