William H. Bartsch - World War II Pacific Island Guide: A Geo-Military Study (review) - Journal of Military History 67:1 The Journal of Military History 67.1 (2003) 278-279

World War II Pacific Island Guide: A Geo-Military Study. By Gordon L. Rottman. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001. ISBN 0-313-31395-4. Maps. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xxii, 477. $99.00.

This is a unique book in the literature of the Pacific War, providing in one place basic information about each island caught up in that conflagration, including geographic characteristics, prewar and postwar history, and World War II events as experienced by the Allied and Japanese sides alike. As such, the volume is a valuable reference work for Pacific War historians and buffs, including wargamers, as was intended by the author, who in encyclopedic fashion has compiled all the relevant data and information he could [End Page 278] find from the wide range of sources consulted.

The book is organized in logical fashion, beginning with a brief review of the geo-military characteristics of the Pacific Theater and a thumb-nail chronology of major events of the Pacific War before proceeding to the main section covering each geographic region of the Theater. The author has grouped his coverage of individual islands within six geographic areas, including Central and South Pacific U.S. Possessions, South Pacific, Southwest Pacific, Central Pacific, Western Pacific, and North Pacific. Reproduced from the sources he tapped are maps of individual atolls and islands.

Given the research limits of the vast enterprise Rottman has undertaken, it is not surprising that his coverage is much greater for those islands where major battles were fought, as widely described in American accounts, than for those where American troops were not engaged, despite their strategic significance for the Japanese. As examples of the latter, I would have liked to have seen more thorough coverage for the Carolines (including its bastion, Truk), the outer Marshalls, and the Shortlands (including Ballale), which would have required greater research on the Japanese side than the author was able to carry out.

At the end of each geographic section the author has usefully included reading suggestions, as well as a select bibliography at the end of the book. As he notes, the focus in selecting entries was on official service histories and popular campaign histories easily available to the reader. My only observation here is that in addition to the books cited, he could have included articles of particular relevance, including for instance those published in After the Battle magazine that are an excellent source of the type of information he wished to include in his study.

As a specialized reference work, the volume is worth its relatively steep price in a small market. It reflects sound scholarship on the part of the author, who has presented his material in a clear and readable manner.


William H. Bartsch
Reston, Virginia

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