review-allies-against-sun

Allies against the Rising Sun: The United States,the British Nations,and the Defeat of Imperial Japan
Nicholas Evan Sarantakes
review-4

One reviewer elsewhere has called this the first major study on the Allied Coalition in WW2 since the 1980s.Morever rather than concentrating on Europe it concerns the Pacific War, the debates conducted in Britain and America on how to defeat Imperial Japan, and the personalities involved in that strategy. The author has also conducted extensive archival research in Britain and it shows.

The first part of the book deals with the formulation of Britain’s Pacific War policy in the period 1943-1945.On one hand was Churchill, eager to restore British power and prestige in its colonies occupied by Japan, on the other hand the Chiefs of Staff Committee (Brooke, Cunningham, Portal) wanting to carry on the wartime collaboration between the US and UK into the postwar period, and unlike as with the end of WW1,to carry on the Atlantic Alliance into the future. Seeing Churchill’s policy plans as only peripheral (first the seizure of northern Sumatra as a base to conduct the reconquest of Singapore etc) the Chiefs pushed for a direct war making role for the UK in the Pacific, the centre of gravity in the war against Japan. Intense debates were soon to follow (at one stage the Chiefs considered a mass resignation if Churchill did not bend) but eventually in unison with US support the Royal Navy was committed to the war in the Pacific in 1945.

The Dominions involved in the Pacific (Australia, New Zealand, Canada) are also brought into the story. Each “spoke with one voice when explaining their reasons for wanting to play a role in the defeat of Japan”, seeing themselves as British subjects and such, wanting a voice in shaping the Pacific region postwar, bolstering Britain’s power and “if bolstering British influence also helped their relationship with the Americans, so much the better”.

The Washington scene is also visited. King of the Navy had no time for the British being involved in Pacific naval operations, but was soon bypassed. Dill (and his successor Wilson) used their skills and charm to form friendships and excellent working relationships with their American counterparts. The two egotists Mountbatten and MacArthur meet and soon saw eye to eye. US military manpower was ‘maxed’ out by 1945 and any Allied ground force assistance in an invasion of Japan would soon be appreciated. US public opinion also by 1945 dreaded excessive US losses in an invasion of Japan and wanted others to help carry the burden. France offered a Corps with was eagerly accepted, Britain offered 3-5 divisions direct from the UK. The Old World was seen as helping the New in its hour of need.

First in action at Okinawa, the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) proved its worth and showed “that the United Kingdom would stand with its American allies as the war reached Japan”. The Royal Navy also benefited from its first extensive “sea going naval operations” since the days of Nelson, developing new talents in logistics, oiling and long range ocean war fighting tactics. The “unsinkable” aspects of the British carriers versus the kamikazes off Okinawa are also mentioned. Later air strikes against Formosa and Japan soon followed.

An extensive account of the land campaign on Okinawa is also provided. Some saw it as a foretaste of what an invasion of mainland Japan would be liked. US casualties were around 35%. The commander of the US 10th Army Buckner (who died in the campaign) was criticised in some circles and the press for his frontal assaults leading to high American casualties. Stillwell compared the battlefield landscape to Verdun. Greater use of amphibious landings should have been utilised others argued, Buckner countering by saying it would be then like Anzio. Some like Stillwell and MacArthur also saw ‘Buck’ as a turncoat, agreeing to be under US Navy command. It was only Buckner’s unfortunate death that put a rest to these criticisms.

Overall an excellent study on the coalition formed by 1945 that brought the war to Japan. No doubt the US could have still done the job by itself but the morale bolstering support of its British and Commonwealth partners should be brought to the attention of those that dismiss the Pacific fighting as purely an American affair.

 

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