The Fleet at Flood Tide

The Fleet at Flood Tide

America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945

Book - 2016
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An unprecedented account of the monumental Pacific War campaign that brought the U.S. Navy to the apex of its power and supremacy and established the foundation for America as the dominant global superpower, from the author cited as "doing for the Navy what Stephen Ambrose did for the Army" ( Rocky Mountain News ).

Here is the extraordinary story of the most consequential campaign of the Pacific War- the U.S. Fifth Fleet's seizure of the Marianas, a relentless deployment of overwhelming force on air, land, and sea that opened the path to total victory over Japan and established a new state of the art in warfare- the first use of the forerunners of today's SEALs; the emergence of massive cross-hemispheric expeditionary operations; the flowering of American naval aviation and carrier power; and the secret training of Marianas-based air crews who would first unleash nuclear fire.

From the epic seaborne invasion of Saipan, to the stunning aerial battles of the Marianas Turkey Shoot, to the grinding combat ashore-and the largest suicide attack of the war-to the devastating bombing campaign that culminated with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Marianas were the fulcrum of the Pacific. Filled with memorable action set pieces and closely observed portraits of the naval, air, and ground-force warriors and commanders who revolutionized warfare, The Fleet at Flood Tide is the broadly encompassing story of the full materialization of America as a world-class military power.

Story Locale- The Marianas, Central Pacific, 1944
Publisher: New York : Bantam Books, c2016
ISBN: 9780345548702
0345548701
Branch Call Number: 940.933 Horn
Characteristics: xxvii, 602 pages, [48 unnumbered pages of plates] : illustrations, portraits, maps ; 24 cm

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Justinian537
Feb 16, 2019

Hornfischer’s latest book focuses on “D-Day in the Pacific”, the battles for the Marianas (Saipan, Tinian and Guam) which commenced on June 15, 1944 and were, as he ably shows, the key to victory in the Pacific. It is a testimony to the tremendous demographic and industrial power of the United States that it was able to launch two epic invasions on opposite sides of the world at virtually the same time—power which Admiral Yamamoto anticipated after Pearl Harbor when he ominously observed, “I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.” This book shows that resolve brought to full fruition when, toward the end of 1943, the Navy was at last ready to begin its march westward. The Grumman factory alone was producing over 500 F6F Hellcats a month!

The central figure of the book is unquestionably Admiral Raymond Spruance, who was not only able to navigate the complicated maze of military politics and clashing personalities (the Army, Navy and Marine Corps were never completely at ease with each other, and often very much at odds--the same as with the Japanese army and navy) but at the same time was a master tactician whose focus was on accomplishing his military objectives with the least amount of risk to his men and ships, and certainly not on seeking glory or accolades for himself. He fought the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” as a defensive battle, keeping Task Force 58 close to Saipan in order to protect the landing forces and allowing Ozawa’s fleet to come to him, only authorizing Mark Mitscher’s Fifth Fleet to go westward in pursuit after Ozawa’s carrier force had been decimated and the danger to the landing force greatly lessened. He ordered the carriers to turn on their lights to guide the planes back in the dark from that attack, despite risk from Japanese submarines; and when the USS New Mexico was hit by a kamikaze, Spruance joined the damage control teams and manned a hose to help extinguish the fires. Those two acts in themselves reveal much about the man.

In his depiction of Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay, Hornfischer makes it clear that he agrees with Tibbets and others who maintain that, while regrettable, the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was necessary in order to bring the war to a swifter conclusion and to save hundreds of thousands of lives, both American and Japanese, by making Operation Downfall, the planned invasion of Japan, unnecessary. He does not neglect to focus as well on the internal struggle within Japan between the extreme militarists who wanted to continue the war and those who wanted to surrender in order to prevent a catastrophic final battle, and whose guidance Hirohito finally decided to follow after the bombs were dropped, prompting his unprecedented broadcast to the nation.

As in his other books about Leyte Gulf, the USS Houston, and Guadalcanal, Hornfischer achieves a necessary and satisfying balance between outlining the broad sweep of strategy and events, and focusing in on individual personalities at all levels, on both sides, in order to provide a human touch and show what it was like for those who were caught up in events beyond their control and which they often only vaguely understood. Fittingly, the book ends with the description of a Japanese officer on Saipan who surrenders in December 1945 when he is finally convinced that the war has ended, and hands his sword over, honorably, to an American officer, rather than committing suicide. This act epitomized the revolution in Japanese society and values which even by then was well underway and has been maintained to this day.

j
johnbacich
Aug 16, 2017

A great WW2 book about the march ( sailing ) to Japan. Read all of this guy's books. His " Last stand of the Tin Can Sailors " is one of the best nonfiction books ever.

d
Daveinportland
Nov 18, 2016

I think the title is misleading. The book covers the last 18 months or so of the war in the Pacific and while it is mostly focused on the Navy, the Army, Marines and Army Air Force are also covered in such detail that it really isn't about 'the fleet.'

Overall though, a very good book.

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