Twilight Of The Gods: War In The Western Pacific, 1944-1945,by In W. Toll
This is the sort of book where I wish that the author had put the time and effort to name his chapters with the material covered. It is all well and good to cover a wide variety of topics concerning the last year in the war, and the author covers the material well, but it is a great benefit to the book reviewer when the material of the book is listed openly in the table of contents. Be that as it may, this particular book begins with a confession on the part of the author about how long it took for him to write this book, and as the book ended up being 800 pages or so, it is no surprise that the book took so long, or that it went down so many rabbit holes involving politics, Japanese and American especially. This material is deeply interesting and suggests at least some of the struggles that were faced by the United States in turning its obvious military advantage into a decisive victory in the war itself, namely the way that the Japanese civilians had to be convinced that as brutal as the Americans fought–especially when it came to strategic bombing–that they were not monsters invent on rape and torture of prisoners. Were it not for the excessive Japanese regard for face and their own checkered record of war atrocities, it is possible that Japan would have been defeated with a lot less violence involved, but it was not possible.
This book is a massive one, but in reading it, it makes complete sense why. There is a discussion of censoring and the struggle for the Navy to convey an understanding of its war effort in the Pacific when dealing with the personal magnetism of MacArthur and the interests of the army. There is detailed discussion of a variety of campaigns, including the conquest of the Marianas Islands, the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinowa. there is a look at the logistics of World War II and the submarine warfare against Japan, as well as a look at why it was that Formosa was not invaded. The author explores the tactics of battles, the larger strategy, what Allied efforts may or may not have been useful (giving a good reason why Iwo Jima was a worthwhile island to invade because of how it helped preserve the lives of many pilots returning from bombing runs). In its discussion of the American, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian perspectives, and giving attention to everything from the Manhattan Project to obscure conferences in Japan and Pearl Harbor, this book is a worthy one to read about the end of World War II, even if it makes for somewhat gloomy reading.
In reading this book there is a sense of great loss about it. Not only is there the concern about which attacks were worthwhile and which may not have been, but there is the immense destruction of ships, planes, airplanes, submarines, cities laid waste by fire, civilians and troops committing mass suicide because it costs too much face to surrender, and Japan’s casual lack of interest in the well-being of their bravest and most able military men. It is a great shame that things happened as they did, and though the emperor of Japan was able to keep his throne, a great many of his loyal servants in the military were sacrificed so that end could happen, and so that Japan could find a way forward from miltarism and the threat of destruction. And even that was a near-run thing as Japan’s emperor had to hide out from a threatened coup that nearly derailed Japan’s efforts at securing a conditional surrender, albeit barely.