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Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945 (The Pacific War Trilogy, 3) Paperback – July 27, 2021
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New York Times Bestseller
“No one has told the story of World War II in the Pacific, from beginning to bitter end, better than Ian W. Toll. This final volume concludes a brilliant trilogy.”―Alex Kershaw, New York Times best-selling author of The First Wave and Avenue of Spies
In June 1944, the United States launched a crushing assault on the Japanese navy in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The capture of the Mariana Islands and the accompanying ruin of Japanese carrier airpower marked a pivotal moment in the Pacific War. No tactical masterstroke or blunder could reverse the increasingly lopsided balance of power between the two combatants. The War in the Pacific had entered its endgame.
Beginning with the Honolulu Conference, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt met with his Pacific theater commanders to plan the last phase of the campaign against Japan, Twilight of the Gods brings to life the harrowing last year of World War II in the Pacific, when the U.S. Navy won the largest naval battle in history; Douglas MacArthur made good his pledge to return to the Philippines; waves of kamikazes attacked the Allied fleets; the Japanese fought to the last man on one island after another; B-29 bombers burned down Japanese cities; and Hiroshima and Nagasaki were vaporized in atomic blasts.
Ian W. Toll’s narratives of combat in the air, at sea, and on the beaches are as gripping as ever, but he also reconstructs the Japanese and American home fronts and takes the reader into the halls of power in Washington and Tokyo, where the great questions of strategy and diplomacy were decided.
Drawing from a wealth of rich archival sources and new material, Twilight of the Gods casts a penetrating light on the battles, grand strategic decisions and naval logistics that enabled the Allied victory in the Pacific. An authoritative and riveting account of the final phase of the War in the Pacific, Twilight of the Gods brings Toll’s masterful trilogy to a thrilling conclusion. This prize-winning and best-selling trilogy will stand as the first complete history of the Pacific War in more than twenty-five years, and the first multivolume history of the Pacific naval war since Samuel Eliot Morison’s series was published in the 1950s.32 photographs; 20 maps
― Alex Kershaw, New York Times best-selling author of The First Wave and Avenue of Spies
"I’ve been a fan of Ian W. Toll’s since his first book, Six Frigates, but this concluding volume of his Pacific War Trilogy has taken him to another level altogether. Twilight of the Gods grabs you from the beginning and doesn’t let go until the very end―an epic masterpiece of military history."
― Nathaniel Philbrick, National Book Award–winning author of In the Heart of the Sea and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
"Toll’s expertly navigated narrative includes a number of new insights…It is exhaustive and authoritative and it shows the Navy in World War II as it really was, warts and all."
― Mark Perry, New York Times Book Review
"[A] magnificent saga of the last year of the Pacific War…every bit as captivating as his first two [volumes]―Pacific Crucible and The Conquering Tide."
― Evan Thomas, Air Mail
"Toll weaves a brilliant final act depicting one of humanity’s epic tragedies. This book and its predecessors set a high bar for historians of the Pacific War."
― Jonathan W. Jordan, Wall Street Journal
"Using meticulous research, including previously untapped primary sources, and a brisk narrative that combines strategic, operational, and personal perspectives, [Toll] presents a very balanced look at the critical decisions and actions on both sides that concluded the war."
― Jerry Lenaburg, New York Journal of Books
"In his masterly narrative, Ian W. Toll brings clarity and a stinging immediacy to America’s long, bitter climb up the island ladder that led to Japan. With deft, incisive character sketches, Toll summons the leaders back to contentious life: arguing about what to do, making mistakes, bringing triumph out of disaster―and sometimes the reverse. This is maritime history at its best and most accessible."
― Richard Snow
"Written with flair and chock-full of stories both familiar and fresh, this monumental history fires on all cylinders. WWII aficionados will be enthralled."
― Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"[A] richly rewarding history."
― Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
From the Back Cover
Praise for the Pacific War Trilogy:
THE CONQUERING TIDE
"A gripping narrative of the central Pacific campaign...Toll is strong on the operational details of battle, but he is no less skilled at presenting something that is frequently missing from military histories, a well-rounded depiction of the home front on both sides."
- Walter R. Borneman, New York Times Book Review
"A beautiful blend of history and prose and proves again Mr. Toll's mastery of the naval-war narrative."
- Jonathan W. Jordan, Wall Street Journal
"A lucid and learned exposition of the grand chess match between high commanders in the middle years of the Pacific War, vividly evoking the grit and gristle of its many horrors and triumphs. Ian W. Toll is a superb historian whose writing appeals to both the head and the heart."
- James D. Hornfischer, author of The Fleet at Flood Tide
"Vivid, fast moving and highly readable."
- Ronald Spector, Wall Street Journal
- Publisher : W. W. Norton & Company (July 27, 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 976 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0393868303
- ISBN-13 : 978-0393868302
- Item Weight : 1.85 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.1 x 1.7 x 9.2 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #14,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on September 1, 2020
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Top reviews from the United States
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I have followed this issue for sixty years and while , on one hand I have some sympathy for them as individuals I don’t as the General and Admiral in charge who have to be held to a higher standard. They had multiple warnings that something was going to happen in the Pacific and no one was on watch. All the subordinates has their heads in condition white, the planes lined up inmiddle of runways; ammo locked up; They didn’t go to a war footing. They were asleep, literally and figuratively.. They were handed their asses. They got what they deserved. In other armies they would have been handed a pistol, one bullet, and have been expected to do the “right thing”.
If you want to feel “sorry” for them, start with the names on the Arizona Memorial Wall first.
A couple examples.. ship names.. in the prologue he identifies the Ryujo as the Japanese CV sunk at Coral Sea, it was in fact the Shoho. He misidentifies DEs as DDs in Chapter 6. He also confuses the Fuso as the Yamagumo when discussing it disappearing from radar in the same chapter. He also praises the A7M Reppu like it saw service, it never got past the prototype stage. Funny though, he ignores the JAAF completely. He does little service to the USAAF fighters as well. He completely ignores IFF on one occasion, but mentions it elsewhere. I could go on.. he was poorly served by his reviewers and editors. Piddly stuff in the overall scheme? Ok, but this is stuff easily done correctly. It makes me wonder what else is wrong that I am not smart enough or learned enough to recognize.
Overall the book is a good read, I did enjoy it. It covers all aspects of the war. I enjoyed learning more about FDR's issues with the press and government. Logistics of the Naval campaign and landings is fascinating. Also it was interesting to read about the Japanese leadership, press and civilians.
So yes, buy it enjoy it and read the entire set, you will be better off than you were beforehand.
His book dedication is praiseworthy, well said.
They are easy to comprehend but full of footnotes. By gosh, even the footnotes are interesting; showing the depth and intensity of his research.
As the owner of several hundred military history books accumulated over a lifetime, I cannot say enough good things about this author and his books; highly recommended to all. This history is what everone of us should know.
Top reviews from other countries
It is a history that is very much focused on the United States effort against the Japanese. For a broader view of the last year of the war then Nemesis: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45 by Max Hastings is worth buying and reading in addition to Ian Toll's Twilight of the Gods.
Ian Toll starts with the meeting of President Roosevelt with General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz in Hawaii. It deals with the battle for Peleliu, Leyte Gulf and Admiral Kurita, the strategic bombing of Japan, Iwo Jima, Manila, Okinawa, and, of course, the bombs on Hiroshima & Nagasaki, the entry of the Soviet Union into the war, and the Japanese surrender of 15 August 1945. There are bits on what happened on the Japanese and United States home fronts both during and after the war.
Although he does not always clearly express his opinions, possibly preferring to keep them close to his chest, Ian Toll touches on all the main controversies of the later stages of the Pacific War: (i) Were islands invaded that could have been bypassed - Peleliu, Iwo Jima, the Philippines. (ii) Why did Admiral Kurita not bash the Americans harder in Leyte Gulf. (iii) Admiral Halsey's performance as commander of the Third Fleet. (iv) The Bombs and, in particular, that second bomb on Nagasaki.
As hinted at above, I think that there is a much broader picture to the Pacific War than Ian Toll's trilogy covers, and then I can recommend John Toland, James Hornfischer, and Richard Frank ... in addition to Ian Toll.
The book covers the period from the summer of 1944 to August/September 1945 in almost 800 compelling pages.
I liken the book to a bobsleigh ride on the Cresta run; once you are on you cannot get off, hurtling down at increasing speed to a devastating climax.
I have read a great many books about the war in the Pacific and Burma and believe me it was brutal. I have read the ‘Marines in World War II Commemorative Series’ booklets which recount the exploits of the US Marine Corps as they fought from island to island (I was truly fortunate to receive the copies courtesy of the USMC). I am thus fully seized of the ferocity of the action in the jungles of countless islands scattered across the Pacific Ocean. Toll’s books emphasise the centrality of the naval war to victory, simply put if the USN did not wrest command of the Pacific from the IJN then victory over Japan may have eluded the Allies (the British Pacific Fleet played a supporting role after the defeat of Germany).
Toll covers all aspects of the conflict from the American and Japanese home fronts to the highest offices of Government. The extent of the inter-service conflicts among the America and Japanese armed forces is quite extraordinary; Douglas MacArthur’s long running dispute with the senior officers of the USN for example. The rivalry between the Japanese army and navy was almost certainly responsible for speeding their defeat.
As we know them the kamikaze were a terrifying phenomenon, but I did not fully grasp just how serious a threat they were to US warships. And while most Japanese pilots did volunteer to dash themselves and their aircraft again US warships a significant number were resentful and some contrived to abort their mission.
Toll reminds the reader the USN was fighting everyday from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the surrender in August 1945 while the US Army and USAAF (sic) had a slow start.
Toll does also cover the ground war in significant detail.
The author goes into considerable detail about the deliberation of the Japanese government in the aftermath of the raids upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Incredibly some senior figures wanted to continue the war clinging desperately to the banzai ethos.
I cannot recommend this book and its two companion volumes too highly. I suspect this three-volume study will become the seminal work about the naval war in the Pacific.
Next there are over 100 pages alone on the Battles of Leyte Gulf, plus the US landings on Leyte. It's incredibly detailed, as was the aftermath, and it's importance overall on the outcome of the war in the Pacific. There was more political stuff afterwards, until the reconquest of the Philippines, with the emphasis on Luzon and retaking the capital Manilla.
I really liked the next part about the sinking of the Yamato, then just one chapter on the landings and battle for Iwa Jima. There was a lot on the battle for Okinawa and subsequent landings, the bombing of Tokyo and most of Japan's cities, then the book goes out with a bang with the chapter on the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Overall a great end to one of the greatest trilogies on World War 2 in the Pacific ever written.
I feel he does skip over the carrier campaigns over Japan a little, happening inbetween Okinawa and the atom bombs there's little said about them.
Also he is totally US focused, which is fine it was very much a US led fight - but he almost seems to be purposely ignoring the other allied forces; The British naval operations off the Dutch East Indies get no mention, and the BPF itself gets nothing more than a couple of offhand mentions, also the entire Bougainville campaign with the Australians is entirely ignored.