Frank, Richard B. 1947-
Frank, Richard B. 1947-
Born 1947, in KS. Education: University of Missouri, graduated in 1969; Georgetown University Law Center, J.D., 1976.
Home—Annandale, VA. Agent—c/o Naval Historical Foundation, 1306 Dahlgren Ave. SE, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC 20374-5055.
Attorney practicing in the Washington, DC, area. Lecturer. Military service: U.S. Army, 101st Airborne, c. 1969-73; became captain; served in Vietnam.
Harry S. Truman Book Award, Harry S. Truman Library Institute for National and International Affairs, 2000, for Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire.
Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Campaign, Random House (New York, NY), 1990.
Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire, Random House (New York, NY), 1999.
MacArthur, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2007.
Richard B. Frank is an attorney and Vietnam War veteran who has written two critically acclaimed military histories: Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Campaign and Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire. He is also the author of MacArthur, a biography of the famous American general Douglas MacArthur.
Although the author acknowledges that a number of books have already been written about the battles waged between the Japanese and Americans at Guadalcanal in 1942, Frank's Guadalcanal is unique in several ways. First, as Robert Sherrod noted in his Washington Post review, it makes "use of American radio intelligence recently declassified and, especially, Japanese publications not available when the earlier chronicles were being written." It also is the first work to thoroughly detail all seven major battles that occurred on and around the island, combining accounts of sea, land, and air conflicts. Thorough analysis of the documents reveals just how perilous the struggle for the strategic island was for both sides, and how it could have been lost by either the Americans or the Japanese. What made the American attack on Guadalcanal so brilliant, says Frank, is how the chief of naval operations, Admiral Ernest J. King, successfully got the battle plan into motion despite some objections from his superiors. This resulted in a surprise for the Japanese, who had not expected an American offensive in the region before 1943. In addition to catching the Japanese off guard, the Americans benefited from their ability to manufacture airplanes faster, and from the fact that the Japanese were unable to replace the skilled pilots they lost.
Critics noted that Frank's is a balanced account of the battles at Guadalcanal. He finds many things to admire about both Japan's soldiers and the Americans. Conversely, Frank also notes that both sides suffered from poor leadership decisions. Reviewers, such as Los Angeles Times Book Review critic Dan Kurzman, praised Frank's "meticulous research." Publishers Weekly contributor Genevieve Stuttaford, furthermore, called Guadalcanal "a definitive critical account of strategic and tactical developments on both sides." Sherrod cautioned that this history contains some spelling errors and a mistake concerning the date of a critical House of Representatives vote about the draft, but he concluded that Guadalcanal is "a comprehensive, indispensable account of the most interesting campaigns of the Pacific war."
With the same balance that Frank afforded his first book, his second, Downfall, takes a look at the arguments that praise or condemn the decision to use atomic bombs on Japan to end World War II. Downfall, which won the Harry S. Truman Book Award, takes the position that President Truman's decision to drop the bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima was the correct one, though the author adds some qualifiers. One of the main arguments for the use of A-bombs was the belief that sending American troops to invade Japan would have cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Frank, however, analyzes the Americans' plans to invade the Japanese island of Kyushu and concludes that fewer than 40,000 were likely to die. He also uses documentation from the Japanese to show that, contrary to the position of many revisionist historians who feel that Truman used A-bombs to intimidate the Soviet Union as much as to end the war, Emperor Hirohito was never considering a surrender to the United States before the bombs were used.
Frank also contends, however, that there might have been another strategy the Americans could have used in lieu of the bomb: starvation. As New York Times Book Review critic J. Samuel Walker explained, Frank "makes clear how vulnerable the Japanese railroad system was to aerial attacks and how dependent food distribution was on the railroads." Raids on essential transportation routes using conventional bombs would have made the food situation in Japan critical and could have hastened Japan's surrender. The author's "conclusions," stated Walker, "are likely to incite attacks from those who cling to doctrinaire positions in the endless controversy, but those who seek a well-informed, thoughtful and judicious account have good reason to applaud this book." Steven I. Levine, writing in Library Journal, concluded that Downfall "is the most authoritative treatment available of the end of the Pacific War."
In the biography MacArthur, which is the fifth volume in the "Great Generals" series published by Palgrave Macmillan, Frank examines the life of one of the most famous generals in American military history, Douglas MacArthur. Widely acknowledged as a brilliant and powerful leader, MacArthur was also a controversial figure whose insubordination led to his being relieved of command during the Korean War by President Truman. MacArthur was born into a military family, and his brilliance manifested itself early. He was first in his class at West Point military academy and achieved the rare rank of Cadet First Captain in 1903. His military service would be remarkable if only for its longevity, for he served in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. In World War I, MacArthur distinguished himself as one of the most decorated officers in the service. In World War II, he was named commander of the Allied Forces in the Pacific and was slated to lead the invasion into Japan. Instead, he became the Allied Commander in charge of overseeing the occupation and democratization of Japan during the postwar period. MacArthur's ability to adapt to changing times, methods, and situations was one of his greatest strengths, as the biography illustrates. Frank's book is "a fair assessment" of the highs and lows in MacArthur's career, relating both in "an assured and dispassionate tone," according to David Lee Poremba in a Library Journal review. The book focuses on military rather than personal aspects of MacArthur's life, for example giving only one page to his risky decision to bring a sixteen-year-old girl from the Philippines with him to Washington, DC, as his consort when he was named Chief of Staff. Frank's description of MacArthur's tendency toward self-promotion, his willingness to take credit that belonged to others, and his tendency even to deflect blame for his own mistakes onto those beneath him are related in "candid" fashion by Frank, said a Kirkus Reviews writer. Booklist contributor Roland Green also found this a valuable biography and stated that Frank is "a particularly accomplished writer."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 1999, Jay Freeman, review of Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire, p. 226; June 1, 2007, Roland Green, review of MacArthur, p. 28.
Chicago Sun-Times, December 23, 1990, Jack Schnedler, "The Damp Green Hell where the Fortunes of War Turned," p. 19.
Economist, December 4, 1999, "Japanese History: Strength and Adversity," p. 7.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2007, review of MacArthur.
Library Journal, September 15, 1999, Steven I. Levine, review of Downfall, p. 95; May 1, 2007, David Lee Poremba, review of Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Campaign, p. 85.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 23, 1990, Dan Kurzman, review of Guadalcanal, pp. 3, 7.
New York Times Book Review, May 26, 1991, D. Clayton James, review of Guadalcanal, pp. 10, 12; December 12, 1999, J. Samuel Walker, "Bomb! Unbomb!," p. 35.
Publishers Weekly, October 19, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Guadalcanal, p. 45; September 20, 1999, review of Downfall, p. 60.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 19, 1999, Harry Levins, "Author Takes on Revisionists over A-Bombing of Japan," p. F13.
Washington Post, February 3, 1991, Robert Sherrod, "Hell in the Pacific."