The fighting wasn't over when the Japanese surrendered at the end of WWII. Spector traces the links between the fall of the Japanese Empire and the rise of communism in China, Korea, and Vietnam, and change throughout Asia. Michael Prichard reads like an old-time radio announcer, hitting home Spector's points in a clear voice. Even so, the narrative gets bogged down in detail at times, making for a challenging listening experience. Spector wraps up his account by applying the lessons of post-WWII Asia to the current Iraq situation. Overall, the production is interesting and presented well; still, listeners should be prepared for some serious historical study.
The result was years of grim and bitter struggles, during which many suffered far more greatly than they had during the war itself. In the Ruins of Empire is a sequel to the author's well-known Eagle Against the Sun. In it, Ronald Spector describes how Vietnamese farmers struggled to survive another war with the French, while U.S. soldiers and marines were amazed to find themselves sent to China and Korea instead of back to their hometowns. In the meantime, five million Japanese soldiers, farmers, and diplomats who were stranded on mainland Asia found themselves in new roles as insurgents, victims, mercenaries, and peacekeepers.
Much of the material in this book has never been published before, and it casts new and startling light on events that shook the countries of Asia. Spector examines recently released material on these events from Soviet and Chinese archives and two top-secret intelligence records released by the United States, as well as newly available Japanese documents. In addition, the author chronicles the individual stories of some of the Americans who were sent in to rescue prisoners of war and to tend to the surrender and repatriation of millions of Japanese.
©2007 Ronald Spector; (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.
"Enthralling....A painful lesson backed with impressive research and delivered with Spector's usual wit and insight." (Publishers Weekly)
"The battles fought all over postwar Asia, as recounted by a historian whose last three books have been History Book Club main selections." (Library Journal)
Some parts are better than others; Vietnam for example; Indonesia; and parts of the Japan and China chapters. But there is very little closure and chapters seem to end out of the blue- then jump to another country without any structure or method to it. Sometimes, more questions are raised than answered, but for someone who is interested in US history in Asia and Post WW2 history in Asia, there are some nice gems to be found. I wouldn't read it without having some background on Asia, though- you might get a little lost. It doesn't fly like some of the other books I've listened to here, but it is interesting and covers ground that is rarely mentioned in the US. Especially interesting for those interested in Post-Colonialism.
This is a great book for understanding Asia in the post WWII world -- I can honestly say probably 80% of this book was brand new to me. I knew a lot about the European theater and I knew quite a bit about the Pacific theater up until the war ended, however I knew almost nothing about what happened next. This books was extremely interesting from that stand point and I highly recommend it to anyone that wants to understand how we've gotten to where we are.
One negative is the very stupid, short sighted and overly political statements basically comparing events of this era to the Iraq. If you include the war and the post war hundreds of millions died around the world during the WWII and post WWII era, to compare a relatively minor conflict like Iraq to that is just nonsense and based purely on politics. Luckily it's a short few comments here and there and doesn't seem to affect the overall bias of the book.
In closing my criticism is minor and I highly recommend you give this a read.
Sometimes the Cliff Notes version of a book are all that's really necessary, and the story of post-WWII Asia as told by Ronald Spector is one of these cases. The high level version, since everyone already knows things turned out poorly: the colonials came back to their old empires, screwed things up, the independence movements took advantage of really bad management of the reintroduction of colonial rule, the British screwed everything up, the Dutch and French did even worse, and the Americans backed the wrong sides after abandoning previous alliances. This is told in far too many pages. The only revelation, or surprise in this book, is the degree to which the former colonial powers depended on the defeated Japanese Army across Asia to help combat the rising tide of revolution, with Japanese units in some cases stranded for years after the surrender, fighting alongside their former enemies. Narrator Michael Pritchard does an excellent job of adding flavor to otherwise bland pages, but by the end, the reader is happy this book came to an end.
This was an extremely interesting listen, on several not so well-known subjects: what happened after the Japanese surrendered in 1945, ending World War II...but not open hostilites, by any means.
Spector surveys events in China, Korea, French Indochina (Vietnam), and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) that would have wide and far-reaching consquences to the present day.
The start of the Cold War is on full display in China and Korea; in Indochina and the East Indies fledgeling independence movements are on the rise.
The Japanese did not simply go home either. Often they were fighting alongside their former enemies, the British Commonwealth, as both were sucked into trying to quell local unrest in the Indies and Indochina not long after VJ day.
A great book; I ordered this in print recently to own a physical copy.
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