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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-03-10
  • Publisher: Vintage
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The companion volume to acclaimed military historian Hastings' critically praised "Armageddon," which told the story of the final year of the war against the Nazis, "Retribution" focuses on the Pacific theater and Japan's defiant stand against the Allies. 32 pages of photographs.

Author Biography

Sir Max Hastings was a foreign correspondent for many years, reporting from more than 60 countries for BBC TV and the London Evening Standard. He reported conflict in the Middle East, Indochina, Angola, India, Zimbabwe and finally the 1982 Falklands War. He has presented historical documentaries for television, including series on the Korean War and on Churchill and his generals. He is the recipient of numerous British awards for his books and journalism, including Journalist of the Year (1982), and Editor of the Year (1988). He has written 18 books on military history and current events. Some notables are Bomber Command, which earned the Somerset Maugham Prize for nonfiction, The Battle for the Falklands, Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy, both of which also received awards. For 16 years, he was successively editor-in-chief of the British Daily Telegraph and Evening Standard, from which he retired in 2002. He has published two memoirs, Going To The Wars (2000) about his experiences as a war correspondent, and Editor (2003) about his time running newspapers. He lives outside London.


Dilemmas and Decisions

1.War in the East

Our understanding of the events of 1939–45 might be improved by adding a plural and calling them the Second World Wars. The only common strand in the struggles which Germany and Japan unleashed was that they chose most of the same adversaries. The only important people who sought to conduct the eastern and western conflicts as a unified enterprise were Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and their respective chiefs of staff. After the 7 December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor caused the United States to become a belligerent, Allied warlords addressed the vexed issue of allocating resources to rival theatres. Germany was by far the Allies’ more dangerous enemy, while Japan was the focus of greater American animus. In 1942, at the battles of the Coral Sea in May and Midway a month later, the U.S. Navy won victories which halted the Japanese advance across the Pacific, and removed the danger that Australia might be invaded.

Through the two years which followed, America’s navy grew in strength, while her Marines and soldiers slowly and painfully expelled the Japanese from the island strongholds which they had seized. But President Roosevelt and Gen. George Marshall, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, resisted the demands of Admiral Ernest King, the U.S. Navy’s C-in-C, and of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander in the south-west Pacific, for the eastern theatre to become the principal focus of America’s war effort. In 1943 and 1944, America’s vast industrial mobilisation made it possible to send large forces of warships and planes east as well as west. Most U.S. ground troops, however, were dispatched across the Atlantic, to fight the Germans. Once Japan’s onslaught was checked, the Allies’ eastern commanders were given enough forces progressively to push back the enemy, but insufficient to pursue a swift victory. The second-class status of the Japanese war was a source of resentment to those who had to fight it, but represented strategic wisdom.

The U.S. and Britain dispatched separate companies to Europe and Asia, to perform in different plays. Stalin, meanwhile, was interested in the conflict with Japan only insofar as it might offer opportunities to amass booty. “The Russians may be expected to move against the Japanese when it suits their pleasure,” suggested an American diplomat in an October 1943 memorandum to the State Department, “which may not be until the final phases of the war—and then only in order to be able to participate in dictating terms to the Japanese and to establish new strategic frontiers.” Until 8 August 1945, Soviet neutrality in the east was so scrupulously preserved that American B-29s which forced-landed on Russian territory had to stay there, not least to enable their hosts to copy the design.

To soldiers, sailors and airmen, any battlefield beyond their own compass seemed remote. “What was happening in Europe really didn’t matter to us,” said Lt. John Cameron-Hayes of 23rd Indian Mountain Artillery, fighting in Burma. More surprising was the failure of Germany and Japan to coordinate their war efforts, even to the limited extent that geographical separation might have permitted. These two nominal allies, whose fortunes became conjoined in December 1941, conducted operations in almost absolute isolation from each other. Hitler had no wish for Asians to meddle in his Aryan war. Indeed, despite Himmler’s best efforts to prove that Japanese possessed some Aryan blood, he remained embarrassed by the association of the Nazi cause withUntermenschen. He received the Japanese ambassador in Berlin twice after Pearl Harbor, then not for a year. When Tokyo in 1942 proposed an assault on Madagascar, the German navy opposed any infringement of the two allies’ agreed spheres of operations, divided

Excerpted from Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45 by Max Hastings
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