89 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "Pacific Crucible" -Engrossing
Ian W Toll has done it again. It has been years since I read his first book, "Six Frigates" so when I saw that he was releasing another book on naval history, I was more than excited.
The "Pacific Crucible" starts out with a brilliant account of the Mahan tactics,which helps establish his point of how a sailor from the 1850's would be more accustomed to the...
Published on November 13, 2011 by Mike Lowrey
40 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and easy to read - surprising lapses.
This book has several virtues. The style is easy and unpretentious. The author has a talent for filling out the background of the events and personalities covered in a clear, precise and interesting manner. By covering only the events of the first six months of the war in the Pacific theater, the author is able to give considerable attention to details, which give the...
Published 19 months ago by Philip S. Griffey
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89 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "Pacific Crucible" -Engrossing,
The "Pacific Crucible" starts out with a brilliant account of the Mahan tactics,which helps establish his point of how a sailor from the 1850's would be more accustomed to the life aboard a ship in the 1600's than in the 1900's. This is continued by the detailed descriptions of the political situations that developed the conflict on both fronts. The, Toll delves into a graphic and violent account of the day that has lived in infamy for over 70 years.
I was enlightened at how Chruchill convinced Roosevelt that a Europe first strategy was more important than committing to a Pacific campaign, and the descriptions of how the Japanese military converted their society for war brought their ultimate demise.
The naval battles were done in an informative and exciting fashion. For those that claim that history is dull, I recommend that they read a Toll book.
My one complaint about the book is that the ending felt somewhat rushed. Toll concludes the Battle of Midway, and then after a several pages briefly proving Admiral Yamamoto's early predictions of how war with the United States would end, the book ends itself. I was expecting more regarding the rest of the war, but since the book was primarily about the major naval actions of the Pacific, it was understandable, seeing how the subtitle of the book states it only accounts from 1941-1942.
Overall, a five star rating barely does this magnificent book justice. I certainly hope that Toll is working on another project.
55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Defeat to Victory in Six Months -- The U.S. Navy's Indispensable Contribution to the Outcome of World War II,
The events and much of the material Toll uses to describe them will be familiar to students of the period. What makes Toll's book such a pleasurable read is the quality of his narrative style and his superb judgment in deciding which items to include and how to arrange them. His perceptive prologue and his portraits of the key players are quite good as well. The prologue in particular offers a worthwhile explanation of how quickly Japan caught up with the western world and then was fatally tempted to subdue it.
In addition, I found Toll's description of the Battle of the Coral Sea fresh and comprehensive. This important battle is often relegated to a passing mention as the prelude to Midway, but Toll corrects that oversight. His recounting of the role intelligence played in the ultimate defeat of the Japanese also goes well beyond that provided in other books on the subject. Among other things, I had not considered the value of Halsey's raids in the early months of 1942 to the cryptologists - the resulting increase in Japanese radio traffic helped to identify locations, ships, and even officers.
There are a few glitches. The International Date Line is not northeast of Oahu, and the term "shuttle bombing" is misused. I also tired of the numerous references to pilots as "flyboys." After several odd references to "fuel tankers," Toll labels these ships with the more familiar term "fleet oilers." These are very minor complaints, however, and should not deter anyone from acquiring this highly recommended book.
54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He's done it, again.,
To be honest I'm not a history buff nor fanatically interested in WWII or the Pacific Theatre (although as an Australian, I probably should be). But once again, Ian Toll's gripping writing has me keen to finish work today and get home to find out what happened to the overwhelmed lads on Wake Atoll, surrounded by Japanese and abandoned by a shell shocked naval leadership in Hawaii.
And pardon my complete ignorance, but Yamamoto went to Harvard and Nimitz spoke fluent german... It's a funny world. The portrait of Yamamoto is fascinating. He's more than a likable character.
Two books in, the author is fast creating a Toll trademark for combining enormous research and a gripping story telling ability.
I'll update this review when I've finished. I almost want to read it slowly and enjoy it for longer. You know he won't be back with his next book for few years. So five chapters in and I can't put it down. He's done it again.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Read!,
The book also contains mini-biographies of men such as Yamamoto, Nimitz, and King which are succinct but very clear. The review of political events leading to war are also well done. Although this expression is probably overused, the book does read like a novel.
The above is only a small representation of the book which is very much worth your while. I do not think you will be disappointed.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The new standard for Pearl Harbor to Midway,
There are 12 reasonably-sized chapters that cover every element of the war through the Battle of Midway, and the level of detail and fresh analysis that Toll brings to each is superb. The other five-star reviews here adequately express any other reasons you should get this book, so I won't repeat them. Suffice to say, if you have a strong focus on World War II in the Pacific, this volume belongs front and center on your bookshelf. It's arguably the new standard for Pearl Harbor to Midway.
For those curious as to why Toll's fine effort ceases with the end of the Battle of Midway, be assured that it doesn't. This is but the first volume of what will probably be a trilogy that takes its subject into Tokyo Bay and beyond.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Known history under new light,
The author takes a psychological approach describing vividly the leading personalities on both sides and shows how personal characterics affect the outcome of
The book makes perfectly clear what difficult situation the United States was in after the sudden attack of Japan, and what a terrible struggle was awaiting its soldiers,seamen and aviators.The exhausting stress posed on the commanding officers,often neglected, was also made a subject of this presentation.
The first months,as is well known, were dominated by limited resources,lack of training and combat experience of the US forces,but that was mostly overcome by the courage and the fighting spirit of the actors in the battle who did not hesitate to sacrifice their lives if necessary.One cannot but pay them deep respect.
This is narrated without any patriotic emphasis.
The author further indicated the unavoidable shortcomings in battle organisation and effectiveness,misleading information and a lot of mishaps preventing proper action in those early days of the war.
Fortunately enough,the Japanese,much better prepared for the fight at that time,committed severe blunders and suffered from misleading information as well.
All this background knowledge,together with thoroughly elaborated,vivid accounts on the famous battles of the Coral Sea and and Midway,provides a deeper insight into what actually happened than any historical report based merely on facts can do.
This book certainly is not only a valuable supplement to the literature on that subject already known,but sheds light on the fact that the outcome of a
battle is strongly influenced by factors which are beyond the control of the actors.
Because of its focus on personal reports presented together with historical facts in the unique narrative style of the author the book reads like a thriller.
40 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and easy to read - surprising lapses.,
Unfortunately there are frequent lapses by the author, which indicate either ignorance, confusion or sloppiness.
On page xxv of the introduction (in speaking of the Russo-Japanese War) he states, "For the first time in the modern era, since perhaps the Battle of Poitiers in 732, an Eastern power had triumphed over a Western one." Since the Battle of Poitiers was the Franks under Charles Martel defeating an invasion (or raid, depending on the school of thought) by Moors out of the Iberian Peninsula, is the author claiming that the Franks were "an Eastern power" and the Moors "a Western one"? Even if one could accept that interpretation, what about the numerous (and arguably more serious) defeats of "Western powers" by the Turks and the Mongols of much later date?
On page 23 he states that immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor "Rifles were handed out from the backs of trucks, including . . . some thoroughly obsolete bolt-action 1903 Springfields." At this date, the 1903 Springfield was the most commonly used rifle in the U.S. armed forces. It would not be generally replaced by the M-1 Garand until much later in the war. It was very much the equal of the Mauser and Enfield rifles, which were the main combat rifles of the Germans and the British throughout the war; and it was superior to the Japanese and Russian rifles of the period. In fact, it continued to be used as the principal sniper rifle for the U.S. armed forces until long after the war.
On page 32 he describes an event where several F4F "Wildcat" fighters from the carrier Enterprise were shot down by anti-aircraft guns while attempting to land on Ford Island. Then, on page 40, he describes the Enterprise sailing into Pearl Harbor past a scene of destruction including "One of the Enterprise's own dive-bombers, shot down the previous evening by friendly fire,..."
On page 285 he places the International Date Line to the east of Oahu.
In some passages, the author makes important assertions without explanation or elaboration: "In 1906, Great Britain launched a new battleship, the HMS Dreadnought. She had 12-inch guns and a 21-knot cruising speed, and from the day she slid down the ways every other battleship in the world was obsolete." (page xiv). This would lead the reader to erroneously conclude that 12-inch guns were exceptionally large or that 21-knots was exceptionally fast. In fact it was the number and arrangement of the main armament, combined with the speed and the arrangement of armor that made the Dreadnought class so revolutionary. (See Dreadnought (1st Edition) for an excellent discussion.)
The author also (on pages 118-119) discusses the development of the Japanese plan to attack Pearl Harbor without ever mentioning the precedent-setting attack by the British on the Italian fleet at Taranto in November of 1940 - on which the Japanese based their plans (including the modifications necessary to keep torpedoes dropped from planes from striking the bottom of a shallow harbor).
Unfortunately, when an author makes such frequent and serious errors, it inevitably brings into question the accuracy of the other information contained in the book.
The descriptions of the actual battles are very similar to the many other books, and unexceptional in either clarity or drama. Read this book for the background details and the thumbnail sketches of the individual commanders.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CRUCIBLE is SPOT ON,
Pacific Crucible is one of those deserving @ the top of the list. This book details, unlike any other book I have read, as to the Pacific events in 1941-1942. It is frightening to see how vulnerable we were and how prepared the Japanese were. To say that the events in that time period at sea were a major "turning point" to our winning the war is a profound understatement.
If you enjoy WWII this is a magnificent story of watershed events and sacrifices for the cause of freedom. I view this book as a MUST READ for all Americans.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941 - June 1942,
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Omnibus Overview - Serious Scholars of Pacific War Beware,
He has tried to cover all major events and people leading up the war and the events related to the actual naval combat encounters. In this volume Toll covers the old ground of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the political machinations in Washington, a history of Japanese-US relations in the time leading up to WWII, the political-social landscape in both the US AND Japan, the historical story of predation from Japanese and American viewpoints, the tactical and technical themes of the powers fighting, the actions against the British in Malaya and Britain's other colonies There is also large segments of the book with substantial mini-bios of Halsey, Roosevelt, Emperor Hirohito, Admiral King and many others -- he simply has far too much in the mix to do justice to any of them.
And this shows in the style of writing that is hurried in some parts, incredibly detailed in others, but there is at times, a lack of underlying theme to determining events of importance to Toll and why he includes them. To be fair, he does develop rather nicely the theme of naval intelligence over the course of several chapters, and then plugs it in very nicely with the Battle of the Coral Sea and Midway. The beginning of the book however needs reworking. It takes time for any theme to develop from the swamp of disorganised biographies and clipped battle narratives( an incredibly sloppy account of the Battle of the Java Sea, and no account of the Battle for Hong Kong, a very hurried account of the loss of the Philippines, passing reference to the Japanese Carrier attacks on Ceylon and India).
It has a tone of a historian who read all the major popular narratives on the Pacific War and then cobbled together a history. There is a lack of depth underscored by some major historical blind spots: the recounting of old canards (the guns of Singapore really could and face north unlike Mr. Toll has reproduced here), and factual errors (numbers of troops engaged in Malaya are far larger than Toll cites); several stereotypes on Japanese infantry tactics were in many places - especially Malaya, much more than just Banzai Attacks. The Japanese soldier could move quickly, but he carried much more than his "rifle, cartridge belt and a bag of rice." These stereotypes go as far back as the war itself and they are patently wrong. He does however cite others with good understanding of the Japanese perspective (e.g. Tulley and Parshall's ground breaking "Shattered Sword" ), which does lend integrity to his assertions of Japanese tactics and strategy.
If you look at the bibliography in the back you can see that he has used almost all of the popular historical masterpieces in English that have been published over the past 50 yrs. No original source material. If you have read even a fraction of the popular Pacific War classics you will not find much meat in Toll's volume. To be fair he does show fair understanding of many aspects of the war and does get away from the regular "evil Japanese" interpretation of the war. Toll, surprisingly understands and give a good feel of the why Japan felt berated, and treated like a second-class nation, and how the actions of the US (immigration barring, and blocking a racial equality clause at Versailles) and the "Open Door" policy in China really contributed to a conspiratorial interpretation for US predation at percieved Japanese expense.
I found the book to be fairly thin gruel. I think that Toll should have concentrated on a detailed naval history of the first six-months of the Pacific War, concentrating on the US-Japanese encounter, gathered some original sources, throwing in some Japanese sources, losing the long pointless bios and concentrating on the Naval History of the first zix months of the war. If he had of done this, he would have had a definitive text on the first naval encouters of the Pacific War. He has instead added another volume covering events that are much better covered by other historians.
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Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 by Ian W. Toll (Paperback - November 26, 2012)