Friday, December 15, 2006

The Stilwell Papers

by Joseph W. Stilwell

I like to think of myself as well read, with an interest in history. Now and then, however, I find myself reading about an era I've never studied before and I realize that I am but a dabbler in my study of history. With this book, I've felt even more naive than that. I have a passing knowledge of World War II, a time when the Allies banded together to take on the evil Axis powers, where FDR and Churchill wisely guided the great Anglo-American partnership to put an end to tyranny. Heh. I should have known that it wasn't quite that simple. Yet when I read this book, I found myself reading about a World War II different from that I had known. I realized that I had never got around to reading a first hand account of World War II, much less any sort of critical history of the era. Well, that has now changed. The Stilwell Papers is a collection of journal entries, letters and writings by General Joseph Stilwell. General Stilwell spent most of the war trying to coordinate the Allied effort in China, attempting to get the English and Chinese governments to get together to push the Japanese out of Burma. His Papers outlines three years of frustration, full of government incompetence and disagreements. FDR comes across as more of a politician and yes-man than a saint. Chiang K'ai-shek as an ignorant gangster. It doesn't give a pretty picture of the war effort in China. But General Stilwell's writings have a ring of truth, as befits a first hand account of historical events. Of course, I'm sure the other players have their own accounts of history, which might be equally worth checking out. The Stilwell Papers was a nice place to start.
LibraryThing link


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