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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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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.)
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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
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Back half of book has good description of battle intensity and different perspectives from ships and sailors was excellent.
Read this book, it is an interesting account -- but do not shed a tear for the conquered Japanese, as their own horrendous acts ultimately caused the civilized world to force their downfall.
On the American side, Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey and commander Ernest Evans left indelibile images on the Battle for Leyte Gulf which will be forever remembered in the anals of World War II history. Halsey was the commander of the U.S. Third Fleet. Consisting of countless numbers of aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, Halsey's fleet roamed unchallenged across the vast Pacific Ocean toward Japan. However, Halsey made a terrible blunder at Leyte Gulf which put a black mark on an otherwise spotless record. Halsey fell for a Japanese trap and left a small fleet of escort carriers and destroyers to fend for themselves against the advancing Japanese. Evans was the commander of the destroyer USS Johnston, which was left to attack the advancing Japanese fleet of battleships and cruisers racing toward the American invasion beaches.
For two hours, Evans attacked the vastly superior Japanese force. He continually put his ship between the Japanese and the escort carriers, which were vainly trying to flee. Despite losing his ship, Evans' show of bravery saved many other lives and ships that day.
On the Japanese side, the battleship force which was bearing down on Evans and the Johnston was commanded by Admiral Takeo Kurita. Kurita's mission was considered suicidal. He expected to be attacked by aircraft from Halsey's heavy carriers. Instead, he found only escort carriers and destroyers in his way. American submarines sank several of Kurita's ships, but he pressed onward, determined to reach the invasion beaches. However, caution continued to plague Kurita. Just as he was closing in on the jeep carriers, he broke off his attack, leaving the vulnerable American transports free to unload their cargoes. Along with Admiral Kurita was Admiral Matome Ugaki, who, later in the war, became the commander of the Japanese kamikaze forces. At Leyte Gulf, he was under Kurita's command. Ugaki never forgave Kurita for fleeing and leaving the Americans to survive.
This is a fine work of World War II history. Thomas does a good job of describing each man and the roles they played at Leyte Gulf. This battle has often been called the last big-gun battle of the war,and each of these men played a pivitol role in the outcome of the battle. Halsey faced the wrath of Admiral Nimitz for leaving a paltry fleet of escorts to slug it out with a vastly superior enemy force; Evans made the ultimate sacrifice while saving numerous lives and ships; Kurita turned around when sure victory was in hand; and Ugaki seethed at his superior's incompitance.
I highly recommend this fine book. The battle is covered in great detail, as is the lives of each of these heroic men. The battle of Leyte Gulf was the last gasp of the Imperial Japanese navy, and Evan Thomas describes the battle in a readable, exciting style. If you're a fan of naval history, you won't want to miss this great book.