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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable account of little known naval action,
I came to this book shortly after reading the masterful Shattered Sword, by the same author. Whereas that book deals with the well known Battle of Midway, this book deals with a much less well known battle that formed part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and is less well documented from the Japanese side, due to the lack of survivors.
I had heard of this battle before, but the cursory nature of the descriptions made it sound like an ambush and slaughter of Japanese Battleships. While it is true that the battleships were sunk and almost all of their attendant escorts, it was far from an ambush. The Japanese knew that they were on a suicide mission, but they sailed forth very much like a naval Charge of the Light Brigade.
While the book gets of to a slowish start, once the fleet is assembled and gets going it reads like a novel, but as in most cases truth is far more fascinating than fiction. Reading the relentless charge of the battle fleet through first torpedo boat attacks, then a destroyer screen; heavy cruiser assault, and finally to a brick wall of American battleships, one is filled with admiration for the Japanese effort. It is amazing that they almost managed to escape after the futility of continuing on became apparent. The subsequent attempt to escape is almost as fascinating as the original charge.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Immaculate research and compelling narration,
Not only does Tully bring a relatively obscure battle into sharp focus, he adjusts the received wisdom about the battle through meticulous research and wonderful use of primary sources. In Tully's account, the one-sided encounter at Surigao Strait moves from being a side show to a main event. I have been reading naval history for years, but the first-hand description of a survivor's panic as the hull of the antiquated Japanese behemoth Fuso finally heels over will stay with me for a long time.
I approached this books a little cautiously, wondering if Tully could match the heights he attained with Jonathan Parshall in Shattered Sword. He could. Shattered Sword: The Japanese Story of the Battle of Midway
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstandingly Gripping!!,
I agree fully with the previous reviewer. This is a really gripping read about a little known night naval battle that does indeed read almost like a novel. The author has done his homework well and gives a detailed analysis of the action from start to finish. A brilliant read and highly recommended for all students of the naval war in the Pacific.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Objective Research,
This review is from: Battle of Surigao Strait (Twentieth-Century Battles) (Kindle Edition)
This is a well researched and objective work. Unlike many other books it has a balanced view and a fair representation of the Japanese side of the battle.
5.0 out of 5 stars In total war, the Japanese were also courageous in adversity.,
I came to this book straight from James Hornfischer's brilliant masterpiece 'Neptunes Inferno' which tells the story of Guadalcanal from the American perspective. By contrast, Mr Tully's account here is told almost entirely from the Japanese viewpoint, and as such it is a rare and valuable book to find written in English.
Whereas in the other book (a really superb narrative) I was almost desperately 'willing' the likes of Admirals Scott and Lee to victory, here I found myself sailing along with Admirals Nishimura and Shima- and experiencing exactly those same emotions. Somehow the impossible odds the Japanese faced seemed totally unfair. I was shocked when Fuso sank, and was urging on Nishimura's Yamashiro, hoping he would somehow break past the six American Battleships blocking his path. I was on the bridge with Commander Arai of the brave cruiser Mogami as, on fire from stem to stern, she sought to survive 100 shell hits. Then, I felt outrage when I read about Amercans machine gunning survivors in the water- surely 'our side' didn't do that?- but of course they did, and who am I, from my armchair, to judge, 70 years later, those who were caught up in the reality of total war?
Perhaps this account is rather overly long and makes a lot of what was, in its essentials, quite a simple campaign. For example, in the approach phase every minor course change is carefully recorded, but to properly understand all that detail the book desperately needs better and larger scale maps- numerous places mentioned are not shown at all on the ones provided and the photographs, though significant, are few in number.
But I do not want to quibble over much about what are really minor matters, because this is a thought- provoking book. Although there is a lot of 'second guessing' of what the Japanese commanders involved in this battle were really thinking and trying to achieve, the reader gets thoroughly 'involved' with their personalities. Certainly we can question the motivation of these men. Nishimira, who was quite an affable man, may have been comfortable with heroic martyrdom, but most of those serving under him certainly were not. Shima's whole approach was more pragmatic: he was not so fatalistic, and many brave men lived to fight another day as a result.
Whilst the Japanese did some terrible things in the war and there were indeed big cultural differences between East and West, this book demonstrates that the allies could be almost equally (just as?)ruthless when they considered they needed to be, and even often when there was no such need, whilst in amongst it all were thousands of ordinary people, on both sides, who just wanted to get through it.
If you are intrigued by my comments here, please buy this book.
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Battle of Surigao Strait (Twentieth-Century Battles) by Anthony P. Tully