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War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942

by Ian W. Toll

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-393-06813-9
Publisher: Norton

An entertaining, impressively researched chronicle of the tense period between the bombing of Pearl Harbor and American victory at the battle of Midway.

In between these two signal events of World War II, uncertainty shook America. In the Pacific, the United States was caught off-guard by Japan’s sneak attack, her Navy crippled and her fighters outmatched by the agile and deadly Japanese Zeros. Rumors of Japanese invasion of the West Coast seemed more likely with each defeat suffered by the combined forces in the Philippines. Toll (Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy, 2008, etc.) examines the forces moving behind the scenes—the trends in naval combat, complicated allegiances of American and Japanese politics, the military hierarchies and infighting that occurred between the combined forces—to create a full picture of the complex dynamics involved. The author’s attempts to be comprehensive occasionally lead to dry passages and unnecessary digressions, especially regarding the more esoteric areas of politics. But when illuminating the remarkable men behind the headlines, Toll truly excels. From the horror of Pearl Harbor to the triumphant battle of Midway, the author carefully balances the narrative to tell the story from both sides of the conflict. His account begins with the American and Japanese officials involved in the burgeoning field of aircraft-carrier combat, and continues down to the pilots and crewmen who acted as the guinea pigs. What he finds is not a group of fearless soldiers, but real, conflicted men nearly torn apart by their doubts and fears, men who found the real courage necessary to act all the same. Toll gives everyone involved in the conflict a chance to speak, bringing readers into the command centers and cockpits to reveal the humanity of combatants on both sides of the Pacific.