Military historian John McManus explores the Army’s Pacific War in new book
John McManus is one of the foremost experts on U.S. military history, with 14 books to his name. His latest, “Island Infernos: The US Army’s Pacific War Odyssey, 1944,” is the second volume in a planned trilogy delving into the Army’s presence in the Pacific during World War II.
McManus, the Curators’ Distinguished Professor of U.S. Military History at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, said World War II is continually fascinating.
“It's when the United States becomes a kind of international superpower and economic superpower. But also, domestically, it's when we really start to see an emboldened civil rights movement with tremendous momentum that's awakened by social forces created by the war,” McManus explained to guest host Jeremy D. Goodwin on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air.
McManus said what happened in World War II still has implications for every aspect of American life. He also argues that the events of the Pacific War, specifically, remain underreported.
“There's a kind of perception that I think survives, even today, among really well-informed people about World War II, that the Marine Corps did the ground fighting in the Pacific and the Navy did everything else,” he said. “Actually, the Army did the vast majority of the ground fighting and also the incredibly crucial, necessary engineering, supplies, logistics and medical side — all these other aspects of the war that are incredibly important.”
But in focusing on that, McManus added, his book in no way is a denigration of efforts of the rest of the armed forces. He said he came away from his research with greater respect for the Marines and what they were able to accomplish with relatively few resources.
McManus said his trilogy has allowed him to dig deeper into the larger human experience of the war: engineers building an airfield on a remote island, soldiers who hauled supplies through mud and rain, and medics faced with trying to control disease.
In “Island Infernos,” McManus also had the opportunity to write about the experience of Black soldiers during the war.
“It's the profound irony, this whole war, that we're fighting these racist regimes, but we're doing it with a segregated military force on the base of race,” McManus said.
What: John McManus Presents “Island Infernos”
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 12
Where: St. Louis County Library Headquarters (1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63131)
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.