Building on what I said yesterday about how Barbara Tuchman’s book Practicing History helped me organize my research, through the years, I’ve read most of the major works in Barbara Tuchman’s canon: The Guns of August, The Proud Tower, A Distant Mirror (in a Patagonian basecamp), and, of course, Stilwell and the American Experience in China. If my count is accurate, I’ve read Stilwell 4 times, once for a military history course on the China-Burma-India theater while I was a cadet at West Point, once before I wrote the China’s Wings book proposal, a third time while I was writing it, and a fourth (and probably final time) after I finished my first complete draft. There are a few places where I find I don’t agree with her analysis, most notably around the massive Battle of Shanghai fought in the last half of 1937, but in the main, I think she’s spot on.
For the record, Tuchman’s Stilwell isn’t the only book that received such massive attention during my writing. I cover-to-covered Charles F. Romanus’s and Riley Sunderland’s magisterial three-volume history of the CBI at least a half a dozen times. It was on my desk constantly through the writing of China’s Wings Part IV. For the first sections of the book I was constantly checking facts and events in letters against Robert Dalleck’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945, Jonathan Spence’s Search for Modern China, and David M. Kennedy’s Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945.) All three of which are superb books.
I’m excited, humbled, and more than a little trepidacious as I attempt to stand alongside such great books.