The second volume of naval historian Toll’s Pacific War trilogy (Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific: 1941-1942, 2011, etc.).
The author’s interspersing of personal tales of World War II with the official histories not only brings the action to life, but also clarifies certain facts advanced in personal memoirs. Focusing on the theater led by Chester Nimitz, Toll conscientiously presents characterizations of the Navy, Air Force, and Marine leaders. The divisions of the Pacific theater between the Army and Navy resulted from Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s demands for sole leadership, and the bitter rivalries between the services plagued leaders throughout the war, greatly affecting communications and targets. The author devotes a considerable portion of the book to the battle for Guadalcanal, as the fighter and bomber squadrons and naval bombardments paved the way for amphibious landings. With almost as much information about the Japanese leaders as the Americans, Toll’s wide view of the Pacific war is enlightening. He lauds the submariners whose primary job was to eliminate Japanese provisioning by sinking merchant shipping and tankers. The policy of hopscotching islands sped up Allied victories, and they avoided invading chosen islands, using bombardment and aerial bombing to neutralize them. The decisive capture of the Marianas in July 1944 signaled the end of Japan’s war, but it would take another year to convince them. Toll provides a solid picture of the mindset of the Japanese: their horror of surrender, their rigidity in operational procedures, which made them easy to predict, the rivalries that far surpassed those of the Allies, and the obdurate demands of Emperor Hirohito to fight to the death.
Just as well-researched and -written as the first volume, this story of how air and submarine power replaced the Navy’s reliance on battleships is an education for all and an enjoyable read in the bargain.