Academic journal article Military Review

Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942

Academic journal article Military Review

Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942

Article excerpt


War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942

Ian W. Toll, W.W. Norton & Co.,

New York, 2011, 597 pages, $35.00

THE TITLE, PACIFIC Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942, implies that Ian W. Toll wrote an analytic narrative of the first 14 months of the naval war in the Pacific, beginning with the Pearl Harbor attack and ending with the Japanese evacuating Guadalcanal. Instead, this book is a narrative of the Pacific War's first six months, from Pearl Harbor to Midway.

Toll describes how Alfred Thayer Mahan's concepts of sea control, concentration, and decisive battle governed the prewar plans of the Japanese and American navies. Toll explains the battleship's domination in naval warfare, the beginnings of naval aviation, the ways both navies trained naval aviators, and introduces the reader to the primary Japanese and American naval personalities, most of whom have faded from popular memory.

The author details the initial American carrier raids in the Central and Southwest Pacific in February 1942 and gives an account of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. After dealing with the expanding list of Allied tragedies--the Japanese conquest of American and British island possessions in the Central Pacific, the fall of the Philippines, Malaya, the Netherlands East Indies, and Burma--he proceeds to deal with the Japanese strategic moves against Australia and Hawaii, which resulted in the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway.

However, Toll dwells on narrative set pieces already told too many times (for example apocryphal tales of the first Roosevelt-Churchill wartime conference) and neglects the context of the Pacific War--the struggle for dominion in Eastern Asia. …

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