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Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941-1945 [Kindle Edition]

Evan Thomas
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.73
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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

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Book Description

Evan Thomas takes us inside the naval war of 1941-1945 in the South Pacific in a way that blends the best of military and cultural history and riveting narrative drama. He follows four men throughout: Admiral William ("Bull") Halsey, the macho, gallant, racist American fleet commander; Admiral Takeo Kurita, the Japanese battleship commander charged with making what was, in essence, a suicidal fleet attack against the American invasion of the Philippines; Admiral Matome Ugaki, a self-styled samurai who was the commander of all kamikazes and himself the last kamikaze of the war; and Commander Ernest Evans, a Cherokee Indian and Annapolis graduate who led his destroyer on the last great charge in the last great naval battle in history.

Sea of Thunder climaxes with the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the biggest naval battle ever fought, over four bloody and harrowing days in October 1944. We see Halsey make an epic blunder just as he reaches for true glory; we see the Japanese navy literally sailing in circles, torn between the desire to die heroically and the exhausted, unacceptable realization that death is futile; we sail with Commander Evans and the men of the USS Johnston into the jaws of the Japanese fleet and exult and suffer with them as they torpedo a cruiser, bluff and confuse the enemy -- and then, their ship sunk, endure fifty horrific hours in shark-infested water.

Thomas, a journalist and historian, traveled to Japan, where he interviewed veterans of the Imperial Japanese Navy who survived the Battle of Leyte Gulf and friends and family of the two Japanese admirals. From new documents and interviews, he was able to piece together and answer mysteries about the Battle of Leyte Gulf that have puzzled historians for decades. He writes with a knowing feel for the clash of cultures.

Sea of Thunder is a taut, fast-paced, suspenseful narrative of the last great naval war, an important contribution to the history of the Second World War.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Thomas, Newsweek's assistant managing editor, turns his considerable narrative and research talents to Leyte Gulf, history's largest and most complex naval battle. He addresses the subject from the perspectives of four officers: William Halsey, who commanded the U.S. 3rd Fleet; Adm. Takeo Kurita, his Japanese counterpart; Adm. Matome Ugaki, Kurita's senior subordinate and a "true believer" in Japan's destiny; and Cdr. Ernest Evans, captain of a lowly destroyer, the U.S.S. Johnston. The Americans believed the Japanese incapable of great military feats, while the Japanese believed the Americans were incapable of paying the price of war. Both were tragically wrong. Halsey steamed north in pursuit of a what turned out to be a decoy, while Kurita's main force was positioned to destroy the American landing force in the Philippines. Evans repeatedly took the Johnston into harm's way against what seemed overwhelming odds. His heroism, matched by a dozen other captains and crews, convinced Kurita to break off the action. With Halsey's battleships and carriers just over the horizon, Kurita refused to sacrifice his men at the end of a war already lost. Ugaki bitterly denounced the lack of "fighting spirit and promptitude" that kept him from an honorable death. Evans fought and died like a true samurai. As Thomas skillfully reminds us, war is above all the province of irony. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The biographer of John Paul Jones adds another valuable book to naval historiography with this study of the Pacific Campaign of World War II, the greatest naval campaign in history. He relates its events through the actions of four naval officers, Americans Admiral William Halsey and Commander Ernest Evans and Japanese admirals Takeo Kurita and Matome Ugaki. As their stories unfold, Thomas discloses the development and corporate cultures of two navies openly preparing to fight and finally getting down to it in 1941. The climax comes at Leyte Gulf, where Halsey's overaggressive tactics exposed the invasion fleet off Leyte to Kurita's surface force, which Evans' destroyer Johnston helped repel (see James D. Hornfischer's Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, 2004), and where Ugaki's Kamikaze Corps debuted. Thomas has a notable knack for researching and writing tales of the sea that are entirely accessible to comparative landlubbers yet also enthralling for readers weaned on Samuel Eliot Morison and C. S. Forester. Heads up, WWII maritime collections, in particular. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 1384 KB
  • Print Length: 436 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0743252225
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (November 7, 2006)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000MGAU5W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,464 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
56 of 62 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The battle is just part of the story December 15, 2006
I picked this up after seeing Thomas do a book signing (which was mostly his discussion of the battle and some Q/A). It was interesting to hear about a battle that was so deadly, so historically significant (the last "traditional" sea battle of significant size), and yet so overlooked. The battle itself takes up less than a fifth of the book and doesn't unfold until well past the midpoint. It's also easily the least interesting part of the book. Battle buffs and others expecting a blow by blow will be disappointed, as will less intense WWII buffs. What Thomas actually gives us is a short history of the US and Japanese naval fleets in the Pacific and brief biographical sketches of their commanders and some of the rank and file sailors. Thomas sometimes snarky observations liven up the early parts of the book and show an incisive, funny side that was missing in the last book of his that I'd read (the RFK bio; the book also flows better than the RFK book which seemed choppy). Thomas gives us personal sides of Admiral Halsey and his Japanese counterparts, with somewhat broad portraits of Admirals Nimitz and King, as well as General MacArthur. I'm surprised that he didn't mention that Nimitz and MacArthur were momma's boys--both lived in my former apartment building in the 1920s (a few years apart) with their mothers and MacArthur probably hoped that the malarial jungles of the South Pacific would keep his mother away (she followed him, anyway). We get some review of tactics and examples of the limits of cultural knowledge and within-military communication systems that caused problems for both sides and contributed to the battle at Leyte taking place.

It's an enjoyable book and full of things I didn't know before--why only three stars?
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102 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling and Fascinating Read. November 9, 2006
Evan Thomas presents an outstanding, extraordinarily researched, and easy to read narrative of one of the Pacific's greatest sea battles in `Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941-1945'. Uniquely, and most interesting is the balanced research it is clear Thomas completed in order to share a vivid picture of the mind-set of the combatants at sear: The U.S. Navy appeared to have a view that the Japanese Navy was not up to their combat ready level, and the Japanese Navy viewed the U.S. Navy as being made of individuals not willing to sacrifice for their beliefs. Obviously both perspectives were wrong; Thomas gives understanding of actions based upon these perspectives in a manner never told before.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf, the focus of Thomas' work, is history's largest and most compelling naval battle. Writing from the perspectives of four officers: William Halsey, who commanded the U.S. 3rd Fleet; and Cdr. Ernest Evans, captain of a lowly destroyer, the U.S.S. Johnston; Adm. Takeo Kurita; Adm. Matome Ugaki, readers and historians alike are about to embark on a breath-taking journey onto the high seas of the Pacific where brave men sacrificed in the name of their country.
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350 of 451 people found the following review helpful
An authentic historian attempts to ferret out the facts of past events without allowing their personal biases to intrude. Beginning a couple of decades ago, the phenomena of revisionist "historians" emerged where facts were seen as impediments to pushing a particular agenda. After that, the celebrity "historian" came into vogue, such as television talking head Tom Brokaw. Evan Thomas, in my view, falls into the celebrity journalist category. He is not a bonafide historian and he is a revisionist in that he applies the "political correctness" of today to the reality of six or more decades ago.

The result is not history. In fact, Thomas besmirches the characters of four men, each noble in their own way, while deprecating the extraordinary nature of the United States' objectives in World War II.

Thomas's stated desire was to write a history of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, what may very well have been the last clash of large naval fleets. The basic premise of viewing the battle, its prelude and aftermath through the eyes of four widely disparate characters could have worked in competent hands. Thomas's hands are not competent in this regard.

Admiral William "Bull" Halsey, commander of an American naval fleet, had the familiar biases of a man of his time. Halsey was a war leader, not a social worker. It is not unexpected that he decorated his bases with exhortations to kill the enemy. It is likewise not unexpected that his public statements were peppered with statements alluding to the alleged racial inferiority of his enemy. There was a massive, worldwide struggle going on; freedom pitted against tyranny.

But Thomas measures Halsey by the standards of today's "political correctness" and, of course, finds Halsey wanting.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Average at best March 9, 2007
I wasn't particularly impressed with "John Paul Jones", another book by Evan Thomas but I gave "Sea of Thunder" a shot anyway. By covering the careers and wartime actions of four different naval officers, Thomas was unable to deliver enough depth to satisfy me. With so much material available on Leyte Gulf, I could think of many recommendations I would make before this.

By the time I finished "Sea of Thunder", I was left wondering what Thomas' intent was. It seemed to me that he really wanted to write this solely about the two Japanese commanders. Halsey was looked upon with a sort of latent disdain and Evans was forgotten about around 1/3 of the way through the book.

There are far too many books about Leyte Gulf that don't contain large amounts of personal opinion and judgement.

Bottom Line: Look Elsewhere
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Very good reading. I was satisfied with the product. It was helpful to me. I would recommend it yo others.
Published 2 days ago by Paul T Zantzinger
5.0 out of 5 stars Great History
My father was always a history buff. During his illness his sight got bad and I was bale to bring him back to his world of literary history with this book. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Gerald M. Zidak Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!!
The most You Are There descriptions since the You Are There series from my childhood. This book takes you onto the deck of ships fighting at sea. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Destination Pittsburgh
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read!
A lot of insight into the action and minds of the commanders on both sides of the South Pacific conflicts.
Published 4 months ago by jeff carnal
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most accessible naval histories ever. Great for gurus and...
One of the most accessible naval histories ever.

I loved this book, but two things set this book apart:
#1 - the diligent job Evan Thomas did researching the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by John Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating review of Naval warfare
Interested in the history of WWII naval battles? This will more than satisfy your thirst. Told from information garnered from actual war records of U.S. Read more
Published 7 months ago by J J MCDONALD III
2.0 out of 5 stars The NEWSWEEK version of Leyte
The author is a Newsweek editor who taught writing at Harvard and Princeton. The book is well-written. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Michael G. Spencer
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book for explaining those who battled in the Pacific during WW2
As I retired Naval Officer who spent half of my life deployed in the Pacific Theater this is a great book explaining the not only the battle but the people on both sides of the... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Terrance G. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well written
This was a well written book and was enjoyable. The author provided new and good information dealing with this subjecdt
Published 9 months ago by L G Caskey
5.0 out of 5 stars WWII War in the Pacific
Outstanding history told from both the American and the Japanese perspective. Lots of heros doings that had never been tried before. Great read.
Published 11 months ago by T. E. Wolfe
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More About the Author

Evan Thomas is one of the most respected historians and journalists writing today. He is the bestselling author of six works of nonfiction: Sea of Thunder, John Paul Jones, Robert Kennedy, The Very Best Men, The Man to See, and The Wise Men. Evan Thomas was made editor at large of Newsweek in September 2006 and is the magazine's lead writer on major news events and the author of more than a hundred cover stories.
Thomas has won numerous journalism awards, including a National Magazine Award in 1998 for Newsweek's coverage of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. In 2005, his 50,000-word narrative of the 2004 election was honored when Newsweek won a National Magazine Award for the best single-topic issue.
Thomas is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the Society of American Historians. He is a graduate of Harvard and the University of Virginia Law School. He lives with his wife and two children in Washington, DC.


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