An in-depth study of the clash of the Japanese and Allied navies in Leyte Gulf, possibly the greatest naval battle of the 20th century.
Veteran military historian Prados (The U.S. Special Forces: What Everyone Needs to Know, 2015, etc.) has researched both U.S. and Japanese intelligence reports from the era, giving unusual insight into the decision-making on both sides. The Philippine invasion was a key step in the Allied strategy of securing bases for what was expected to be an invasion of the Japanese homeland. It was also one of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s cherished goals, recapturing territory he had lost to the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. Meanwhile, the Japanese, reeling from a series of defeats by U.S. forces, decided to throw everything into a decisive naval battle, hoping to lay the ground for a negotiated peace. Prados goes into great detail on the buildup and planning on both sides, with particularly close looks at the intelligence reports available to the planners. The Japanese plans were practically “an open book to the U.S.” On the other hand, the Japanese knew enough to avoid being caught off guard, though they were hampered by having to protect several likely targets. Prados points to mistakes on both sides, notably U.S. Adm. William Halsey’s taking the bait of a Japanese decoy maneuver that lured his carriers away from the main battle. In the end, while both navies took substantial damage, the Japanese navy was all but obliterated. Some readers may find the author’s buildup to the battle itself a bit long; it’s nearly halfway through the book before the first ship-to-ship combat, submarine attacks that sank two Japanese cruisers on the way to Leyte. Other readers may wish for a list of key personnel, especially on the Japanese side, early in the book. While casual readers may be put off, this is still a valuable resource, with a wealth of detail on all aspects of the battle.
A book every serious World War II student will want.