John C. McManus – curator Professor – is one of the most highly acclaimed historians of the second world war. In this, the first of two volumes, McManus takes us from Pearl Harbor—a rude awakening for a military that is woefully unprepared for war—to Makin, where the army was tested against the increasingly desperate Japanese troops. It’s an ambitious book, with a compellingly narrative and some boldly revisionist theories about the American military’s capabilities and actions in the Pacific. Traditionally, the Marines are seen as the victors, but most of the fighting and dying was done by unsung Army soldiers. McManus calls on the memories and chronicled misgivings of Douglas MacArthur, Robert Eichelberger (perhaps the greatest unremembered commander in the theatre), ‘Vinegar Joe’ Stillwell, a prickly soldier miscast in a diplomat’s role, and Walter Krueger, a German-born officer who came to lead the largest American ground force in the Pacific. As you might expect from an illustrious academic, the rich narrative comes to life with page after page of well-researched and documented facts and figures. Thought-provoking and enjoyable.