Barrett Tillman's WHIRLWIND: THE AIR WAR AGAINST JAPAN, 1942-1945
Book Review by Dennis D. McDonald
I’ve done a lot of reading about WWII and aircraft history. I approached this audiobook — borrowed from the Alexandria Public Library and downloaded to my iPhone — thinking it was probably going to go over some familiar ground. It does, but there’s a good enough mix of strategic and tactical detail to keep this armchair historian interested.
The author provides a very good overview of the role of aircraft in bludgeoning Japan into submission. While never minimizing the role of seapower in strangling Japan’s WWII economy, Stillman documents Allied land and sea originated air war efforts, the centerpiece being the role of the Boeing B-29.
The mechanical failings of this aircraft and its initial ineffective utilization from China for high altitude bombing are succinctly documented, as are the increasingly effective tactics of moving to lower altitude incendiary bombing under the guidance of LeMay. Eyewitness accounts from land and air are woven throughout the text in just the right amount to balance the strategic context being provided.
This is not an elegantly written book, but it is a good introduction to understanding what happened as the Allies turned their attention to Japan. As with other books such as Max Hastings’ RETRIBUTION: THE BATTLE FOR JAPAN, 1944-45, I was again amazed at the scale of what went on during that war. Overnight tens of thousands of civilians were incinerated as, literally, hundreds of bombers flew overhead, buffeted by evil smelling fiery updrafts from square miles of cities in flame. It’s difficult to comprehend from this point in history. That’s enough of a reason to make sure books like this are available.
Book review copyright (c) 2012 by Dennis D. McDonald