Tim Moreman, Japanese Conquest of Burma 1942 (Osprey, 2022)
The longest campaign of World War II took place in Burma. It occurred over three years in two main phases: a Japanese invasion and an Allied counter-invasion. It has long been known as ‘The Forgotten War’, but there is no need for that status now with many books on the Burma campaign recently published. For those late to the show, Tim Moreman’s engaging narrative takes you through the first phase of that incredible war within a war.
Nearly all traditional campaign narratives begin with the situation before the forces start moving. This one is no different. We find out how big Burma was and how poorly it was defended before the War broke out. Allied concerns grew, however, over the defence of the main road through Burma into Nationalist China. The Japanese were determined to cut it while seizing Burma in the process. British hubris over the strength of Singapore as a guard for their Far East possessions did not help matters, and they underestimated the Japanese at an almost fatal cost. Moreman considers the Allied commanders and forces and finds them wanting in almost all departments. The Japanese, on the other hand, were well organized and well led, and they had the superior air force.
It follows that the subsequent campaign was mostly one way traffic. Moreman guides us through this, from the initial Japanese invasion in December 1941 through the various battles that exhausted the Allies and sent them headlong in flight towards India. Along the way, he pauses to describe the Battle of the Sittang Bridge, the fall of Rangoon, the breakout from Yenangyaung, then the final withdrawal into India. Moreman then assesses the whole campaign from both sides and notes that while the campaign was a disaster for the Allies, they learned significant lessons that would prove useful in their counter-attack. But that’s a different story. A brief but poignant survey of the battlefield today closes Moreman’s book.
Tim Moreman’s neat and tidy but brief narrative of the opening stages of the Burma campaign is an enjoyable and informative read. But as with all ‘Ospreys’, it is the combination of text, photographs, lucid maps, and excellent colour illustrations that makes Moreman’s book an admirable foundation for students of World War II to satisfy their need to know while providing a useful platform for further research. You cannot really ask for more than that in this format.