• Forgotten Ally

  • China's World War II, 1937 - 1945
  • By: Rana Mitter
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 15 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Asia
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (306 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

The epic, untold story of China's devastating eight-year war of resistance against Japan.

For decades, a major piece of World War II history has gone virtually unwritten. The war began in China two full years before Hitler invaded Poland, and China eventually became the fourth great ally, partner to the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain. Yet its drama of invasion, resistance, slaughter, and political intrigue remains little known in the West.

Rana Mitter focuses his gripping narrative on three towering leaders: Chiang Kai-shek, the politically gifted but tragically flawed head of China's Nationalist government; Mao Zedong, the Communists' fiery ideological stalwart, seen here at the beginning of his epochal career; and the lesser-known Wang Jingwei, who collaborated with the Japanese to form a puppet state in occupied China. Drawing on Chinese archives that have only been unsealed in the past 10 years, he brings to vivid new life such characters as Chiang's American chief of staff, the unforgettable "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, and such horrific events as the Rape of Nanking and the bombing of China's wartime capital, Chongqing. Throughout, Forgotten Ally shows how the Chinese people played an essential role in the wider war effort, at great political and personal sacrifice.

Forgotten Ally rewrites the entire history of World War II, yet it also offers surprising insights into contemporary China. No 20th-century event was as crucial in shaping China's worldview, and no one can understand China, and its relationship with America today, without this definitive work.

©2013 Rana Mitter (P)2013 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about Forgotten Ally

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

The ill fated chang kai-shek

As I believe that I am the first person to write a review on this fast moving account of the china's war of resistance I feel that it is necessary to proclaim how valuable this book is for the WWII buff. Most people are aware of the fact that China was involved in the war but they are not aware to what extent. China in fact was the first theater of WWII and experienced some of the first and most brutal communal war crimes of the war. This book is some what biased towards the Nationalist point of view and that of Chang Kai-Shek in particular. However it explains the communist point of view as well. After reading-listening to this book I came away with a feeling that the communists let the Nationalist camp bare the brunt of all the fighting while waiting for the war to end. Having saved its forces for the upcoming civil war the Communists were better poised to fight then the badly beat National forces. Thus leading to the current communist government in Bejing. As you might be able to tell I was left with a bad taste with the actions of the communist forces durring the battle for Chinas fight for survival. I would suggest this book to any one who was either interested sino-american relations or just WWII it's self.

12 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A big missing piece

What made the experience of listening to Forgotten Ally the most enjoyable?

Discovering things that put much into perspective: China's situation in the 20th century and its evolution, Japan's invasion of China and China's war of resistance, the relationship between the Kuomingtang and the communists (Russian and Chinese), the relationship between western countries and Asia a few decades ago, the character of the much maligned Chiang Kai-shek and the enormous difficulties he faced, how American views of China were formed.

Have you listened to any of Simon Vance’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Yes, he is generally quite good. His pronunciation of Chinese words is mostly OK (recognizable, which is already better than what I've heard from certain professors specializing in Asia or even China).

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Yes....not much of the former though I'm afraid.

Any additional comments?

A must for anyone who wants to understand 20th century history.

5 people found this helpful

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Fantastic Historical Account

For history buffs or even those who just want an interesting true story I would highly recommend this book. It is intriguing as well as aptly performed. Well worth the credit.

3 people found this helpful

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Simon Vance is the best

Any additional comments?

Simon Vance is my favorite narrator, fiction or nonfiction. Terrific job with the pronunciation of innumerable Chinese names and places. A wonderful book on an all-too-often forgotten part of the Second World War.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Questionable historical perspective

Good enough book, however the author apparently chooses to embrace his/her biases, rather than try to avoid them (or at least address and apologize for them). The book focuses on - and gives all benefits of doubt and the author's sympathy to - Shang of the Nationalists. Mao is largely ignored or glossed over while General Stilwell is essentially blamed for the failures of Shang's regime, as well as his well known character flaws.

It's not clear why the author chooses to give Shang ample context and paint scenes of his humanity to cover up or lessen the fact that he was the leader of a notoriously ineffective and corrupt government that ultimately failed, while attacking Stilwell for his (mostly) accurate criticism of the failures of the Nationalists and ignoring Stilwell's precarious position as soldier and diplomat, as well as Stilwell's genuine and well-documented regard for the Chinese.

3 people found this helpful

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Enlightening and Interesting

All I've ever really focused on in the past regarding WW2 is America vs the Nazi's in Europe and against the Japanese in Asia. This book deals with the events leading up to our involvement in China and establishes the underpinnings for what has evolved into current day China and Taiwan. Other than trying to understand all of the players involved in this story it was a great historical saga!

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Overplays the CCP

Very interesting that should be told. However, the author paints Mao and the CCP in far too friendly light considering their collaboration by inaction.

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  • Ed
  • 02-01-21

Outstanding read, top notch recording, challenging listen

The book itself is an excellent account of a poorly-understood aspect of World War II and its impact on China’s role in modern geopolitics. The recording is excellent. However, the, at times, rapid iteration of names, places, and affiliations may be difficult to follow without repeating portions of the narration, especially if the listener doesn’t already have somewhat of an, understanding of the regional geography of China and of many of the primary and secondary personalities in Chinese, Japanese, US, British, Russian, and German geopolitics at the time. If this is the case, the written version of the book, would be preferable.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Excellent overview of the China theater

Mitter does us all a service for this excellent work on World War II's China theater. It provides a balanced take on the role of the major players, particularly in laying out the often insurmountable difficulties faced by the nationalists (which are forgotten or dismissed by other histories, such as Tuchman's 'Stillwell and the American Experience in China.') The book spends much of its time on political and diplomatic events, and could have provided more detail on the major battles and military realities on the ground. The narrator gave a solid performance, but as with most audiobooks on China bungles the pronunciation of various names and places.

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narrator borrrrriinnnnggg

I can'teven pay attention to the content of the story because he reads at a steady Pace with no vocal variation and never pauses it all. the worst part is that he has NO IDEA how to pronounce ANYTHING that's not English, no matter what language it is. if you try to talk to ANYONE Chinese about this content, they will have no idea what you're talking about whether it's places or names, because all Chinese words are horribly mispronounced. this is an extremely easy fix. spend two days studying pinyin pronunciation before ruining a book recording.