Book Review: The Burma Campaign: Disaster into Triumph, 1942-45


by Frank McLynn

New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012. Pp. xii. 532. Illus., maps, notes, index. $20.00 paper. ISBN: 0300187440

One of the most protracted campaigns of the Second World War, and the one which inflicted the greatest losses on Japanese, operations in Burma are generally neglected, obscuring the attainments of one of the ablest commanders of the war, William Slim.

McLynn, well known as a biographer, covers the events of this protracted campaign (1941-1945) in far more detail than is the case in most accounts of the war, which relegate Burma to the status of a side show.   His discussion of the physical and environmental setting, which made Burma one of the least pleasant places in which to fight, is excellent, and his writing on some operations, such as the Imphal-Kohima campaign, is very good, clear and even moving.  His look at the problem of fighting a war almost literally at the end of the supply chain is informative, and his treatment of Slim is refreshing.  Nevertheless, although McLynn's account is generally very good, he suffers from some serious biases.  McLynn tends to concentrate on the British forces, and is thus neglectful of the Indian and colonial troops, and he is at times almost hostile about both the Chinese, who played a major role in the campaign, and the Americans, who though few in number, did some interesting work.  As in most treatments of the war with Japan, the look from the enemy's perspective could be more comprehensive.

Despite these flaws, this is a good work for anyone with an interest in the Second World War, and particularly so for those lacking any familiarity with the Burma Campaign.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close