The British Eighth Army’s victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein in October-November 1942 is commonly considered one of the turning points of the Second World War—Winston Churchill called it “the end of the beginning” of the war. Historian and journalist Gershom Gorenberg, however, contends that the true turning point in the North African/Middle East campaign was the First Battle of El Alamein fought in July 1942. And the key to success in that battle was the Allied victory in what Gorenberg calls the “War of Shadows”, a war of codebreakers and spies.
Hiroshi Hirabayashi, Japan’s former ambassador to India, views India as the next superpower, joining the United States, China, and Russia at the apex of world politics. In India: The Last Super Power, part study of India’s history, culture and domestic politics, part geopolitical analysis, and part memoir, he lays out the case.
Injustice produces indignation at those responsible for it. Shrabani Basu’s The Mystery of the Parsee Lawyer is filled with indignation as it tells the story of the investigation, prosecution, conviction, and partial pardon of George Edalji, a British lawyer of Indian descent who served three years in prison for crimes (mutilating animals and sending threatening letters) he did not commit. It is a tale of racial prejudice, an inept judge, a biased chief of police, and an obstinate criminal justice bureaucracy. But it is also the tale of men who saw injustice and worked persistently to right a terrible wrong. Included among those men was the creator of the fictional master detective Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
On March 9, 1945, American B-29 flying fortresses firebombed Tokyo, Japan, in what Malcolm Gladwell in his new book The Bomber Mafia calls the “darkest night of the Second World War”.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) lures the US warship John Paul Jones and its female cigar-smoking commander Sarah Hunt, along with other US warships that are exercising “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea, to render assistance to the Chinese trawler Wen Rui. Commander Hunt discovers that the Wen Rui has aboard “some type of advanced technological suite” that deserves a closer look. Meanwhile, the PLA nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Zheng He and other Chinese warships head directly towards the American flotilla and surround it. A PLA cyber attack shuts down communications between US warships and between those ships and Washington. PLA aircraft from the Zheng He sink two US destroyers, and when two US carrier battle groups arrive to join the fight, 37 US warships, including two carriers, are destroyed and thousands of American naval personnel are dead. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership manufactured a crisis in the South China Sea—which it had claimed for its own since the 1949 revolution—to exert its ownership of the Sea and to launch an invasion of Taiwan. The Chinese had won the Battle of the South China Sea in World War III.
In an essay in Open magazine in 2017, Roderick Matthews, a freelance writer who studied history at Balliol College, Oxford, criticized Shashi Tharoor’s book Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India for its one-sided, wholly negative view of British rule in India.
For nearly seventy years, Kazuo Odachi, a respected police officer, insurance investigator, and Kendo-sensei in Japan, kept secret that during the last months of World War II he was a young kamikaze pilot who flew eight suicide missions but miraculously survived. Odachi’s memoir was published in Japanese in 2016, and has now been translated into English. It is a remarkable story of youth, comradeship, courage, honor, despair, recovery, introspection, and closure.