A well-rounded account of the bitter WW II battles in which the US, at no small coat, put paid to Japan's Pacific ambitions. Drawing on a wealth of archival sources, van der Vat (The Atlantic Campaign, 1988; Gentleman of War, 1984) sets the stage for his hell-and-high-water narrative with a concise review of the sociopolitical and economic factors that put Japan's militant imperialists on a collision course with isolationist America. Stressing Tokyo's goal of autarky, he notes that Washington never really believed its embargoes would cause the island nation to launch a preemptive strike. It did just that at Pearl Harbor, though, paving the way for walkover conquests in the Philippines, Singapore, Guam, Indochina, and other outposts of Western empire. In the meantime, van der Vat recounts, a fighting-mad US regained its equilibrium and stemmed the Japanese tide, first at Midway, then at Guadalcanal, finally attaining easy reach of its foe's home islands before two atomic bombs obviated the necessity for an invasion. Although he offers a first-rate rundown of major campaigns, sideshows, surface-vessel engagements, and carrier clashes, van der Vat goes well beyond mere combat reportage. He provides, for example, informative briefings on summit meetings in Casablanca, Quebec, Tehran, Potsdam, and other venues that put key actions in clear perspective. He also offers thoughtful analyses that tax the Allies for failure to achieve unity of command and the Japanese for a fatal lack of strategic vision. And throughout, van der Vat focuses on the do-or-die fanaticism of Japanese troops and the atrocities they committed, at one point contrasting these perverted legacies of Bushido with the effort invested in getting a single American sailor back to the States for treatment of his wounds. A vivid, often harrowing log of a pivotal chapter in the history of naval/amphibious warfare.