First 24 Hours of War in the Pacific

Donald J. Young, Author White Mane Publishing Company $24.95 (188p) ISBN 978-1-57249-079-6
This hour-by-hour reconstruction of events in the Pacific on December 7, 1941, is a stripped-down version of Stanley Weintraub's 1991 Long Day's Journey into War. The concentration on a single theater diminishes reader confusion as Young shifts focus among Malaya, Wake Island, Hong Kong and the Philippines in a narrative that successfully walks the edge of entropy, while the limited focus also offers case studies in the fog and friction of modern conflict. After months of Far East crisis, the allies were handicapped by an inability to shift effectively into the mindset of actual war. But the stunning early Japanese successes were not merely reflections of allied unpreparedness: 1941 was a watershed year, when the movement of large numbers of ships could still be concealed with relative ease and when air strikes could come from what seemed like nowhere--particularly given the long range of the Japanese navy's land-based bombers. Young convincingly asserts that the disasters of the first 24 hours set the stage for the heroic, futile stand of isolated outposts like Wake and Hong Kong and for Japan's conquest of the numerically and materially superior British garrison of Malaya. The core of Young's book, however, is his account of the destruction of American air forces in the Philippines--hours after receiving confirmed word of Pearl Harbor. Without denying the responsibility of rank, Young does not seek scapegoats among senior officers like Douglas MacArthur or Lewis Brereton. He presents instead a general climate in which decisions were made on the basis of guess rather than calculation, and windows of opportunity were left open for an enterprising enemy. Here, he provides a corresponding lesson in the human behavior under crisis situations. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
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