Read Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45, Part 2 by Barbara W. Tuchman Free Online
Book Title: Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45, Part 2|
The author of the book: Barbara W. Tuchman
Edition: Blackstone Audiobooks
Date of issue: August 1st 2009
ISBN 13: 9781433293306
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 23.58 MB
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Reader ratings: 6.4
Read full description of the books:
All the previous books of Barbara Tuchman that I’ve read have had a picture of the author, looking something like this:
Older, with the Sandra Day O’Connor hairdo, well-heeled, professorial even. Nothing wrong with that, of course; but it does conjure up a certain delicacy, a life lived in equal parts libraries and privilege.
But on the back of this book, Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45, the author looks out at me from atop a burro, her means of transportation in the 1930s in China at the time of the Japanese invasion, looking very much like Christiane Amanpour without the makeup.
There even appears to be a pack of cigarettes in her shirt pocket (a dealbreaker now, of course, but kind of essential in that time and place).
Not that she needs pictorial validation. She is, after all, one of the greatest writers of history, with the awards to prove it. But, she was THERE. So, she has street cred (or village cred, or jungle cred).
However, this story is not told just on the basis of a lived experience. Tuchman managed to get Stilwell’s widow to let her see and use Stilwell’s journals. They are a treasure trove. And she convinced Mrs. Stilwell that it was important to use it all, warts and all.
Tuchman has this way of finding almost obscure characters and revealing an entire period of history through them. She did that through Enguerrand de Coucy VII (ever heard of him?) to explain the 14th Century. And now Stilwell - Vinegar Joe, Uncle Joe - to explain...well: 20th Century Chinese history; military bureaucracy; British imperialistic aims in WWII; why the Chinese hate the word ‘no’; why Mountbatten was a horse’s ass; why Chiang Kai-shek was a horse’s ass; why we picked the wrong horse; why you can’t be honest. No, I mean that, really. You’d be lucky just to have a very wise woman on a burro to set things right.
There was so much wisdom in this book: from Tuchman, from Stilwell, from others.
Stilwell: You will hear a lot of talk about how this or that generation messed things up and got us into war. What nonsense. All living generations are responsible for what we do and all dead ones as well.
Tuchman: The first essential in war is an army that will not run away.
And others: Nelson’s selection was the genesis of a principle of political appointment. “You get three years in Washington to find out whether or not you are a schlemiel,” Morgenthau said of him at the time to his assistant Harry Dexter White. “And if you are you get promoted,” White replied.
Stilwell is written as a brilliant military mind, with a love for China and its people, possessed of great, unselfish courage, but constitutionally incapable of suffering fools. And he wrote without a filter, which is so richly rewarding now but must have bedeviled the recipients of his missives. To one subordinate, he radioed, “Do not shoot yourself before notifying me three days in advance.”
Allow me to gush. This is a great book. This is an important book.
You have to read this book if you want to understand the gestation of the cold war; how stupid we were; how, unlike Stilwell, we never understood Asian Communism (wanna take a cruise to shop in Vietnam?); how politics poisons; and maybe why they hate us.
No one comes off worse than Chiang Kai-shek. But the powers that be chose him over Stilwell, even though they all knew better. I wanted to grab Roosevelt, grab Marshall, grab Hopkins, Churchill, Mountbatten, and say Will you open your eyes, forget self-interest and do the right thing. Which, by the way, is what Stilwell couldn’t stop himself from saying. And which is why, though he had “the most difficult assignment” and had great success, he was recalled; and every single person involved in that decision, even George C. Marshall (can you believe it?), should feel shame.
But the Americans? Americans find it difficult to remember Thomas Jefferson did not operate in Asia.
The Brits? No nation has ever produced a military history of such verbal nobility as the British. Retreat or advance, win or lose, blunder or bravery, murderous folly or unyielding resolution, all emerge alike clothed in dignity and touched with glory. Every engagement is gallant, every battle a decisive action. There is no shrinking from superlatives: every campaign produces a general or generalship hailed as the most brilliant of the war. Everyone is splendid: soldiers are staunch, commanders are cool, the fighting magnificent. Whatever the fiasco, aplomb is unbroken. Mistakes, failures, stupidities or other causes of disaster mysteriously vanish. Disasters are recorded with care and pride and become transmuted into things of beauty. Official histories record every move in monumental and infinite detail but the details serve to obscure. Why Singapore fell or how the Sittang happened remains shrouded. Other nations attempt but never quite achieve the same self-esteem. It was not by might but by the power of her self-image that Britain in her century dominated the world. That this was irrecoverable (and that no successor would inherit it) was not yet clear in 1944.
Barbara Tuchman can say that, of course. Because, like Stilwell, she tried to know a people, because, yes, she rode a burro and smoked Luckies, because she got a widow to share her memories. Because she was there.
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Read information about the authorBarbara Wertheim Tuchman was an American self-trained historian and author and double Pulitzer Prize winner. She became best known for The Guns of August (1962), a history of the prelude and first month of World War I.
As an author, Tuchman focused on producing popular history. Her clear, dramatic storytelling covered topics as diverse as the 14th century and World War I, and sold millions of copies.