Commanders in the Pacific & Far East in World War II

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Advanced Topics in U.S. History: “Commanders in the Pacific & Far East in World War II” A HIS 390 (8114), Spring 2016 Tu/Th 2:45-4:05 (SS-117)
Instructor: Dr. H. Peter Krosby, Professor of History (SS-145G) Office hours: Tu & Th 9:00-10:00 & 12:00-1:00 E-mail:

This course deals with the quality of military leadership during World War II in the Pacific, Far East and Southeast Asia, at various levels of command. While the emphasis will be on United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Army Air Forces commanders, British, Chinese, Australian and Soviet as well as Japanese commanders will also be covered.

The course will be conducted as a seminar. Students will participate actively in class discussions and will take turns introducing them. Such introductions will be graded, but the grades have no value per se; they will be used merely to influence, up or down, the combined grades earned on the four written tests. In preparing for class discussions, it is essential that all readings be done by the dates listed.


The basic text in this course is Thomas W. Zeiler, Annihilation: A Global Military History of World War II (Oxford University Press, 2011), chapters 3, 10, 11, 15, 16, 20, 23 and 25. All other read-ings will come from the Internet, a source of information rich in its comprehensive variety, if not always reliable. The articles you will read, mostly Wikipedia, are listed under the appropriate dates in the Schedule of Topics. Most biographical articles as well as some others go beyond the World War II period, but they should be read in full nonetheless.

Research Paper

A research paper on one commander, or a comparison of two or more, not necessarily covered in this course, is required. It is worth 20% of your course grade. A style manual for it – The Happy Footnoter – will be distributed, and you must follow it in every respect. That includes title page, typed double-spaced text, size 12 font, one-inch margins all around, and footnote and bibliography listing style. The optimum length is 8-10 pages. The paper should reflect your ability to present a well-reasoned argument, and to interpret and evaluate primary as well as secondary sources. The paper is due April 21.

In your research, you may wish to check out Osprey Publishing’s Command series, which offers 64-page biographies of thirty military figures, including two covered in this course. Many are available cheaply from Osprey also publishes a series of scholarly monographs on World War II military topics. The same goes for Stackpole Books (Military History/World Wars), a series of studies of military operations and commanders. Buying a relevant volume is a good idea, but buy from a highly rated (95% and up) seller in the United States who can deliver fast. is an umbrella dealer for foreign as well as domestic sellers whose prices, reliabili-ty, and speed of delivery can vary drastically.

For the truly ambitious, the war in the Pacific is covered authoritatively and in great detail by U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force official histories. The Navy’s 43-volume World War II--Asiatic-Pacific Theater 1941-1946, the 28-volume World War II Air Force History, and the 14-volume World War II Official Army History Asiatic-Pacific Theaters are worth exploring. They cover in-dividual campaigns in separate volumes. And then there is Samuel Eliot Morison’s monumental 15-volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II (1947-62), produced as a personal assignment from his friend President Roosevelt, which gave him the run of any naval vessel he wanted to board. Nine of its volumes deal with the war in the Pacific.


The only exams in this course will be four 30-minute essay tests, each worth 20% of your course grade. The lowest of the four tests grades will be dropped – unless you duplicate it; the total value of three tests is still 80%. You may not choose which grade to drop by skipping a test; skip one, and you lose its value. Makeup tests are given if you miss scheduled ones for reasons beyond your control, certified by the Vice Provost of Undergraduate Studies (submit document-ation to LC-30), but they must be taken before the next scheduled test. Grades are based on knowledge, comprehension of issues, and ability to express them. Grading is A-E. An “I” may be given if you request it and have completed at least three of the five assignments. There will be no extra work for improved grades. Students with learning or performance disabilities must register promptly in BA-120 and bring me the letters provided by that office. Special testing conditions will then be arranged.


Attendance is essential in a seminar. More than two avoidable absences will affect your grade. Miss class when you are scheduled to introduce discussion, and you fail the assignment. Arrive on time and stay until the end. If you must leave class early for good reason, inform me before class starts.

Cheating in this course means instant failure in the course, not just the assignment involved. On plagiarism, the policy of the History department is:

Plagiarism is taking (which includes purchasing) the words and ideas of another and passing them off as one’s own work. If in a formal paper a student quotes someone, that student must use quotation marks and give a citation. Paraphrased or borrowed ideas are to be identified by proper citations. Plagiarism will result, at the minimum, in a failing grade for the assignment.

Schedule of Topics

Jan 21: Orientation. READ: “Pacific War”, Zeiler chapter 3.

The Sailors

Jan 26: Reluctant Aggressor: Yamamoto and the War with the United States. READ: “Isoroku Yamamoto”, “Combined Fleet”, “Isoroku Yamamoto--Wikiquote”, “A Reluctant Enemy—”, Zeiler pp. 158-64, 180-90, 248.

Jan 28: The Cautious Misfit: Nagumo as Carrier Fleet Commander. READ: “Chuichi Nagumo”, “1st Air Fleet (Imperial Japanese Navy)”, “3rd Fleet (Imperial Japanese Navy)”, “Attack on Pearl Harbor”, “Battle of Midway”, “Ob- jective Midway, by Admiral Furashita”, “Battle of Saipan”, Zeiler pp. 159-64, 183.

Feb 2: Picking the best Men: Nimitz as CINCPAC. READ: “Chester W. Nimitz”, “Biography – Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz”, “Chester W. Nimitz Quotes—Wikiquote”, “Admiral Nimitz: Three Mistakes Japan Made at Pearl Harbor”, “United State Pacific Fleet--Wikipedia”, Zeiler pp. 179-84, 190, 252-53, 257, 262-64, 315-16, 323-26, 386, 390, 399, 405. NOTE: Today is last day to drop without receiving a “W”.

Feb 4: Electric Brain: The Imperturbable Admiral Spruance. READ: “Raymond A. Spruance”, “Biography – Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, USN”, “Battle of Midway”, “Battle of the Philippine Sea”, “Fast Carrier Task Force”, “United States Fifth Fleet”, Zeiler pp. 182-84, 257-58, 315, 318-24.

Feb 9: Hit hard, Hit fast, Hit often! The Aggressive “Bull” Halsey. READ: “William Halsey, Jr.”, “Biography – Fleet Admiral William Frederick Halsey, Jr., USN”, “United States Third Fleet”, “Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands”, “Battle of the Eastern Solomons”, “Naval Battle of Guadalcanal”, “Battle of Leyte Gulf”, Zeiler pp. 179, 188, 249-52, 315, 324, 326, 362-63, 373, 405.

Feb 11: Extraordinary Heroism: Ziggy Sprague and “Taffy 3” off Samar. READ: “Clifton Sprague”, “Biography–Vice Admiral Clifton Albert Frederick Sprague, USN”, “Battle off Samar”, “The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors”, “Takeo Kurita”, Zeiler pp. 363, 365-66.

Feb 16: Tom Thumb Drowns: Admiral Phillips Learns about Air Power. READ: “Tom Phillips (Royal Navy officer)”, “The Deployment of Force Z”, “Sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse”, “Prince of Wales and Repulse: Churchill’s ‘Veiled Threat’ Reconsidered”, Zeiler, pp. 164-68. TEST #1: All readings from Jan. 21 through Feb. 16, and Zeiler chapters 3, 10, 11. The Marines

Feb 18: Outstanding and Heroic Accomplishment: Vandegrift on Guadalcanal. READ: “Alexander Vandegrift”, “Guadalcanal Campaign”, “Solomon Islands Cam- paign”, “I Marine Amphibious Corps”, Zeiler pp. 184-90.

Feb 23: The Father of Amphibious Landings: Hard-driving “Howlin’ Mad” Smith. READ: “Holland Smith”, “V Amphibious Corps”, “Fleet Marine Force, Pacific”, “Gilbert and Marshall Islands Campaign”, “Battle of Kwajalein”, “Battle of Saipan”, “Ralph C. Smith”, “27th Infantry Division (United States)”, “Battle of Iwo Jima”, Zeiler pp. 316-18.

Feb 25: Highflying Marine: “Jiggs” Geiger of the Cactus Air Force. READ: “Roy Geiger”, “Cactus Air Force”, “1st Marine Aircraft Wing”, “III Marine Expeditionary Force”, “Bougainville Campaign”, “Battle of Guam (1944)”, “Tenth United States Army”, Zeiler pp. 250-52, 316, 322-23, 390, 395. NOTE: Preliminary research paper bibliography due.

Mar 1: “Chesty Puller was a Good Marine and a Good Marine was He” READ: “Chesty Puller”, “The Few. The Proud.—SemperFidelisNoah”, “LtGen ‘Chesty’ B Puller—Marine Corps University”, “Lewis B. ‘Chesty’ Puller (1898-1971)—Encyclopedia Virginia”, “Chesty Puller Quotes”.

The Flyboys Mar 3: The Flying Tiger: Chennault and His Chinese Air Force. READ: “Claire Lee Chennault”, “Flying Tigers”, “23rd Fighter Group, “China Air Task Force”, “Fourteenth Air Force”, Zeiler pp. 153-54, 174, 244, 371.

Mar 8: Annihilator-in-Chief: LeMay and the Destruction of Japan’s Cities. READ: “Curtis LeMay”, “Curtis LeMay: Biography – Spartacus Educational”, “Curtis LeMay”, “Twentieth Air Force”, XXI Bomber Command”, “Air raids on Japan”, “Bombing of Tokyo”, “Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”, Zeiler pp. 369-71, 386, 397-98, 401.

Mar 10: Baa Baa Black Sheep: Pappy Boyington, Super Ace. READ: “Pappy Boyington”, “VMA 214”, “Vought F4U Corsair”, “Baa Baa Black Sheep (TV Series)”. NOTE: Classes suspended March 12; resume March 19 (spring break). TEST #2: All readings from Feb. 18 through March 10, and Zeiler chapters 15, 16.

The Soldiers

Mar 22: The Tiger of Malaya: Yamashita’s Bike Ride to Singapore. READ: “Tomoyuki Yamashita”, “Malayan Campaign”, “Japanese Invasion of Malaya”, “Twenty-Fifth Army (Japan)”, “Battle of Muar”, “Battle of Slim River”, “8th Divi- sion (Australia)”, “Battle of Singapore”, “Sook Ching”, Zeiler pp. 166-67, 171-72.

Mar 24: The Largest Surrender: Percival and the Fall of Singapore. READ: “Arthur Percival”, “Operation Matador”, “Malayan Campaign”, “Battle of Singapore”, “The Singapore Naval Base”, Zeiler pp. 167, 171-72. Mar 29: American Caesar: The Vainglorious Douglas MacArthur. READ: “Douglas MacArthur”, “South West Pacific Area (command)”, “United States Army Forces in the Far East”, “Philippines Campaign (1941-42)”, “New Guinea Campaign”, “Philippines Campaign (1944-45)”, Zeiler pp. 103, 156-59, 165, 176- 79, 184, 216, 245-49, 252, 263-67, 273, 315, 319, 324, 326, 361-62, 367-68, 373- 77, 387, 399-400, 405.

Mar 31: In Caesar’s Shadow: Eichelberger, the Jungle Fighter. READ: “Robert L. Eichelberger”, “Eighth United States Army”, “I Corps (United States)”, “Battle of Buna-Gona”, “ Battle of Biak”, “Battle of Hollandia”, “Battle of Visayas”, “General Robert L. Eichelberger and Military Genius” [MA Thesis], Zeiler pp. 247, 265, 373-74, 376.

Apr 5: Caesar’s Operational Executor: Krueger, Turning Vision into Realty. READ: “Walter Krueger”, “Sixth United States Army”, “Alamo Scouts”, “Operation Chronicle”, “Operation Dexterity”, “Battle of Luzon”, Zeiler pp. 248, 264, 361, 367, 374-76.

Apr 7: Behind the Lines: Merrill’s Marauders. READ: “Frank Merril”, “Merrill’s Marauders”, “Charles N. Hunter”, Zeiler pp. 268-70.

Apr 12: Ming the Merciless: Leslie Morshead and the Borneo Campaign. READ: “Leslie Morshead”, “Borneo Campaign (1945)”, “Operation Montclair”, “I Corps (Australian)”, “9th Division (Australia)”, “Operation Montclair”, “Ming the Merciless”, “Siege of Tobruk”. TEST #3: All readings from March 22 through April 12, and Zeiler chapters 20, 23. Apr 14: Whom to Fight? Chiang Kai-shek between a Rock and a Hard Place. READ: “Chiang Kai-shek”, “National Revolutionary Army”, “Second Sino-Japanese War”, “Battle of Shanghai”, “1938 Yellow River Flood”, “Battle of Wuhan”, Zeiler pp. 39-40, 43-50, 151-54, 371-72.

Apr 19: The Patton of Asia: Xue Yue and the Battles of Changsha. READ: “Xue Yue”, “Battle of Wanjialing”, “Battle of Changsha (1938)”, “Battle of Changsha (1941)”, “Battle of Changsha (1942)”, “Battle of Changsha (1944)”, “1938 Changsha Fire”.

Apr 21: The Best of the Best? “Uncle” Bill Slim and the Burma Campaign. READ: “William Slim, 1st Viscount Slim”, “Burma Campaign 1944”, “Burma Campaign 1944-45”, “Fourteenth Army (United Kingdom)”, “Battle of Imphal”, “Battle of Kohima”, Zeiler pp. 176, 243, 267-73, 372-73. NOTE: Research paper due.

Apr 26: Typhoon of Steel: Ushijima’s Deadly Defense of Okinawa. READ: “Mitsuru Ushijima”, “Battle of Okinawa”, “Thirty-Second Army (Japan)”, “Tenth United States Army”, “XXIV Corps (United States)”, “III Marine Expeditionary Force”, “Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr.”, Zeiler pp. 390-96.

Apr 28: August Storm: Meretskov’s Ultimate Triumph. READ: “August Storm: Soviet Tactical and Operational Combat in Manchuria, 1945”, pp. 1-125, 167-86; “Kirill Meretskov”, “Soviet-Japanese War (1945)”, “Soviet Invasion of Manchuria”, Zeiler p.403.

May 3: August Storm: Malinovski’s Finishing Touch. READ: “August Storm: Soviet Tactical and Operational Combat in Manchuria, 1945”, pp. 127-65, 187-92; “Rodion Malinovsk”, “Transbaikal Front”.

May 5: A Look Back: Comparing the Commanders. TEST #4: All readings from April 14 through May 5, and Zeiler chapter 25.

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