The Pacific Naval War, 1941-1945

Published: August 30th, 2011     
Product Image
Cover
Author: David Wragg
Reviewed by: 
Brian R. Baker, IPMS# 43146
Company: Pen and Sword Books Ltd
ISBN #: 978-1-84884-283-0
Other Publication Information: Hard Cover, 216 pages, 43 Photos including cover, 9 ½” x 6 ½”
Price: $32.50

The Story

This volume is a newly developed account of the naval war between the United States and its Allies against the Japanese from 1941 through 1945. Since the author and publisher are British, it naturally follows that there is a subdued emphasis on the British and Commonwealth participation in the war, a good thing since this topic has not been covered in a lot of detail over the past few years. In a little over 200 pages, the author condenses the topic to the point that it isn't really a comprehensive history, but instead a series of chapters dealing with specific issues and events associated with the war, along with his interpretations of the causes and effects of these events.

The beginning chapters cover the participants, their political and economic backgrounds, and the impact of World War I on the Pacific region. Following this, he explains the developments in aviation and naval warfare, providing a clear account of how the technology developed the way it did. Since World War II was primarily a carrier war, he does not cover surface warfare in as much detail as he does the aviation elements. Mixed in with coverage on specific topics, such as Japanese and American leadership and strategy, amphibious warfare, the kamikazes, and submarine warfare, he discusses the major battles, including Pearl Harbor, Midway, the island campaigns, Leyte Gulf, Formosa and Okinawa, the strategic air offensive against Japan, and the planned invasion of the home islands. Some topics are covered in much more detail than others. The development of British Navy carrier forces, and the Australian and New Zealand contributions, are also discussed in detail.

The Book

The book is very interesting reading, and although I have studied this topic all my life, I must admit that I both learned a lot from it and gained some new historical perspectives. A 26-item bibliography is provided at the end, along with an index. Its greatest value is coverage of the British role in the campaigns, as much has already been written about American participation.

I think that the main problem with this book is the lack of depth in the research. The bibliography does not mention such authors as Samuel Elliot Morrison or even Richard Overy, the British history professor who provides such meaningful interpretations of historical events related to World War II, but he lists no less than 8 of his own books as references in the bibliography. In addition, there were no maps included, and this means that to understand fully what is going on, you need to consult outside sources to grasp the geographical perspective. Another problem is that some details are suspect. I didn't realize that the RAF had Beaufighter night fighters at Singapore when the Japanese attacked in 1941. It was Torpedo Eight that was effectively wiped out at Midway, not Torpedo Three. And is there such a thing as Piper O-1 Cub? And did Japanese dive bombers ever fly missions armed with torpedoes? And I didn't realize that Alaska was a State during World War II.

Recommendations

Although this book does have its issues, and what book doesn't, it does have value in explaining some of the little-known events relating to British participation in the Pacific War. Its analyses are basically sound, and a better understanding of the war can be gained from reading this book. Recommended.