Book Review – Triumph at Imphal-Kohima: How the Indian Army Finally Stopped the Japanese Juggernaut
Rating – Two Stars
Callahan reports on the little known yet profoundly important British India/Japan campaign in 1944. The Imperial Japanese Army launched an invasion of India’s eastern frontier. Streaming out of occupied Burma, the former British crown colony, they achieved initial success and threatened the capture of the key Indian city of Imphal in Manipur State. The Fourteenth Indian Army, under the command of British Lieutenant General William Slim, crushed the invading Japanese and began the conquest of Burma. This Indian Army was composed of revitalized Indian divisions, Gurkha Rifles battalions, and British elements.
Of note is the several-hundred-word account of the Bengal radical Subhas Chandra Bose and his Indian National Army, allied with the Japanese.
Unfortunately, Callahan’s account is inept. His narrative is far too detailed for the lay reader, and it’s too befuddling for the military cognoscenti. His failure to include large- and small-scale maps that depict the geography and military movements is an egregious blunder that negates, in large measure, the value of this book. His narrative lacks chronological coherence—the narrative wanders back and forth in time and we do not get a clear understanding of what is happening with who, where, and why. It is repetitive to a crippling fault. It is seriously overwritten—there’s far too much detail that’s irrelevant to the primary story and beclouds the essential points.
The author’s failure to split frequently his text into paragraphs hinders comprehension. Some paragraphs are a page long and others longer. And, frequently, Army element numbers (XIV, for example) suffuse through the pages to an inordinate extent, to the point that they become noise in our reading process. Well-planned tables would have helped clarify this printed din. Images of the key persons would augur well for engendering reader empathy.
I wonder why the editor at the University of Kansas Press did not exercise more control over this narrative. It had the potential to be a much-needed and valuable account of this crucial battle that threatened the East India Company Raj.