Friday, November 9, 2012

What if, and then what if, and also, what if?

In my last post I reviewed "1945," by Robert Conroy.  This was a novel based on the premise that the Empire of Japan did NOT surrender in August of 1945, thus ending the Second World War.  Instead, a coup let by certain members of the Japanese military succeeded in kidnapping Emporor Hirohito (there actually was such a coup attempt, but it failed when one high ranking Japanese officer decided no to go along with the plan), negated the proposed unconditional surrender, and forced the United States to proceed with their planned invasion of the Japanese home islands.

Although not the greatest story ever told, I did enjoy this book enough that I decided to read two more of Conroy's novels.  I started with "1942," which postulated "what if" Japan's Admiral Yamamoto had decided to continue the December 7, 1941 attack on the US bases at Pearl Harbor with a pre-planned 3rd air strike.

This 3rd assault effectively eliminated any appreciable American defense, and the Japanese forces followed up with an invasion and occupation of the Hawaiian Islands.  "1942" tells of the daring actions of a small group of American guerilla fighters who eluded capture, the daring escape and rescue of the Navy's "Magic" code breakers, and the frequently brutal treatment of American, Hawaiian, and Japanese-American residents of Hawaii.  It also depicts the mad, scrambling efforts by the US Navy to cobble together tools of war in whatever ways they could.  I think I actually enjoyed this story more than "1945."

After finishing "1942," I immediately travelled to the far side of the world and read Conroy's "1945: Red Inferno."  The premise here is that rising tensions between the reluctant allies (primarily the US, led by President Truman, Great Britain's Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin's Soviet Union) lead to a race to Berlin.  Due to a case of misidentification and poor communication, a fairly minor skirmish breaks out between US and Soviet forces near Potsdam, Germany.  This is all the excuse Stalin needs to launch an assault on all other allied forces in Germany.  With all the nations nearing exhaustion from years of war, and the still unresolved issue of the remaining German military, "1945: Red Inferno" depicts how World War II could have easily bypassed the "Cold War," leading to continued global carnage.

Conroy's storytelling style changes viewpoints frequently.  Usually chapter to chapter, but often within individual chapters.  His books are not techno-thrillers.  The drama takes place not only with high level statecraft, but on the ground (and in the air) combat, and especially the personal struggles of service personnel and civilians. 

For those of you into military fiction or alternative history, I definitely recommend a dose of Robert Conroy, even if you decide not to read them back to back to back, like I did.

Happy reading!

Alan Andrews

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