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Jeff Shaara is the New York Times bestselling author of The Steel Wave, The Rising Tide, To the Last Man, The Glorious Cause, Rise to Rebellion, and Gone for Soldiers, as well as Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure-two novels that complete the Civil War trilogy that began with his father's Pulitzer Prize--winning classic The Killer Angels. Shaara was born into a family of Italian immigrants in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, and graduated from Florida State University. He lives in Gettysburg.
For those who think of World War II as old history, this book should be a revelation. Shaara excels at bringing battles to life, showing the men who fought and the leaders who planned them and the outcomes. These are rarely as clearcut as history books would indicate and the human element is usually lost in the telling.
After his trilogy covering the war in North Africa and Europe, Shaara was asked by many, especially Marines, if he planned to write about the Pacific theater as well. He tells briefly of the island-hopping, the fierce battles with their terrible toll in lives lost, and the strategy to bring the battle finally to the shores of Japan. Then he tells in depth of the fight for Okinawa, the last island before Japan, and of the decision to use the atomic bomb to end the war.
The use of the bomb is debated still, and this book will help put in perspective the situation that led to the final decision.
Shaara's focus is on the Marines on Okinawa while he acknowledges that an infantry unit also fought valiantly to overcome fierce Japanese resistance. He follows a Marine private and the Japanese commander as well as the U.S. Pacific commanders, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz. For the most part he stays with the Marines.
To tell more would lessen the impact of the book, but it is as fine a portrayal of men at war as I have ever read. I highly recommend it .
We should all be thankful that Jeff Shaara can succumb to a bit of pressure from his readers.
In a brief introductory note to "The Final Storm," Shaara writes that he didn't really intend to write a novel about America's war in the Pacific, but in large part due to the letters from indignant WWII vets who fought there he and his publisher relented. We're lucky he did.
Picking up where Shaara's European WWII trilogy left off, America's war against Japan rages on even as Germany and Italy surrender. The Marines and the Navy have turned back the Japanese offensive but face stiffening resistance as they island-hop toward the Japanese homeland. Iwo Jima has fallen , and the Marines (bolstered by Army infantry and the Navy) have turned their sights to the massive Japanese force on Okinawa. Shaara, true to form, tells this story through the eyes of a specific character for each chapter, and we see the vast majority of the Okinawa fight through the eyes of Marine Private Clay Adams, whose successes in the unit boxing matches has not erased the shame brought on by his long stretch in a hospital and cushy recovery duty following a vicious infection.
Adams wants to fight, and heads into one of the biggest nightmares ever faced by a soldier.
The Japanese side of the battle for Okinawa comes from General Ushijima, the Japanese commander on Okinawa. A true soldier, Ushijima suffers no illusions about his ability to defeat the Americans with their mighty fleet, commanding air superiority, and limitless war materiel. But Ushijima is samurai, and he will die doing his duty. A brilliant tactician, Ushijima combines a masterful defensive network with the fanatical devotion of his soldiers to create a nightmare for the invading U.S. troops.Read more ›
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As a fan of Shaara's previous books, I felt very fortunate to be able to read and comment on an advance review copy of The Final Storm. Shaara is true to his typical form in this novel, immediately thrusting you into the action of a US submariner in 1945 as his ship patrols near the coast of Japan and the ensuing conflict with a freighter and Japanese submarine. Your emotions and tension rise and fall as he weaves you into the mind of the ship's captain.
Not just following the submariner crew, Shaara also weaves you in and out of other simultaneous story lines such as a Marine unit before and during the invasion of Okinawa, Admiral Nimitz, and also from the viewpoint of the Japanese soldier. I don't know how he does it, but Shaara makes you feel as if you are there and relate to the different "main" character of each sub-story line - even to respecting and feeling a part of the enemy commanders, this time the Japanese. Your heart goes out to some of the characters: you feel bad when they feel bad, feel pain when they feel pain, etc.
In addition to having you feel a part of the character, I think the best thing I like about this and other books by Jeff Shaara are taking one small piece of the historical timeline, thoroughly researching the good and the bad of the characters and the events surrounding them, and developing a realistic and fact-based account of what happened: in addition to reading a great story you also learn something about historical events.
If you couldn't tell, I thought this book was outstanding and highly recommend it, and I am looking forward to more!
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I confess that I am often ambivalent about historical fiction that puts us in the heads of actual people. Often, they don't feel like individuals but instead come across as stock stereotypes displaying mannerisms instead of personalities. When it is done well though, it can be a great hook. Here, it works.
The book tells the story from the point of view of several historical characters as the battle for Okinawa is waged and the atomic bombs are dropped on Japan. As much as any book I've read, it really displays the brutality of the Pacific war, the impact that it had on the men who fought it, and what was going on in their heads. Mr. Shaara nailed the characters, especially the Marines on the ground, and I felt echoes of their fear, anger, rage, depression, etc. This is not a book that I was able to put down and pick up again a few days later, I wanted to find out what happened to Private Adams and his team-mates and I dreaded the deaths of those around him.
It's just a great book. Involving, well written, with some great characters that drew me in. If you're interested in the Pacific War or really fine historical fiction, this book is a perfect fit.