cover image Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945

Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945

Ian W. Toll. Norton, $40 (864p) ISBN 978-0-393-08065-0

Historian Toll (The Conquering Tide) brings his Pacific War trilogy to a dramatic conclusion in this expertly told account of the final year of WWII. After an intriguing examination of how FDR directed the efforts of U.S. military commanders Douglas MacArthur, Chester Nimitz, and William “Bull” Halsey to roll back earlier Japanese advances, Toll switches from grand strategy to harrowing, first-person accounts of Pacific Theater battles. At Leyte, the Japanese turned kamikaze attacks into both a propaganda tool and an integral element of their defense against America’s carrier fleet. Fulfilling his promise to return to the Philippines, General MacArthur liberated POWs held since 1942 and declared victory at Manila in February 1945, only to face a month of “some of the most vicious urban fighting of the entire Second World War.” Controversy raged among military generals and the American public about whether the appalling casualties at Iwo Jima were justified, but the island’s airfields were needed to launch aerial bombing campaigns against mainland Japan, including the March 1945 firebombing of Tokyo. Toll describes the invasion of Okinawa as a “Pacific Verdun,” documents Allied efforts to negotiate peace, details the error-prone mission to bomb Nagasaki, and paints a poignant picture of the surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri. Written with flair and chock-full of stories both familiar and fresh, this monumental history fires on all cylinders. WWII aficionados will be enthralled. (July)