On 2 September 1945, Japan surrendered to the United States, ending the Second World War. Yet the Japanese invasion had upended the old geopolitical structures of European empires, leaving old imperial powers on the decline and new groups calling for independence on the rise. That unsteady situation sparked a decade of conflict: in Indonesia, in Vietnam, in China and in Korea, as esteemed military historian Professor Ronald Spector writes about in his latest book, A Continent Erupts: Decolonization, Civil War, and Massacre in Postwar Asia, 1945–1955.
China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) did not just appear out of nowhere with China’s rise to military superpower status in the 21st century, though there has been very little written in English about its origins. Until now: Toshi Yoshihara, a former professor at the Naval War College and currently a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, traces the PLAN’s beginnings to the Chinese Civil War and the early years of Mao Zedong’s rule in his new book Mao’s Army Goes to Sea.
The Sasanians ruled an empire stretching from the Mediterranean to the Aral Sea. Under them, the Zoroastrian religion developed its most subtle metaphysics. Greek philosophers flocked to their capital in Ctesiphon, while in Babylon, the Jewish Talmud ripened. Iranian painting, metalwork and music were received enthusiastically in China and India.
On 2 September 1945, on the US battleship Missouri, US General Douglas MacArthur concluded the formal surrender ceremony of the Pacific War by stating: “Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world, and that God will preserve it always.” When the guns of the Second World War fell silent in Asia, peace did not return to the peoples of East and Southeast Asia. Instead, as Ronald Spector details in his meticulous and informative military history of the postwar Far East, the region “erupted” as a result of decolonization, civil wars, and the broader Cold War. The region became a vast “bloodlands” in which nearly four million combatants and probably close to 20 million civilians died.
In 2012, Murali Ranganathan, a historian and translator of Gujarati and Marathi, came across the memoir of Nariman Karkaria, a Parsi from Gujarat, titled Rangbhoomi par Rakhad, published in 1922. The book recounts Karkaria’s travels throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, and his experiences in the First World War. The memoir, Murali Ranganathan writes, “is the only Indian war memoir from the First World War to have been discovered thus far.” Though initially skeptical of Nariman Karkaria’s story, and unable to independently confirm the accounts of Karkaria’s war experiences, Ranganathan believes the accounts therein are genuine.
The history of India and Pakistan since Partition has been marked by countless skirmishes—and four major wars. The second conflict—the 1965 war between India and Pakistan along the long land border—featured some of the largest tank battles since the Second World War and some of the first skirmishes between the Indian and Pakistani air forces. It reshaped regional and global geopolitics, pushing India closer to the Soviet Union and Pakistan closer to China.
The World War II fighting on Mindanao, the southernmost and second-largest island of the Philippine archipelago, rarely gets mentioned in conventional histories of the Pacific War, even in those histories that focus on the battles in the Philippines. Still less do those histories recount the heroic struggle of the Moro resistance fighters who conducted a costly insurgency against the conquering armies of Imperial Japan from 1942 to 1945. Thomas McKenna, an anthropologist who lived and worked in Moro communities on Mindanao, tells the story of one of the unsung heroes of the resistance, Mohammad Adil, in his new and groundbreaking book Moro Warrior.