The Conquering Tide, by Ian Toll
Books about the War in the Pacific are as common as seagulls on the beach. There seems no end to the fascination of retelling stories of America’s grueling island-hopping campaign against the Imperial forces of Japan from 1941 to 1945, a war that seems doubly compelling for taking place in otherwise idyllic tropical settings.
Where Ian Toll’s The Conquering Tide stands out is the way the author adds real flesh and blood to the well-known broad strokes of the conflict. The bar for this kind of history writing has risen for years with authors such as Hampton Sides (Blood and Thunder) and Nathaniel Philbrick (The Last Stand). Slogging through such military histories used to be fairly dull business, fit only for those truly interested in what time which brigade moved into what position. But now, history writers such as Toll research such stories like investigative journalists, resulting in revealing new details and the pacing of a good novel.
The Conquering Tide is filled with personalities and fascinating insights into both the American and Japanese armed forces. We know, of course, that “war is hell,” but Toll shows that it’s not just the violence of the battles that soldiers must survive, but the day-to-day miseries of warfare in paradise: Tropical heat, lack of drinking water and sleep, biting insects, disease and even malnutrition, as all the while officers tangle with their egos and rivalries.
Oh, the humanity! I look forward to heartily recommending this book.
— Clint McKnight