War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945. – book reviews
Karl G. Larew
“War Plan Orange” was a code phrase covering all the contingency plan for war against Japan drawn up in the four decades before World War Il. Naturally, these plans changed as military technology advanced and as the international situation developed. For example, one of the planners’ basic assumption – that Japan would someday be the United State’s principal enemy – name inoperative as Germany took over that potential role by 1940. Moreover, there were different schools of thought concerning how to win a war against Orange.” Fire-eating “thrusters” wanted an immediate cross-Pacific drive, hoping to save the Philippines en passant, while “cautionaries” favored a step-by-step approach, taking into consideration the enormous logistical problems and strategic risks that would be involved, even though the Philippines would (temporarily) be lost
It is difficult to say enough good things about this book in a short review. The author’s eighteen years’ worth of research, content, endnotes, and maps are all outstanding. Edward S. Miller is not a professional historian, but one would never know it – except that his style is better than that of many professionals. He has enjoyed a long career in planning himself, but for a major mining company rather than for the U.S. Navy. Students interested in the history of war plans, or of bureaucratic planning of any kind, will certainly benefit from this masterpiece, yet many readers will be drawn especially to what Miller says about World War H in general and Pearl Harbor in particular. The United States was caught by surprise that December morning m part because Admiral Husband E. Kimmel was of the old “thruster” tradition. He worried so much that the Japanese would refuse to come out and fight after their expected, initial assault on the Philippines that he planned to launch an American offensive toward Japan’s Mandate Islands as soon as war was declared. Consequently, he gave little thought to the possibility that the Japanese might attack him in his own home base.
There is one point of controversy that is worth mentioning. Miller wants very much to demonstrate the wisdom of much, though by no means all, of what the planners wrought, and it is true that the Pacific War conformed in many ways to what they had predicted. But was that conformity entirely owing to their foresight? Perhaps what appears to be foresight resulted largely from the fact that so many different plans had been written that certain aspects of some of them were bound to come true The same geographical imperatives that influenced the planners might similarly have influenced the war’s course even if there had been no war planning at all. Still, the author’s argument is a good corrective to those historians who have unfairly criticized War Plan Orange without possessing the documents that Miller has used so well
COPYRIGHT 1994 Phi Alpha Theta, History Honor Society, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group