by Raymond A. Callahan
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2017. Pp. xiv, 200.
Map, appends., notes, index. $36.95. ISBN: 0700624279
The Greatest Victory of the Army of the Raj
Prof. Callahan (Delaware), author of Burma, 1942-1945, Churchill and his Generals, and several other works on World War II, gives us an overview of one of the most arduous – and most overlooked – campaigns of World War II, that in Burma and northeastern India, environmentally one of the most hostile of the war. While his focus is at the strategic and operational levels, with organizational and logistical issues playing a major part, Callahan covers the actual fighting quite well.
Appropriate given their importance in the campaign, Callahan concentrates on the Indian troops who comprised the bulk of William J. Slim’s Fourteenth Army, while not neglecting the British and African contingents or the roles of American and Chinese forces in these operations. He is particularly good at the internal strains on the “British” side, notably the disdain of the British Army for the Indian Army, and also inter-allied tensions.
Callahan attributes the Indian Army’s initial failures against the Japanese early in the war primarily to an overly rapid expansion coupled with a low priority for equipment. He demonstrates how leaders like Slim literally rebuilt the Indian Army over about six months in 1943, turning it into one of the finest in the world. Callahan gives us glimpses of many of the principal actors in the campaign, Slim of course, as well as Ord Wingate and Joseph Stilwell, who are cut down a bit, and many others, including Churchill, Chiang, and even Gandhi.
Although it could use many more maps, Triumph at Imphal-Kohima, a volume in the Kansas series “Modern War Studies”, is an essential read for those interest in the campaign in Burma and northeastern India, a valuable one for those interested in the Second World War in general, and is an invaluable companion volume to some of the most notable memoirs to come out of the Second World War, Slim’s Defeat into Victory, John Master’s The Road Past Mandalay, and George McDonald Fraser’s Quartered Safe Out Here.
Note: Triumph at Imphal-Kohima is also available as an eBook, $26.95, 978-0-7006-2428-7, and in several other e-editions.