How did you get interested in history?

As a child I liked the stories and the heroes of the Trojan War, Achilles, Hector, the Odyssey and Odysseus, Jason & the Argonauts, Theseus, Perseus, etc. and this interest in legends developed into an interest in history. And then I found out that the Chinese have the most detailed historical records and the longest continuous history from the earliest times.

What area of history are you most interested in?

There are 3 areas of history which are most interesting:

Why Rome fell
Why China is resurgent
The 9/11 attacks in the US (and – Bali 2002, Madrid 2004, Beslan 2004, London 2005, Mumbai 2008...)

because the survival of the US depends on correctly understanding these 3 subjects.

States have a finite lifespan, few states last centuries and even fewer are those states that prosper for more than a century.

The Roman Empire lasted 5 centuries (27 BC–AD 476) but the Pax Romana lasted only 2 centuries (27 BCE to 180 CE). The Umayyad Caliphate lasted less than 90 years (661–750) and the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258) which overthrew the Umayyad lasted only 5 centuries during the last 350 years of which the Abbasid had lost most of its power and even lost its capital (Baghdad) in 1258.

The Roman Empire is the archetypal political super-state in the West – where the Pax Romana has never been equalled. The USA is a liberal democracy or a constitutional republic depending on one’s opinion. The US concepts of liberty, democracy, constitution, and republic originated in ancient Rome, e.g., the ancient Roman Senate is the ultimate model of the modern US Senate. It is now 235 years since the Declaration of Independence in 1776. In view of the fact that the Pax Romana lasted only 207 years – what is next for the US?

China is the only survivor of the world’s earliest civilizations. The people who now live in what was the territory of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Minoan, or Indus valley civilizations – are of a different race, language and religion compared to the people of those earliest civilizations. The Spanish Conquest ended and supplanted the civilizations of the Incas, Mayas and Aztecs in the Americas.

China and the US fought the Korean War (1950–1953) because WW2 in China had been such a blind spot in the US where it was believed – China had become a victor in WW2 only by riding on the coattails of the US.

The original mandate for UN/US intervention in Korea was to secure the south up to the 38th parallel. China could have intervened, but did not do so, when UN/US forces were almost defeated and within the Pusan Perimeter in early September 1950. On 3 October 1950, China warned that it would intervene if the US crossed the 38th parallel but UN/US troops crossed the 38th parallel and went on to Chosan and Hyesan on the Yalu River border of China. When the UN/US troops reached the Yalu – US planes were already bombing airbases inside China. China intervened on 25 October 1950.

The Chinese military that intervened were Communist and former Nationalist veterans of the war against Japan’s invasion of China and the Chinese civil war. But China’s military capabilities were not recognized and China’s warnings ignored – because WW2 in China was such a blind spot to the US. So, the Korean War became a protracted war and very costly in US blood and treasure.

China is still officially communist but Deng Xiaoping reformed the system starting in 1978 – now it has a stock market rivalling the New York and Tokyo stock exchanges, and a rip-roaring private property market. Who else has been able to do this? China and the US are not military adversaries now but economic trading partners.

This is typical of China since the beginning of Chinese civilization. Compare how the Chinese resolved the Xiongnu problem with how the Romans resolved, or failed to resolve, the Parthian and then the Sassanian problem. Considering all of the earliest civilizations – China is the only one surviving today and thriving in the modern world. They must be doing something right!

Beginning in 1931 China became the target of Japan’s Holy War and the US became included in the list of targets in December 1941 after ignoring the obvious since September 1931. The 9/11 attacks in the US – and Bali 2002, Madrid 2004, Beslan 2004, London 2005, Mumbai 2008... – how those who are the targets deal with their attackers will decide whether the American way remains the American way or is supplanted by something else. To survive – the USA cannot afford a blind spot here.

Tell us some of about how you read and research history? Books or Internet? Both?

The internet and electronic books are supplanting books printed on paper in the same way that digital photography supplanted film and paper photography. Books which were available on paper are becoming available in electronic format and can be read on a PC. A book can be made available in electronic form faster and cheaper than it can be published and printed. For
quite some time, the internet has been more convenient for me than printed books. Because it takes longer for a book to be published if printed on paper, the info on the internet is more up to date.

Do you read history on ebooks?

Because of the screen size I prefer reading on a PC screen.

Who is your favorite historical figure? Why?

Two historical figures are my favorites.

One is Augustus Caesar (63BCE – 14CE) who established the Pax Romana for the next 2 centuries which is also known as the Pax Augusta in recognition of this fact.

Tang Taizong (599 – 649) who established the 3 centuries long Tang Dynasty and restored to China the security and prosperity it had known in the Western (206 BCE – 9 CE) and Eastern Han (25 – 220 CE) dynasties.

Tell us about your web site?

To avoid misunderstanding – Numistamp hosts my webpages but is a completely separate and different entity.

Originally, I wrote only the supporting info on their webpages on WW2 related collectible items. But those webpages became so popular according to Numistamp statistics it translated into an invitation to start a new section in the Numistamp website to answer the enquiries and comments through articles and now a book.

The new section, my section, was to provide an insight into the other half of WW2, especially WW2 in China which had been the elephant in the room in WW2 histories and was a blind spot, hiding in plain sight, in the existing histories of WW2.

What is next for your web site?

My section of the website will likely continue to provide insights into the blind spot of WW2,

i.e., WW2 in China because there is so much to illuminate.

What is your next history project?

Another project to provide an insight into the blind spot of WW2.

What are your favorite history books?

Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. It’s a window in time to ancient Greece and Rome.

Who are your favorite history authors?

One is Plutach (46–120 CE), the senior of the two priests of Apollo at the Oracle of Delphi, Greece, in the time of the Roman Emperor Trajan at the height of the Pax Romana. He wrote the Parallel Lives and Moralia.

Plutarch’s Parallel Lives examines the influence of character – good or bad – on the lives and destinies of eminent men in Greece & Rome up to his time. He made penetrating observations on human nature as illustrated by his subjects. His purpose in writing the Parallel Lives was to examine the character of great men of the past, as a lesson for those living in the present. If people in Europe and America today were more discerning in examining the character of the candidates before voting them into office – the voters would have better leaders and better governments.

Another is Sima Qian (140–86 BCE), Prefect of the Grand Scribes in the time of the Chinese Emperor Han Wudi (156 BCE – 87 BCE). Sima Qian, who was the official Grand Historian, compiled the “Records of the Grand Historian” (Shiji). He analyzed the historical records up to his own time and then compiled the reliable ones into the Shiji recording 2,500 years of history up to his own time, completing his work in 91 BCE. His work set the standard for the recording of history until the end of imperial China in 1911.

In China, a new dynasty studies the history of previous dynasties for a very important reason – self-preservation! Who and what had succeeded or failed before and why. When the dynasty forgets the lessons of history “great disorder under heaven” (rebellion/revolution) comes to oust it! So, states or super-states with a lifespan of 2 to 4 centuries and periods of prosperity of more than a century occur again and again in China but in the West it happened only once – the Pax Romana was never equalled again in the West.

For your book, how did you first hear about the Battle of Taierzhuang?

My search for info on WW2 brought me to many accounts of the Battle of Stalingrad and Khalkin-Gol/Nomonhan. A few of these accounts remarked that the modus operandi for victory at Stalingrad and Khalkin-Gol/Nomonhan were the same as at Taierzhuang which was earlier.

What inspired you to pursue information on this battle?

A very few of the very many accounts of the Battle of Stalingrad and Khalkin-Gol/Nomonhan that I read, remarked that victory was won by the same modus operandi as at Taierzhuang which was earlier – I was intrigued and incredulous and wanted to find out the truth.

The result of that quest is my book “Taierzhuang 1938 – Stalingrad 1942.”

How would you compare Battle of Taierzhuang vs. Battle of Stalingrad?

I have compared the fundamentals of the two in the preview of my upcoming book “Taierzhuang 1938 – Stalingrad 1942” at:

Page 1 – link)

Page 2 – link)

all are welcome to examine the comparison.

Of course, there is much, much more in my book – read it for the most interesting aspects and details!

Why are these battles pivotal to the outcome of World War II?

Before Taierzhuang Japan’s military could be certain of victory in every battle it initiated against China’s military. After Taierzhuang Japan’s military could still win battles in China but it could not be certain of victory in battle. By the time of the First Sino-Japanese Battle of Changsha (September-October 1939) the balance had tilted against Japan because the Japanese were loosing most of the battles in China from then on.

Once Japan had lost the certainty of victory in battle against China’s military it meant the war would be a long one. Japan needed to win quickly if it was to win the war at all – a long war meant defeat for Japan, which is what happened.

Had Zhukov not been called to witness China’s victory after the Battle of Taierzhuang in 1938 he might have fought the Battle of Khalkin-Gol/Nomonhan in 1939 differently to different results. As it happened he won the Battle of Khalkin-Gol/Nomonhan by a modus operandi similar to what Li Zongren had used to win the Battle of Taierzhuang.

Had Zhukov lost the Battle of Khalkin-Gol/Nomonhan in 1939 – would he have been put in command over Chuikov at Stalingrad?

Would the 2 of them have won the Battle of Stalingrad by a strategy and tactics so startlingly similar to what Li Zongren had used to win victory at Taierzhuang?

Germany’s military suffered 60% to 80% (depending on who makes the estimate) of its losses in battles in Russia. Stalingrad was the biggest single loss. Before Stalingrad the Germans were winning and the Russians were losing. After Stalingrad the balance had clearly tilted the other way and against Germany. Had the Germans been the victors at Stalingrad, WW2 would have developed differently thereafter – perhaps, to a different outcome.

What is most important thing the reader could learn from your book?

The cost of being misled is to become a victim of the leader. Ultimately, the people who were misled – by the falsehoods of the Japanese militarists and the German Nazis – became victims by believing in the falsehoods.

My book is to point this out for the present and future generations to avoid repeating the same mistakes – link)

What makes this book any different from any other book about World War II?

Considering books on WW2 in the English language, as a rule the war in Europe is considered the main event and the war in Asia is considered a sideshow. My book puts the European war and the Asian war, especially the war in China, into perspective in WW2 for a truer understanding of WW2 as a whole.

Most people are not even aware that WW2 started in China and ended in Asia. Even those who are aware that WW2 continued in Asia after it ended in Europe, don’t realize that it had started in China more than 2 years before it started in Europe, and more than 4 years before the US was attacked. My book puts all this into perspective.

My book is the only one to explain the Battle of Taierzhuang in detail, detail the parallels between it and the Battle of Stalingrad, put the 2 into perspective relative to each other, and put the 2 into the perspective of WW2 as a whole.

What is coming up in your future in regards to publishing?

I’m open to suggestions and commissions to write other books that are in my scope of interest.

  • The copyrights for this history article are retained by Lance Olsen.