In Sea of Thunder, Evan Thomas does not attempt to present a history of the entire Japanese-American naval war. Instead, he does something more adventurous and more revealing; he views that conflict of nations through the prisms of four naval commanders, two from each warring nation. Using oral histories, dairies, correspondence, and postwar testimony, he shows how cultural differences and personalities played a major part in the outcome of critical October 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf. Military history from a different angle.
Sea of Thunder, by Evan Thomas, an assistant managing editor of Newsweek, provides one of the most insightful analyses yet written of personalities and military cultures at war. The book tells the story of the Japanese and American commanders whose fates converged in history's last great naval engagement, the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944. It is also a story of competing traditions and the extraordinary influence of personality, organizations and culture on warfare -- despite the advanced technologies wielded in World War II.
The Washington Post
A number of talented authors have written about Leyte Gulf, among them C. Vann Woodward, the great historian of the American South, and James A. Field Jr., who was actually there, and won a Bronze Star. Samuel Eliot Morison devoted an entire volume to the battle in his History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Now Evan Thomas is trying his hand, and it’s likely his predecessors would have enthusiastically approved of the result. Sea of Thunder is an engaging and thorough account based on extensive research in both the United States and Japan that describes the war in the Pacific and culminates at Leyte Gulf.
The New York Times
Thomas, Newsweek's assistant managing editor, turns his considerable narrative and research talents to Leyte Gulf, history's largest and most complex naval battle. He addresses the subject from the perspectives of four officers: William Halsey, who commanded the U.S. 3rd Fleet; Adm. Takeo Kurita, his Japanese counterpart; Adm. Matome Ugaki, Kurita's senior subordinate and a "true believer" in Japan's destiny; and Cdr. Ernest Evans, captain of a lowly destroyer, the U.S.S. Johnston. The Americans believed the Japanese incapable of great military feats, while the Japanese believed the Americans were incapable of paying the price of war. Both were tragically wrong. Halsey steamed north in pursuit of a what turned out to be a decoy, while Kurita's main force was positioned to destroy the American landing force in the Philippines. Evans repeatedly took the Johnston into harm's way against what seemed overwhelming odds. His heroism, matched by a dozen other captains and crews, convinced Kurita to break off the action. With Halsey's battleships and carriers just over the horizon, Kurita refused to sacrifice his men at the end of a war already lost. Ugaki bitterly denounced the lack of "fighting spirit and promptitude" that kept him from an honorable death. Evans fought and died like a true samurai. As Thomas skillfully reminds us, war is above all the province of irony. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The assistant managing editor of Newsweek uses the perspectives of four commanders-two Japanese and two American-to reconstruct the clash of navies and cultures in the South Pacific during World War II. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The paths of four different seaborne warriors-two Japanese, two Americans-collide at the now-overlooked Battle of Leyte Gulf, the "gory apex," mother of all sea battles. The October 1944 battle remains the largest in history; as Newsweek assistant managing editor Thomas observes, it involved 300 ships and nearly 200,000 sailors over an area of 100,000 square miles. Most Americans know little about it, perhaps because many sailors at the time wanted to forget it; for one thing, Thomas writes, the battle involved serious missteps on the part of Admiral William "Bull" Halsey-no one but reporters ever called him "Bull," and then not to his face-who through miscommunication and "poor staff work" failed to control a critically important approach, endangering the American invasion of the Philippines. He blamed near-disaster on a subordinate, Admiral Thomas Kinkaid, who, shut out from Halsey's master plan, made assumptions that he should not have. Halsey elliptically acknowledged later that "he had been bold where caution was called for," but Thomas does more to relieve Kinkaid of blame. The battle cost the lives of many American sailors, including one of Thomas's four chief subjects, Commander Ernest Evans, a mixed-blood Cherokee who set his destroyer against the Japanese as if he were leading a cavalry charge. Among the fighters on the Japanese side were two admirals, Matome Ugaki and Takeo Kurita, who took different approaches to military matters; Ugaki, whose superiors regarded him as a drunk, had worried from the outset that Japan would lose a war with America but nevertheless followed and exceeded orders, while Kurita decided on his own to steam away from battle, thereby saving the lives ofperhaps 30,000 Japanese sailors and untold Americans as well; whereas Ugaki launched kamikaze assaults, Kurita "had not been willing to sacrifice his men in a futile gesture of nobility."A competent inquiry into a naval battle that, Thomas ably shows, deserves more study.
"Thomas's prose keeps pace with the fight and captures its eerie quality...The result is both a naval adventure story and a striking meditation on the nature of military courage." The New Yorker
With this exemplary book, Evan Thomas has set a benchmark for historical writing and analysis against which subsequent work will be measured." Michael J. Bonafield, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
"One of the most insightful analyses yet written of personalities and military cultures at war...An exciting read...Thomas draws the battle scenes with exquisite precision...Those who would direct military strategy and policy should be well warned and should have Thomas's book, well-worn, at their bedsides." Wesley K. Clark, The Washington Post Book World
"A riveting tale of character and war by one of our most graceful writers. With impressive scholarship and a brilliant eye for detail, Evan Thomas tells the extraordinary story of Leyte Gulf without ever losing sight of the men in the maelstrom." Rick Atkinson, author of An Army at Dawn
"This is a wonderful book; thoughtful and riveting all at the same time, and it's good history you're never quite sure things are going to turn out the way you know they did!" Ken Burns, filmmaker of The War