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Library to host ‘Fire and Fortitude’ debut

The latest work by Dr. John McManus, a professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology and an award-winning author and military historian, will debut July 30 with a public event at the St. Louis County Library headquarters, 1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd.

A West County resident, McManus will discuss his book “Fire and Fortitude,” which is the first part of a two-volume history of the U.S. Army’s role in the Pacific during World War II. The initial book covers the war in the Pacific from its start in 1941 through 1943. 

Covering the years 1944 through 1945, the second volume now is scheduled for publication in 2021. 

McManus, who just completed the 2018-19 school year as a visiting professor at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, describes his latest book as “the long overdue story of the U.S. Army’s experiences in the Pacific.

“Many people view the war in the Pacific as having been fought by the Marines. My goal was not to disparage the role of the Marines because it certainly was significant. But the fact is that the Army did most of the fighting and dying in the Pacific Theater and I think people may tend to overlook that,” McManus said.

Cover of West County author John McManus’s latest book, to be released July 30.

“Fire and Fortitude” takes readers from Pearl Harbor, a rude awakening for a military woefully unprepared for war, to Makin, a tiny coral reef where the Army was tested against  Japanese forces that were becoming increasingly desperate as the tide of war turned against them.

McManus’s book tells about Army personnel, ranging from Gen. Douglas MacArthur and other generals to the foot soldiers whose stories describe the horrors of combat in the blistering heat and torrential rains of the tropical islands. 

The experiences of Japanese soldiers, as recounted in captured diaries, also are included, as well as grim tales of survival by American prisoners of war.

According to McManus, “Thirty-seven percent of American POWs in the Pacific didn’t survive. As staggering as that number is, it’s a miracle it wasn’t higher.”

McManus summarized his recent teaching stint at the Naval Academy in one word: “Great!” He taught upper level courses on various aspects of military history during both semesters and said the opportunity to meet and get to know the midshipmen there was a rewarding experience.

“I’d like to think that maybe I contributed a bit to the development of our future Marine and Navy officers and helped them to become better leaders,” he said.

His stay at the Academy during the school year also facilitated research he wanted to do at the nearby National Archives, one of the places he has visited regularly in gathering information for his books.

Just before the publication date of his new book, McManus is scheduled to give the keynote speech at the Normandy 75 conference commemorating the Allied invasion of Europe. Scheduled July 21-25 at Portsmouth, England, the event is expected to attract scholars from around the world.

McManus also recently appeared as one of the expert commentators in a documentary about the D-Day invasion recently aired by the History Channel.

At the start of the 2019-20 school year, he will return to his teaching responsibilities at Rolla where he is a curators’ professor of U.S. military history. 

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