SOCIAL SCIENCES

Bloody Okinawa: The Last Great Battle of World War II

Hachette. Mar. 2020. 432p. ISBN 9780306903229. $30. HIST
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Wheelan (Midnight in the Pacific) recounts how Japanese resistance, rain, and mud made the Battle of Okinawa the costliest victory in the Pacific for the United States. Using both American and Japanese primary sources, the book describes how the largest and most powerful American Pacific amphibious force struggled to overcome fierce Japanese resistance. Japan’s defense was based on ample troops and artillery, along with coordinated kamikaze attacks. The author conveys how Japanese leaders hoped the resulting casualties would wear down U.S. troops and a war-weary American public, forcing the U.S. to negotiate rather than imposing unconditional surrender. The significant numbers of dead and wounded civilians and servicemen among the U.S. and Japan did, indeed, alarm American leaders about the costs of the war, Whelan argues. However, he counters that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 forced Japan’s unconditional surrender.
VERDICT Wheelan’s detailed, mainstream account of the Battle of Okinawa and its significance in World War II history will especially appeal to fans of military history interested in the Pacific Theater.

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