“Defeat Into Victory” is the World War II memoir written by Field-Marshal Sir William Slim. He commanded an allied corps of Indian, British, and Burmese troops as part of the force that attempted to resist the Japanese invasion and conquest of Burma in 1942. The allied forces were beaten and forced to retreat to India. After the retreat, he retrained and reorganized the allied forces to deal with Burma’s unique battlespace. Then he was appointed to command the 14th Army, which led the successful effort to defeat the Japanese forces and drive them from Burma.
Slim’s account is a masterpiece among the historical accounts of WW2 campaigns. He faced a stunning array of challenges, including everything from the logistics of feeding and supplying his 14th Army, in a country with few roads and rail systems, to dealing with abrasive personalities such as American General ‘Vinegar’ Joe Stillwell. The biggest challenge was the Japanese Army with their never retreat, never surrender fighting spirit. Slim’s men eventually outfought the Japanese, and he outthought and outgeneraled their generals and finally drove their armies from Burma.
Slim’s account is a masterpiece among the historical accounts of WW2 campaigns.
Read the book slowly. (I recommend with a detailed topographical map of Burma close at hand.) He buries many gems of wisdom throughout the text. These include concepts like the critical importance of morale and the effectiveness of close cooperation between ground and air forces. His brilliant campaign demonstrated how training, initiative at the small unit level, and strategic and tactical flexibility are all elements that lead to battlefield victory.
The book is a portrait of excellence in military leadership and command and a very entertaining read.