Synopses & Reviews
Evan Thomas takes us inside the naval war of 1941-1945 in the South Pacific in a way that blends the best of military and cultural history and riveting narrative drama. He follows four men throughout: Admiral William ("Bull") Halsey, the macho, gallant, racist American fleet commander; Admiral Takeo Kurita, the Japanese battleship commander charged with making what was, in essence, a suicidal fleet attack against the American invasion of the Philippines; Admiral Matome Ugaki, a self-styled samurai who was the commander of all kamikazes and himself the last kamikaze of the war; and Commander Ernest Evans, a Cherokee Indian and Annapolis graduate who led his destroyer on the last great charge in the last great naval battle in history.
Sea of Thunder climaxes with the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the biggest naval battle ever fought, over four bloody and harrowing days in October 1944. We see Halsey make an epic blunder just as he reaches for true glory; we see the Japanese navy literally sailing in circles, torn between the desire to die heroically and the exhausted, unacceptable realization that death is futile; we sail with Commander Evans and the men of the USS Johnston into the jaws of the Japanese fleet and exult and suffer with them as they torpedo a cruiser, bluff and confuse the enemy -- and then, their ship sunk, endure fifty horrific hours in shark-infested water.
Thomas, a journalist and historian, traveled to Japan, where he interviewed veterans of the Imperial Japanese Navy who survived the Battle of Leyte Gulf and friends and family of the two Japanese admirals. From new documents and interviews, he was able to piece together and answer mysteries about the Battle of Leyte Gulf that have puzzled historians for decades. He writes with a knowing feel for the clash of cultures.
Sea of Thunder is a taut, fast-paced, suspenseful narrative of the last great naval war, an important contribution to the history of the Second World War.
"Thomas, Newsweek's assistant managing editor, turns his considerable narrative and research talents to Leyte Gulf, history's largest and most complex naval battle. He addresses the subject from the perspectives of four officers: William Halsey, who commanded the U.S. 3rd Fleet; Adm. Takeo Kurita, his Japanese counterpart; Adm. Matome Ugaki, Kurita's senior subordinate and a 'true believer' in Japan's destiny; and Cdr. Ernest Evans, captain of a lowly destroyer, the U.S.S. Johnston. The Americans believed the Japanese incapable of great military feats, while the Japanese believed the Americans were incapable of paying the price of war. Both were tragically wrong. Halsey steamed north in pursuit of a what turned out to be a decoy, while Kurita's main force was positioned to destroy the American landing force in the Philippines. Evans repeatedly took the Johnston into harm's way against what seemed overwhelming odds. His heroism, matched by a dozen other captains and crews, convinced Kurita to break off the action. With Halsey's battleships and carriers just over the horizon, Kurita refused to sacrifice his men at the end of a war already lost. Ugaki bitterly denounced the lack of 'fighting spirit and promptitude' that kept him from an honorable death. Evans fought and died like a true samurai. As Thomas skillfully reminds us, war is above all the province of irony." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This is a wonderful book; thoughtful and riveting all at the same time, and it's good history -- you're never quite sure things are going to turn out the way you know they did!"-- Ken Burns, Filmmaker, The War
"The incomparable Evan Thomas has done it again. World War II in the Pacific has never gotten the attention it deserves, and Sea of Thunder helps to restore the balance."-- Michael Beschloss, author of The Conquerors
"A riveting tale of character and war by one of our most graceful writers. With impressive scholarship and a brilliant eye for detail, Evan Thomas tells the extraordinary story of Leyte Gulf without ever losing sight of the men in the maelstrom."-- Rick Atkinson, author of An Army at Dawn
"Sensational, riveting history, plus a brilliant penetrating study of both the American and Japanese military minds. Sea of Thunder is full of psychological insight that will leave your jaw dropping."-- Bob Woodward, author of Plan of Attack
"Whenever Evan Thomas turns on his smarts and energy, history makes more sense. Here he looks at the Pacific War from Guadalcanal to Tokyo Harbor and brings his vivid insights to the world's greatest naval campaign."-- Ben Bradlee, former editor, The Washington Post, naval officer, the South Pacific, 1942-45
A suspenseful account of the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944 is told through the commands of four naval leaders, including two American commanders and two Japanese admirals, and offers insight into how the war reflected profound cultural differences. 100,000 first printing.
Drawing on oral histories, diaries, correspondence, postwar testimony from both American and Japanese participants, and interviews with survivors, Thomas provides this riveting account of the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, the culminating battle of the war in the Pacific. Photos. Maps.
About the Author
Evan Thomas is assistant managing editor of Newsweek. He has won a National Magazine Award and taught writing at Harvard and Princeton. He has written seven books, including New York Times bestselling John Paul Jones.
Table of Contents
PROLOGUE: Culture, Character, and the Loneliness of Command
CHAPTER ONE: Doubting Supermen
CHAPTER TWO: Damn the Torpedoes
CHAPTER THREE: Long John Silver and Confucius
CHAPTER FOUR: Pop Goes the Weasel
CHAPTER FIVE: The Department of Dirty Tricks
CHAPTER SIX: The Shattered Gem
CHAPTER SEVEN: Big Blue Fleet
CHAPTER EIGHT: Sho-Go
CHAPTER NINE: A Fatal Misunderstanding
CHAPTER TEN: Ships in the Night
CHAPTER ELEVEN: Surprise at Dawn
CHAPTER TWELVE: They Were Expendable
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: The World Wonders
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: The Mysterious Telegram
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: The Last Kamikaze
EPILOGUE: Why They Fought