The Final Storm: A Novel of War in the Pacific
The Final Storm: A Novel of War in the Pacific is one of the best sellers written by Jeff Shaara. It is a historic fiction story that focuses on the war by the Americans in the Pacific rather than Europe. Mr. Shaara alleges that he never intended to write the book but got a number of letters from WWII veterans and fans. The book narrates the battle of Okinawa through the commanders of Japanese and American forces and grunts on the ground. True to its form, every chapter of the book introduces the unfolding story of the war from a historical figure’s perspective. Most of story is narrated through Clay Adams, the Marine private, and his fight in Okinawa. Shaara also narrates the battle through Mitsuru Ushijima, the Japanese General and commander of the Okinawa forces. Towards the end, the book narrates the days leading to the tragedy of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima. This is mostly followed through by the pilot Paul Tibbetts and the President Truman. This paper seeks to give a report about Mr. Shaara’s book, The Final Storm.
In an open letter to the audience, Shaara explains that the final storm ultimately had to be written. He asserts that a number of war veterans had sent him letters accusing him of having forgotten their contribution. They were very disappointed in him for ignoring and neglecting their stories about what transpired on the Pacific after three of his books had only detailed on the European theater. As usual, Shaara dug deep into his archives, interviews and diaries and crafted a historical and compelling story that rivals standard history books.
The author introduces the book by stating that contrary to common belief, the World War II did not begin the invasion of Poland by Hitler’s army on September 1, 1939. He argues that by that time, there had been eight years of war on the Asian soil. According to Shaara (2011), the Japanese had been fighting the Chinese since the summer of 1931 with major attacks being launched on Nanking and Shanghai cities of China. By mid-1930s, the Chinese forces began sending back Japanese forces. Although this war had not caught the attention of the western world, the massacre of the Chinese civilians began to draw their attention. President Roosevelt was forced to issue an embargo on the importation of raw material into Japan. He also went ahead and froze Japanese assets in the US. This turnout of event triggered loud indignation from the Japanese who claimed the need to protect their interests from such aggression. They assigned an agreement with Italy and Germany with the vow to protect the backs of either country in case of any attacks from the enemies.
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When the war began to spread across Europe in 1940, General Hidejeki Tojo believed that the British and Americans had been weakened by the European war. He therefore came up with the plan to grab all the resources in the US. However, his views were opposed by the navy. Since Yamamoto knew that this plan was unachievable, he planned for a diplomatic talk with the US. Unfortunately, Tojo knew about the plan and vowed to attack at the time of the meeting. The US secret service had on the other hand tapped into the Japanese communication system and was aware of Tojo’s plan. However, the Japanese managed to bomb the Pearl Harbor. The battle between the two countries grew in intensity with counter attacks from either side. When the war in Europe was coming to an end in the spring of 1945, most people turned their attention to the Pacific Theater. Most parts of Southeast Asia as well as the islands throughout the pacific were overtaken by the empire of Japan way back before the official launch of the World War II. However, the tide had started to turn (Shaara, 2011). Under the command of people like Buckner, Nimitz, and MacArthur, the US forces were beginning to drive back the Japanese forces towards their homeland. The only thing that remained for a proper assault was to grab the island and use it as a staging ground. The US chose Okinawa as the perfect island for its plans.
The final storm gives a detailed story about the assault on Okinawa. The battle lasted for 82 days and featured some of the most brutal and fiercest fighting of the war. After a series of submarine attacks and bombing, allied troops made devastating bombardment of Okinawa. The attacks were first launched from the sea and later followed by the largest amphibious landing ever seen in the Pacific. The US soldiers stormed the beaches but did not face any resistance from the Japanese. This was unusual because the previous attacks at Normandy were faced with brutal retaliation when the forces fell under brutal attack by German guns. Some of the marines attacked the Japanese on the surface where the water was too shallow to drive the submarines through. Their target was to stop the torture and killings by the Japanese forces and to save the downed fliers. As the attacks intensified, there were allegations of the Japanese’s desperation for fuel and food which confirmed to the Americans of how serious they were affected the Japanese homeland.
The American forces swept inland, securing one section at a time. Although they faced minor skirmishes, there was no outward aggression from the enemies. This made them a bit scared because they could not spot the Japanese. The Americans knew that their radar technology was superior to that of the Japanese. However, they understood that their torpedoes were better (Shaara, 2011). The submarine crews of Japan were well trained and were considered the best unit at that time. It was therefore clear to the Americans that their enemies had the best skills and tools to strike back. It therefore turned out to be a game of hide and seek where each side planned on how to be the first to spot and take out the enemies. It was frustrating to the Americans since they could not spot any Japanese on patrol yet the sea as so big. They found it unusual that the Japanese had not manned their anti-aircraft guns at night.
This was a very strategic move by the Japanese General Mitsuru Ushijima because he prevented what he knew would have been an overwhelming attack of his forces from the American aerial and naval assaults. It was an excellent move to keep his forces hidden in the caves and bunkers. They waited for the most appropriate time to strike the invaders. The American forces were led by General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. He was the son of a noted Confederate commander during the Civil War. The American team anticipated victory within 30 days but when the reality cane, it was a horrible and stunning surprise.
Tension mounted in the American forces and made them very uneasy. When the Japanese launched their counter-strike, it was horrific and ferocious. It caught the Okinawa civilians in the midst of the battle. The attack from the Japanese forces was much unexpected, catching the Americans by surprise. The approaching Japanese ships were not easily detected by the US radars because they made unfamiliar sounds. American patrols that pushed through the thickets and hills of the jungle were confronted by groups of stubborn Japanese soldiers who were determined to fight all the way. To the disadvantage of the American troops, the Japanese solders could not be noticed by the Americans because they seemed to varnish after every attack. They hid into tunnels and caves dug in the mountains. To the American forces, it was a mix of bewilderment and frustration. As much as it was difficult to survive in the battle field without the basic needs like food, the Japanese forces did, earning the respect of Nimitz.
For several months, the Marine commanders used different tactics including the use of flamethrowers, tanks and snipers. However, the Japanese soldiers carried out their attacks during the night making them difficult to be spot. The US forces praised themselves for the massive attacks they launched on the Japanese and wished they had been doing the same from the beginning. Nimitz was so happy with his team that he had time to make jokes and play with his dog. The American forces were so committed to the war that some wished that they could wipe away all the Japanese. However, the Americans found it more disturbing that just like the previous island populations, the Okinawa people were in support of the Japanese propaganda concerning the savagery of American forces and were more than willing to kill themselves than be taken custody by the US.
After 3 months of vicious fighting, the Americans emerged victorious and their eyes turned focus on mainland Japan. Meanwhile, there was a secret meeting in Washington as Harry Truman prepared to order an attack on Nagasaki and Hiroshima with weapons that would change the face of the world forever. Shaara (2011) alleges that this was the best-kept secret in the history of the military. In August 1945, Colonel Paul Tibbets was given the responsibility of carrying the B-29 bomber known as the ‘Little Boy’ and unleashing it on the city of Hiroshima. After a few days, another atomic bomb exploded on the Japanese city of Nagisaki. With these two attacks, Japan was subjected to the most brutal attack from the American forces. General Curtis LeMay put forward the strategy to bomb Japan from the air by the incendiary bombings, but the Japanese showed no signs to quite the war. This was very courageous of them because with such massive attacks, most forces would have surrendered. In fact, the commanders seemed very eager for the American attacks. They prepared the entire Japanese population to oppose the American invasion. They were prepared to confront the American solders by whatever means they found necessary.
This was going to be the greatest showdown of the slaughter of civilians and military forces in history. However, the Japanese Emperor Hirohito interfered with his military’s lust for bloodshed. Based on his assessment of the previous attacks by the US forces, he called off the final showdown and ordered the final surrender. The brutality of the war was so vivid that the reader could feel like he is in his own mini-war. You get the fear and trepidation and imagine what the Japanese went through: They believed that it was better to die in the battle than to end up as a failure.
The most compelling man in the story is Clay Adams. He comes into the light having been introduced by his elder brother; Sgt. Jesse Adams. He had missed most of the battle because of illnesses but he was to later thrown in the thick of the fight for Okinawa. The only reason that kept Adams fighting on was to show his family that he was as hard working as his brother, a man who had served as a member of the 82nd Airborne. When growing up, Jesse Adams used to come to the rescue of his younger brother, Cliff, most of the times. Jesse was a central figure in the Shaara’s first two volumes about the European series. Before Cliff made up his mind to go to war, he had a fight with a tall man with quick and frustrating jabs, most of which missed their target but the few that landed did not have much power in them. From the description of the fight, it is clear that Adams was superior to his opponent who only fought to keep him away rather than to win. This must have encouraged him to join the forces.
After some days, he told his family that he was going to war. No one believed him but he had made up his mind and he was not turning back. His father was a very brutal man who used to release his anger by beating up his sons. He was therefore not bothered by his son’s interest of joining the army. Cliff went straight to San Diego training camp where he met with other Americans dedicated to protecting their country. The commanders at the camp were very bruttal and fears. When Porter stood up to address his men about the Okinawa mission, he described the place like it was one hell of a battle field. He made it clear to them that Okinawa was as big as a country and their mission was to go and save the civilians who were living miserably. They were required to kill any Japanese solder on sight. Porters’ speech was a bit frightening when he talked of having heard that most of his men were exited bout their next mission. He warned them that it was not going to be easy. He said “This is no damn beach dill” (Shaara, 2011, 49).
Another compelling man in the book is Ushijima. As the commander of the Japanese forces, he was bright enough to keep his men hiding in the caves, making them very threatening to the American forces. Okinawa was hit with barrages of fire but the caves were safe. Nonetheless, he was aware that for the few times the Americans got a direct shot at the caves, the impact was brutal. Sometimes there was nothing to secure from the caves other than bloody shreds. He lived in a cave dug deep into the mountain where no bomb would reach. At one point he accused the Americans of owning so much wealth but lacked the wisdom to guide them on how to use their resources. Despite the heavy attacks by the Americans, Ushijima was determined to fight on. At no time did he talk of quitting the war or surrendering. He vowed never to be intimidated by arrogance. However, he was aware of the immense threat from the huge American navy troops which he described as the largest he had ever seen.
Ushijima lamented about the loss of his best troops amidst the confusion on the exact location that the Americans were to strike. The Imperial High Command did not ever think that the Americans would strike Okinawa. The Japanese intelligence reported that Washington debated on attacking Formosa. This led to the transfer of the Ninth Division from Okinawa to Formosa, a decision Ushijima fought bitterly against. Now that the Americans had finally attacked Okinawa, he was not going to have 25000 of his best men back. Just like the Americans were dedicated to winning the war, so were the Japanese.
One of the best parts of the books is the description of the battle field. Shaara does it so well that the reader can picture the image of Okinawa in his mind. For instance, through Adams, he states that the darkness was setting in and one man had to stand in each foxhole to keep watch as the rest tried to sleep. The ground was rocky with pine trees. This brings out the real image of a battle field or a military camp where solders have shifts to watch over the camp as others slept. In addition, the description of the killing of the Japanese solders also comes out so clear. This is achieved through the use of dialogue and direct speech. For instance, Adam states “He’s lying out here, next to the hole! We struck him good, both of us…” (Shaara, 2011, 138). The direct speech makes the reader to feel like he is actually watching the real battle. On another occasion, Adams states “Blew his damn head off. Their grenades must be crap.” “… I saw three dead ones” (Shaara, 2011, 141). This demonstrates how casual death was to the fighting solders. Unlike for the ordinary citizen who might be shaken by the sight of a man blowing his head off; the solders found it interesting and even afforded to joke about it. This is an aspect that most authors of history books have not commonly used. It is therefore unique and engages the readers.
Another aspect of the books that makes it unique is how Shaara narrates the book through different personalities. With a narrative that definitely fits his status as a great story teller, he relates the fight for Okinawa through the eyes of commanders from either side: Clay Adams, a dedicated young Marine who wants to show his family how god he was; Admiral Chester Nimitz, given the responsibility of uniting the rival marine and army commanders to fight as a cooperative effort; General Mitsura Ushijima, commanding the Japanese forces in defense of the island; and General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr, trying to uphold his father’s legacy. Shaara does it so well that you would imagine that these were the real men who took part in the fight for Okinawa.
The book is emotionally appealing because it brings out the determination by the Japanese forces to fight-on even when they knew that they were overwhelmed by the American forces. For example, after the city of Hiroshima had been hit by a massive atomic bomb, the commanders appealed to the Japanese population to fight back at the Americans with whatever means they could afford. These were patriotic citizens who were willing to give their lives to protect their country. On the other hand, the American soldiers were never emotionally touched. All they wanted to do was kill all the Japanese. This gives an impression that they did not have any emotional feeling about the sacred life of human beings. However, this is what you would expect of any soldier at the battle field; kill before you are killed.
Jeff Shaara’s resume is incredible and this book makes it even better. It is almost certain that he is the preeminent historical writer of fiction stories in modern time. There is so much that the reader can learn about the Second World War in an enjoyable manner by reading Shaara’s story. I would recommend anyone willing to read one of his books to go for The Final Storm. Comparing this book to the rest of his books, Shaara must have put down his best writing efforts in this. A fitting conclusion to a riveting saga of military fiction, the book illuminates the sacrifice and heroism that defined the battle in the Pacific, The final Storm brings the conflict to life in a way that only Jeff Shaara can portray. It definitely deserves to be a best seller.
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