Evan Thomas' SEA OF THUNDER
This extremely well researched and written tale of World War II tells the story behind the climactic Battle of Leyte Gulf. This was the last great sea battle fought by huge opposing forces — the Americans and the Japanese — involving both battleships and aircraft carriers.
The book concentrates on four key characters in this massive drama (two American and two Japanese leaders) and on how mistakes on both sides caused the battle to be less conclusive and clearcut than is usually thought.
Some of my main impressions are:
- Major errors of judgement were made on both side. Halsey’s taking his fleet North to chase Japanese carriers, thereby exposing the remainder of his fleet to direct attack, is major but not the only error that is discussed.
- Communication difficulties occurred on both sides. With the Americans especially, delays in transmitting and delivering coded messages from ship to ship meant hours were wasted in learning about and responding to threats. This makes you wonder what will happen in the next big shooting war when all our communication satellites get shot down in a first strike.
- The Japanese penchant for self sacrifice of its leaders and precious trained military seems unfathomable given Japan’s dire situation by this point of the war (late 1944). Evans does his best to discuss and explain this but it is still difficult to comprehend how leaders were so willing to sacrifice themselves and their people knowing full well the Allies were coming and that every life would be needed in the coming days.
Author Thomas does a masterful job of juggling a massive amount of detail. He uses photos and maps sparingly but with great effect. The words rule here, and the clarity of his prose is a model I shall attempt to follow.
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