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Twilight of the Gods is a riveting account of the harrowing last year of World War II in the Pacific, when the U.S. Navy won the largest naval battle in history; Douglas MacArthur made good his pledge to return to the Philippines; waves of kamikazes attacked the Allied fleets; the Japanese fought to the last man on one island after another; B-29 bombers burned down Japanes Twilight of the Gods is a riveting account of the harrowing last year of World War II in the Pacific, when the U.S. Navy won the largest naval battle in history; Douglas MacArthur made good his pledge to return to the Philippines; waves of kamikazes attacked the Allied fleets; the Japanese fought to the last man on one island after another; B-29 bombers burned down Japanese cities; and Hiroshima and Nagasaki were vaporized in atomic blasts. Ian W. Toll’s narratives of combat in the air, at sea, and on the beaches are as gripping as ever, but he also takes the reader into the halls of power in Washington and Tokyo, where the great questions of strategy and diplomacy were decided. Lionel Barber of the Financial Times chose the second volume of the series (The Conquering Tide) as the preemiment book of 2016, calling it “military history at its best.” Readers who have been waiting for the conclusion of Toll’s masterpiece will be thrilled by this final volume.


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Twilight of the Gods is a riveting account of the harrowing last year of World War II in the Pacific, when the U.S. Navy won the largest naval battle in history; Douglas MacArthur made good his pledge to return to the Philippines; waves of kamikazes attacked the Allied fleets; the Japanese fought to the last man on one island after another; B-29 bombers burned down Japanes Twilight of the Gods is a riveting account of the harrowing last year of World War II in the Pacific, when the U.S. Navy won the largest naval battle in history; Douglas MacArthur made good his pledge to return to the Philippines; waves of kamikazes attacked the Allied fleets; the Japanese fought to the last man on one island after another; B-29 bombers burned down Japanese cities; and Hiroshima and Nagasaki were vaporized in atomic blasts. Ian W. Toll’s narratives of combat in the air, at sea, and on the beaches are as gripping as ever, but he also takes the reader into the halls of power in Washington and Tokyo, where the great questions of strategy and diplomacy were decided. Lionel Barber of the Financial Times chose the second volume of the series (The Conquering Tide) as the preemiment book of 2016, calling it “military history at its best.” Readers who have been waiting for the conclusion of Toll’s masterpiece will be thrilled by this final volume.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alex Kershaw

    Just finished this fantastic book. The most readable and elegant and clear account of the last year of war in the Pacific and great climax to Toll's trilogy. Best history book of 2020 so far! Just finished this fantastic book. The most readable and elegant and clear account of the last year of war in the Pacific and great climax to Toll's trilogy. Best history book of 2020 so far!

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Eppenstein

    I have read the first to entries in this trilogy and gave them both 5 stars. This last addition to this history is no less deserving of the 5 stars but I am tempted to give it 3 or even 2 stars for the ordeal the author has presented me and the rest of his readers with. At just 8 pages short of 800 pages and with what seems like 10 pounds of weight this is definitely not a book for the casual reader and even the dedicated WWII buff will be challenged to finish this tome. However, if I have a cri I have read the first to entries in this trilogy and gave them both 5 stars. This last addition to this history is no less deserving of the 5 stars but I am tempted to give it 3 or even 2 stars for the ordeal the author has presented me and the rest of his readers with. At just 8 pages short of 800 pages and with what seems like 10 pounds of weight this is definitely not a book for the casual reader and even the dedicated WWII buff will be challenged to finish this tome. However, if I have a criticism it is that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I'm not sure that that is a valid criticism but 800 pages to cover one year of history does seem a bit much. The other two volumes were in the 500+ page category and at first view this book could be suspected of having been overdone. I suppose editing would be possible but I could not begin to suggest what should be cut. The book is thorough and then some and then even more. Just reading the 40 page prologue and the 47 page epilogue makes the price, time, and loss of leg circulation worth it. Reading this book was like trying to run a marathon at a sprinter's pace, exhausting but if successful quite an accomplishment. But what does the book contain that we haven't all read before? I am admittedly not terribly interested in WWII histories. That war has been done to death and to me since the sides were so clearly defined it was a clean and simple war of good vs evil. That being the case it lacked much of the complexities found in history that makes the reading enjoyable. Toll manages to hold the readers' attention as he fills this book with detail from the most mundane levels to the ultra secret behind the scenes murmurings of the highest levels. I mentioned the prologue and the epilogue of the book with good reason. The prologue contains a history of war time press relations that should be read by all journalism students. Toll discusses the press relationships of FDR and a great many of the military figures and service branches during the war. It would probably surprise our present, soon to be former, president that fake news is not a new invention and that he was hardly the sole victim of this practice. It was quite interesting to read how PR was used and how it evolved and then mandated during the war. The epilogue was incredible. Toll starts the summation of this work with a very moving quote from the diary of Anne Frank about hope for the future amid the horror and devastation of the present. It's a quote very timely for all of us right now. In his last pages Toll tells us about the final days of the war in Japan and how precarious the move to surrender was for the rational leaders of that country. We then learn of the immediate occupation and the challenges and the countless details that had to be addressed after the surrender. Post war life is also dealt with extensively. All the GIs that wanted to go home ASAP and the logistical, military, and political nightmare that was. Then there was the arrival home and the assimilation back into civilian life and what the war did to civilian life and especially to the role of women in society. These two sections of the book alone could have justified books in themselves. The prologue and epilogue amount to just under 100 pages and there were still about 700 pages left in the book to cover one year of the Pacific war and cover it Toll does. I have read other WWII histories of the Pacific War but none was as well presented as this one. Of course MacArthur comes off as he usually does in most of these histories as a vain and arrogant prima dona but the author is none too kind to Admiral Halsey either and details significant reasons to question his judgment and the consequences of that judgment. It appears Halsey was about to be sacked for poor judgment when the bombs were dropped and the war brought to a sooner than expected end. The end of the war saved Halsey's career but why he was promoted to 5 star rank later is not explained. What is explained is all the major campaigns that occurred in late 1944 into 1945 with the movements surrounding MacArthur's return to the Philippines rendered to a level of understanding that I have never experienced before. Maps are occasionally provided but more maps would have been better but what is in the book serves their purpose. Most war histories are overviews of the big picture involving the major political and military leaders or they are about the frontline combatant and the lives of the people that actually have to fight without having a clue as to what the big picture might be. This book gives you both views and doesn't skimp on any of it. This trilogy will probably be the standard against which other histories of this war will be measured as it is that good. Reading this book will be a challenge but it will be worth it. Enjoy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jim Cooper

    Been waiting for this one for a long time. This is the final installment of Ian Toll’s Pacific War trilogy, a military, political, and social history of the war between the United States and Japan. This ended up being my least favorite of the three books, and that’s not Toll’s fault - this book is incredibly interesting and very well-written, as always. It’s just that the first two books were so mind-blowing to me that there was no way for this one to surprise me as much. The battles at Peleliu Been waiting for this one for a long time. This is the final installment of Ian Toll’s Pacific War trilogy, a military, political, and social history of the war between the United States and Japan. This ended up being my least favorite of the three books, and that’s not Toll’s fault - this book is incredibly interesting and very well-written, as always. It’s just that the first two books were so mind-blowing to me that there was no way for this one to surprise me as much. The battles at Peleliu and Leyte Gulf were very similar to some of the battles that had happened before. Very interesting (especially Peleliu, with thousands of Japanese underground in caves waiting for American invaders who didn’t know they were there), but not astonishing. But on the other hand! The end of this book covers the very end of the war, and it’s as good as anything in the other two books. I thought I knew the story - kamikazes and the atomic bomb and Japan filled with millions of people ready to fight to the death to defend their country. But there was so much I didn’t know. Some of the great parts: - The rise of the B-29s and the aerial bombing of Japan. Everybody was kind of learning how to do it as they went. - The rise of kamikaze flights and the psychology behind it. - Part of what kept the average Japanese citizen believing they would win the war (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) was the 1944 US Presidential election. It was so rough and the country was so divided that it seemed to the Japanese like evidence of what they had thought about Americans all along - that they were depraved and soft and too divided to be able to win a war against them. - All of the atomic bomb stuff. The story of the Trinity test in the desert was great. Truman’s diary entries from this time lead you to believe that he believed that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were “purely military” targets. He definitely knew better, and it’s likely he was writing this to protect his image for historians. He knew how terrible and destructive it was going to be and how it would be judged. - The Hiroshima bombing mission went off without a hitch. The Nagasaki bombing mission was a hilarious disaster, the extent of which was apparently covered up until recently. - The Americans and Japanese each believing the other to be complete savages, then all of them finding out during the occupation of Japan that they actually really liked each other, and liked each other pretty much immediately. This was maybe the best part of the book. - How quickly American opinion about the war swung back to negative as soon as it was over. Within weeks of VJ Day Americans were protesting in front of the White House demanding that soldiers return home. Americans were also pretty much immediately wary of the bomb. The war didn’t end after the Nagasaki bomb, but the US knew they wouldn’t be able to drop another one because of public opinion. - What happens when the war ends and there are islands full of dead bodies and busted equipment? What do you do with all of it? The Graves Registration Service is something I’m going to have to read more about. Figuring out who was buried where and how to get them back to their hometown cemeteries is something I had never thought about. As always, Toll gives you the inside scoop from both the American and Japanese perspectives. Part of what made Pacific Crucible (the first book in this series) so good is that it gave you a look at what was happening in the Japanese government and society that made the war with the United States inevitable. In the end, those same factors (no clear leadership at the top, a weak monarch, an Army vs Navy rivalry, too much Army/Navy power in national decision making) made unraveling the war that much more difficult, and cost thousands of additional American and Japanese lives. Can’t wait to see what Toll tackles next! Notes: - Toll doesn’t really get into whether or not the atomic bombs were necessary to end the war, but here is an excellent 2016 op-ed from him on the subject - https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/i... - One of the unexpected outcomes of the Nagasaki bombing was the almost complete decimation of the Christian population of Japan. The country’s only large population of Christianity was in the city, and their community was ground zero. 10,000 Christians died.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stefania Dzhanamova

    As in the previous volumes, in Twilight of the Gods Ian W. Toll launches his narrative with a recap of the "what next" questions the key American commanders were faced with after a cruicial turning point: in this case, the conquest of the Marianas. The book begins with the July 1944 Honolulu meeting, where President FDR, a shrewd if evasive politico, General Douglas McArthur, a military genius with a massive ego, and Admiral Chester Nimitz conferred over two competing visions of how to win t As in the previous volumes, in Twilight of the Gods Ian W. Toll launches his narrative with a recap of the "what next" questions the key American commanders were faced with after a cruicial turning point: in this case, the conquest of the Marianas. The book begins with the July 1944 Honolulu meeting, where President FDR, a shrewd if evasive politico, General Douglas McArthur, a military genius with a massive ego, and Admiral Chester Nimitz conferred over two competing visions of how to win the war with Japan. Eventually, they decided to invade Japan by way of the Philippines rather than Formosa. By 1944, Japanese leaders knew victory was impossible, but also belived that they were inconquerable. Once Americans, whom they considered technically advanced but soft, realized every Japanese soldier, civillian, woman, and child would fight to death, they would lose heart and agree to a peace with compromise, reasoned they. Ironically, their plan partially worked: American military leaders were indeed convinced that the Japanese preferred death to surrender. Yet, instead of quailing, they simply proceeded with that in mind. As his story rolls through the brutal battles of Peleliu, the Philippine Islands, Luzon, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, Toll compellingly introduces the America's battle captains. Admiral Raymond Spruance, commander of the Fifth Fleet, an eccentric thinker who commissioned almost everything to his subordinates, did not fit in the convential mold of a wartime fleet commander. He was introverted, aloof, and monkish. On an average day at sea, he paced for three to four hours around the forecastle of Indianapolis dressed in a Hawaiian floral-print bathing suit, white socks, his regulation black leather shoes, and no shirt. Yet, Toll reveals, Spruance's insistence upon delegating authority down the line of command brought the best in his subordinates, and since the admiral's biography included spectacular victories at Midway and the Philippine Sea, FDR tolerated his eccentric behavior. Third Fleet's Admiral William Halsey, nicknamed "Bull" by the press, is depicted as an instantly likeable commander, who cemented his reputation with his victory at Leyete Gulf, the largest naval battle in world history. (The most effective submarines of the war, Toll narrates, were not Hitler's but America's, who crippled Japan's economy and sank myriad warships.) Halsey was rowdy, fun-loving four-star admiral, who laughed at jokes at his own expense and fired provocative verbal volleys against his enemy. His friendly relations with the press would save him from trouble on multiple occasions and eventually propel him to the rank of a five-star fleet admiral. Other not less interesting figures, whom Toll examines, are Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher, commander of 16-carrier kraken that ruled the Pacific in 1944, and John McCain, the Navy' pleasant air commander. Meanwhile, the author also presents graphic, unsettling descriptions of the brutal island-hopping invasions. On the wastelands of Peleliu, clouds of large greenish flies fed off the unburied dead and molested the living; there was no excape from the relentless artillery and mortal barrages. On Iwo Jima, the cave-dwelling Japanese defenders stepped around all the dead, who could not be burried, and the stench was unspeakable. On Okinawa, Kikuko Miyagi, a 16-year-old student, hid in a cave for two weeks together with many other Japanese soldiers and civillians. Then it was blown up by an American grenade, and while Kikuko was uninjured, many of her fellow students were mortally wounded. “I smelled blood," recounts she. "I thought instantly, 'They've just been hit!' We lived in darkness and sensed everything by smell. From below I heard my classmates’ voices, 'I don’t have a leg!' 'My hand’s gone!' At my teacher’s urging, I descended into a sea of blood. Nurses, soldiers, students killed instantly or severely injured, among them a friend of mine, Katsuko-san, with a wound in her thigh. 'Quick, Teacher, quick,' she was crying. 'It hurts!' I was struck dumb. There was no medicine left, and near me a senior student was desperately trying to push her intestines back into her stomach. 'I won’t make it,' she whispered, 'so please take care of other people first.' Then she stopped breathing.” Toll takes a short detour to the home front during the war's last year, accounting for the housing shortages in California, the dangers of flight training and the rancor of the 1944 election, providing insight into how Americans viewed the world of mass killing that was a world away. Toll's depiction of the enemy's front is just as insightful; he draws upon Japanese sources, describing the emperor's soldiers who were under direct orders, by officers with godlike authority, to execute every last man, woman, and child within their lines – many were even instructed to burn their victims alive. Throughout his whole narrative, Toll traces the evolution of weaponry from the big Essex-class aircraft carriers to the Hellcat fighter-bombers to the ultimate piece of the war's power game: the atomic bomb. Proximity fuses, doppler radars, air-dropped mines, and napalm all raise the current on modern warfare. What makes Twilight of the Gods special, however, is that – although it covers only one year – it is the longest and most morally complex volume. Toll argues that both sides tipped their hands in blood. He scrutinizes Japan's mass slaughters of civillians and refusal to surrender when the war was clearly lost, as well as American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Under his scrutiny fall also the Japanese employment of children in fire munition factories, the use of kamikaze attacks, and McArthur's publicity-driven ego in his decision to take over Manila. At the same time, Toll forbears from being over-judgemental. Twilight of the Gods is a great conclusion to the trilogy: vivid, well-researched, and full of intriguing details of the complex naval and air operations. Five stars.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Charles

    Military, political and social history of the Pacific theater of WWII, going from FDR’s third term election to the demobilization of the Pacific forces. I miraculously picked this book up in an independent book store while on vacation. (It’s not available on Amazon until November.) It was sitting on top of a pile of books by the cash register when I noticed it. It was a local library's order. I begged the store's owner to sell it to me. She phoned the librarian, who graciously said I could have i Military, political and social history of the Pacific theater of WWII, going from FDR’s third term election to the demobilization of the Pacific forces. I miraculously picked this book up in an independent book store while on vacation. (It’s not available on Amazon until November.) It was sitting on top of a pile of books by the cash register when I noticed it. It was a local library's order. I begged the store's owner to sell it to me. She phoned the librarian, who graciously said I could have it and she'd wait for a reorder. I donated US$10 to the library's store account for the favor. My dead tree, format hard back was a doorstopper of 972-pages which included footnotes and and index. It had a US 2020 copywrite. Ian W. Toll is an American author of military and political history. He is the author of four (4) non-fiction books. This book is the final volume in his Pacific War Trilogy. The last book of his I read was The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944 (my review). I have read all the author’s books. Firstly, it is not necessary to have read the previous books in the series, to be reading this book. However, I would strongly recommend it. The previous books will provide a greater context than reading this book standalone. It would also be helpful for a reader to have some background in mid-20th Century Military and Diplomatic history to fully appreciate this work. It is an intermediate-level text. This book was not a great work. It does have merit. It is part of the recent trend toward pro-sumer history. This is a category between truly popular histories and academic histories. This author’s work very closely follows the style of Rick Atkinson and his World War II Liberation Trilogy . Atkinson is the most popular of the recent crop of WWII writers in this market. This style of history takes a more feature journalistic approach to military and diplomatic history than a purely academic history. The history is a story. For example, the evocative descriptions of combat and the use of anecdotes have a greater Edu-tainment value than reading the more scholarly work of Samuel Eliot Morison whom Toll frequently quotes. This book was different from previous books in the series. It was more of a potpourri of Pacific War topics embedded into the chronological order of events in the larger military campaign's final year. It was as if Toll had almost an additional half-book of related material he wished to include, which did not 'fit' into the military history orientation of the original series. An example of this was the anecdotes on non-combatant Japanese home front life, that did not appear in previous books of the series. Another example was the Epilogue and the Prologue. I felt they could each have been divided to provide two or more Chapters by themselves? While most of these diversions were certainly interesting, I found myself wishing the author had stuck closer to his knitting of a military and organizational behavioral history of WWII in the western Pacific. Still this book and the series have merit. All of the books were very good at describing the Operational aspects of the campaign. The usage of maps was very good. Although, for ground operations, I found myself wanting greater topographical details. The author wrote very vivid descriptions of the combat. I have a deep and abiding interest in 19th and 20th Century naval history. I found his descriptions excellent. I personally would have appreciated him addressing the Strategic aspects of the campaign with the same vigor as the individual battles. In addition to being greatly entertained, I learned things about the land/sea/air war in the Pacific during WWII I didn't know. I also learned more about mid-20th Century organizational behavior of the IJN, IJA, USN (including Marines), USAAF, US Army, and both civil governments during the war than in several books put together. I do have more issues with this book than with previous books in the series. In particular: this continued to be an American history; the prose and organization of the final book was not as good as the first two books; it was not symmetric in the way it described what the author thought were the important aspects of the war; in its detail it left me with many questions. This series was very much an American history, and to a lessor extant there was a Japanese perspective. However, the preponderance of anecdotes, and excerpts from correspondence, diaries, histories and biographies was American. Where were ANZAC allies? They only mention them when their ships took battle damage or (earlier in the series) their women were co-opted by MacArthur’s soldiers, Marines and sailors. China was briefly discussed, but only in terms of being a base for strategic bombing. This book’s allied-avoidance extends to Great Britain’s fleet, who after the fall of Singapore is only mentioned again at Okinawa. In addition, Canada was a combatant in the Pacific theater. I don't recall a single mention of Canadian combat units? At least all the allies were mentioned aboard the Missouri in Tokyo Bay at the end of the book? I thought the narrative of this last book was not of the same caliber of the previous books. The series' writing has always been technically, very polished. It has also been refreshingly spare. However, there was more repetition in this volume than in the previous books. It was repetitive in both including and paraphrasing narrative from previous books in the series and in more obvious use of the author’s little darlings. For example, I’m certain the faulty Mk. 14 torpedoes issue was previously discussed in the rare submarine service narrative of the second book. An example of the other type of repetition was the, blue, lit exhaust Hellcat pilots followed in formation under zero-zero conditions. This phrase and others were used and re-used several times without alteration. Toll generally does a good job in describing the details of the air/sea/land battle. However, throughout the book he plays favorites with his tools of war. The author devoted the most text to aircraft and air war doctrine. Both American and Japanese naval aircraft were well-covered. American aircraft get the most discussion. The Navy Hellcat (F6F) fighter bomber and the USAAF B-29 Super Fortress heavy bomber received the most recognition. What about The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang or the F4U Corsair? The navy, particularly naval aviation was a favorite. The naval pilot training section was interesting, but what about AAF fighter pilot training? How did it differ? I note I was able to compare and contrast the brutal training of pre-war Japanese pilots from the description in the previous book. Amphibious and ground operations received the next most recognition. Although, the descriptions of combat were not particularly tech-heavy. Surface and subsurface naval craft and doctrine took up the rear. I note that the carriers were front and center as they should be. Although, I would have liked to know more about the fast Iowa battleships and mass-produced Gato fleet boats. I felt the use of naval radars and more sophisticated sonars miraculously appeared in the narrative. Finally, its an axiom of warfare that, Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics. The Fleet Logistical services took the 3rd/5th fleets to the home islands. The description of this effort was understated throughout the series. The fleet oilers, tenders, tugs, and provisioning ships were omnipresent in the naval narrative, but the organization that directed them was absent from the narrative. As I mentioned the descriptions of the combats were very vivid. However, they also assumed more context than was provided. Toll did not always provide the needed background to understand the narrative. In some places, I think he may have been guilty of exaggeration? A familiarity with naval architecture was implicit in many of Toll's shipboard narratives. For example, when describing the kamikaze damage to the BB New Mexico he made casual reference to "grates" along with 40mm and 20mm ammo. I had to study a diagram of the New Mexico class to realize they were smoke stack grates and unrelated to ammunition. A familiarity with different combat environments and their sometimes greatly different requirements was also implicit in the ground war descriptions. For example, in the battle for Manila. The US Army adapted to the unfamiliar, urban warfare very quickly without any previous experience and formal training. The MacArthur's Pacific theater Army and Marine formations had been jungle fighting for years. The Stalingrad-like European theater urban combat was seemingly outside of their training and experience. How did they master it so quickly? This might leave a reader skeptical of the Army's prowess going house-to-house and room-to-room in Manila? I have a particular interest in organizational behavior. Throughout the series Toll had a peculiar ability to point out a particular example of behavior, and then move right along leaving his observations unanswered. For example, in this book it was the breakdown of discipline in the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). I note the IJA did not receive as much attention as the IJN in the series' narrative. In WWII this breakdown lead to atrocities against civilians and mistreatment of prisoners. The Imperial Rescript to the Military of 1882 and the later Code of Battlefield Conduct (1941) forbid this behavior. The Japanese never signed the Geneva Convention for the treatment of prisoners in 1929. (Toll correctly cited all of these.) The IJA's discipline and behavior prior to The Rape of Nanking (1937) was exemplary. Toll describes it to have been better than some western powers. (I think he was describing the Russians?) How and why did a large, complex organization like the IJA change in the 1930's went unanswered. This book is a good follow-up to the second book. Although, I thought that it lacked the focus of the previous books in the trilogy. I personally thought the first book Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 (my review) to have been the best book in the series. However, despite the points I’ve made to the contrary, this was a ‘good read’. It should be of interest to anyone with a serious interest in the Pacific Theater of World War II. I can recommend the author’s Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U. S. Navy. This is the first book of the author’s which I read. I personally think it is his best. WWII history-wise, I recommend The Two-Ocean War by Morrison, which while a bit dated, is an excellent single volume history of the US Navy in WWII.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Porter Broyles

    I was a little concerned when I started this book. Ian Toll is one of my favorite authors on Naval History, but the book started off with a stronger political stance than his other books. He spoke about FDR and Truman. He discussed how FDR fought of "fake news" to use a modern term. How the press treated him unfairly---in a lot of ways drawing parallels between Trump and FDR. But this was pretty much just in the introductory section. Based upon my previous reading of Toll's books, I gave him the I was a little concerned when I started this book. Ian Toll is one of my favorite authors on Naval History, but the book started off with a stronger political stance than his other books. He spoke about FDR and Truman. He discussed how FDR fought of "fake news" to use a modern term. How the press treated him unfairly---in a lot of ways drawing parallels between Trump and FDR. But this was pretty much just in the introductory section. Based upon my previous reading of Toll's books, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and I am glad that I did so. This turned out to be the best history I've read in 2020. I have to think that this book, published shortly after the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, has to be in consideration for a Pulitzer. The book is well written by an author who has a tremendous track record. Will it win? Probably not, but it would not surprise me to learn that this book is a finalist. Toll knows how to tell a story. He particularly knows how to tell stories involving naval combat. If you want to learn about the Pacific Theater of Operations, Toll's trilogy is an excellent place to start!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Justin Matthews

    It's hard for me to describe how much I enjoyed not only this concluding volume, but the trilogy. The author's ability to rebuild the world of his subject is really remarkable. And the way he tells the story: so movingly, so beautifully—I just loved it from start to finish. And odd as it may sound, the last sentence of this last book is probably the best last sentence I've read in any book, ever. It actually brought tears to my eyes. (Special thanks to Jim Cooper for his review of this volume, w It's hard for me to describe how much I enjoyed not only this concluding volume, but the trilogy. The author's ability to rebuild the world of his subject is really remarkable. And the way he tells the story: so movingly, so beautifully—I just loved it from start to finish. And odd as it may sound, the last sentence of this last book is probably the best last sentence I've read in any book, ever. It actually brought tears to my eyes. (Special thanks to Jim Cooper for his review of this volume, which led me to pick up the series. I'm so glad I did.)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nooilforpacifists

    Review to come, but this final volume of the trilogy is as good as Volume 1.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    Twilight of the Gods closes out Toll's trilogy on the Pacific War with brutal 18 months of the war. With the comprehensive defeat of Japanese airpower at the Battle of the Phillipine Sea and invasion of Saipan, the war entered a terrible stage of attrition. Japan's defeat was inevitable, but the confused decision making apparatus in Tokyo was incapable of recognizing the fact, and that Roosevelt's 'unconditional surrender' terms were the best deal obtainable. Instead, Imperial Japan embarked on Twilight of the Gods closes out Toll's trilogy on the Pacific War with brutal 18 months of the war. With the comprehensive defeat of Japanese airpower at the Battle of the Phillipine Sea and invasion of Saipan, the war entered a terrible stage of attrition. Japan's defeat was inevitable, but the confused decision making apparatus in Tokyo was incapable of recognizing the fact, and that Roosevelt's 'unconditional surrender' terms were the best deal obtainable. Instead, Imperial Japan embarked on a strategy of attrition, of gyokusai (literally "shattered jewels") attacks with kamikaze suicide craft, and intricate systems of underground defenses. Perhaps the defenders could exact such an intolerable cost that America would sue for peace, rather than send men to die on more forsaken Pacific islands. Perhaps another miracle would step in to save Japan, as it had in history. To get to Tokyo, the Allied military had to seize three final islands. Recapturing the Philippines was an obsession for General MacArthur, but Admirals Nimitz and King agreed that Leyte and Luzon offered more favorable circumstance than Formosa, where mountains would impede mass attacks. The landing at Leyte saw one last throw of the dice by the Imperial Japanese Navy, which came within the barest margin of success. Admiral Halsey, in command of the US 3rd Fleet, was lured away in pursuit of the Japanese carriers, now neutered with the skilled pilots of the Kido Butai mostly dead. This left the San Bernadino straits open for a surface dash by a heavy fleet built around the superbattleship Yamato, an attack which was only parried due to the heroism of Admiral Sprague's Taffy 3 escort group. Bold torpedo attacks and a moment of irresolution by Admiral Takeo Kurita saved the cargo fleet and troops on shore when the Yamato and its escorts turned back, its mission unfulfilled. The Phillipines still had to be taken, of course, but the islands were big enough for MacArthur to launch sweeping flanking attacks with the aid of further amphibious landings. Manila was a foretaste of what was to come. The Japanese fortified the Intramuros old town and unleashed an orgy of violence on the civilian population. Intramuros was comprehensively destroyed in urban warfare at immense human cost. Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the battles to come, would be even worse. Those islands were small enough that the Japanese army could fortify every bit of high ground, creating a system of interlocking bunkers and tunnels essentially immune to bombardment. These islands were taken in a series of grinding frontal attacks with heavy casualties on the American side, and total annihilations on the Japanese side. For the Navy, constant kamikaze attacks introduced a new form of dread. It required minimal flying skills to dive at a ship, at least compared to the intricacies of a torpedo attack, and every defense had to be perfect. Japanese sources consistently over-estimated the success of kamikazes, and while they rarely sunk larger ships, a successful attack could kill dozens or hundreds of sailors. Carriers packed full of aviation fuel and munitions were especially vulnerable, and the Third/Fifth Fleet (the number switched when Halsey or Spruance took command) had to send units back for massive repairs. The end of the war is inseparable from the B-29 strategic bombing campaign and the choice to use the atomic bomb. The initial stratospheric raids with the B-29 were ineffective, with the poorly understood jetstream scattering bombs. USAAF staff had concluded Japanese cities were extremely vulnerable to fire, and in a series of maximum effort blows, Curtis Le May's bombers burnt down six cities in as many raids, completely exhausting the stock of incendiary bombs in the theater. Aerial mining and a series of raids by the fleet carriers dealt further blows to the faltering Japanese war economy. The US submarine fleet was essentially withdrawn due to lack of targets. The first invasion, codenamed CORONET, was scheduled for November 1, 1945. All involved expected it to be Okinawa on a much more massive scale. In Toll's estimation, there was no explicit decision to use the atomic bomb. It had been built, and it might end the war. American principles, such as President Truman, were involved with the Potsdam conference and the fate of Europe. One of Truman's overriding concerns was ending the war without massive Soviet involvement, which would strengthen their postwar position in the Far East. And while he would grow into the office, in the first few months Truman lacked the self-confidence to fundamentally alter FDR's plans, even if he had disagreed with using the atomic bomb. Toll delves deeply into the confusing issue around the Japanese surrender. The key barrier was that the formula of unconditional surrender might include the end of the monarchy, and the emperor had a divine status. Militarist leaders who had lead Japan to war had their own lives at stake, and many of them either committed suicide or were executed for war crimes by postwar tribunals, but the future status of the Emperor appeared to be the key issue. In the months prior to the invasion, Japan sent out tentative peace feelers through neutral countries, but they pinned their hopes on a Soviet-mediated peace, and Stalin and Molotov deliberated delayed negotiations in favor of a Soviet military resolution in Manchuria. Worse, the consensus style of Japanese decision making at the upper echelons of power was incapable of reacting quickly, or breaking deadlocks. The central council broke evenly on surrender versus national suicide in the face of American power, and in the end only the personal intervention of Hirohito resolved the deadlock in favor of peace, though by then it was too late for the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As always, Toll is a master of naval history. His careful step through the chronology illuminates the pressure that decision-makers were under, and the brutality of the end of the war. This chronology is aided by deep dives into specific topics: press censorship, pilot training, the Japanese home front. In some details, this final volume is a step back in terms of the precision of the writing. Toll has some favored phrases (blue tail pipes, violet dawn, Admiral Turner's drinking) that are overused. And his description of land battle lacks the comprehensive quality of his writing on war at sea. But hey, the whole trilogy is over 1500 pages, and on a subject nearly as vast as the sea itself. As a whole, this is a new standard for excellence in military history.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Casey

    A good book, the final in Ian Toll’s great trilogy on the conflict between Japan and America in WWII. This book covers an immense amount of material, from the Pearl Harbor conference in July 1944 through to the final disposition of men and material after the war’s conclusion. In between the major engagements at Leyte Gulf, Manilla, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa are described in detail. Also covered are the two important parallel campaigns: the US Navy’s use of submarines to cut off the Japanese islands A good book, the final in Ian Toll’s great trilogy on the conflict between Japan and America in WWII. This book covers an immense amount of material, from the Pearl Harbor conference in July 1944 through to the final disposition of men and material after the war’s conclusion. In between the major engagements at Leyte Gulf, Manilla, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa are described in detail. Also covered are the two important parallel campaigns: the US Navy’s use of submarines to cut off the Japanese islands and the slow but steady build up of a US Army Air Force strategic bombing capability against those islands. Chapters on the home fronts, war production, and other ancillary efforts round up the impressive presentation. As with his other writings, Toll is able to both tell the larger strategic story and portray the circumstances of the individuals caught up in these campaigns. The theme of a steady materially-heavy American advance against an ever weaker but still resistant Japan is consistent with the general understanding. But the author is able to describe the many nuances, peeling back layers so that the reader better understands the forces acting on the various belligerents. No punches are pulled, with all the major leaders having both their accomplishments and failures covered in detail. The one detriment to the book is its length. It’s just too much information for a single popular history. There are some “other stories,” namely the conflicts in Southwest Asia and China, that are barely mentioned; probably due to the need to cut down on presented material. But the book still stands above other final works in a trilogy or other series, it doesn’t feel rushed and has the right pace right up to the end. A must-read for anyone wanting to learn more about the last great clash between two major sea powers. Highly recommended for all those interested in World War II.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    This is the sort of book where I wish that the author had put the time and effort to name his chapters with the material covered. It is all well and good to cover a wide variety of topics concerning the last year in the war, and the author covers the material well, but it is a great benefit to the book reviewer when the material of the book is listed openly in the table of contents. Be that as it may, this particular book begins with a confession on the part of the author about how long it took This is the sort of book where I wish that the author had put the time and effort to name his chapters with the material covered. It is all well and good to cover a wide variety of topics concerning the last year in the war, and the author covers the material well, but it is a great benefit to the book reviewer when the material of the book is listed openly in the table of contents. Be that as it may, this particular book begins with a confession on the part of the author about how long it took for him to write this book, and as the book ended up being 800 pages or so, it is no surprise that the book took so long, or that it went down so many rabbit holes involving politics, Japanese and American especially. This material is deeply interesting and suggests at least some of the struggles that were faced by the United States in turning its obvious military advantage into a decisive victory in the war itself, namely the way that the Japanese civilians had to be convinced that as brutal as the Americans fought--especially when it came to strategic bombing--that they were not monsters invent on rape and torture of prisoners. Were it not for the excessive Japanese regard for face and their own checkered record of war atrocities, it is possible that Japan would have been defeated with a lot less violence involved, but it was not possible. This book is a massive one, but in reading it, it makes complete sense why. There is a discussion of censoring and the struggle for the Navy to convey an understanding of its war effort in the Pacific when dealing with the personal magnetism of MacArthur and the interests of the army. There is detailed discussion of a variety of campaigns, including the conquest of the Marianas Islands, the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinowa. there is a look at the logistics of World War II and the submarine warfare against Japan, as well as a look at why it was that Formosa was not invaded. The author explores the tactics of battles, the larger strategy, what Allied efforts may or may not have been useful (giving a good reason why Iwo Jima was a worthwhile island to invade because of how it helped preserve the lives of many pilots returning from bombing runs). In its discussion of the American, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian perspectives, and giving attention to everything from the Manhattan Project to obscure conferences in Japan and Pearl Harbor, this book is a worthy one to read about the end of World War II, even if it makes for somewhat gloomy reading. In reading this book there is a sense of great loss about it. Not only is there the concern about which attacks were worthwhile and which may not have been, but there is the immense destruction of ships, planes, airplanes, submarines, cities laid waste by fire, civilians and troops committing mass suicide because it costs too much face to surrender, and Japan's casual lack of interest in the well-being of their bravest and most able military men. It is a great shame that things happened as they did, and though the emperor of Japan was able to keep his throne, a great many of his loyal servants in the military were sacrificed so that end could happen, and so that Japan could find a way forward from miltarism and the threat of destruction. And even that was a near-run thing as Japan's emperor had to hide out from a threatened coup that nearly derailed Japan's efforts at securing a conditional surrender, albeit barely.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Peter Sidell

    As with the two prior volumes I felt I was experiencing the Pacific war through the eyes of the Americans and the Japanese. The brutality and otherworldliness of the fighting seemed more immediate. It certainly Leaves the reader with a sense of the horror of war. One can't look at a successful war as a grand thing US naval and air superiority means there is never any doubt that Japan will lose the war. The Japanese challenge is reconciling its defeat with its national character. The brutality of As with the two prior volumes I felt I was experiencing the Pacific war through the eyes of the Americans and the Japanese. The brutality and otherworldliness of the fighting seemed more immediate. It certainly Leaves the reader with a sense of the horror of war. One can't look at a successful war as a grand thing US naval and air superiority means there is never any doubt that Japan will lose the war. The Japanese challenge is reconciling its defeat with its national character. The brutality of the amphibious landings on Iwo Jima and Okinawa show how terrible the battles were for both sides. Clearly the American population advantage and industrial capacity make the outcome inevitable but the Japanese character makes its surrender difficult even after the atomic bombs. Even the emperor's decision to surrender was meet with a threatened coup. Neither MacArthur or Halsey comes off without character flaws. The book ends with the return of the American veterans. They faced challenges getting home and greater challenges when home. Clearly the war changed America in ways never expected. Woman experienced more freedom and we're often unwilling to return to their former roles. Ultimately that post war freedom and the introduction of the pill in the sixties gave birth to contemporary feminism. The returning Black soldiers faced special challenges. The equality they had experienced at war was often rescinded when they returned home. The struggle for a colorblind society is an ongoing challenge. I found the book thought provoking and I appreciate the time and effort poured into it by the author.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David Shaffer

    Finished Twilight of The Gods. Twilight of The Gods, was the excellent end of Ian Toll’s Trilogy on the war in the Pacific. Ian Toll seamlessly weaves together the story of the war from 1944-1945 in the Pacific from the perspective of Army, Navy, Marines and Army Air Corp. The perspectives vary from world leaders, Washington leadership, members of the JCS ( Marshall, King and Arnold), theatre commanders such as Nimitz and MacArthur, Fleet commanders like Spruance and Halsey, army, Corp and divisi Finished Twilight of The Gods. Twilight of The Gods, was the excellent end of Ian Toll’s Trilogy on the war in the Pacific. Ian Toll seamlessly weaves together the story of the war from 1944-1945 in the Pacific from the perspective of Army, Navy, Marines and Army Air Corp. The perspectives vary from world leaders, Washington leadership, members of the JCS ( Marshall, King and Arnold), theatre commanders such as Nimitz and MacArthur, Fleet commanders like Spruance and Halsey, army, Corp and division commanders like General Walter Krueger, General Robert Eichelberger, Chesty Puller and the common marine soldier and seaman. The story varies from Naval encounters such as Leyte Gulf, land engagement e.g. Guadalcanal, Tinian, Iwo Jima, Okinawa. The evolution of sub warfare with the likes of Admiral Charles Lockwood, commander Mush Morton, the evolution of the Wolfpack. Strategic bombing under General Curtis LeMay, the fire bombing of Tokyo and the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Toll also doesn’t neglect Japanese leadership, Hirohito, army and naval leadership and the common soldier seaman and citizen. The best of a great trilogy and a must read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    "Twilight of the Gods" is author Ian Toll's final book of a trilogy about World War II in the Pacific. The first two, "Pacific Crucible" and "The Conquering Tide" were terrific and so is this one. I think these works will be considered as defining accounts of the WW II Pacific campaign. Ian Toll is one of my favorite (and I think one of the best ever) naval historians. It took him well over a decade to produce these works and it shows in the quality of his research, understanding of the big and "Twilight of the Gods" is author Ian Toll's final book of a trilogy about World War II in the Pacific. The first two, "Pacific Crucible" and "The Conquering Tide" were terrific and so is this one. I think these works will be considered as defining accounts of the WW II Pacific campaign. Ian Toll is one of my favorite (and I think one of the best ever) naval historians. It took him well over a decade to produce these works and it shows in the quality of his research, understanding of the big and little picture, and his writing. They are roughly divided into equal time periods of the war from 1941 to 45 with some prior period background information as well as quick looks at the post war period. Make no mistake, tackling this trilogy is no quick task (a total of 2288 pages). But if you are interested in this history, you should not pass up this challenge! Highly recommended.

  15. 5 out of 5

    John

    A very readable look at the Pacific War in its final two years. Toll does an excellent job of bringing to life some of the key commanders, including MacArthur, Nimitz, Halsey, and Spruance. Who would know that Admiral Spruance brewed his own coffee from Kona beans? That said, Toll is on sure footing when he discusses naval strategy and tactics. This is a pretty lengthy book and I would recommend it primarily to those with an interest in naval history.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mike Warren

    The final year of World War II was truly a watershed moment in world history. The course for much of what happened in the rest of the 20th century was set on battlefields and diplomatic summits that took place in the last half of 1944 and the first half of 1945, and much of our modern world was shaped by those events. For better or worse, we live in a world that was forged in places like Yalta, Potsdam, Okinawa and Hiroshima. Twilight of the Gods is the third and final volume of Ian Toll’s outst The final year of World War II was truly a watershed moment in world history. The course for much of what happened in the rest of the 20th century was set on battlefields and diplomatic summits that took place in the last half of 1944 and the first half of 1945, and much of our modern world was shaped by those events. For better or worse, we live in a world that was forged in places like Yalta, Potsdam, Okinawa and Hiroshima. Twilight of the Gods is the third and final volume of Ian Toll’s outstanding trilogy of the Pacific War. It covers events beginning with Roosevelt’s Pacific Strategy Conference in July 1944 at Pearl Harbor and concluding with the occupation of Japan by Allied troops in August and September of 1945. Like the first two installments of the series, this is primarily a military history of the Pacific War with occasional digressions on topics such as politics, industry, wartime technology and pop culture. Also, as with the first two installments, Toll tells the story from both the Japanese and the American perspectives. Toll covers all the major battles in the Pacific during this period, and he mostly tells the story from the perspective of the 5th Fleet and Task Force 58. (Confusingly, both the name of the fleet and the task force changed depending on who was in command at the time. Thus, the 5th Fleet was also known as the 3rd Fleet, and Task Force 58 was also known as Task Force 38.) The unimaginatively named Task Force 58 was arguably the most powerful military force in the history of warfare. It was a fast carrier task force comprised of 17 carriers, 6 battleships, 13 cruisers, 58 destroyers and 1,100 aircraft. However, it was mobility rather than size that made Task Force 58 so formidable. By the middle of 1944, the Pacific Fleet had perfected logistical operations to the point that its carrier task force was able to refuel and resupply practically anywhere and with only a brief pause in combat operations. That allowed Bill Halsey and Raymond Spruance, the admirals who alternated command of the “big blue fleet,” to deploy wherever they were needed and, once there, to attack the enemy, either at sea or on land, with heavy artillery and swarming aircraft. The impact of Task Force 58/38 on the outcome of the Pacific War simply can’t be overstated. Despite its impressive capabilities, however, Task Force 58 couldn’t launch heavy bombers, and the American military had invested a great deal of money and strategic planning in the development of the B-29 bomber. The B-29 was intended to inflict heavy damage on the Japanese home islands, but it required land-based air strips, and the existing air strips in Tinian and Guam were so far away from Japan that pilots frequently ran out of fuel on the return trip. To remedy this logistical problem, the American military set its sights on a prospective way station in the Bonin Islands, an occupied 8-square-mile island called Iwo Jima. Iwo Jima was, and is, little more than steaming volcanic rock, and its landscape is hellish even without the brutality of war, but the Japanese had expanded and fortified the island's natural network of caves to create a nearly impenetrable defense. The five-week battle for Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest battles of World War II, and its reputation as one of the most heroic efforts ever waged by the American military is well deserved. Here, the author does an excellent job explaining the challenges and tactics of the battle, and, by relying heavily on the accounts of individual soldiers and Marines, he brings the battle to life. From there, the battlefield shifted to the much larger island of Okinawa, but the story of this battle is very similar to the battle of Iwo Jima, a well-entrenched and stubborn enemy force that simply refused to yield. However, in this case the battle dragged on for nearly three months with a much higher casualty rate. The author also does a good job of explaining how these battle-scarred islands were turned into world-class military bases, and it is hard not to be impressed with the efforts of the Navy Seabees. They would frequently begin repairing airstrips and rebuilding bridges while still in range of enemy artillery, and by the time the battle was won the island was already well on its way to becoming a functional military base complete with recreational facilities. The B-29 had been at the center of American plans for bombing raids on the Japanese home islands, and that aircraft ultimately served as the courier for the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those fateful flights and their political and human toll are well documented by the author. To his credit, he tells this part of the story as a dispassionate journalist, and it is left to the reader to sort out the moral implications of dropping the bombs. The author also lets the facts speak for themselves when discussing the military leaders of the Pacific War, and the two leaders who don't withstand careful scrutiny are Douglas MacArthur and Bill Halsey. Both men were adept at promoting themselves, and, ultimately, this is what prevented them from losing their wartime commands. At one point, King and Nimitz considered relieving Halsey of his command at the same time he was on the cover of the current issue of Time Magazine. On three occasions, Halsey's competence was called into question, but he kept his command because his superiors recognized that it would be a public relations fiasco to demote a war hero. Halsey's biggest blunder occurred during the Battle of Leyte Gulf when he carelessly neglected to protect his flank. The reader would be more inclined to forgive this mistake if not for Halsey's lifelong refusal to acknowledge it. Every leader makes mistakes, but true leaders recognize and admit their mistakes. Halsey fails that test. After reading the first two volumes, I developed high expectations for the final volume, and the author met my expectations. While it could be read as a stand-alone work, I strongly recommend reading the first two installments first. It is only by reading all three books that the reader will be able to appreciate the remarkable advances that the American military was able to achieve in fewer than four years.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gregory Koster

    I've waited quite some time for TWILIGHT OF THE GODS, the conclusion of Toll's Pacific War Trilogy. The wait was sort of worth it. Toll made his reputation as a naval historian. But the 1944-45 Pacific War was progressively less naval, and more air. Since Toll is writing about the Pacific War, this was inevitable. But it makes TWILIGHT a good deal less satisfying than the first two books PACIFIC CRUCIBLE and THE CONQUERING TIDE. The first two books were dominated by the naval war, Toll's strengt I've waited quite some time for TWILIGHT OF THE GODS, the conclusion of Toll's Pacific War Trilogy. The wait was sort of worth it. Toll made his reputation as a naval historian. But the 1944-45 Pacific War was progressively less naval, and more air. Since Toll is writing about the Pacific War, this was inevitable. But it makes TWILIGHT a good deal less satisfying than the first two books PACIFIC CRUCIBLE and THE CONQUERING TIDE. The first two books were dominated by the naval war, Toll's strength. But as the war approached Japan, the air, and to a lesser extent, the land war take over. Inevitably, the decision to drop the atomic bomb makes its appearance, with the usual defenses against liberal bigotry that sees the atomic bombing of Japan as a convenient tool with which to attack America's reputation. Give him credit: Toll does a splendid job in showing how close to civil war Japan came in finally deciding to surrender. The notion that Japan was on the the verge of surrender, and hence the atomic bombing was unnecessary is debunked yet again. Not that the debunking will stick. The atomic bombing of Japan is far too useful a tool to the Left of the world to be abandoned by mere truth. A case can be made that the atomic bombing was a mistake, but such speculations would draw the book even farther from naval warfare. Oh all right, the atomic bombing may have been a mistake because it guaranteed a nuclear arms race. The soldiers, like Paul Fussell, who 'thanked God for the atomic bomb' told of their joy at being spared an invasion of the home islands of Japan in 1945-46. But they never said how the viewed their television sets at 8 PM on 22 October 62, as John Kennedy's image faded and the realization that the bomb they believed had saved their lives in 1945, was now in sight of demanding their lives in 1962. Was the 17 years extra life worth it? Happily, they and we, were spared paying that price. But the argument remains: if the US had refrained from dropping the bomb in 1945, or even from testing it, would Stalin have built his own? It's true, the American-British program was infested with spies, who could, and did, report on what the Americans/British were trying to do. But without the actual mushroom cloud, sweeping all skepticism before it, would Stalin have spent the billions building something that might not have worked? Tempting as this vision is, it was never likely. Truman would have had to refrain from using the bomb for the sake of a future that did not exist unless he decided not to use the bomb. This also would have meant that men would have had to die in 1945 who otherwise would have lived. Would public opinion have stood for it? Doubtful. Spending $2 billion also creates its own momentum toward use. Nor would Stalin's invasion of Eastern Europe have helped keep the bomb secret. No, once created, the bomb would have been used, short of the war ending in 1944, never a likely prospect. Back to Toll's strength. There's only one real battle in the book, the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Toll does a fine job in stripping away Halsey's mean-spirited attempts to duck out of blame for his idiotic abandoning of his post. There's no doubt that Halsey did great service to America in 1942-43. But by 1944 modern naval warfare was too much for him, as the battle showed. Spruance had showed in the Battle of the Philippine Sea that the 1942 cardinal rule of carrier warfare---whoever locates the enemy first has the advantage---no longer applied. American fighter defense had grown and improved to the extent that Japan's best efforts could not disable the American carrier force. Nor did Halsey accept that any American invasion of the Philippines would force the Japanese carrier fleet to seek out the American fleet. Staying put at San Bernardino Strait would have either forced the Japanese carriers to come to Halsey, or to slink away, confessing impotence. But the swashbuckler of 1942 could not see past destroying what was left of the Japanese fleet, and oh, yes, showing that he was as good a carrier admiral as Spruance. The best part of the book is the account of the development of the divine wind. While it never had the possibility of defeating the American Navy, it did exact an appalling price. Had the war been forced to an invasion of the home islands, the price would have been high. Spruance would have faced his greatest test. Fortunately, the Allies were spared that. TWILIGHT is a Goodread. But it is a dying fall after the first two volumes. A better book is James Hornfischer's THE FLEET AT FLOOD TIDE. Read them both and see.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Urey Patrick

    This is a masterful work – a brilliant and engrossing examination of the last two years of the war in the Pacific, ranging in perspective from the intensely personal experiences of individuals to the broad strategic and tactical issues, conflicts and considerations. This is the final volume in Toll’s trilogy of the war in the Pacific, and he has surpassed his efforts in the previous two volumes. Toll takes the reader into the high level commands, introduces the reader to the people and personali This is a masterful work – a brilliant and engrossing examination of the last two years of the war in the Pacific, ranging in perspective from the intensely personal experiences of individuals to the broad strategic and tactical issues, conflicts and considerations. This is the final volume in Toll’s trilogy of the war in the Pacific, and he has surpassed his efforts in the previous two volumes. Toll takes the reader into the high level commands, introduces the reader to the people and personalities involved with cogent observations about them, their strengths and weaknesses and the effects on the war they had. He illuminates the paradox that was MacArthur – an occasionally brilliant, often obstructive, and ever-narcissistic command obstacle that ad to be constantly dealt with; the conundrum that was Halsey – a brilliant leader but mediocre (at best) commander who garnered honors out of proportion to his actions, unlike Spruance who was the reverse – a quietly brilliant, reliable and super effective competent leader/commander who was never adequately recognized for his contributions to the Allied victory. Toll describes Japanese leaders and commanders, the destructive inter-service rivalry between the Japanese army and navy, the arcane and inefficient operation of the government institutions that prevented earlier resolution of the war, the underlying motivations for the suicide attacks and the eagerness of so many to participate. Japanese cultural and societal influences and the effects on the Japanese war effort are elucidated, and juxtaposed against Japanese cultural and societal factors prior to the pre-war militaristic evolution of Japanese government and society. Interspersed throughout this grand overview Toll offers revelatory anecdotes that personalize aspects of the war. To cite just two examples (and thus avoid spoiling the reading experience for would-be readers), during the Okinawa invasion, Spruance’s flagship was the battleship USS New Mexico. She came under kamikaze attack one morning and a kamikaze successfully crashed her topsides. In the aftermath, Spruance’s staff could not find him – he was not in his quarters, he was not on the flag bridge and they were frantic because the impact area of the kamikaze was on his route from quarters to bridge. They finally located him – manning a fire hose with a damage control party... a four-star damage control hose handler! That was vintage Spruance. The second example involved a Japanese air attack on a B29 airfield on Tinian after the successful liberation of the Marianas. The Zero expended all of its ammunition strafing B29’s on the ground, then circled around and landed on the air strip. The pilot exited his Zero with a handgun and engaged the security troops in a brief gun battle before being shot down. Toll has a knack for finding and including anecdotal episodes such as this that are illustrative and compelling. The book is full of them. In between the grand overviews and the personalized anecdotal level stories, Toll excels at thorough but concise historical narratives of the events of the war as they occur – the invasions of Peleliu, the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The five battles in and around Leyte Gulf that collectively are known as the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The effort behind the atomic bombs and their deployment against Japan (the attack on Nagasaki nearly ended in disaster for the crews... a fact not revealed until decades after the war). The effects of the war on home populations. Toll has a wonderful ability to put the reader in the event and make it come alive. His description of the Iwo Jima campaign is searing in the mind. And so much more – the book is one of those that I would find hard to put down for the night, and then could not wait to pick it up again the next night to resume. You would think that after all these years and all the histories that have been written about the war in the Pacific, there would be precious little new or fresh that could be said... you would be wrong.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Peter Goodman

    “Twilight of the Gods: War in the western Pacific, 1944-1945,” by Ian Toll (Norton, 2020). This is the final volume of Toll’s magnificent Pacific War trilogy. I really enjoy both his writing style and the deep detail of the story. He spends more time dealing with the politics of what was happening than most other historians. His account opens with descriptions of the ways FDR dealt with the press, his trip to the West Coast, his meeting with MacArthur, and the important strategic decisions that “Twilight of the Gods: War in the western Pacific, 1944-1945,” by Ian Toll (Norton, 2020). This is the final volume of Toll’s magnificent Pacific War trilogy. I really enjoy both his writing style and the deep detail of the story. He spends more time dealing with the politics of what was happening than most other historians. His account opens with descriptions of the ways FDR dealt with the press, his trip to the West Coast, his meeting with MacArthur, and the important strategic decisions that had to be made: go to the Philippines first, or Formosa? Luzon or Mindanao? As usual, MacArthur is a continuing problem, with his bluster, hyperbole, narcissism, and determination always to be the most important person around. It is interesting to read how MacArthur worked hard to get the presidential nomination in 1944, all the while denying he had any interest in the office. Also not new, but reported with fascinating detail, is the contrast between Spruance and Halsey. Spruance was tight-lipped, careful, and infuriated his staff and many others in the Navy when he refused to chase after the Japanese fleet after the Marianas Turkey Shoot. Halsey, on the other hand, was boastful, aggressive, beloved by his sailors, but also more lax, more willing to let details go---and ultimately fooled by the Japanese to chase the decoy fleet of plainless carriers during the Leyte battles, thus leaving San Bernardino Strait open for the main Japanese column of battleships to charge right into the lightly armed invasion task groups. This was one of several occasions when the top brass seriously considered kicking Halsey out (another was his poor handling of the fleet during the great typhoons—not once, but twice). Some of this is familiar, but Toll also spends a good deal of time describing the American fleet, especially the huge Task Force 38/58 (depending on whether Halsey or Spruance was commanding). He emphasizes the enormous size of the force—the British Pacific Fleet, when it arrived, was merely the size of one of the American task groups. Also, by 1944, the Americans had operations down pat. They were superbly organized and prepared, while the Japanese continued to deteriorate. Regarding the decisions to use the bomb, Toll makes it clear that there was little real debate, once the Trinity test showed that the device actually worked. (Truman was in the dark not only about plans for the atomic bomb, but also about the actual state of the war.) His description of the struggle within the Japanese government about whether to surrender is actually suspenseful. The peace and war forces were evenly matched; it took the emperor to make the final decision---and even then there were powerful forces within the military that wanted to resist. There was an attempted coup; there was a military assault on the palace; and it was the bomb, especially the second one, that drove Hirohito to surrender. Toll also spends important time on both the American and Japanese home fronts. The Americans were already slowing down war production; what would happen to all the men returning home? How would the women who had gotten used to the independence of working adjust to returning to domestic life? How about all those quickie war marriages? (The divorce rate shot up for several years after VJ Day.) Wonderful book. https://www.ianwtoll.com/

  20. 4 out of 5

    Steven Hull

    This is the third volume of Tolls three volume history of World War II in the Pacific. Like the other two volumes, it is well researched, well written, and enjoyable to read. Of course there is no shortage of books regarding World War II in the Pacific and much of the ground Toll covers has been described many times before. However in the seventy-five years since the war ended several generations of authors have come and gone and with time has come more objectivity, at least on Tolls’s part. He This is the third volume of Tolls three volume history of World War II in the Pacific. Like the other two volumes, it is well researched, well written, and enjoyable to read. Of course there is no shortage of books regarding World War II in the Pacific and much of the ground Toll covers has been described many times before. However in the seventy-five years since the war ended several generations of authors have come and gone and with time has come more objectivity, at least on Tolls’s part. He benefits from the latest research, and is beholding to no one living or dead that might have influenced his approach. There are many highlights in the book. Toll matter of factly describes MacArthur’s quirks and weaknesses. He was a publicity hound. He controlled press access to his theater of the war as well as the story lines. While often brilliant, he was also obstructive, vain and ignorant of the Navy’s perspective of what the final dash to victory should be (the Navy might deserve similar criticism regarding their understanding of the Army’s perspective). Toll’s characterization of two Navy icons was similarly unvarnished. Bull Halsey, an anchor of strength and nerve during the early days of the war, showed why he was not the best frontline fleet commander in the war’s final days. He is rightly criticized for abandoning the Leyte Gulf landing beaches to possible destruction by a Japanese surface force. Fortunately he was saved from this disgrace by heroic groups of escort carriers and destroyers at the cost of over 1,000 American lives. Later, he steamed into the teeth of a typhoon, losing ships, planes and men when he had other courses of action available. Spruance, while competent, was accurately described as a hands off, if somewhat lazy fleet commander who exercised sound if not conservative judgment. This maximized the material advantages the U.S had over the Japanese, without ever recklessly hazarding the fleet. Two final topics Toll objectively describes are the Japanese Kamikaze attacks and the fire bombing of Japanese cities. The Kamikaze threat was never satisfactorily mitigated before wars end. Although down played for years, the Kamikazes wreaked havoc on the American Navy despite tactical changes and adjustments. This did not bode well for the scheduled invasion of Japan. General Curtis LeMay’s fire bombing of Japanese cities caused tremendous damage and loss of life. This aspect of the war has tended to be ignored because of the scale of the damage and human slaughter. It showed, however, that the willingness to fight on among Japanese policy makers was not blunted by these attacks and reinforced the idea that the atomic bombs should be employed. Tolls book accurately portrays the scale and ferocity of the Pacific War. After D-Day, American focused on the European war. The Pacific war, because of its remoteness and scale never got the public press and attention it deserved. Consequently, one must ask the question, did Americans really understand how desperate and destructive the fighting was? Toll’s book helps answer this question.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tom Scott

    This is the final book in the excellent trilogy on the history of the Pacific War. I’ve always had an interest in this war for some reason (I have grade school drawings of waves of Zeros flaming into a pencil jaggy ocean to prove it). I’m also fascinated with the formation and cultivation of individual and collective memory; what is sanctified and what is allowed to be unremembered. With regard to the Pacific War, I’m especially interested in how the Japanese could be fighting a holy war to the This is the final book in the excellent trilogy on the history of the Pacific War. I’ve always had an interest in this war for some reason (I have grade school drawings of waves of Zeros flaming into a pencil jaggy ocean to prove it). I’m also fascinated with the formation and cultivation of individual and collective memory; what is sanctified and what is allowed to be unremembered. With regard to the Pacific War, I’m especially interested in how the Japanese could be fighting a holy war to the death one moment and then when they lose, sort of collectively shrug and do their best to forget it all. I guess this is a good coping strategy but it tends to deform history. We all know that Hiroshima was brutal, inhumane. But I had never heard about the senselessness that befell Manilla and its citizens. Or really understood the grinding violent horror that was the late-stage island-hopping campaign. Or how profoundly effective, and senseless, the kamikaze strategy was. The Japanese knew they were going to lose the war but they decided to inflict as much death and destruction as possible before they did. So, does this knowledge change our views on the inhumanity of Hiroshima? Or maybe, probably, should we be remembering Manilla too? And Iwo Jima. And Okinawa. And, and, and…. On the American side the war has been mostly reduced to the cardboard simplicity of Pearl Harbor —> Atomic Bomb, which is also problematic. Despite the drama of guns and bombs, war is primarily political, and explaining the machinations of contemporary politics is where this book really shines. Both Admiral Halsey, whose fleet was caught not once, but twice!, in devastating typhoons, and the insubordinate but PR savvy General MacArthur were kept around partially because the American public venerated them and removing them was politically untenable. And bombing Tokyo from China was less militarily strategic than politically motivated to keep China placated. And talk about machinations! Japan’s top decision-making structure was seemingly constructed to avoid decision making, which made it, for instance, nearly impossible for them to figure out a way to surrender. It's almost comical in a Dr. Stranglove vein of humor. The last day or two of the war was touch and go (look up the "Kyujo Incident”). Truly fascinating stuff. Anyhow, this is a worthwhile read. Like most history books it’s really an aid to understand the present. And you don’t need to read the other two books to enjoy this one. And a last word on memory: My dad and I bonded over reading each book in this series as they came out (the first was published in 2012) and we were both looking forward Twilight of the Gods. Unfortunately, my dad died earlier this summer before the book was published (luckily he knew how the story ended). But I wish I could still talk WWII with him.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tanner Nelson

    Twilight of the Gods is the exciting final book in Ian Toll’s trilogy on the Pacific War. His trilogy provided a wonderful amount of detail on a theater of war that many Americans (and perhaps global citizens) believe played second fiddle to the maelstrom of combat that took place in Europe. While this book, and the trilogy as a whole, focuses on the American point of view, I found it be extremely educational. I learned a great deal about battles I thought I already knew much about. About halfway Twilight of the Gods is the exciting final book in Ian Toll’s trilogy on the Pacific War. His trilogy provided a wonderful amount of detail on a theater of war that many Americans (and perhaps global citizens) believe played second fiddle to the maelstrom of combat that took place in Europe. While this book, and the trilogy as a whole, focuses on the American point of view, I found it be extremely educational. I learned a great deal about battles I thought I already knew much about. About halfway through this long book, Toll describes the titanic Battle of Leyte Gulf. This naval battle was the largest in world history. Many of its skirmishes could be considered large naval battles in their own right. Toll explains the 20+ mile broadside delivered by the Imperial Japanese battleship Yamato. He describes the desperate flight of US naval ships before the Yamato and the other IJN surface ships that ambushed the unsuspecting Americans. The entire battle, which occupies a full chapter if I remember correctly, was comprised of heavy hits and devastating losses (mostly for Japan). I had never heard the Battle described in such vivid detail. This is true for most—if not all—of the battles in this book. Finally, I appreciated the epilogue Toll provided at the end. Many WWII histories end with the Japanese capitulation aboard the USS Missouri, but Toll extends it further and describes the incredible transition from war to peace that Japan and the United States effected. He gives first hand accounts and provides details I had never heard before. This last chapter was very powerful for me and helped me understand the war’s conclusion unlike I ever had before This is a long book. And it’s a masterwork of history. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it to fellow WWII history buffs who want a upfront and personal view of the Pacific Theater of war.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lasse Laitinen

    Recently I finished Antony Beevor's "The Second World War". It surprised me that the two-volume mammoth didn't have a proper conclusion, some long arches, generalizations or good "lessons" drawn from the preceding thousands of pages. Neither did "The Twilight of Gods" conclude with a thorough conclusion, where the vast war would have been summarized on a higher conceptual level. The closer the end of the war got, the more Beevor's gaze moved towards strained relations among the Allies and the im Recently I finished Antony Beevor's "The Second World War". It surprised me that the two-volume mammoth didn't have a proper conclusion, some long arches, generalizations or good "lessons" drawn from the preceding thousands of pages. Neither did "The Twilight of Gods" conclude with a thorough conclusion, where the vast war would have been summarized on a higher conceptual level. The closer the end of the war got, the more Beevor's gaze moved towards strained relations among the Allies and the impending cold war. Toll covers, too, the new power game opening before the eyes of the contemporaries. His gaze, however, focuses closer. His immensely fluent style is very good at taking the reader to the bygone decades, while convincing him or her that it is the present instead of the past. That kind of a style might be more at home describing what is coming to an end than what is unfolding in the future. And even though he's at home with wide societal themes (who else would have ended "The Conquering Tide" with a detailed and long description of Japanese censorship system and practices?), the longer the arduous war drags, the more the reader just wants the fighting to come to an end. Then it's natural to start yearning that the main characters (maybe?) of the book can go back to their peacetime lives: the American people as the war-weary victors, and the Japanese people as doomed, yet saved from even greater annihilation. All the other peoples in the theatre suffered as supporting actors. To summarize my point above, while reading this book, towards the end my thoughts started to jump and drift rather to the (hot?) peace than the coming cold war. For me that was one difference in the reading experience when compared to Beevor's WW II. And I think that is how Toll wanted it to be.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    I'm so torn about what I want to say about this book. 3 1/2 stars It's got a lot of good information in it. Toll has written 3 volumes detailing the US Pacific War and this is the final installment. He covers everything you'd expect him to (in all 3 volumes) and discusses some additional lesser-known items. If you are a beginner, Toll is a fine author to begin with. Superb coverage of decisions made in DC by King & the Joint Chiefs, Australia by MacArthur, Hawaii by Nimitz, and out in the fleets I'm so torn about what I want to say about this book. 3 1/2 stars It's got a lot of good information in it. Toll has written 3 volumes detailing the US Pacific War and this is the final installment. He covers everything you'd expect him to (in all 3 volumes) and discusses some additional lesser-known items. If you are a beginner, Toll is a fine author to begin with. Superb coverage of decisions made in DC by King & the Joint Chiefs, Australia by MacArthur, Hawaii by Nimitz, and out in the fleets and islands. And yet..... Toll discusses unimportant details and tends to repeat himself. We read the phrase "towering radio antennas of the New Jersey" 3 times in 50 pages. Toll states in the author's note that there was a new "important" source document that became available to him after he had begun the trilogy. He also alludes to new sources in the previous 2 books. But I don't see anything obviously new here that hasn't already been discussed by other historians. Toll also says in the author's note that he wanted to include some parallel topics that lay alongside the main narrative. I appreciate him including this, but feel like he _didn't_ give them the time they deserved. Examples: Turner's drinking problem is mentioned several times, but we never learn if someone like Barbey was considered to replace him. The brown-shoe vs. black-shoe admirals conflict is discussed a lot, but we never learn if there was similar problems in the IJN. Toll really pounds an idea to death in his analysis. Certainly I agree that this last year of the Pacific War was a much bigger war than 1942-43, especially on the American side, but I feel like finding different ways to say the same thing in multiple paragraphs is just overkill. Is this a good book? Yes. Is it great? No.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    The last year of World War II, included kamikazes attaches, firebombing Japanese cities, the widening split between the Navy and General MacArthur. It also included a presidential election with Roosevelt running for an unprecedented fourth term, and General MacArthur throwing his hat in behind the scenes hoping for a Republican presidential nomination. Not to mention plenty of battles on land, air and sea in the island hopping campaigns of Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Why I started this boo The last year of World War II, included kamikazes attaches, firebombing Japanese cities, the widening split between the Navy and General MacArthur. It also included a presidential election with Roosevelt running for an unprecedented fourth term, and General MacArthur throwing his hat in behind the scenes hoping for a Republican presidential nomination. Not to mention plenty of battles on land, air and sea in the island hopping campaigns of Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Why I started this book: I have been eagerly waiting for the final book in Toll's magnificent trilogy for years. Why I finished it: Powerful, and long. This book is huge, the audio was around 37 hours. Toll continues his well researched history, showing the personalities of commanders, experiences of grunts on the ground, and in the fleet. Distance and time have a way of revealing the flaws of the popular and the prudent decisions of those derided at the time. The more that I read of MacArthur, the less I am impressed. But I have never cared for the carefully scripted denials of those seeking political power, especially those that use public money to feather their personal nests. The battle for Manila was heartbreaking to learn about, and it was frightening to see the desperate negotiations between Japanese politicians and military officers as they clung to power, and continuing the war to maintain face.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Like many others I’ve been waiting for this book for a long time, having read and enjoyed the first two volumes of the trilogy. The wait was well worth it! Toll does a deep dive on the entirety of the closing phases of the Pacific War. The detail is incredible but presented with such great pacing that it never becomes dry. The strengths and weaknesses of many military leaders become clear as the narrative goes on. Toll does not stop and give you his opinion of these generals and admirals; he pre Like many others I’ve been waiting for this book for a long time, having read and enjoyed the first two volumes of the trilogy. The wait was well worth it! Toll does a deep dive on the entirety of the closing phases of the Pacific War. The detail is incredible but presented with such great pacing that it never becomes dry. The strengths and weaknesses of many military leaders become clear as the narrative goes on. Toll does not stop and give you his opinion of these generals and admirals; he presents the story and you can draw your own conclusions. MacArthur’s star has notably faded over the years, but Halsey does not come off so well here either. Great insight into how high-level strategic decisions were made, from the theater commanders up through King and Marshall and the nascent JCS. Late-war developments such as kamikazes and the B-29 raids are covered in detail. Most readers will know going in that fire bombing of Japan happened, but Toll covers the what, the why, and the how of this so well that you are guaranteed to learn something new. Similarly, the fact that kamikazes were a hazard is well-known, but again, the author takes you deeper into the effect these attacks had on US naval personnel and the psychology of the Japanese pilots. Bottom line, an excellent book that superbly conveys the scope of this massive conflict, from privates, Marine riflemen, and naval seamen all the way up to the president and the emperor.

  27. 5 out of 5

    David Wurster

    Toll's trilogy is for serious readers of military history and they will find this final volume well worth their time. So much has been written about WWII and the Pacific War that I continue to be amazed how a writer can find new perspectives that give us a yet deeper understanding of the subject. I heartily recommend this book and the two volumes that preceded it. Although Toll covers all the battles and campaigns thoroughly, his explanations of the complexities of the bigger picture are more val Toll's trilogy is for serious readers of military history and they will find this final volume well worth their time. So much has been written about WWII and the Pacific War that I continue to be amazed how a writer can find new perspectives that give us a yet deeper understanding of the subject. I heartily recommend this book and the two volumes that preceded it. Although Toll covers all the battles and campaigns thoroughly, his explanations of the complexities of the bigger picture are more valuable to me. He is really good with the culture and politics of the Japanese, both in the field and at home. He stresses that the mindset prevalent during this conflict were at odds with Japan's traditions. In previous conflicts, the Japanese were known for their honorable treatment of both civilians and prisoners of war. In this horrific war, long before the U.S. was involved, Japan's actions were every bit as despicable as those of the Nazis. Their perverted sense of honor is impossible to understand and quite different from the German soldier. What is disturbing to me, and somewhat analogous to Germany, is the unwillingness to accept responsibility as a society for what they had done. The occupation was peaceful but there was still a desire to leave it in the past rather than confront it as part of their history.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Robert Holland

    I think this is the best volume of the trilogy. If you could give half-stars, I would give it 4-1/2. The first two volumes were quite good, but I think the overall quality of content, presentation, and editing are noticeably better. The book does a very good job of highlighting the personalities of MacArthur, Nimitz, Spruance, and Halsey. For the most part, Toll gives very balanced praised and criticism, giving both where deserved, for the performance of these four main commanders. However, my i I think this is the best volume of the trilogy. If you could give half-stars, I would give it 4-1/2. The first two volumes were quite good, but I think the overall quality of content, presentation, and editing are noticeably better. The book does a very good job of highlighting the personalities of MacArthur, Nimitz, Spruance, and Halsey. For the most part, Toll gives very balanced praised and criticism, giving both where deserved, for the performance of these four main commanders. However, my impression is Toll does not particularly care for MacArthur and is a little over-critical of him. The book further reinforces my belief that a great injustice was done when Spruance was not awarded a fifth star, but Halsey was. Toll also gives a very good look at the American political aspects of the closing phase of the war, Japanese social/political perspectives, the development of the B-29 and its strategic bombing applications, and concise look at the development and use of the atomic bombs. If a person wants an overall general history of WWII in the Pacific, the whole trilogy is a great choice all by itself. More than that, it is an excellent launching point into further study of WWII in the Pacific, as well as the development of the atomic bomb.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Louise Yarnall

    A masterpiece in historical storytelling, Twilight of the Gods puts the reader in the foxholes of Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, in the terrifying booby-trapped buildings of Manila, in the stealthy submarines patrolling the Sea of Japan, in the cockpits of massive B-29s, and on the decks of radar picket destroyers and aircraft carriers under kamikaze attack. Author Ian Toll describes the human side of mythic commanders—both American and Japanese—from their errors to their petty rivalries to the A masterpiece in historical storytelling, Twilight of the Gods puts the reader in the foxholes of Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, in the terrifying booby-trapped buildings of Manila, in the stealthy submarines patrolling the Sea of Japan, in the cockpits of massive B-29s, and on the decks of radar picket destroyers and aircraft carriers under kamikaze attack. Author Ian Toll describes the human side of mythic commanders—both American and Japanese—from their errors to their petty rivalries to their finest hours. He captures the voices of the sailors, marines, and infantrymen, as well as the civilians who survived rape, famine, murder, and both napalm and nuclear bombing raids. Well-researched, the book provides the detailed plans for every battle from both sides, the final strategic results, and the tallies of dead and wounded. It does its best to explain the inexplicable messianic mission of the Japanese military leadership, which resisted surrender even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were vaporized. Whenever you’re feeling sorry for yourself, read this book. You’ll thank your stars that you didn’t have to live through the terror of the Pacific War, and you’ll feel renewed gratitude for those who served. I wept when I finished this book. That’s how good it was.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Sainsbury

    This book was a gift from a friend. It is long and weighs a ton. It is the third volume of a trilogy by Ian Toll. Not having read the first two volumes did not seem to be a detriment as the third dealt with the final year of WWII in the Pacific. The Prologue is over forty pages and details the press coverage of the last year of the war. The epilogue is also forty pages and provides a window of the post war scene in both Japan and the US. I doubt that readers who have little or no interest in tha This book was a gift from a friend. It is long and weighs a ton. It is the third volume of a trilogy by Ian Toll. Not having read the first two volumes did not seem to be a detriment as the third dealt with the final year of WWII in the Pacific. The Prologue is over forty pages and details the press coverage of the last year of the war. The epilogue is also forty pages and provides a window of the post war scene in both Japan and the US. I doubt that readers who have little or no interest in that war will be encouraged taking on this mammoth volume. Toll shares insights into the personalities of the US and Japanese military and political hierarchies. As with similar books written with regard to the European theater, I was struck by the competition between the US military brass, both Army and especially in the Navy. The intensity of the clash of egos is palpable. Toll brings the daily level of life in the trenches and on the high seas to the fore. I liked his depiction of the US occupation of Japan after the end of the war. Both sides had impressions that the other side was populated by savages and barbarians. In reality, they discovered to their mutual surprise that they liked each other, which served to dispel the suspicion and fostered genuine human relations.

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