James D. Hornfischer's THE FLEET AT FLOOD TIDE
Book review by Dennis D. McDonald
THE FLEET AT FLOOD TIDe is a one-volume history of the 1944 to 1945 Pacific War told from American and Japanese perspectives. The author does an admirable job of bringing together a variety of both tactical and strategic perspectives including American and Japanese "boots on the ground," admiral-level politics, and the Japanese government’s criminal continuation of the war long past any hope of winning.
For any serious student of this conflict much will already be familiar. Still, several themes are present that I believe are always important to stress:
- Despite the vast canvas of the action the reader does not lose sight of the role of individual soldiers, sailors, or civilians.
- Personal animosities and rivalries are shown at the highest level, on both sides, along with their direct impact on the course of the war.
- Sometimes accidents happened. Whether they occurred in battle or in training the results in carnage and death could be horrific.
- The author attempts to illustrate a relationship between Japanese culture at the time and how that caused an incredible number of military and civilian casualties.
- The crucial role of transportation and weapons technology on battlefield performance are well illustrated along with the personal bravery of those involved.
Any telling of Pacific war tales will impress the reader with the vast size and scale of that conflict. THE FLEET AT FLOOD TIDE is no exception, especially if you follow the events on a map.
One can't help wondering what impact would modern communication technology have had on that conflict. Satellite and drone technologies would have greatly accelerated remote fleet movement detection. Also, it would have been much harder to hide battlefield horrors from the folks back home.
I also would like to think that it is would have been possible to convince the Japanese government to end the war by showing them the results of the Trinity blast, thus making the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki unnecessary.
Review copyright© 2017 by Dennis D. McDonald