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Victory in the Pacific: 1945 (History of United States Naval Operations in World War II) (v. 14) Hardcover – May, 2001
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Top Customer Reviews
By this point in the war, the Japanese Navy was no longer an active or large threat to the U.S. Aside from the lucky submarine hit and the suicidal sortie of the Battleship Yamato, the Japanese Navy is not a participant in the story. The U.S. Navy has grown so large and so dominant that its main function is to ferry and supply the various Army and Marines divisions across the Pacific Ocean and to provide remote fire support to those invading armies when they do land somewhere. Consequently, this book is really divided up into three main part. The first two are the invasions and conquering of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The third, shortest, and last part is the emotion-filled recounting of the surrender of Japan that ended the war.
As stated above, the Japanese Navy was not a threat any more and the U.S. Navy was very proficient in landing huge amounts of men and equipment anywhere in the Pacific. Add to this that the Japanese ground forces had changes their tactics from opposing landings on the beaches to one that depended to defenses in depth in highly organized defensive positions and the reader can understand why the Navy’s role becomes a support role. Not to say that Iwo Jima or Okinawa were cakewalks! They certainly were NOT for the ground forces involved! But the Naval action was restricted to supporting the ground forces and defending themselves against the various suicide tactics that the Japanese started employing in large numbers during 1945. Whether those were pilots and planes (Kamikaze), human torpedoes, or human glider bombs, the Japanese send several thousand against navy ships and they managed to score. This book describes those attacks and their results and even tabulates them at various stages to show how effective they were.
The main focus though is on the support operations. These are divided into three stages: as the invasion is organized and mounted, the Navy is responsible for softening up the target island; clearing space around the beaches and islands of Japanese forces (including air fields and airplanes within range of the target); Bringing the troops to the shore, landing them and supplying their needs; and providing bombardment support via ship gunnery and airplane strafing, bombing and spotting runs. Some interesting statistics are provided here and there to spice up what could be seen by some as a dry and repetitive recitation. For instance, my funny bone was struck by the quantity of mail that was handled by the Navy through the Iwo Jima operation – over 24 million letters! – the funny part was that the author had the statistic down to the single digits.
As a series, this is an amazing production. While it is clear that the efforts of many people are merged into these 14 volumes, there is a clear and consistent “voice” throughout. Samuel Eliot Morison participated and observed many of the actions described in the series and his writing style, wry humor, and opinions strengthen these books and make them a pleasure to read. I do not know if Mr. Morison was kept out of the loop on some of the intelligence that was available to the U.S. (Ultima decodings, for example), and some of his descriptions of events were found to not be exactly accurate (especially when Japanese sources were fully opened up), these tend to still be relatively minor in what is a great work. My understanding is that many current historians and authors still rely on Morison’s works as a starting point for their own research into various topics, and having read al 14 of these books, it is clear to me why. As a series, this deserves five stars. As an individual book, I give it four stars.