The Pacific War and Contingent Victory

Why Japanese Defeat Was Not Inevitable

Michael Myers

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 Review
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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.

About the Author

Michael W. Myers is professor in the School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs at Washington State University, where he has served as interim director of the Asia program and taught Japanese philosophy and religions. He is the author of Brahman: A Comparative Theology and Let the Cow Wander: Modeling the Metaphors in Veda and Vedanta.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series