Storm Clouds over the Pacific, 1931–1941

Peter Harmsen

First in a trilogy of books comprising a general history of war in the Asia Pacific, from the origins of enmity between Japan and China, through Japan's ascendancy in the early years of World War II.
Date Published :
December 2018
Publisher :
Series :
War in the Far East
Illustration :
32 pages of b/w photos
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781612004808
Pages : 234
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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War in the Far East is a trilogy of books comprising a general history of the war against Japan; unlike other histories it expands the narrative beginning long before Pearl Harbor and encompasses a much wider group of actors to produce the most complete narrative yet written and the first truly international treatment of the epic conflict. Peter Harmsen uses his renowned ability to weave together complex events into an entertaining and revealing narrative, including facets of the war that may be unknown to many readers of WWII history, such as the war in Subarctic conditions on the Aleutians, or the mass starvations that cost the lives of millions in China, Indochina, and India, and offering a range of perspectives to reflect what war was like both at the top and at the bottom, from the Oval Office to the blistering sands of Peleliu.

Storm Clouds Over the Pacific begins the story long before Pearl Harbor, showing how the war can only be understood if ancient hatreds and long-standing geopolitics are taken into account. Peter Harmsen demonstrates how Japan and China’s ancient enmity grew in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries leading to increased tensions in the 1930s which exploded into conflict in 1937. The battles of Shanghai and Nanjing were followed by the battle of Taierzhuang in 1938, China’s only major victory. A war of attrition continued up to 1941, the year when Japan made the momentous decision for all-out war; the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor catapulted the United States into the war, and the Japanese also overran British and Dutch territories throughout the western Pacific.

About The Author

Peter Harmsen, a foreign correspondent in East Asia for two decades, has worked for Bloomberg, the Economist Intelligence Unit, and the Financial Times. He is also the former bureau chief in Taiwan for French news agency AFP. His books have been translated into Chinese, Danish, and Romanian.


“Harmsen has managed to craft into a single accessible narrative the complex military history of the early years of the Chinese–Japanese conflict. The great strength of the book is the equal attention given to both Japanese and Chinese sides in terms of military strategies and outcomes on the battlefield.”

- Stephen R. MacKinnon, Emeritus Professor, Arizona State University

“Storm Clouds Over the Pacific is an excellent primer about World War II in Asia prior to the involvement of the United States, . . . an excellent resource for understanding the relationship between China and Japan, past and present.“

- Benjamin Welton, New York Journal of Books

"Harmsen’s highly compressed, readable, narrative of the cascade to conflict is highly recommended reading for contemporary world citizens."

- Robert A. Kapp

“The author studies the origins of World War II in the Pacific through the vast war fought between China and Japan. It is a balanced book providing the perspectives of both sides and explains the motives and goals of each. The narrative is clear and engaging, and the level of detail is impressive.”

- Military History

Also gratifying, “Storm Clouds Over the Pacific” tackles via a smooth, easy-to-digest narrative the generations of animosities that drove the immensely destructive war in the Pacific, costing the lives of millions of people, soldiers and civilians alike."

- Leatherneck

“Peter Harmsen uses a reporter’s lean prose and sharp eye for detail to expertly tell the story of Japan’s war with China before Pearl Harbor. Among the highlights of this valuable book is Harmsen’s ability to effortlessly place Asian political and military developments in a global setting. The result is a masterful narrative account of the traumatic decade before Japan’s war in Asia merged into World War II.”

- Marc Gallicchio, co-author Implacable Foes: War in the Pacific, 1944-1945

"It is to be hoped that this book might provide a wake up call to modern readers about the dangers of military dictators. They cannot be trusted."


"He shifts easily from cabinet rooms to battlefields, and gives us profiles of many persons, high and low, who played interesting roles in these events. A very good work about a very neglected subject."

- The NYMAS Review

"Beginning with the second chapter, Harmsen provides the reader with a readable and reliable narrative of this war before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor....he effortlessly shifts his focus from high politics and strategy in China and Japan to individual stories of foreign witnesses as well as ordinary Chinese and Japanese."

- Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs

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