An in-depth account of the denouement of the Pacific phase of World War II.
WWII veteran and historian Heinrichs (Emeritus, History/San Diego State Univ.; Threshold of War: Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Entry into World War II, 1988, etc.) and Gallicchio (History/Villanova Univ.; The Scramble for Asia: U.S. Military Power in the Aftermath of the Pacific War, 2008, etc.) begin in early 1944, as American forces began to shift from containment of Japanese advance to a sustained offensive. The goals were twofold: recovering territory lost in the initial Japanese expansion and forcing a Japanese capitulation. Several factors complicated the process: the determination of the Japanese to fight to the last man; the continuing war on the European front; rivalries between the Army and Navy; and the political situation at home. The authors give each due consideration. Descriptions of the battles make it clear how high the cost of the Japanese strategy was. In most of the battles, the Americans faced well-sited defensive positions designed to extract as many casualties as possible. Only toward the end of the war did significant numbers of Japanese troops surrender, but at the same time, the kamikaze attacks were causing enormous damage to the American fleet. Meanwhile, the European war’s demands for personnel and supplies limited the resources available to the U.S. commanders in the Pacific, who were already at odds over how best to prepare for the apparently inevitable invasion of Japan. Back in the U.S., much energy was being expended on the questions of how to quickly return to a peacetime economy and how to return the veterans of Europe’s war to their civilian lives. Harry Truman and his new administration wrestled with these issues, which were exacerbated by a sense that the population would not support a drawn-out siege of Japan. The authors’ handling of these questions, which ultimately led to the atomic bombing of Japan, is more interesting than their sometimes-ponderous coverage of the battles. Substantial documentation, much of it from Japanese sources, adds value.
A useful resource for serious students of World War II.