cover image Whirlwind: The Air War Against Japan, 1942–1945

Whirlwind: The Air War Against Japan, 1942–1945

Barrett Tillman. Simon & Schuster, $28 (316pp) ISBN 978-1-4165-8440-7

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. (Mar.)