I don’t know how most people spend Thanksgiving, but after a day with family eating sweet potatoes and admiring chickens and a late-fall collard garden, I’ve been reading nonstop about World War 2. I’m moving closer to the end of 1941, and the war is shifting east, as Hitler’s panzers and Hirohito’s carriers are on the move.
I’ve read two more Time-Life histories of the war: The Rising Sun and Russia Besieged. I picked up The Rising Sun in hopes that it would address Japan’s rise as an industrial and colonial power, but that is mentioned as mere prologue. Time-Life’s history is principally about the high point of Japanese power, from the December 7 attacks on the Allies in the Pacific, to the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, where Japan was first stopped and then reversed. Russia Besieged concerns Operation Barbarossa, in which Germany launched the largest land invasion ever witnessed into the heart of Russia. There’s a lengthy section on the brutal siege of St. Petersburg, then called Leningrad, and the book ends with German retreat at Moscow, driven back by “General Winter”. (Fickle, that one. Wasn’t he just helping the Finns fight the Russians?!)
The Sino-Japanese war is a massive gap for me; I’m familiar with the outlines from a survey course, but otherwise, I know little. That’s why I read The Rape of Nanking
, which exacted a psychological toll. In hopes of countering it, I read Flying Tiger: Chennault of China
, which is part-memoir, part-tribute. One of the few stories from the Chinese front that I’m familiar with is that of the Flying Tigers, a group of volunteer American pilots who flew old P-40s and harassed the Japanese as best they could. I read a particularly fun book on these highs in high school, but this wasn’t it. The Tigers are touched on only briefly here, the book mostly being about the author’s role in China’s American air force (later America’s air force in China), and his adulation of Chennault, the Tigers’ leader who created the guerilla air tactics they used to counter the Japanese.
In the coming week or two, expect at least one book on the Eastern front, followed by our first forays into the Pacific! It won’t be exclusively war material, of course, as I’ll throw other works just as a break. Cities, livestock, science, Korean philosophy, murder mysteries — you never know. I’d like to be done with this WW2 series by the New Year, but it’ll probably bleed over depending on how many books about the air war seduce me.