Friday, September 14, 2012

"What if...?" 1945, by Robert Conroy

I recently read the book, "1945," by Robert Conroy. I've always been a reader of military history, particularly that pertaining to the second world war. Another genre that I enjoy is "alternative history," probably made most popular by Harry Turtledove, with his "The Guns of the South," and "World at War."

Many of you may know that, by the summer of 1945, the war in Europe was over, and the war in the Pacific Theater was drawing closer to its inevitable conclusion. The military might of the Empire of Japan, particularly it's navy, had been mostly depleted. Yet still, as the armed forces of the United States and her allies won victory after bloody victory, the forces of Japan continued to furiously fight back, using suicide attacks with aircraft, submarines, and surface vessels. Plans were being made in Washington DC to implement "Operation Coronet," the invasion of the Japanese home islands. By most accounts, such an operation would have cost the lives of as many as a half million additional American lives, and even more Japanese lives, including civilians. In August of that year, the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, led Japan's Emperor Hirohito to persuade his military leaders to accept surrender. Many reports indicate that there were some in Japan's military who would have preferred to continue fighting, regardless of the cost. There are accounts of an attempted coup, which would have involved kidnapping Hirohito, and continuing the war.

Robert Conroy's "1945," is an alternative history novel that speculates what might have happened had this attempted coup succeeded only hours after Japan had already announced her surrender. Conroy switches his point of view from chapter to chapter, so the reader can see the thought processes of Japanese and American generals, admirals, statesmen and political leaders, as well as those who were fighting on the front lines. He describes the difficulties faced by an American public exhilerated by the end of a terrible war, only to be suddenly faced with the harsh reality of its continuation, even escalation. American servicemen in Europe, preparing to leave that continent and return home, are suddenly ordered to cross the world and fight yet another fierce enemy.

An unexpected side effect of the war's continuation was the dynamic concerning the Soviet Union, which declared war on Japan day's before her unconditional surrender. In Conroy's story, the Soviets see this as an opportunity to witness the weakening of the U.S. military, which they perceived as a threat to their expansion efforts. The Soviets also use the invasion as a chance to intervene in China, which was fractured between the Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai Shek, and the communist revolutionaries, led by Mao Tse Tung.

I found "1945" to be an enjoyable read. I appreciated the changing viewpoints, which were easy to follow, although I felt the chapters were a bit short. The book is interlaced with fictional characters and historical figures, such as President Truman, Emperor Hirohito, and military leaders such as Douglas MacArthur, Omar Bradley, Chester Nimitz and Anami. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I have now started reading Conroy's "1942," which postulates what could have happened if the Japanese navy had launched another follow up attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, further crippling America's armed forces in the Pacific. So far, I'm finding it to be every bit as thought provoking as "1945."

"1945" was shelved in the science fiction/fantasy section of the Barnes & Noble that I frequent.

Happy slappy reading!

Alan Andrews
Basso for hire

"What if...?" 1945, by Robert Conroy

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