Summary and Info
Very interesting book. The author examines the entire strategic and operational history of WWII in the Pacific through the lens of Mahan's The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783. King and Nimitz come off very well indeed while Yamamoto gets blasted for poor follow up of his operations. And it is very difficult to judge MacArthur since he was fighting his only little war which was only peripherally involved with the one the rest of us were fighting.
During the course of the book three key themes emerge:
First, although the initial Japanese plans to destroy the American fleet so as to gain time and a free hand to exploit the Southern Resource Area was brilliant it did not go nearly far enough in preventing the reconstitution of the American fleet. They really needed to do something about Pearl either destroying or occupying the installations. The author makes the point that whatever the level of resources required for this job they were justified, because locking the Americans out of the Pacific for 2-3 years means the Japanese can reap the benefits of their victory with minimal effort.
Second, Two axis of advance for the Americans was a pointless waste of resources, MacArthur contributed nothing vital to the destruction of Japanese power.
Third even in the vital Central Pacific drive, the Americans were strangely unfocused. By 1944 the "Big Blue Fleet" could go anywhere it wanted to and bring its own aircover. It no longer needed to seize air bases every 250 miles. But the Naval commanders never seemed to realize this and persisted in executing ultimately unnecessary and bloody amphibious invasions that didn't strategically advance US forces. The author feels that the lesson that American planners should have extracted from Tarawa was to avoid Japanese held islands whenever possible, and it was almost always possible. Unfortunately I don't have the expertise to judge whether or not he is correct, but I am aware of recent work by Capt Burrell USMC in the Journal of Military History suggesting that the invasion of Iwo Jima was not only unnecessary, but that it was primarily the result of inter-service rivalry. Definitely a topic for further reading.
Another amusing affectation of this book was the authors more or less continuous assertions of Mahan's opinions of the actions of the various commanders. Apparently, Mahan would have nodded at Spruance's not chasing the Japanese after Midway, and been horrified at Halsey's aggressiveness both at Santa Cruz (where it sorta worked) and at Leyte (where it sorta didn't).
Anyway, this is an outstanding book, but it does a assume a basic familiarity with the Pacific War. Fortunately I read it after reading Costello's The Pacific War. Anyway, an outstanding book.
More About the Author
John Adams (1750? – 1814) was a Scottish compiler of books for young readers.
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