Historian William H Bartsch, Author, Pacific War Back to Homepage Historian William H Bartsch, Author, Pacific War
Homepage Author's Profile
Speaking Engagements
Published Books
Published Articles
Awarded Prizes Author's War Remains Photos
Contact Contact

William H. Bartsch - Author & WWII Researcher

Historian William H Bartsch, Author, Pacific WarWhile working on my Ph.D. in economics and Middle East Studies at the University of London in the 1960s, I experienced a sudden resurgence of interest in the Pacific War following a visit to the Imperial War museum and viewing a mock-up of the Battle of Midway. I subsequently attempted to read anything I could find published on the Pacific War to see if my memories of the 1941-42 campaigns in the Philippines, Dutch East Indies, and the Solomons were as I remembered reading about them as a child. I found very little, particularly on my main obsession, the Philippines under MacArthur. Frustrated, I decided to try to contact pilot survivors for their recollections of those long-ago days in the Philippines. One success led to another and soon I was developing a detailed picture of their experiences – little of which had ever been captured in print -- from correspondence with a growing number of the pilots. The spark had been lit! “Why don’t I write on the subject myself and fill this gap in history?”, I wondered. I was no professional historian, but my graduate-level education in economics had provided me with a foundation in research methods required for any social science.

And so it was that in 1992, my first book was published, detailing the experiences of the pilots and enlisted men of the ill-fated 24th Pursuit Group in the Philippines campaign, December 1941-May 1942. But in the interim period, I had finished my Ph.D. and joined the International Labour Office (a specialized agency of the United Nations) as a development economist. Over my 24-year professional career (1969-1992) and ten years following retirement (1992-2002) as a consultant, I visited some 60 countries --including two years in Fiji (1973-75) and three in Indonesia (1975-78) as an advisor to their governments. But I also took advantage of my missions to Southeast Asia and the Pacific during the 1970s and 1980s to visit battle sites of the Pacific War -- Guadalcanal and the other islands of the Solomons, Bougainville, New Guinea, Tarawa in the former Gilberts, the Philippines (Bataan and Corregidor), the Marshall Islands, and the Caroline Islands – where I photographed war remains and wrote articles on my visits.

But my main interest now had shifted to desk-bound research and writing on the early part of the Pacific War, away from tramping around in the jungles looking for war remains (much to the relief of my wife!) Following publication of Doomed at the Start, I moved on to a second book on the Philippines campaign-- the Clark Field disaster of December 8, 1941 and the build-up to it -- then I shifted south to delve into the experiences of Army pursuit pilots caught up in the desperate air war over Java at the beginning of 1942. The first major battle of the Guadalcanal campaign, (August 1942-February 1943) occupies me at present, with plans to return to the Dutch East Indies campaign with the story of the pilots and men of the 5th Bomber Command and “Project X” that brought them to the Indies from the U.S., another untold story.

As long as mind and body hold up, I’ll keep writing on the Pacific War!

For the interview by Justin Taylan, click here.

Home | | | | |


| | | Contact