Good details well spoken. Facts meshed with other books I've read, including a raid by Japanese raiders in responce to an earlier raid by USAAF to their island. The discriptions where fasinating because they where from two different people, at different places on the same Island. Alot of the damages where discribed from different points of view but the damage and intensity were so similar you could tell it was the same raid being discribed in two seperate books. One man was on the earlier raid and realized what it must have been like on the ground in his raid. The other was surprized at the tacticts of low repeated passes at night with much better affect then the higher altitude run he had been on, even tho his raid was very sucussful it took many more bombers, and in day light, which made his raid far more dangerous by Zeros and AA fire. Tonights raid, the enemy was almost invisable because you could only see them on their pass, hear them after that. hard to fire on sounds only. The book has a lot of back round information to the historical facts as I know them. A good insiders look at the beginnings of the Pacific War.
I can't pick a scene. The book covers so many aspects of that time period. The the whole coming and going on raids was more physical action then other parts but the whole Crucible is the point. So putting in contect everything going on and how many, indivigual stories you'll nerver hear. Is always in your mind. So many many people in the entire theater makes you realize why it's the Pacific Crucible
No, I like to strech it out over a couple nights. Something to look forward to.
Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving or riding my bike.
Toll's research is impressive and he writes superbly. What's more, Grover Gardner delivers the book with his usual precise craft, and I could happily have listened for far more than the 22 hours it took to take us from the approaches to Pearl Harbor to the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Midway. In fact, I wanted to since I was somewhat disappointed to find that, while the title promises "1941-1942," the account actually only covers the first six months of the Pacific naval war. Thus it wraps up months before the vital actions surrounding the holding of Guadalcanal. I would gladly have exchanged the prolonged biographical material on political and military leaders on both sides of the conflict, for more detailed accounts of the naval struggles at the Santa Cruz Islands and Iron Bottom Sound.
Still, it is probably churlish to complain that a terrific writer has not aligned his focus with your particular predilections. This is a very well written piece of history, and anyone interested in the rest of 1942 will find an extremely fine account in "Neptune's Inferno" by James D. Hornfischer.
This is the kind of styles I like: good pace, cerebral, well-documented, meaty, mind-bending.
A good history book gives you the facts and weaves them into a consistent sustained narrative. A great history book catches the human element that pushes history forward. Pacific Crucible is a good history book. It is well-documented, well-paced and never boring but, unfortunately, is somewhat complacent in big picture grand strategic facts over the actual human experience of the war, who the people that fought were and why they chose to do what they did.
If one is to pick up a first book on this issue, I much strongly recommend "the Battle of Midway" by Craig Symonds, a far superior account on all fronts which, contrary to what one may suspect, is not solely about Midway but covers mostly the same period. Unlike Pacific Crucible, Symonds' text provides a much more fleshed out account of the human mistakes made on both sides and of the pilots and of the generals. It also avoids the pitfalls of heavily documenting the life of generals that were far from the fronts and whose role in 41-42 might have been real but is tactically far from obvious.
Readable, but a disappointment.
Do you read the book before you dislike my reviews?
I'm a fan of Grover Gardner and even bigger fan of knowing more on Midway and WWII. "Pacific Crucible" is one of the best biography that I've listened to, but I'm also very familiar with the Battle of Midway. While Ian W. Toll did a superb job at researching the battle, I also think that he wrote too much on the nitty gritty for those who know about this war. It's almost a bit too much information for those who already know what happen at Midway and this is not a good book for an overview.
You really need to be more than a novice to really appreciate what the author went through for the book. He went great lengths to gather information that could had been lost in the past. "Pacific Crucible" is not just notes that you take for a quiz. It's more like a big thick text book for a student that is majoring in history with the second major on the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Grover Gardner is the golden voice for these kinds of audio files that never has an expiration date of its popularity.
This non-fiction book reads like a novel, and indeed, Pacific Crucible only covers the Pacific War from 1941 until 1942, beginning with Pearl Harbor and ending at Midway, and making the author's second volume, The Conquering Tide, something I awaited with the eagerness of a sequel, and the first book I've ever preordered on Audible.
As a wargamer, World War II is one of my four main eras of interest, and while I love me some Eastern Front tank action, the Pacific theater of war is something I have had far less knowledge of until now, except in the broadest strokes.
Ian W. Toll's thick, detailed, but never-boring account of the first couple of years of America's entry into the war covers it from all angles — the political factors leading up to Japan's decision to go to war, the cultural issues that made them choose this course of action, which many of their leaders knew even at the time was almost certainly doomed to failure, and then compelled them to double down. The courting of FDR by Churchill, who desperately wanted (needed) the US to join the war against the Axis, and regarded Pearl Harbor as the salvation of Britain. But these high-level politics, including an assessment of Emperor Hirohito and his participation in the planning for the war, then take a backseat to the story of the fighting men on both sides.
Toll gives brief biographical sketches of all the major admirals and generals, both the famous and some of the less well-known.
Everyone with any knowledge of World War II knows about Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of Pearl Harbor.
A revered war hero even after the war (which he did not survive), and respected even by his enemies, Yamamoto is described in detail from second-hand and documented accounts by Toll as an ethical, not unflawed man who had great perceptiveness and played the political game well (several times forcing the rest of the Japanese high command to let him have his way by threatening to resign), but made some critical mistakes which even some of his subordinate officers commented on. Yamamoto was an early opponent of going to war against the US. He had been to America and seen what its industrial and manpower potential was. He knew there was no hope of Japan winning a prolonged war against the US. Yet when war was declared, he served the Emperor.
On the American side, Admiral Chester Nimitz has most of the fame as the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, replacing the hapless Admiral Kimmel, who watched his command (and his career) burn outside his window at Pearl Harbor. But Admiral Ernest King, as Toll points out, has somehow remained almost a non-entity in the post-war historical account, despite being Nimitz's boss, the Commander in Chief of the entire US Navy.
Like his counterpart, Admiral Yamamoto, King was a gruff and authoritarian commander with probably more humanity and sense of humor than most of his peers gave him credit for. Like Yamamoto, King was also apparently fond of extra-marital dalliances (Congress was at one point annoyed that the COMINCH was allegedly using his personal yacht as a place for trysts). King was an old-school officer who was not easily persuaded of the value of newfangled developments like communications intelligence and cryptography, unlike Nimitz, who made great use of the work of Naval cryptographers like Captain Joseph Rochefort, in command of Station Hypo which cracked many of Japan's codes.
Rochefort was very poorly treated by the Washington establishment, which took credit for his work, and actively lied about his accomplishments and fitness, because he had angered some of his superiors by being right when they were wrong.
There are so many stories here, beyond the lists of ships and battles. For example, inter-service rivalry was a severe problem that plagued both the US and Japan. You would think that during an all-out war for survival, the Army and the Navy would be able to confine their rivalry to the annual football game, but in fact, combined operations were the exception, rather than the rule. Army airmen and Navy pilots came to blows after battles, over recriminations and blame-taking and credit-stealing. Press reports after the battle of Midway, for example, credited Army bombers with destroying the Japanese aircraft carriers, because it was the Army flyboys who made it back to the States first to regale reporters with their exploits. In fact, the Army planes didn't hit a single ship - it was all the Navy.
On the Japanese side, it was even worse - the Navy admirals and Army generals were like old-fashioned Daimyo in command of rival clans. The Army regarded the Navy as nothing more than a troop delivery system. The Navy regarded the Army as grunts trying to steal their glory and curry favor with the Emperor.
Of course, the lesson both sides would learn, and learn hard, was the ascent of air power as the determining factor in naval warfare. Toll discusses this a great deal, starting with the naval doctrines of Alfred Thayer Mahan, who wrote what was to be the Bible of naval strategy for every seagoing nation from its publication in 1890 right up to World War II. American and Japanese naval officers alike had learned Mahan's doctrines by heart, and his principles of sea power advocated, among other things, the preeminence of battleships - massive firepower concentrated into large, unsinkable floating fortresses.
As the fate of the Battleship Yamato would demonstrate, this would prove to be utterly wrong in the age of aircraft carriers.
Pacific Crucible covers the early Pacific War, during which Japan seemed unbeatable. They were prepared, they had more ships and planes, they had a highly dedicated and highly trained military — and one whose competence they had very deliberately hidden from the Western powers, allowing the arrogant British and Americans to believe their racist assumptions about the pathetic abilities of Japanese pilots and soldiers. When the Japanese pulled off a brilliantly executed attack on Pearl Harbor, followed by operations across the Pacific that virtually kicked the British and Dutch right out of the South Seas and soon threatened Australia, Hawaii, and Alaska, it came as a nasty shock. In particular, Western airmen had never encountered the Mitsubishi A6M Zero.
These things terrorized the skies - lacking features that most fighter planes had, like armor and larger engines and self-sealing fuel tanks, they were pure maneuverability, and no Western plane was a match for them in the air until American pilots started devising tactics for taking them on.
Despite Japan's many early successes, though, the clock was running from the moment they attacked Pearl Harbor. They had limited resources, and (as Yamamoto and others had predicted) they badly underestimated American resolve and military power. Midway, that great battle in which, armed with superior intelligence, Admiral Nimitz committed the US fleet and sank four of Japan's prize carriers, is historically seen as the turning point in the war.
The reality is that even if the US had lost the Battle of Midway, it would probably only have prolonged the war, but not changed the outcome.
Pacific Crucible tells the story of the men, the ships, the planes, and the battles in that crucial early period when the outcome really did seem uncertain to both sides, and it's both deep and broad, being not just a series of battle reports, and much more than a history of events, but including all of these things in a well-woved narrative that kept me listening for many hours and not wanting to get out of my car, because I wanted to hear what happened next, even though of course I knew because it was history.
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in World War II, and have immediately begun the second book, covering 1942 until the end of the war.
No B.S. reviews. I'll never soft-pedal bad writing or inept narration.
A remarkable book, and a terrific listen! A tour de force for Ian W. Toll—and Grover Gardner's narration is FLAWLESS!
I've listened to nearly 200 audiobooks from Audible—fiction, history, science, classic, and comedy—and this is easily one of the best in any category.
With such lucid, visual, and insightful writing, it's no surprise that the characters, events, and images are all vividly fixed in my mind. This is the audio equivalent of a page turner.
After being so disgusted by James Lurie's narration of the audiobook "The Battle of Midway" that I actually returned it unfinished (Thank you, Audible, for making this possible!) I purchased "Pacific Crucible" in the hope of learning more about this historic battle. And I was not disappointed. This book is great! It gives crucial background and insights into the people, the times, and the cultural and political forces leading up to Pearl Harbor, on through the battle of the Coral Sea, and finally culminating in the battle of Midway. The author brings in all the essential points of view throughout—human, technical, tactical, and historical, and he does it seamlessly. A masterful piece of writing. The pacing and level of detail is perfect. I will look for more books by Ian W. Toll.
In "Pacific Crucible," Grover Gardner (already one of my favorite narrators) is absolutely suburb. It's obvious that he understands every bit of what he's reading BEFORE the words pass his lips. His phrasing is so consistently perfect that every sentence is clear, with exactly the emotion and expression the author intended. I don't believe I've ever heard a better narration of any audiobook. Plus, the equalization and recording is beautifully done, so there's no listening fatigue, even after 22 hours. I've been tempted to say that Simon Vance is the best narrator I know of, but this performance by Grover Gardner puts him in the same league. Just stupendous.
I know you will enjoy "Pacific Crucible."
PC delved into the personalities, both American and Japanese, that were part of this struggle. The writing was also compelling - reminding me of John Toland's "But Not In Shame". Total masterpiece.
all of them
This is the first perforance by Grover.
HOw can anyone read about the lead up and Battle of Midway without being moved and realizing that our military was a reflection of our culture and how important that is in allowing us to make the right choices.
I love your tiny little planet. I think I'll take it.
The depth of the story and information included. I also liked that the story was told from both sides, going into great detail about Japanese and American crewmen, captains and admirals.
I agree with another reviewer who stated that Ian Toll's earlier book, Six Frigates, was interesting, but that Pacific Crucible is amazingly good. I have read widely on the naval war in the Pacific and would rank this as one of the very best books on the topic ever. It is wonderfully researched, capturing both the historical influences affecting the decisions of the navies on both sides, as well as the lived experiences of the participants. Toll begins the work with an analysis of the impact of Captain Mahan's book, "The Influence of Sea Power on History". Also fascinating were his chapter on the cultural and ideological developments in Japan prior to the war, and his psychological portraits of Yamamoto and of Nimitz (each of whom deserves a full biography). I am not a fan of Grover Gardner generally, but he did an excellent job here.
My only complaint is an out-of-key note in the epilogue, where Toll uncritically cites a comment from Robert Sherwood, the playwright turned FDR speech writer, that World War II was widely unpopular with the US public. This is an extra-ordinary claim not borne out by the historical record, at least on its surface, made by a person promoting the reputation of FDR as the figure who held us all together. To accept such a statement without further research into its historical accuracy was a slip, in my opinion. It's the small portion that makes the whole work 99 and 44/100% excellent.
If you enjoy the naval histories of James Hornfischer, you'll love Pacific Crucible. It is a great book.
Say something about yourself!
This is a great book. I knew little about the history of the Pacific Theater in World War Two and this is an excellent introduction. The author very skillfully weaves together the larger history of both sides with individual stories. The narrator is great. The battle scenes are riveting, as was the account of the initial bombing of Tokyo. This one was hard to put down.