Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942
Ian W. Toll
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
“Both a serious work of history . . . and a marvelously readable dramatic narrative.”―San Francisco Chronicle
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, a blow that destroyed the offensive power of their fleet. 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.
This dramatic narrative, relying predominantly on eyewitness accounts and primary sources, is laced with riveting details of heroism and sacrifice on the stricken ships and planes of both navies. At the war’s outset, Japan’s pilots and planes enjoyed a clear-cut superiority to their American counterparts, but there was a price to be paid. Japanese pilots endured a lengthy and grueling training in which they were disciplined with baseball bats, often suffering broken bones; and the production line of the Zero― Japan’s superbly maneuverable fighter plane―ended not at a highway or railhead but at a rice paddy, through which the planes were then hauled on ox carts. Combat losses, of either pilots or planes, could not be replaced in time to match the fully mobilized American war machine.
Pacific Crucible also spotlights recent scholarship that revises our understanding of the conflict, including the Japanese decision to provoke a war that few in their highest circles thought they could win. Those doubters included the flamboyantly brilliant Admiral Isokoru Yamamoto, architect of the raid on Pearl and the Midway offensive.
Once again, Ian W. Toll proves himself to be a simply magnificent writer. The result here is a page-turning history that does justice to the breadth and depth of a tremendous subject.
24 pages of illustrations; 12 maps
Batavia through the Gaspar Strait. In mid-February, Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo’s carrier task force had prowled around the vicinity, offering the unnerving specter of a sudden, overpowering carrier air attack on the Allied fleet at any time or place. That carrier group, Kido Butai, was far more powerful than anything the Allies had in the Pacific, let alone in the embattled islands of the East Indies. On February 19, an armada of carrier bombers (joined by land bombers from Kendari and Ambon)
take-off and landing drills was the Kaga. She was kept busy from early morning to nightfall but even at that the young fliers barely were able to learn the rudiments of carrier landings. The more seasoned fliers were given about one chance each to make dusk landings.” On the morning of May 27, Nagumo’s flagship Akagi raised a signal to her signal yard: “Sortie as scheduled!” The carriers and their screening vessels heaved their anchors out of the Hashirajima mud and steamed out toward the Bungo
safety’s sake. “The naval air corps will probably never be really strong until the whole wardroom is plastered with names like these,” he told his pilots. “I want you to be resigned to that idea in your work. The first thing I propose you do today is go up and do five or six loop-the-loops with your instructors; and when you’re finished, you can come and report to me.” Naval Academy graduates sometimes went directly into flight training, as in the United States—but in Japan, a much larger ratio
progressed from practice landings on short segments of a runway, to low-speed, low-altitude approaches over an aircraft carrier, to “touch and go” landings (touch the deck and take off without cutting the engine). Finally, they were cleared to lower their tailhooks and put their birds down on a carrier flight deck for the first time. Having logged an average of about 500 flight hours, they were assigned to a front-line unit, either an air base or an aircraft carrier. Non-commissioned officers
of 1901, Nimitz passed the exam with the highest marks of all the district’s applicants, and won his place in the Naval Academy class of 1905. From the start, it was clear that Nimitz had chosen the right profession. The daily routine was austere and exhausting, but no more so than his life in Texas. The midshipmen rose early, but not as early as Nimitz had risen at home. They lived in a drafty, crumbling wooden annex, but Nimitz had never experienced luxurious living and never expected anything