World War II Book: A Review of The Burma Campaign: Disaster Into Triumph, 1942-45

The Burma Campaign is well-researched and heavily footnoted, but Frank McLynn missed the real human story and the bulls-eye! McLynn is quite a prolific author, with over twenty major books to his credit, but here he sacrificed the true human story in order to document intrigue at the highest levels.

He has accomplished an enormous fete of literary excellence in research and footnoting. Through his meticulous research, he was able to shed a great deal of light upon the behind-the-scenes decisions, intrigue, and personality conflicts between the Allied leaders in the China-Burma-India Theater. This 532 page book can serve as a valuable research tool or resource document.

However, I had numerous disappointments with McLynn's account. First of all, the writing was overly pedantic, in need of editing, and somewhat pompous. Paragraphs should have been broken-up throughout the work – poor paragraph construction. Often there were several topic sentences and main ideas within one paragraph. Secondly, there should have been more time devoted to the actual battles, and the common soldiers and airmen that made the greatest sacrifices. Finally, I bought the book to learn more about the Combat Cargo Squadrons, those brave men who flew the treacherous "Hump" into Burma and China. Those airmen lost over 600 planes and over a thousand lives while supplying the Chinese, British, Americans, Burmese, Kachin, Naga, and Chindit allies. Although there was mention of flying some supplies, there was no mention of the Combat Cargo Group – a major omission, in my opinion.

An example follows: "In any case, Stillwell's attention was now elsewhere, focused on an epic trek by the Marauders toward Myitkyina (pronounced mitch-I-now) and improve its airfield to all-weather status, the Hump cargoes would be dramatically improved . " On several occasion there was this casual mention of the Hump cargoes, but there was no development of their actual mission or the numbers of missions.

These "Hump cargoes" were dangerous missions, especially the nighttime flights over the Himalayas. Flying in C-47 Gooneybirds, the cabins were not pressurized, they weren't armed; additionally, ice built up on the windshields, propellers, and leading edge of the wings. Furthermore, the flights over the Naga Hills in northern Burma, were almost as treacherous, flying at 20,000 feet; and as they came close to airfields, they received heavy fire from the Imperial Forces.

Some of these pilots and crew members of the 9th, 10, 11th, and 12th Combat Cargo Squadrons, 3rd Combat Cargo Group, flew two or three missions a day. Most of them flew 150 missions and many flew over 250 missions. As previously stated, over a thousand paid the ultimate sacrifice, and some were even shot down in or near Naga territory. The Nagas were head-hunters, and rumored to be man-eaters. Although some Nagas assisted the allies, most were unfriendly to Japanese and Allies alike.

There were many heroic, gruesome, and dangerous stories to be told – they were absent in this account. Consequently, I can't quite recommend this book.

Related Articles

Back to top button