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Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941-1945 Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 7, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 415 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (November 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743252217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743252218
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #411,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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.

Customer Reviews

I recommend this book to all those who like well written history, especially those interested to WWII.
Metallurgist
If you get the impression that I don't think much of Evan Thomas's attempt to set forth military history, you are correct.
Jerry Saperstein
The author does an excellent job of telling a very gripping account of the events that unfold in this book.
Chris Norwood

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Richard A. Jenkins on December 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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 By Peter Thomas Senese - Author. on November 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By BlondeDogs on November 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book very much appears to be a publisher's effort to capitalize on Evan Thomas's acclaim for his John Paul Jones biography by lumping together four biographical sketches that lacked sufficient development to command volumes of their own.

This volume offers little that is either new or useful for serious students of this battle, and much that is skewed by being taken out of context, or by the author's and publisher's lack of understanding of their topic.

For casual readers, this volume is a pitfall that will send them away with a highly distorted and incomplete picture of the battle and the people that fought it. You would spend your money better on Morison, Friedman, or Cutler.

The book's subtitle implies that the book is a study in command. It is not. It is four interwoven biographical sketches. The officers profiled are admirals Halsey, Kurita and Ugaki, and Commander E.E. Evans of the USS Johnston. Only the first two personalities make sense with respect to a command study, and at least three personalities that would be essential to any true command study of this battle--Kinkaid, Ozawa and Nishimura--are neglected.

The information on Halsey is nearly valueless and a reader would be better served reading E.B. Potter's biography of the man, and Carl Solberg's eyewitness observations of the functioning of Halsey's staff as a member thereof during this battle. Thomas tarnishes his entire work (and his reputation as an author) by reporting salacious details of Halsey's personal life that are essentially hearsay, lack pertinence to the topic at hand, and ignore the full context of Halsey's marriage--here again I direct readers to Potter's biography.
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