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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

1942: THE YEAR THAT TRIED MEN'S SOULS by Winston Groom

Originally published in 2004.

Winston Groom is best known as the author of Forrest Gump. He is also the author of 14 different non-fiction books and shows a real talent for writing narrative history.

This book focuses on the year that Groom considers to be the crisis year for the Allies and America in particular in World War II - 1942.  He starts his story just before World War II with the attack of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and ends it in February of 1943 with the ending of the fighting on Guadalcanal.

This was a bad time, especially early in 1942 when Japan conquered one territory after another and American forces were seemingly caught off guard or under-prepared everywhere.

Groom focuses primarily on the Pacific Theater in this book (75 % or more), although he does offer a decent look at the North African campaign. His look at the fall of the Philippines and the Bataan Death March was very compelling.

Groom has no problem pointing out incompetent leadership when he sees it. He also looks at the American home front, describes in detail the work to figure out Japan's secret 

Claire Phillips (1907-1960)
code and how that successful effort affected the war.

Groom likes to point out the stories of individuals in the middle of the war. He looks at a couple of pilots who took part in an extraordinary escape from a Japanese prison in China and eventually worked their way all of the way to India. He also looks at non-military people, like Claire Phillips, a night club owner in the Philippines who provided information to anti-Japanese forces and helped to sneak food and clothing into a Japanese-run POW camp of American soldiers. She believed her husband was in the camp, but continued to help after she discovered he had been dead for months. Her nickname was "High Pockets" because she used her bra to store money and useful information.

Very readable, informative and well-done.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: 1942: THE YEAR THAT TRIED MEN'S SOULS by Winston Groom.

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