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Summary

From award-winning historian Saul David, an action-packed and powerful new narrative of the Battle of Okinawa - the last great clash of the Second World War and one that had profound consequences for the modern world.

For 83 blood-soaked days, the fighting on the island of Okinawa plumbed depths of savagery as bad as anything seen on the Eastern Front. When it was over, almost a quarter of a million people had lost their lives, making it by far the bloodiest US battle of the Pacific. In Okinawa, the death toll included thousands of civilians lost to mass suicide, convinced by Japanese propaganda that they would otherwise be raped and murdered by the enemy. On the US side, David argues that the horror of the battle ultimately determined President Truman’s choice to use atomic bombs in August 1945.

It is a brutal, heart-rending story and one David tells with masterly attention to detail: the cramped cockpit of a kamikaze plane, the claustrophobic gun turret of a warship under attack and a half-submerged foxhole amidst the squalor and battle detritus. The narrative follows generals, presidents and emperors, as well as the humbler experiences of ordinary servicemen and families on both sides and the Okinawan civilians who were caught so tragically between the warring parties.

Using graphic eyewitness accounts and declassified documents from archives in three continents, Saul David illuminates a shocking chapter of history that is too often missing from Western-centric narratives of the Second World War.

Shortlisted for the 2021 British Army Military Book of the Year.

©2020 Saul David (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"Gripping, even gruesome, yet deeply moving, Crucible of Hell sweeps us masterfully from a coral charnel house in the Pacific to the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima." (David Reynolds, author of Island Stories)

"Excellent. Saul David’s gripping narrative is admirably clear." (Antony Beevor)

"David restores a human dimension to this battle - both sides are brave, stoic, frightened, barbaric and occasionally cowardly. This is narrative history at its most visceral as battles unfold almost in real time...In short chapters David shifts between American and Japanese fronts, providing a gripping reconstruction of the action." (Gerard DeGroot, Times)

What listeners say about Crucible of Hell: Okinawa

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Download the book in parts

Had trouble getting this to download, I changed the settings to download in parts and it worked. Really good book and enjoyed the narration once I got used to the narrator.

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Great Book

After showing download error for a few days, I was able to download it and I am listening to it right now. Riveting book by Saul David but the narration could have been better.

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Shocking Price of War

If there is one audio book I have listened to which in my mind is a prime advocate for all wars to be abolished, its this one. The sheer waste of life on both sides is literally staggering and the brutality of combat really comes through to the listener.

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  • EJ
  • 04-04-20

Excellent account of the savage battle on Okinawa

After initial failed attempts to download this book Audible managed to fix the problem. Now listening to it and thoroughly enjoying the book. Anyone interested in Pacific War history will love it.

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Faultless (audible version)

I've read and listened to a number of war history books, but I think this has to rate as one of the best. A brutal campaign told in a way that grabs you from the first page. The inclusion of personal accounts really adds to the story. This is the first book I've read by this author, but it certainly won't be the last based on this.

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Brilliant

I wasn’t sure how a book on a single battle would be a ‘filled out’, but Saul David has done it perfectly. A brilliant mix of historical detail and the oh so important memories of those who served there.

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For The Forgotten Victims

I was looking for more material relating to the battle of Okinawa after re-reading "With the Old Breed" by E.B Sledge, in my opinion the best memoir I've come across, and "Islands of the Dammed" by R.V Burgin. Crucible of Hell is a much more wholistic view of the battle. It does include various passages from participants, including the aforementioned Eugene Sledge, but I found that this book, although detailed and complete, lacked the real punch that comprehensive personal accounts provide. We tend to jump around a bit in this book as far as the chronology of the battle, which I also found hindered the understanding of how the battle flowed in a much more linear sense as we learn in both the aforementioned people's memoirs. Perhaps locating another complete memoir from someone other than Burgin and Sledge will give me what I want.

However, let me be clear that this book is by no means inadequate, not at all. It gives the reader an overarching account of the battle from several points of view. For me, though, by far the most interesting aspect to this book was the plight of the Okinawan civilians drafted into Japanese service. To me, this aspect to the battle of Okinawa has seemingly been largely ignored by historians. For this alone, the book is well worth a read. Interestingly, the vast difference in estimates between the foreword of Sledge's memoir and this in terms of Okinawan civilian deaths is striking. We have estimates of 43,000 and 125,000 respectively, so not entirely sure what to make of that. Either way, the civilian population of Okinawa was decimated by this most brutal of battles.

Narration is generally okay, but I found him rather hard on the ear and as a consequence, I was only really able to dive in for perhaps an hour at most as a result of the harsh tones. In particular, he'd often start a sentence loudly, as if talking to someone hard of hearing. Absolutely no idea why and it's hardly relevant, but each time I heard the narrator speak, images of the southern country gentlemen in the form of the old Colonel Sander's image appear din my mind! Based on my Audible experiences of narrators, I feel a better choice for this sort of material would have been Grover Gardner.

Crucible of Hell is well written and, although lacks the visceral depths of Eugene Sledge's account, does provide the listener with all the essentials. it's real strength is the sections that describe the horrific plight of the Okinawans themselves, who are the forgotten victims.

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Epic story but poor narration

This title is badly let down by the abrupt and declamatory style of the narrator.

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absolutely outstanding

An incredible in depth and gripping history of the Battle for Okinawa. From the commanders to the soldiers,sailors and airmen of both sides down to the civilians caught in the middle. just incredible