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Tue Sep 1, 2020, 12:29 PM

'Twilight of the Gods' -- The magisterial final volume of Ian W. Toll's Pacific War trilogy [View all]

REVIEW / Wendell Jamieson, Book and Film Globe

Nearly 10 years ago, the author and historian Ian W. Toll published the first of what would seem to be–what surely must be–the definitive, three-volume history of the brutal four-year battle with Japan. I gobbled them up. How did Toll manage to distinguish himself from all those works that had come before? By collecting an astounding volume of information and elegantly putting it on the page; by wonderfully writing those battles that previous historians had thoroughly examined; and by going deeply into episodes that had received scant attention before. In the first volume, “Pacific Crucible,” for example, Toll gives an early U.S. raid on the Marshall Islands pulse-pounding narrative drive, while previous authors had rushed through it to get to big battles like Coral Sea and Midway.

The result is a remarkable body of work that allows one to viscerally experience how the war in the Pacific was not one war, but really three wars. It began as a three-dimensional, 360-degree naval and air chess game between professional navies, morphed into a titanic war of attrition, and ended as a an utterly unbalanced contest between the largest, most sophisticated war-making force the world had ever known and a desperate, starving, beaten nation, its own civilians caught miserably between their relentless enemy and their own delusional, selfish leaders.

Today (September 1, 2020), Norton publishes the final volume, Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945. In the closing pages of the second book, “The Conquering Tide,” Toll foreshadowed the Gotterdammerung that Japan would face in the war’s closing year. In Twilight of the Gods he delivers it with stunning, exhausting, horrifying force.

Twilight of the Gods–at 792 pages of text, the biggest of the trilogy–begins with a look at the role of press relations during the war and the delicate art of releasing bad news to the public, a theme that continues as a subplot. Both sides fight a public-relations battle, with characters like Gen. Douglas MacArthur playing directly to the media, while others shun the spotlight. Again and again, in both the United States and Japan, we see the answer is clear: it’s always best to put the truth out there for your people to see and hear. This focus on the partisan use of “facts” is indeed germane to our political discourse today.

LINK: https://bookandfilmglobe.com/nonfiction/book-review-twilight-of-the-gods/?fbclid=IwAR0WlmWX1pU1VcIDwuT-Rkda_vBJFYPklLRuygnVgJki5m3L-x3TbbZTg6c

I've read the first two books and they are outstanding. Toll not only gives us a detailed account of War in the Pacific but also history that led up to war and how politics played out throughout battle.

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