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Whirlwind: The Air War Against Japan, 1942-1945by Barrett Tillman
Synopses & Reviews
WHIRLWIND is the first book to tell the complete, awe-inspiring story of the Allied air war against Japan—the most important strategic bombing campaign inhistory. From the audacious Doolittle raid in 1942 to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, award-winning historian Barrett Tillman recounts the saga from the perspectives of American and British aircrews who flew unprecedented missions overthousands of miles of ocean, as well as of the generalsand admirals who commanded them.
Whether describing the experiences of bomber crews based in China or the Marianas, fighter pilotson Iwo Jima, or carrier aviators at sea, Tillman provides vivid details of the lives of the fliers and their support personnel. Whirlwind takes readers into the cockpits and gun turrets of the mighty B-29 Superfortress, the largest bomber built up to that time. Tillman dramatically re-creates the sweep of wartime emotions that crews endured on fifteen-hour missions, grappling with the extreme tedium of cramped spaces and with adrenaline spikes in flak-studded skies, knowing that a bailout would put them at the mercy of a merciless enemy or an unforgiving sea.
A major character is the controversial and brilliant General Curtis LeMay, who rewrote strategic bombing tactics. His commands fire-bombing missions incinerated fully half of Tokyo and many other cities, crippling Japans industry while still failing to force surrender.
Whirlwind examines the immense logistics and construction efforts necessary to support Superfortresses in Asia and the Mariana Islands, as well as the tireless efforts of engineers to build huge air bases from scratch.It also describes the unheralded missions that American bomber crews flew from the Aleutian Islands to Japans northernmost Kuril Islands.
Never has the Japanese side of the story been so thoroughly examined. If Washington, D.C., represented a “second front” in Army-Navy rivalry, the situation in Tokyo approached a full-contact sport. Tillmans description of Japans willfully inadequate approach to civil defense is eye-opening. Similarly, he examines the mind-set in Tokyos war cabinet, which ignored the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, requiring the emperors personal intervention to avert a ghastly Allied invasion.
Tillman shows how, despite the Allies ultimate success, mistakes and shortsighted policies made victory more costly in lives and effort. He faults the lack of a unified command for allowing the Army Air Forces and the Navy to pursue parochial goals at the expense of the larger mission, and he questions the premature commitment of the enormously sophisticated B-29 to the most primitive theater in India and China.
Whirlwind is one of the last histories of World War II written with the contribution of men who fought in it.With unexcelled macro- and microperspectives, Whirlwind is destined to become a standard reference on the war, on multiservice operations, and on the human capacity for individual heroism and national folly.
"This ambitious and successful work comprehensively analyzes the Allied air offensive against Japan that began with ace pilot James Doolittle's raid of April 1942. The Army Air Corps's deployment in 1944 of the long-distance B-29 Superfortresses made basing the planes in the Mariana Islands possible. The U.S. Navy argued that its carrier-based planes could mount a better strategic campaign against Japan with less fuss. The results illustrate the two-pronged approach that characterized America's war in the Pacific. The range and power of land-based bombers combined with the mobility and precision of American and British carrier planes to devastate not merely Japan's war-making capacity but its entire infrastructure. The air corps abandoned high-altitude precision strikes in favor of low-altitude area bombing, while the fast carriers dominated Japan's coastal waters. Together, they swamped a long-neglected, now overmatched air defense. U.S. losses were nevertheless high. Tillman (The Dauntless Dive Bomber of WWII) illustrates that Japan's civilian leaders finally 'acknowledged the primacy of air power in forcing capitulation.' 32 pages of b&w photos, 4 maps." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
This is a history of Allied strategic air warfare against Japan during World War II. The focus of the work is on the human experiences of the forces that carried the aerial attacks against Japan, from the pilots of the planes and army engineers constructing runways to General Curtis LeMay, architect of US strategic air war doctrine. He also addresses issues of logistics, strategy, and operations, as well as Japanese defenses. While acknowledging ongoing controversy over both the efficacy and morality of the campaign, he finds the attacks justified in the cause of undermining the Japanese ability to resist and argues that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary to end the war without a full-scale invasion of Japan, which could have led to far greater casualties. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
"Whirlwind" is the only book to examine in depth the human drama behind the most important bombing campaign in history--the air war against Japan.
About the Author
Barrett Tillman is a widely recognized expert on air warfare in World War II and the author of more than 40 nonfiction and fiction books on military topics, including Whirlwind. The former managing editor of The Hook (the magazine of the Tailhook Association), Tillman's is a familiar face on TV documentaries in the United States and Europe. He has received six awards for history and literature, including the Admiral Arthur Radford Award. He lives in Mesa, Arizona.
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