Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 by Ian W. Toll Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

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

The planning, the strategy, the sacrifices and heroics-on both sides-illuminating the greatest naval war in history.

On the first Sunday in December 1941, an armada of Japanese warplanes appeared suddenly over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and devastated the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Six months later, in a sea fight north of the tiny atoll of Midway, four Japanese aircraft carriers wer

The planning, the strategy, the sacrifices and heroics-on both sides-illuminating the greatest naval war in history.

On the first Sunday in December 1941, an armada of Japanese warplanes appeared suddenly over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and devastated the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Six months later, in a sea fight north of the tiny atoll of Midway, four Japanese aircraft carriers were sent into the abyss. Pacific Crucible tells the epic tale of these first searing months of the Pacific war, when the U.S. Navy shook off the worst defeat in American military history and seized the strategic initiative.

Ian W. Toll’s dramatic narrative encompasses both the high command and the “sailor’s-eye” view from the lower deck. Relying predominantly on eyewitness accounts and primary sources, Pacific Crucible also spotlights recent scholarship that has revised our understanding of the conflict, including the Japanese decision to provoke a war that few in the country’s highest circles thought they could win. The result is a page-turning history that does justice to the breadth and depth of a tremendous subject.


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    Rick Riordan

    Nov 26, 2015

    rated it
    it was amazing

    I love history, and this is one of those books that is so good it reads like a novel. Toll brings to life the major players of the Pacific War on both sides of the conflict, drawing on Japanese primary sources as well as Allied. I have read a lot about the Second World War, but I still learned a great deal about this part of the conflict, which takes us through the rise of Imperial Japan, to Pearl Harbor, and on to the Battle of Midway. I am now reading the second in Toll’s projected trilogy, Th

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    Matt

    Jan 02, 2013

    rated it
    it was amazing

    If you are reading this, I assume it’s because you are my wife, a friend, or a coworker who I have incessantly badgered you want to know my opinion about this book. To that end, I generally try to avoid side-discussions about what other people think. After all, one’s response to a book is highly subjective and personal. Getting into endless arguments about what other reviewers think about a literary work is exactly what the internet was intended for a waste of time.

    That said, let me break my ru

    That said, let me break my rule.

    I came across Ian W. Toll’s Pacific Crucible in a New York Times review by the author/historian Michael Beschloss. While never outright critical, Beschloss damned Toll’s work with faint praise. Specifically, he noted that Toll didn’t uncover any new facts or bring forth a new interpretation; and also that Toll’s abilities as a writer did not rise to the level of, say, Shelby Foote (Beschloss’ actual example). Essentially, Beschloss was of the opinion that Toll’s book had no reason for existing.

    Such a review would normally give me pause. More precisely, it would normally lead me to simply move along, since there are more than enough books about World War II floating about. Why waste my time with a book that Michael Beschloss assures me is not written by Shelby Foote and does not reveal that the Knights Templar actually invaded Poland in 1939?

    For whatever reason, I went ahead and read this book anyway. I make mention of all this because if you are interested in World War II, you should too. This is an excellent book. One of the better volumes I’ve read on the war. It justifies its existence by being awesome, despite what Beschloss would have you believe.

    Moving forward.

    Pacific Crucible sets out to tell the tale of the Pacific War from 1941 to 1942. It is admirable in its focus. By which I mean, it is focused. It starts in 1941 (with the bombing of Pearl Harbor) and ends in 1942 (with the seismic momentum-shift at Midway). And when it says it’s about the “war at sea,” it means it’s about the “war at sea.” Land-based actions, such as Douglas MacArthur’s monumentally botched defense of the Philippines is mentioned only briefly. Toll is very particular about the ground he is going to cover. He covers it very well.

    I’m a huge fan of history. And I’m not just saying that so that you think I’m cool. I read about it and write about it and watch it and visit the sites and take a lot of pictures and I am constantly talking about it to anyone who will listen or to anyone who is not fast enough to get away.

    As a history nut, I am always on the lookout for the grail in history-writing: that book which is both learned and readable. Usually, these two virtues are mutually exclusive. You can read a scholarly book, which is well-sourced, incredibly thought-out, and as much fun to read as the warning label on a bottle of NyQuill; or, you can read a super breezy account from a popular writer that goes down as smooth as a cold glass of lemonade on an August day but has all the depth of a cold glass of lemonade on an August day (after I drank it already).

    Toll’s Pacific Crucible delivers on both fronts. It is impeccably researched, dutifully sourced, and thoroughly modernized. No, it doesn’t break new ground. But why would you expect that? World War II ended almost 70 years ago. I’m not looking for the reinvention of the wheel. All I ask is that you have checked all available archives and have incorporated that into your book. Toll does that. He is a clear-eyed historian, eschewing hagiography and easy glorification while still acknowledging the heroism and valor of the war’s participants.

    Toll’s narrative moves smoothly up and down the chain of command. You get the admirals’ point of view and the sailors’ point of view. You also get the Japanese point of view, which bears mentioning when a book originates in America. (The equableness of Toll’s book is authentic). Toll does a really good job of balancing viewpoints. Indeed, his portrait of Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese architect of Pearl Harbor, is as indelible as any other portrait he presents. A wonderfully complex man (fit for a great novel), Yamamoto studied at Harvard, was opposed to war with America, but decided that if war were to come, he should be the one to plan and execute the killing blow. Yamamoto was in love with a famous geisha, and was well known as a gambler. This trait – the gambler – bled over into every aspect of his life, from his personal choices to the fate of his men and his nation.

    The chief joy of this book is Toll’s ability to put you there. His prose is not the stuff of legend. But he does a superb job of integrating his research: everything he has learned is expertly woven into a story. You get strategic analysis, tactical analysis, precise biographical sketches, technical specifications (how fast a plan flies, how much tonnage a ship displaces) and the human dimension (the holy s**t I’m being bombed aspect) in one smooth presentation. I’ve read a lot of history books, and I’m attuned to the oft-jarring segues that accompany many tomes; Toll manages to sand away all those rough edges. The result is a damned good story.

    For instance, a thumbnail of Halsey:

    Halsey had not yet tasted fame, and possibly did not yet realize that he would become the public face of the U.S. Navy, but in pointed contrast to King or Nimitz he was willing to play the part of the salt-stained sea gladiator. Samuel Eliot Morison would observe that the press “expected admirals to pound the table and bellow as in the movies.” Halsey pounded and bellowed. He had just the right look for the role. His square face was battered by wind, sun, and salt; his thinning hair was combed straight back from his spacious forehead; his wide-set eyes were crowned by a regal pair of undomesticated Scottish eyebrows. When he smiled, he seemed to leer…He was a sailor’s sailor, and popular on the lower deck. “As a general rule,” he avowed, “I never trust a sailorman who doesn’t smoke or drink.”*

    * EDITOR’S NOTE: Me neither.

    Or, a glimpse of manmade hell, courtesy of the Battle of Midway:

    The first group of Dauntlesses descended on [the Kaga’s] port quarter, and her captain, Jisaku Okada, ordered hard astarboard to send the big carrier into a clockwise turn. But the Kaga was slow to respond to her helm, and the SBDs made the needed corrections to keep the flight deck in their sights. The Japanese crew watched in dismay as the bombs separated from the bellies of the diving planes and fell directly toward them. The first three missed narrowly, throwing huge towers of water up on either side of the ship. But the next four hit in quick succession, two amidships and two forward. The results were cataclysmic. The carrier’s small superstructure was almost completely destroyed, killing most of the ranking officers, including Captain Okada. The island’s windows were blown out, its outers kin was stripped off, and its interior spaces were flooded with so much smoke that the survivors were driven out on deck. The forward elevator took a direct hit and was smashed downward, never to operate again. A bomb pierced the flight deck amidships and exploded in the crew’s quarters adjacent to the hangar, killing unknown scores…Fuel tanks and munitions detonated on the hangar deck. Ensign Maeda sought cover under the flight deck near the stern. As the bombs struck, he shouted to some of his fellow pilots in their staterooms – “It is dangerous here, get the hell out!” As he climbed the ladders, he noticed the ship was taking on a dangerous list; then an explosion flung him to the deck and pierced his leg with shrapnel…

    This is not the first time I’ve ventured into this subject matter. I’ve read enough books about Pearl Harbor and Midway to worry the people who care about me. Even though I’m familiar with this story, I found Toll’s telling of it to be masterful. His characterizations (especially Joseph Rochefort) are compelling and evocative. I burned through this relatively-large volume (close to 500 pages) quite quickly.

    It should be mentioned, however, that Toll’s book is extremely accessible. If you – unlike me – have managed to live a fulfilling life without devoting large chunks of it to World War II, you will still find this an engaging read. Heck, it might even be the book that lights the fire that eventually causes you to start living entirely in the past (this life has its rewards…).

    World War II is about as grand a topic as you can conjure. It will be written about forever. That is a given. The interesting thing will be to see how it is written. As we pass from living memory into pure history, there undoubtedly will be changes into how we perceive this earth-shattering event.

    I don’t make any such claims about Toll’s Pacific Crucible. But I will say this. It’s a great read. I think it offers something to both expert and beginner. It is perceptive and alive and begging – at least I am begging – for a follow-up.

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    Lizzy

    May 09, 2016

    rated it
    it was amazing

    Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 was my first exposure to the Pacific War. I love history books, even better when it’s so well written that it almost reads like a novel. Ian W. Toll brings to life the first years of the war in the Pacific from the rise of Imperial Japan through Pear Harbor, closing with the miracle of Midway. The reader is gifted with an analysis on of the major players of the Pacific War on both sides of the conflict.

    Its examination of American and Japane

    Its examination of American and Japanese politics is particularly interesting. So we read how the two countries reacted to the conflict, a direct result of each nation’s information policy.

    “The Japanese people were rapidly succumbing to what would later be called shoribyo, or “victory disease”—a faith that Japan was invincible, and could afford to treat its enemies with contempt. Its symptoms were overconfidence, a failure to weigh risks properly, and a basic misunderstanding of the enemy.”

    We read about the main strategy makers on both sides, (with biography sketches on Nimitz, King and Yamamoto) and Toll ties up his analysis with an excellent critical study of the main operations from Pear Harbor to Midway. It relies on plenty of Allied and Japanese primary sources. He tells how important the effort of the code breakers in Hawaii (not free of internal conflict with Washington!) was to the success of American strategy, one of the only major advantages that the Allied had over the Japanese at the start of the war.

    “The success of the American codebreaking campaign was so complete that it consolidated the field of communications intelligence within the U.S. Navy. By making believers out of the key decision makers in the upper ranks, who had entered naval services when radio technology was in its infancy, the victory of Midway ensured that communications would never again suffer for funding, manpower, or respect.”

    Toll ends with a very interesting analysis of the opponents, giving us a glimpse of what was to come in the next years of war:

    “Here, neatly encapsulated… were the two combatants’ strategic paradigm for the remaining war. Japan’s transcendent ‘fighting spirit’ was to be pitted against America’s overwhelming industrial-military might…

    For all its industrial-military power, the Japanese military calmly asserted, the United States lacked the required intangible spiritual qualities to prevail over Japan. A mongrel people, hopelessly individualistic and democratic, pitted against one another in bitter capitalist competition, the Americans would soon tire of the fight and go home…

    The American conception of ‘fighting spirit’ was very different from the Japanese, but once fully aroused it was sufficient to the task, and sufficiently resilient.”

    Excellent! Highly recommended.
    ________________
    June 22, 2016
    I learned about Ian W. Toll‘s Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 through the excellent review of a GR friend, Matt Kraemer. Thanks Matt, it was my introduction to the Second War’s Pacific theater and it couldn’t be better!

    Full review to come.
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