December 8, 1941
MacArthur's Pearl Harbor
Military History - World War II
6.25 x 9.5, 568 pp.
44 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 08/13/2012
Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series
Price:        $36.95


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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2004 Arthur Goodzeit Award, presented by the Board of New York Military Affairs Symposium

December 8, 1941

MacArthur's Pearl Harbor

By William H. Bartsch

Ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, “another Pearl Harbor” of even more devastating consequence for American arms occurred in the Philippines, 4,500 miles to the west. On December 8, 1941, at 12.35 p.m., 196 Japanese Navy bombers and fighters crippled the largest force of B-17 four-engine bombers outside the United States and also decimated their protective P-40 interceptors. The sudden blow allowed the Japanese to rule the skies over the Philippines, removing the only effective barrier that stood between them and their conquest of Southeast Asia. This event has been called “one of the blackest days in American military history.”

How could the army commander in the Philippines—the renowned Lt. Gen. Douglas MacArthur—have been caught with all his planes on the ground when he had been alerted in the small hours of that morning of the Pearl Harbor attack and warned of the likelihood of a Japanese strike on his forces? In this book, author William H. Bartsch attempts to answer this and other related questions.

Bartsch draws upon twenty-five years of research into American and Japanese records and interviews with many of the participants themselves, particularly survivors of the actual attack on Clark and Iba air bases. The dramatic and detailed coverage of the attack is preceded by an account of the hurried American build-up of air power in the Philippines after July, 1941, and of Japanese planning and preparations for this opening assault of its Southern Operations. Bartsch juxtaposes the experiences of staff of the U.S. War Department in Washington and its Far East Air Force bomber, fighter, and radar personnel in the Philippines, who were affected by its decisions, with those of Japan’s Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo and the 11th Air Fleet staff and pilots on Formosa, who were assigned the responsibility for carrying out the attack on the Philippines five hundred miles to the south. In order to put the December 8th attack in broader context, Bartsch details micro-level personal experiences and presents the political and strategic aspects of American and Japanese planning for a war in the Pacific.

Despite the significance of this subject matter, it has never before been given full book-length treatment. This book represents the culmination of decades-long efforts of the author to fill this historical gap.

WILLIAM H. BARTSCH is the author of two other books published by Texas A&M University Press: Doomed at the Start: American Pursuit Pilots in the Pacific, 1941-1942 (1992), and Every Day a Nightmare: American Pursuit Pilots in the Defense of Java, 1941-1942 (2010). Bartsch, a former United Nations development economist and independent consultant now exclusively researching and writing on the Pacific War, lives in Reston, Virginia.

What Readers Are Saying:

“William Bartsch has produced a very solid account and analysis of war in the Philipines in 8 December 1941: MacArthur’s Pearl Harbor. This is a minute-by-minute study of what happened in the air on both sides based upon both intense scrutiny of the archives in Washington and in Tokyo, and careful use of many oral interviews, some conducted by the author and the others mined from official archives of the day. The result is a fast-faced, excellent melange of the complexities of three-dimensional air warfare. On the one hand of the experienced Japanese with their Chinese-experience and on the other hand of the mentally and physically unprepared U.S. Army Air Forces [six] aware of the 1940 Battle of Britain but without either the superstructure or underpinnings to emulate that success.”--Robin Higham, Kansas State University

“By interweaving multiple threads–the stories of individual airmen, the war in the air, the view from opposing HQs, and the political-strategic imperatives that propelled decision-making at the highest levels–Bartsch has produced the finest account yet written of the inital Philippines disaster and its making. MacArthur’s Pearl Harbor also qualifies as one of the best books of 2003. . . . the author has a flair for bringing to life the men, in this case, Japanese as well as Americans–who fought the battle over sixty years ago, and showing them as fully-rounded human beings rather than mere cardboard counters on a two-dimensional map. However, Bartsch does not forget the big issues. . . . a very strong book. . . . December 8, 1941: MacArthur’s Pearl Harbor is definitely one of the best books about World War II published this year. Bartsch has done an outstanding job of tying together so many threads of personal stories in a manner thoughtful, informative, and highly entertaining. . . . Even the endnotes are readable and packed with further information. . . . this book deserves the highest recommendation.”--Stone & Stone Second World War Books

“...aptly and accessibly studies the Japanese surprise attack against American forces in the Philippines that took place scarcely ten hours after the famous assault on Pearl Harbor...probes this episode of American military history with painstaking research drawn from both American and Japanese records, and uses this information to present a startlingly detailed portrayal of those tumultuous events in the opening days of American military involvement in the Pacific Theater of World War II.”--Wisconsin Bookwatch

“...built on meticulous research in both the United States and Japan.”--Proceedings

“Bartsch uses interviews with survivors from both sides to tell this fascinating story, which he delivers in a riveting minute-by-minute study of what happened. The result is military history at its best.”--Time Out for Entertainment

“In this impressive description and analysis of ‘MacArthur’s Pearl Harbor,’ William H. Bartsch offers persuasive answers as well as a detailed picture of the confusion and frustration that beset American airmen and their commanders on that fateful day. The focus on individuals is particularly manifest in Bartsch’s culminating description of the events of 8 December. In a dramatic, almost minute-by-minute account, he follows the specific actions of people on both sides, in the air and on the ground. Most of this material has not appeared in print before, and the difficulties and intensity of combat emerge far more clearly than in any previous account. Detailed appendixes include information on American and Japanese air strength, orders of battle, and personnel . . . illuminating.”--Journal of American History

“In immensely detailed, well paced, and balanced narrative, he describes minute by minute the attacks on the air bases, preceded by the belated, hurried U.S. buildup of air power in the islands after July 1941, and enemy preparations for their ‘other Pearl Harbor.’ Bartsch has done an astounding job on what is sure to become the definitive work on one of the darkest days in American history.”--WWII History

“The dramatic and detailed coverage of the attack is preceded by an account of the hurried American build-up of air power in the Philippines after July 1941, and of Japanese planning and preparations for thie opening assault of its Southern Operations.”--Daedalus Flyer

“Yet whatever errors were made in the Philippines, Bartsch argues that they were overshadowed by major failings in Washington. Building an offensive aerial capability with the B-17s without providing adequate defenses–newer fighters and dive-bombers, well-trained pilots, a proper air warning system, and modern antiaircraft artillery–doomed FEAF from the start. This illuminating book effectively details the tragedy that followed.”--Journal of Military History

“. . . a well-informed text about what has been called ‘one of the blackest days in American military history.”--Sea Power

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