Saturday, March 28, 2020

Reading about war in the Pacific Islands

In the past I was used to highlighting passages on the pages of hard copies in case I wanted to refer back to them.  Kindle offers something like that.  I can highlight Kindle passages, but I have never mastered successfully referring back to them.  Recently I have purchased hard copies as well.  Thus, I read the Kindle edition of Shattered Sword, but I had the hard copy available to make checking references easier.  I did not however highlight the hard copy; so in a recent discussion I had to rely upon my (faulty) memory instead of turning to hard-copy (or Kindle) highlighted passages. 

I am doing the same thing with Ian Toll’s The Conquering Tide, War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944.  I set it aside to work on Weinberg, but I got as far as the war on Saipan.  So I set Toll aside, sent for and read Saipan, The Battle that Doomed Japan in World II by James H. Hallas, 2019.  Hallas book was published later than Toll’s volume II (published 2015) but I was looking for the best history, not necessarily a history Toll referenced – except in the case of the Shattered Sword which Toll praised.  After a lot of trial and error I found the reference not at the beginning of Toll’s volume II but at the end of his Volume I, Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942:  “Taken together, Operations AL and MI represented the commitment of almost the entirety of the Imperial Japanese Navy, write Jon Parshall and Tony Tully in Shattered Sword (2005), their groundbreaking study of the Japanese experience at Midway; ‘all of its carriers, all of its battleships, all but four of its heavy cruisers, and the bulk of its lesser combatants.  Twenty-eight admirals would lead those forces into battle, and they would log more miles and consume more fuel in this single operation than was normally used in an entire year.”

Toll goes on to write [whether or not based upon Parshall and Tully I don’t remember], “The Midway operation was not a product of sound military planning.  It was a farrago of compromises struck to quell internal dissent and to balance the demands of rivals in the Combined Fleet and the naval General Staff.  Not surprisingly, it was shot through with contradictions, flaws, and unnecessary risks.  It exposed a fatal hubris and an unwarranted contempt for the enemy.  The plan spread Japanese forces too thinly over a huge expanse of the North Pacific, and relied on dubious conjectures about how the Americans would react.  It asked too much of a few elite aviators who had been flying and fighting almost without respite since December 7.  Though the Japanese were loath to admit it, the most experienced of their carrier aircrews were bone-weary, while the newcomers lacked the training and seasoning to equal the skill of the veterans.  In his subsequent report on the battle, Admiral Nagumo would observe that there had been ‘considerable turnover in personnel. . . .   Inexperienced flyers barely got to the point where they could make daytime landings on carriers.  It was found that even some of the more seasoned flyers had lost some of their skill.’”

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