RATING: 4 stars
BOOK TITLE: Sea of Thunder
AUTHOR: Evan Thomas
TEASER: The personal story of a naval debacle.
Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941–1945
The Battle of Leyte Gulf is considered to be the last major naval battle in history. In the waning days of World War II, the Japanese ventured a defense of Samar, a Philippine island that was central to their supply routes. The plan was to divide the U.S. fleet by using a decoy and to test the remaining American landing party’s resolve. That part of the plan worked. A series of colossal miscalculations followed, the rectification of any one of which could have changed the course of the war. This epic history recounts the buildup to that decisive battle through the stories of four principal actors: Americans Admiral William Halsey and Commander Ernest Evans (whose journal was a primary source for the author), and Japanese Admirals Takeo Kurita and Matome Ugaki.
Simon & Schuster. 432 pages. $27. ISBN: 0743252217
San Antonio Exp-News
"Thomas brings light and context to several factors influencing several of the main actors in the Samar engagement, and he does it in graceful prose that makes it accessible to non-naval aficionados. … Sea of Thunder is excellent reading for those who like to ponder the what-ifs and what-might-have-beens of great naval battles." J. Michael Parker
St. Petersburg Times
"This is the first time [Ernest] Evans' story has appeared in a general publication, and Thomas uses his strong storytelling ability to produce a lively and enjoyable volume. … Sea of Thunder is a compelling read, even though it breaks no new ground." Jules Wagman
Wall Street Journal
"In a marvelous piece of historical reconstruction, Evan Thomas … lays out before us the battle's human errors by tracing the actions of four men. … This is a war saga of confusion at the top, counterpointed by heroism at the bottom, and he tells it grippingly well." Alistair Horne
NY Times Book Review
"What makes Sea of Thunder a singularly appropriate explication of Leyte Gulf is the reality of the battle itself. The outcome was determined not by technology and tactics. Victory in the South Pacific ultimately depended on human judgment and will." Ronald Spector
"The degree to which cultural and racial stereotyping led to fatal misjudgments is remarkable. … The conflict involved more ships (almost 300), more men (nearly 200,000), and covered a larger area (more than 100,000 square miles, roughly the size of the British Isles) than any naval battle in history."
Though Evan Thomas spends his days as a managing editor at Newsweek, this isn’t his first high-seas literary venture. He’s also written biographies of famed American seaman John Paul Jones ( Sept/Oct 2003) and Robert Kennedy, as well as a history of the CIA (The Very Best Men). Because of its historical significance and the many missteps that ensued, Leyte Gulf has been extensively covered by such historians as C. Vann Woodward, Samuel Eliot Morison, and James A. Field, Jr. What Thomas adds to that scholarship is a keen and judicious eye for how personality affects procedure, and a facility for making complex naval maneuvers understandable to general readers. Critics roundly acclaim the work as a significant contribution to the naval repertoire.