The extraordinary story of the World War II air, land, and sea campaign that brought the US Navy to the apex of its strength and marked the rise of the United States as a global superpower.
One of America's preeminent military historians, James D. Hornfischer has written his most expansive and ambitious book to date. Drawing on new primary sources and personal accounts of Americans and Japanese alike, here is a thrilling narrative of the climactic end stage of the Pacific War, focusing on the US invasion of the Mariana Islands in June 1944 and the momentous events that it triggered.
With its thunderous assault into Japan's inner defensive perimeter, America crossed the threshold of total war. From the seaborne invasion of Saipan to the stunning aerial battles of the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot, to the largest banzai attack of the war and the strategic bombing effort that led to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Marianas became the fulcrum of the drive to compel Tokyo to surrender - with consequences that forever changed modern war.
These unprecedented operations saw the first large-scale use of Navy underwater demolition teams; a revolution in the fleet's ability to sustain cross-hemispheric expeditionary warfare; the struggle of American troops facing not only a suicidal enemy garrison but desperate Japanese civilians; and the rise of the US Navy as the greatest of grand fleets. From the Marianas, B-29 Superfortresses would finally unleash nuclear fire on an enemy resolved to fight to the end.
Hornfischer casts this clash of nations and cultures with cinematic scope and penetrating insight, focusing closely on the people who rose to the challenge under fire: Raymond Spruance, the brilliant, coolly calculating commander of the Fifth Fleet; Kelly Turner, whose amphibious forces delivered Marine General Holland "Howlin' Mad" Smith's troops to the beaches of Saipan and Tinian; Draper Kauffman, founder of the navy unit that predated today's SEALs; Paul Tibbets, the creator of history's first atomic striking force, who flew the Enola Gay to Hiroshima; and Japanese warriors and civilians who saw the specter of defeat as the ultimate test of the spirit.
From the seas of the Central Pacific to the shores of Japan itself, The Fleet at Flood Tide is a stirring and deeply humane account of World War II's world-changing finale.
©2016 James D. Hornfischer (P)2016 Random House Audio
It's odd and hard to nail down why i felt disappointed and far less engaged than I was with the Guadalcanal and Tin Can books.
Perhaps it's the far more complex nature of both the engagements and background politics. The USN at the Marianas and there after was at a stage of such overwhelming power that the drama of the story from a historical perspective lacks quite the sense of danger, hairs breath from possible failure, of the earlier part of the war and the intimate desperate struggle of 'Tin Can'. This book is never a failure at either aspect nor overall and the people involved no less brave heroic or at peril its just I wanted even more coherence and concentration upon the tactical and a separation of the telling somehow...another 20 hrs perhaps a consistency of detail that at times went missing. David is now muscle bound and all conquering but still the generous decent hero, Goliath the misguided ever-erring hollow warrior, weak and inept despite brave yet also badly mislead by his own false sense of honour. This of course is a story narrative and a desire for human theatre, a weakness born of the uninvolved's need for stories not solely to be informative but also entertaining. It takes a greater effort of Will on the part of the reader to remember these are 'histories', the people and stories 'real'. Thus the task as envision by the author was a harder one, the obligation not just to cover the Marianas campaign but the complex technological and moral underpinning of the strategic motivations, are as larger in scale and complexity to the earlier books as the U.S. navy itself and the overall Pacific campaign. Don't be put off though, despite its partial success as an engaging listen, there is a wealth of insight and understanding to be found.
As the author intended I have come away with a reappraisal of the significance and success of a number of commanders that I did not have before, first of all Nimitz and particularly in this book Spruance whose quiet effectiveness has been over shadowed by that natural warrior Halsey. Too often the big noises like MacArthur and Patton, and Clarke undeservedly won far too high a National stature their military record did not entirely match. MacArthur, deserved the gratitude for his handling of the occupation of Japan, and its rebirth, and later for Inchon but his own nature brought him down in the end.
In the end I think this ought to have been 2 or more books because at times the is a definite sense of needing to gallop suddenly onwards on far too many occassions. I appreciate the dilemma the author faced but I felt too often distracted by jumping too far, by losing the sense of momentum and grind. When focused the book matched the involving nature of the earlier works, the ground pounding stories to the tactical and strategic difficulties and choices faced by commander of both sides. The ghastly human cost was portrayed, as effectively as ever.
It suffered from The Game of Thrones effect, of too many stories, each engaging but leaves you hanging when it jumps away for long periods, hence a sense of dissatisfaction.
I am glad I did no have to hear the occassional dismssive remarks about the British and Churchill in particular that very lightly peppered the Guadalcanal book, Marshall... thought no... did no wrong? No second guessing at all !! it's interesting yet rarely examined that the quality of USMC over US Army training was unquestionably a laurel for the USMC and a scandal for the Army even given the difficulties of up scaling. There were far too many stories of replacements showing up at the Bulge who never even fired a rifle !! ... ahh I digress terribly, sorry.
You will note that I have only talked so far about the effect, the style and manner of writing but not about detail historical accuracy and this might seem odd giving this is a history book. I can not tell you whether the history is true or accurate or balanced, it seems so to me as far as any book can be. I am not a researcher, just an avid reader of military history.
I can say that I do not regret purchasing this book and look forward to the author's next, that the reading was ok and did not as some audio books have make me annoyed at the narrator. I am always grateful for an unabridged book.
Perhaps my gripes are from too high expectation after the previous 2 master works, and their naturally gripping stories, wreathed in smoke and dark night, breath held on quiet waters, oppressive humid fetid jungle, sudden death from the sun, humanity stretched thin. ....
Mr Hornfischer books deserve any ones time and patience and I do hope, impatiently, for more.
I would particularly like to see him bring such a detailed and humane examination to a book on the full story of the Silent Service in the Pacific. (Both sides of course).
There is a space for such, the individual boats, crews and operations; the tactical and strategic over views; technology; service politics and much more, all in one place would find a large ready audience.
There is so much in this book that an equally long and detail review is the only way to do it true justice and I haven't done so, for which I apologise. For instance I haven't mentioned the large finned spherical container in the room nor the story of the dilemma of its use, or its means of deployment. I cannot personally assess the validity of the portrayed image of Mr Paul Tibbits but I found it all informative, compelling and balanced.
I can only agree with the other reviews of this audio book that the author would have been better served making this work into two or three volumes. Important battles are covered but not in any great depth.
That is not to say that this is not a good book and I look forward to reading it again
"Good at filling in all those other details"
Getting a lot of the details from both USN and IJN about the final year of the war. I was disappointed that so little time was spent on the Battle of Samar, 25 Oct. The author has written a whole book about this and it is excellent.
Very good for those interested in WWII naval history that already know the overall picture.
"Hornfischer's Philosophical Summary Up to VJ Day"
I have never written a review for Kindle/Audible Books, but I was compelled to take advantage with this method to applaud the author's work. My reading preference has been history, predominantly military accounts, ancient and modern. My father was an Army Veteran of the Pacific campaigns of WW-2, and his stories of the war aroused my interest in this part of history that resulted in great sacrifices for a righteous victory and the introduction of the Atomic Age. This book revealed the actions, reasoning and personalities of key players of the conflict from both cultural and philosophical standpoints that gave me a greater understanding and deeper contemplation of the story. I am a Navy Veteran that served during Vietnam and the Gulf War. It is important to study these terrible events of history to understand how precious and costly our American freedom is.
An excellent and comprehensive history of some of the most brutal conflict this country has ever know. A marvelous biography of two well known figures (Spruance and Tibbets) and two lesser known Naval heroes (Kaufman and Turner). I highly recommend.
"It's Hornfischer. As always, he doesn't Disappoint."
Pete Larkin, one of my favorite readers, does an excellent job with this book. It's long, but well well worth it.
I have read or (and in many cases "and") listened to all of Mr. Hornfischer's non-fiction on the Pacific theatre of WWII, and have always been impressed. An excellent gatherer of primary and secondary source material. He weaves this and other historical documents into a history that is as much personal story as recitation of document.
Just get it. Then get the rest.
"Excellent, as usual..."
Hornfischer's telling of the Pacific theater is thorough and far-reaching. I have enjoyed all of his Pacific series. The narrator was very talented. Kept up a lively pace in his story-telling. Highly recommended.
Anxious to read more from this author. My father served in some of these battles.
"Not his best effort."
James Hornfischer has written some exceptional books - starting with Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, a phenomenal effort. He is a lucid and graceful writer who generally is able to weave enough personal narrative into his work to give a touch of human interest to the overall story he is telling.
I expected the Fleet at Flood Tide to focus more on the fleet. The book spends a great deal of time on the various landings undertaken by our forces in the Pacific - mainly Saipan and Okinawa. These sections did not do much for the overall narrative.
The decision to spend more time on individuals in this book made it less appealing for me. Others might think differently. Hornfischer focuses on the founder of the Navy's UDT force, the pilot of the first atom bomb drop, a Japanese nurse, and Raymond Spruance, the Fifth Fleet commander. I could have done without all of them except Spruance, a truly remarkable and underappreciated hero of our country's Pacific war effort.
With all this said, my disappointment in this book is entirely because of my own expectations. For people who enjoy human interest stories of wartime and a good, solid overview of the US effort in the last year of the war in the Pacific, this is a fine book. For those looking to a more intense look at the naval effort, look elsewhere.
"A Unique Telling About the War in the Pacific"
General – ‘The Fleet at Flood Tide' was a very unique look at the war in the Pacific and I really enjoyed the tactic of telling it from the perspective of these three uniquely individual commanders who contributed so much to the effort to defeat Imperial Japan and to exact revenge for Pearl Harbor.
Content – I bought this book on its release date without any Audible reviews to go by because I knew, from his other works, that James D. Hornfischer would do a decent job and not let me down. I was correct in my assumption. That said, I got so busy working and tied up with listening to multiple books simultaneously that I neglected to write a review and I didn’t make any notes aside from the six bookmarks I made in the book. As a result my memory has lapsed somewhat on details so I’ll just get to the bottom line in a broad manner. This book got to the point without mincing any words and was done very well. I learned more about the war in the Pacific due to the unique perspective of the telling. I do recall that some parts were slightly confusing due to the timeline of events and the manner of the writing. If you multi-task while listening, like I do, you may find yourself having to listen to certain sections for a second time just to be sure you heard what was being said correctly. The book was well done and I didn’t feel the need to listen again upon completion, but I know that I will listen again at some point. While the author does jump around I didn’t find that to be distracting. He laid out good background information on the three commanders in a concise fashion without going too far into miniscule or unnecessary detail. Finally, he explained certain items that made me bookmark them so I could refer back later; the “Sinister Ratio” in regard to the planned invasion of Japan, the events surrounding the U.S.S. Indianapolis and also the development and the use of napalm to name a few.
Length – Based on when I bought the book and my last bookmark I can say that I finished the book in about 30-days time, which is average for me for a ‘good’ book of this length when I enjoy it, but I don’t feel that urge to listen at every available moment. Looking back while writing this review I was surprised to see this book is 23-plus hours in length. I don’t recall it feeling like it was that long.
Narration – While somewhat stoic in his tone I think Pete Larkin had the perfect narration for this subject matter and this book. While I wouldn’t say his narration added to the book it certainly didn’t detract from it either.
Summation – Yes, taking all things into consideration this may not be Hornfischer’s best work, but I doubt that even he could top ‘Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors’. So, if you’re in any way a WW II aficionado you need to have this book in your library. It will add to your level of knowledge.
This book covers an area of history that several other books have covered in the last several years, yet it still manages to come up with new information and insights. Well worth the read.
For WWII historians this is a must read. Covered grunt to admiral on both sides.
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