The Pacific War and Contingent Victory
Why Japanese Defeat Was Not Inevitable
About the Allies victory in the Pacific in WWII, it goes almost without question that Japans defeat was inevitable in the face of overwhelming American military might and economic power. But the outcome, Michael W. Myers contends, was actually anything but inevitable. This book is Myerss thorough and deeply informed explanation of how contingent the foregone conclusion of the war in the Pacific really was.
However disproportionate their respective resources, both Japan and the Allied forces confronted significant obstacles to ultimate victory. One the two sides shared, Myers shows, was the lack of a single individual with the knowledge, vision, and authority to formulate and implement effective strategy. Both exercised leadership by committee, and Myers cogently explains how this contributed to the contingent nature of the conflict. A remarkable exercise in logical methods of strategic thinking, his book analyzes decisive campaigns in the Pacific War, examining the economic and strategic challenges that both sides faced and had to overcome to achieve victory. Japan, for instance, had two goals going into the war: to expand the boundaries of what they termed the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and to end their long and frustrating war in China. These goals, as Myers shows us, had unforeseen and devastating logistical and strategic consequences. But the United States faced similar problems—as well as other hurdles specific to a nation not yet on full war footing.
“In sum, Myers’s book—which has been used in the Naval War College’s curricular case on the Pacific theater in the Second World War—by focusing on war’s contingent nature, illustrates well the oft-noted maxim that in war the enemy truly does ‘get a vote’”
—Naval War College Review
“Serious students of the Second World War will find The Pacific War and Contingent Victory well worth careful Study.”
—Michigan War Studies ReviewSee all reviews...
“A short, readable, and valuable framework to analyze the decision-making process of both sides in the Asian-Pacific Theatre of World War II.”
—New York Military Affairs Symposium
“A major new and provocative account of the Pacific War that draws from a wide and diverse number of sources. Myers turns a lot of received wisdom about this subject on its head and tackles many assumptions that scholars of the conflict have assumed are a given. His argument merits a close and careful read.”
—Nicolas E. Sarantakes, author of Allies against the Rising Sun: The United States, the British Nations and the Defeat of Imperial Japan
“This is an outstanding, immensely useful, and much-needed study. Myers makes a significant contribution to widening our horizon by challenging the blinding assumption that Japan's defeat was inevitable. Of critical value is his analysis of Japanese army and naval strategy, underscoring the difficulty of infusing U.S. military might into the existing balance of forces in 1942–43, as American industry moved toward maximum capacity production and the war in Europe diverted valuable men and materials away from the Pacific.”
—Waldo. H. Heinrichs, author of Threshold of War: Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Entry into World War II
“A careful, judicious examination using Japanese and Western sources, Myers’ analysis forces a reconsideration of the Pacific War’s outcome as inevitable. Contingency, inter-service politics, and sometimes luck—this is historical analysis at its strongest.”
—Michael A. Barnhart, author of Japan Prepares for Total War: The Search for Economic Security, 1919–1941
“All in all, this is a provocative book that should be read by all interested in the Pacific War, and further debate on the issues he raises will surely contribute to a better understanding of the Pacific War. ”
—Tsuyoshi Hawegawa, author of Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan
“Mr. Myers sagaciously challenges the conventional historiography of the Pacific War with Japan and provides a valuable cautionary tale against historical teleology and determinist triumphalism. In this timely volume, we see more of the other sides strategic thinking which makes the odds of winning the war not necessarily inevitable. A nuanced and well-researched must-read.”
—Miles Maochun Yu, Professor, United States Naval Academy and author of The Dragon’s War: Allied Operations and the Fate of China, 1937–1945See fewer reviews...
Overturning conventional historiography, The Pacific War and Contingent Victory clarifies the proper relationship between freedom and determinism in historical thinking. A compelling retelling of the Pacific war that might easily have been, the book offers historical lessons in thinking about contemporary American foreign policy and American exceptionalism—most saliently about the dangers of the presumption of American ascendancy.