The Barrier and the Javelin: Japanese and Allied Strategies, February-June, 1942 by H. P. Willmott

The Barrier and the Javelin: Japanese and Allied Strategies, February-June, 1942 by H. P. Willmott soon to be presented for sale on the astounding BookLovers of Bath web site!

Published: Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1983, Hardback in dust wrapper.

Illustrated by way of: Black & White Photographs; Maps; Tables;

From the cover: H. P. Willmotts perceptive analysis of Japanese and Allied strategies in the Pacific war has set new standards for World War Two historians. The scope and depth of the research he did for the first book of his Pacific trilogy, Empires in the Balance, have earned him a reputation as a major chronicler of the period. With this second volume, Willmott continues to offer significant new material and interpretations that are certain to warrant further study.

The Barrier and the Javelin begins with a thoughtful assessment of the critical situation in which Japan found herself in the spring of 1942. Even by that early stage of the Pacific war, the fundamental weakness of the Japanese effort was evident. Japan had gone to war with little more than a five-month plan of campaign and the conviction that she could not be defeated by enemies who were her moral inferiors. Her intention had been to conquer territories essential to her economic survival and then fight a defensive war that would exhaust her enemies and lead them to a negotiated settlement. By the spring Japans leaders were becoming uncom-fortably aware that their enemies would not negotiate and that they themselves lacked the plans, and perhaps the means, to make them change their minds. Willmott sets out the arguments over strategy that plagued the Japanese naval command as it tried to formulate a coherent response to this potentially disastrous situation. In so doing he suggests that the weaknesses of the commands decision-making process kept the Japanese from taking the one course of action that could have changed the outcome of the war, and were responsible for the ill-considered plan of campaign that began to fall apart in the Coral Sea in Mayand ended in disaster four weeks later at Midway.

The book, however, is not confined to an examination of Japanese policymaking. Just as Empires in the Balance provides & critical appraisal of the moves made by all the combatants during the first five months of the war, so The Barrier and the Javelin places the Allied part of the February-June 1942 record alongside that of the Japanese. In doing so, it examines why the British and their dominions were totally unable to put together a proper Pacific policy in the opening phase of the war, and why the Americans came to accept a commitment to fight in the southwest Pacific when this area had barely figured in their prewar calculations. American intelligence gathering Operation Magic and its effect on the progress of the war are also described in full.

Willmott follows his assessment of the Allied situation with a detailed analysis of the battle of the Coral Sea and the action off Midway, which at last places these battles in their proper context. Debunking long-held beliefs about the com-parative strengths of the Japanese and Allied forces, he contends that in both battles the weaker fleet was defeated, not victorious as most accounts suggest. He further argues that if Japan was indeed fated to lose the war, then her defeat at Midway can hardly be regarded as the decisive battle so many claim it to be. Inevitability and decisiveness, he points out, are mutually exclusive terms.

Many readers will find Willmotts treatment of the Japanese side of the battle of Midway an intriguing alternative to other books on the subject. He reveals some important new information that finally explains the inconsistencies found in previous accounts. His condemnation of Admiral Yama-motos inept handling of the entire fiasco is unusually clear and hard-hitting.

This view of the flow of events in the first half of 1942 provides one of the most comprehensive, balanced and readable studies of the period ever written. It will be of enduring interest to general readers as well as professional historians and students of World War Two.

Very Good in Very Good Dust Wrapper. Dust wrapper very slightly rubbed at the edges. Distributors sticker covers publisher colophon on the title page.

Grey boards with Black titling to the Spine. [CVII] 596 pages. Index. Bibliography. 9½” x 6¼”.

Of course, if you don’t like this one, may I tempt you with something from hither or maybe further, hand picked, books in my Military Naval catalogue?


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