Stillwell and Mountbatten in Burma: Allies at War, 1943-1944. By Jonathan Templin Ritter. Denton: University of North Texas (UNT) Press, 2017. Maps. Photographs. Notes. Appendices. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 274. $29.95 ISBN: 978-1-57441-674-9
This is apparently Ritter's first book. As an archivist and historian, he has chosen to examine two of the more colorful characters that emerged from the Second World War--Admiral Louis Mountbatten, RN, and General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, USA. It is an apt subject for the American Military Studies Series from UNT Press. While primarily looking at the relationships between these two leaders, Ritter could not ignore a number of other major players in the South-East Asia Command (SEAC) drama: General Claire Chennault, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, British General Bill Slim, General Albert Wedemeyer, Prime Minister Churchill, and President Roosevelt.
Nominally at the same level as Admiral Nimitz, General MacArthur, and General Eisenhower, Mountbatten was an ambitious young officer put in command of an area rife with competing and divergent goals. The British sought to preserve their empire in SE Asia after the war, and the US wasn't too sure what it wanted in the long run but thought it highly desirable to keep China and its military in the war effort. Mountbatten had to follow the desire of his government--but he was also a pragmatist who saw the coming of independence for the empire's colonies. He was also interested in avenging the humiliating loss of Singapore in 1942 and, therefore, looked to a maritime strategy in the area.
Stilwell had endured the humiliating retreat of the British, American, and Chinese forces through Burma into India in 1942. His main goal was to meet the US desire to keep China in the war by supplying its troops overland via the Burma and Ledo Roads. He was in charge of all US Army forces in the area, including the airpower of Chennault--with whom he did not get along. He was also nominally the commander of the Chinese army but...