Americans are accustomed to thinking that World War II ended on August 14, 1945, when the Japanese surrendered unconditionally. Yet on the mainland of Asia, in the vast arc stretching from Manchuria to Burma, peace was a brief, fretful interlude. In some parts of Asia, such as Java and Southern Indonesia, only a few weeks passed before new fighting broke out between nationalist forces and the former colonial powers. In China, a fragile and incomplete peace lasted only a few months, and peace fared no better in Northern Indochina and Korea. 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.
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.
"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)
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Informative, but not an engrossing listen