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TWILIGHT OF THE GODS by Ian W. Toll Kirkus Star


War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945

by Ian W. Toll

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-393-08065-0
Publisher: Norton

The final volume in Toll’s fine Pacific War Trilogy.

The author begins with the July 1944 Honolulu meeting of the key American figures. He rocks no boats in his evaluations of Franklin Roosevelt (canny if slippery politico), Adm. Chester Nimitz (brilliant but colorless technocrat), and Gen. Douglas MacArthur (military genius with a massive ego). At the meeting, American officials reached a decision to invade Japan by way of the Philippines rather than Formosa. By 1944, Japanese leaders knew that victory was impossible but also believed that they were unconquerable. Once Americans, whom they considered technically advanced but soft, realized that every Japanese soldier, civilian, and child would fight to the death, they would lose heart and agree to a compromise peace. “There was a difference between defeat and surrender,” writes the author, a meticulous historian, “between losing an overseas empire and seeing the homeland overrun by a barbarian army.” Ironically, the first part of the Japanese strategy worked. Convinced that the Japanese preferred death to surrender, American military leaders did not quail but simply proceeded with that in mind. There is no shortage of accounts of the brutal island-hopping invasions (Peleliu in September, the Philippines in October, Iwo Jima in February 1945, Okinawa in April), but Toll’s take second place to none. Accompanying the Philippine invasion was the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in world history. The most effective submarines of the war were not Hitler’s but America’s, which crippled Japan’s economy and sank a torrent of warships. Toll’s account of the coup de grace, the atomic bomb, barely mentions the debate over its use because that began after the war. At the time, a few administration figures protested but did not make a big fuss, and it turned out to require two bombs and the Soviet invasion before Japan decided to surrender.

A conventional but richly rewarding history of the last war that turned out well for the U.S.

(32 photos; 20 maps)