The Battle of Leyte Gulf: The Last Fleet Action by H. P. Willmott
The battle of Leyte Gulf was the greatest naval battle in modern history. This book is a detailed and comprehensive account of the fighting from both sides on 24-25 October 1944. It provides the context of the battle, most obviously in terms of Japanese calculations and the search for "a fitting place to die" and "the chance to bloom as flowers of death," as well as a comprehensive discussion of the events leading up to and following the battle.
Using Japanese material never previously noted in Western accounts, H. P. Willmott provides new perspectives on the unfolding of the battle and deliberately seeks to give readers a proper understanding of the importance of this battle for American naval operations in the following month. The book also deals with such vexed questions as the conduct and decisions of the two fleet commanders, Halsey and Kurita, during this battle and raises questions that are certain to provoke controversy.
By any standard, the battle of Leyte Gulf was an enormous undertaking. The battle was in fact four separate actions, none of which was fought in the Gulf itself. There were more units giving battle than any naval engagement in history with the possible exception of Jutland. The area of deployment was immense, covering an area greater than France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria combined; the area of operations was only slightly smaller than the British Isles. Though the battle was fought after the issue of victory and defeat at sea had been decided, it was nevertheless an overwhelming victory for the American naval forces. So devastating was the Japanese defeat that in the following month the American forces sank more warships and three times the service and merchant shipping than during the battle itself.
For naval historians both professional and amateur, The Battle of Leyte Gulf will serve as a careful interrogation of the accounts of "the last fleet action" and a significant contribution to the naval history of the Second World War.
H. P. Willmott has written extensively on warfare in general and on World War II in particular. Among his books are The Last Century of Sea Power: From Washington to Tokyo, 1922–1945 (IUP, 2010) and The Last Century of Sea Power: From Port Arthur to Chanak, 1894–1922 (IUP, 2009).
Table of Contents
List of Maps
List of Tables
List of Diagrams
The Nature of War and of Victory
The Option of Difficulties: The American Situation in the Aftermath of the Victory in the Philippine Sea
The Search for Solutions: The Japanese Situation in the Aftermath of Defeat in the Philippine Sea
Preliminaries: 6-18 October 1944
Advance and Contact: 18-24 October 1944
The Great Day of Wrath: 25 October 1944
The Naval Battle for the Philippines: The Postscript, 26 October-30 November 1944
To Pause and Consider: Blame, Responsibility, and the Verdict of History
The Battle of Leyte Gulf: The Last Fleet Action 3.3 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
There is really very little new in this long-anticipated book. It hews to the doctrinaire historian line, i.e. that the overarching 'battle' consisted of four 'battles'. When the battle--as defined by the author--ended, the Gulf area was still not secure and the Japanese were continuing to reinforce Leyte. In reality, nothing much had changed except that key units of the Japanese fleet lay at the bottom of the Surigao Strait. But at this point in the war, large gunships counted for little in any event. The Battle really ended with the unheralded Battle of Ormoc Bay (mid-November through mid-December, 1944). At this point the Tokyo Express had been shutdown and MacArthur declared the end of the Battle for the central Philippines.
More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most poorly written books I have ever read.. The
writing is often tediously repetitious and contains numerous solecisms,
odd word choice and awkward constructions. There are many places where
the author assumes that the reader knows what he is talking about so he
leaves out any complete explanation. As an example he writes several
times about the "famous" message from Nimitz to Halsey but is
not until p. 193 that he actually quotes the message. This is
ridiculous. There are other quotes that lack proper attribution, which
makes them very unhelpful. Willmott is very opinionated: instead of
merely stating the objective facts and leading the reader to appropriate
conclusions, he often repeats his very dogmatic and strident opinions
as though mere repetition will convince anyone. Willmott is often
insulting to many of the participants and to other historians with
different views. This is very disturbing in what is supposed to be a
scholarly work. This book needed substantial editing, and it is
surprising that this kind of writing could have passed the attention of
any reasonably competent editor. At best, it was a very difficult read
as a result, and it certainly added nothing to my knowledge of the
Battle of Leyte Gulf. This book is a disappointment and a decided waste
of time. I cannot recommend reading Willmott's The Battle of Leyte Gulf
More than 1 year ago
More than 1 year ago
H.P. Willmott has once again produced an important addition to the literature of the Second World War. His attention to historical detail combined with a compelling narrative - hallmarks of his previous works as well - make this an essential read for anyone interested in military history.
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