An account of the last year of World War II in the Pacific, this book is the latest from the author of “Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors” and “Neptune’s Inferno”.
Join me for a brief look at an excellent history.
The timing of this work is interesting. Many of us have been eagerly awaiting the conclusion of Ian Toll’s Pacific War Trilogy. At first glance this work could stand in for that yet unfinished work. But the scope and content here are unique, told in a narrative voice that will be familiar to readers of James Hornfischer’s previous works.
This book could almost be called “War in the Marianas”. The first half of it is focused on the capture of those islands (that would coincide with the end of Ian Toll’s second book). The Battle of Leyte Gulf only gets about three pages here (this was the entire focus of “Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors”) and much of the later chapters focus on B-29 operations and the 509th Composite Group. So the Marianas remain central almost to the end.
The author describes his focus as “how things work”, to which I would add he excels at the most human level of the story. He likes to get into how operations are planned and carried out. What works, what doesn’t. He puts the most personal focus on Raymond Spruance and Paul Tibbets, but brings in a variety of other personalities from a wide range of ranks and positions.
A particularly fascinating part is how the writer addresses the Japanese death cult. With a government determined to destroy their own nation, we end up with a belligerent United States doing much to prevent that cataclysm in a uniquely violent way. This is a perversely complicated situation that is routinely dishonored by people simplifying it from one ridiculous extreme to the other. And that means everything from mass civilian suicides at Marpi Point to atomic bombings. I can’t begin to do this justice, except to say read this book if you have any interest in such things at all.
I eagerly looked forward to every chapter of this book, which is the highest recommendation I can give.