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by Ronald H. Spector
Random House  1985
Soft cover
589 pages
Index, photos
ISBN: 0394741013
Cover Price: $19.00
Language: English

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Eagle Against The Sun
The American War With Japan

Hundreds upon hundreds of books, memoirs, articles, official and unofficial histories have been written over the years of the war between the United States and the Japanese Empire. Add to that the avalanche of movies, documentaries and oral histories and you might think it has all been said.

That's correct up to a point. However, it seems each year scholars and military historians find new material. That's true now and so it was in 1985 when The Free Press, published University of Alabama professor Ronald Spector's "Eagle Against the Sun".

A review of that book in 2002 might seem more than a little late but for those who never saw it, reading it now will come as a revelation.

It's not just that Spector took advantage of then newly declassified intelligence files, but that he used those files and other new material to weave a remarkable single volume history of that epic conflict that examines old facts with new insight.

What sets the book apart from countless volumes that record who fought whom, where and when, and with what ships and planes and armies, is his extraordinary blending of on-going political battles that were taking place in Washington, Tokyo, London, and other world capitals simultaneously with the air, sea, and land battles of the day.

In addition, Spector reveals the intense intra-fighting between and among the various military organizations of both America and Japan. He cites, with meticulous research, how intra-service rivalries in both countries contributed directly to lost opportunities, botched campaigns and unnecessary lost lives.

He names names in case after case where political and military career maneuvering took tragic precedence over sound war time decision making. It was perhaps fortunate that at the time, Americans were unaware of the petty, bitter and sometimes disastrous high level disagreements taking place in Washington and in the South Pacific. Spector cites similar, behind the scenes squabbling involving Japanese military and political leaders.

One of Professor Spector's most dramatic devices is to contrast public statements being made by military and political figures at the time with views they expressed in private letters or personal diaries unearthed later. Spector did this with men of both nations who must have regretted putting such damaging evidence in print.

At the end of each chapter, the author lists specific documents and unchallenged sources to back up his writing.

Michael Howard, Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford University, called " Eagle Against The Sun", "A most vivid and balanced account of an extraordinarily complex subject". Charles MacDonald, retired Deputy Chief Historian in the Department of the Army, said it was, "An epic story of momentous events that not only contains profound analysis but is eminently readable".

Review by Adam Lynch, writer & retired Pittsburgh broadcaster  

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Last Updated
September 21, 2023

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