RaveThe Wall Street Journal... while his is an American story, Mr. Toll writes insightfully about the enemy home front, making fine use of Japanese sources and dropping hints of the demons possessing—and devouring—the other side ... Though Twilight of the Gods spans a little over a year, this is the longest volume of Mr. Toll’s trilogy. In some ways its story is the most morally complex, treating life-and-death decisions made on the cusp of victory and defeat ... factual, though not overly judgmental ... The author’s strength lies in teasing out vivid details of the complex air and naval operations ... Mr. Toll weaves a brilliant final act depicting one of humanity’s epic tragedies. This book and its predecessors set a high bar for historians of the Pacific War.
William C. Davis
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... a finely researched volume that spotlights the good, bad and ugly of a polyglot army stumbling to war ... A star of Mr. Davis’s show is New Orleans itself. Taking full advantage of the sights, smells and sounds of the Crescent City ... Mr. Davis follows the movements of forces with the disciplined eye of an academic historian. He traces skirmishes in December 1814 down to individual trenches ... The book’s initial pacing is detailed and at times a bit slow; the advance of the two opposing armies to the battlefield unfolds deliberately, and the assembly of forces, early skirmishes and preparatory bombardment run to 232 pages ... When the armies make first contact, the tempo accelerates, and Mr. Davis’s accounts of small fights won by hot blood and cold steel are thrilling ... The battle royale, spanning three chapters, hits like a burst of grapeshot ... The strength of Mr. Davis’s chronicle is its meticulous research and the way it frames the Battle of New Orleans in the context of a vibrant, evolving, occasionally vicious South. Slow in some parts, electric in others, The Greatest Fury is one of the most comprehensive looks at a fight that became a punctuation mark in the tale of Manifest Destiny.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal... lean and effective ... As in his earlier works, like Blood and Champagne and The Liberator, Mr. Kershaw’s strength is his ability to place characters within their settings and tell their stories honestly ... Focusing on a well-chosen selection of warriors, The First Wave brilliantly sweeps the arc of fire that was the Sixth of June.
Daniel C. Guiet and Timothy K. Smith
RaveThe Wall Street JournalThe narrow focus of Scholars of Mayhem allows us to follow Jean Claude Guiet’s journey intimately ... A true-life mix of James Bond, Lawrence of Arabia and Casablanca, Jean Claude’s story of resistance and heroism is beautifully told. Scholars of Mayhem packs the punch of an armored division and adds weight to the fresh titles taking on the Normandy landings 75 years after Eisenhower opened the Longest Day.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalFor the technical purist, Sand and Steel provides wonderful insight into war on the Western Front ... a detailed chronicle that hard-core World War II buffs will relish ... plays to Mr. Caddick-Adams’s strength, telling a story of machines, logistics and events that decided the fate of France.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalAt its heart, Normandy ’44 is a pleasantly straightforward history, embracing tactics, logistics and the bayonet end of combat. Mr. Holland glides up and down the chain of command, from Eisenhower, Montgomery and Bradley down to the Poor Bloody Infantry who stood at \'the coal-face of battle\' ... Detail and scope are the twin strengths of Normandy ’44. While emphasizing GI and Tommy less than Messrs. Kershaw and Milton, Mr. Holland effectively balances human drama with the science of war as the Allies knew it.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalBy drawing additional characters into Mr. Smoyer’s story, Spearhead sacrifices some of its intimacy. Reflecting the ephemeral nature of wartime acquaintance, noncoms and lieutenants, civilians and infantry, enter and exit perfunctorily throughout the book’s middle third. Introduced with a sentence or two not long before their deaths, most leave little emotional mark in the reader’s mind ... Except for the dead, Spearhead does not portray a fundamental transformation in most of its major characters: They do their duty. They live, they fight, they kill. Sometimes they die. Mr. Smoyer is the book’s exception ... lays out a tale not too different from hundreds of memoirs by men lucky enough to have survived the war’s slaughterhouse. Its real value lies in its gripping action narrative. As Mr. Makos coaxes Mr. Smoyer and his tank family through a thrilling series of close calls, Spearhead unfolds as a thoroughly enjoyable battle story, and a tribute to the everyman warrior.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalMessrs. Reynolds and Pechatnov combine correspondence with incisive commentary to elucidate the good, bad and ugly of the grand alliance ... The Kremlin Letters provides fresh glimpses into the mind of Stalin and his apparatchiks during the war’s middle stages ... The Kremlin Letters paints a disturbing picture of an alliance of convenience that dissolved as victory neared ... Illuminating and insightful, The Kremlin Letters is an indispensable resource.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Groom paints a vivid portrait of men caught between the vise jaws of military necessity and political reality. Anecdotes about their personal lives, such as Stalin’s tumultuous family relationships and FDR’s struggle with polio, bring color to leaders we remember through black-and-white photographs and newsreels. Churchill is a character tailor-made for Mr. Groom’s style, and he captures the English lion’s genius for inspiration in bold, beautiful strokes ... Stalin, by contrast, rarely betrays warmth or humor to offset the monstrous qualities for which he is infamous ... Mr. Groom illustrates Stalin’s darkest side through the dictator’s twisted relationship with his bloodthirsty secret police chief ... In a fine telling of the \'what,\' some of the book’s \'why\' can feel a bit rushed ... The story line jumps a bit, and at times its arc can seem \'like a box of chocolates\' ... At its best, Mr. Groom tells an enthralling story of three nations, each wary of the others, and of three men who set aside deep differences for a common cause.
James M. Scott
RaveThe Wall Street JournalBattles in World War II’s Pacific Theater tended to be more savage than those in Western Europe. The struggle for Manila was the cruelest of them all ... A month after Pearl Harbor, Japanese troops swarmed down Manila’s boulevards, bayonets fixed. Gen. Douglas MacArthur quickly abandoned the city, then the archipelago, vowing to return. For three grim years, Manila’s citizens endured starvation, disease, humiliation, rape and repression as they waited for MacArthur to fulfill his promise ... Mr. Scott does one of the finest jobs in recent memory of cutting out the middleman and letting the participants—hundreds of them—tell their harrowing bits of a kaleidoscopic wartime tragedy. The result is an eloquent testament to a doomed city and its people. Rampage is a moving, passionate monument to one of humanity’s darkest moments.
Craig L. Symonds
RaveThe Wall Street JournalTackling the major fronts one by one, he splices the big picture with vignettes of sailors, pilots, merchantmen and submariners battling to tether (or tear apart) the land theaters on which armies fought. Though Mr. Symonds doesn’t claim primacy of naval warfare during the great cataclysm, his montage of battles, geography and technology makes the case for naval power as a prerequisite for global power projection in general and the Allied victory in particular ... He navigates the narrow channel between oversimplifying the story and slowing the book’s pace by describing every turn of a rudder, making the narrative’s 647 pages enjoyable without being rushed ... In capitals from Tokyo to London, war at sea was a numbers game: Construction schedules, losses and ship tonnage determined where and when the belligerents would strike. Mr. Symonds presents these abstract considerations in a clear and uncluttered way ... A thoroughly enjoyable read, World War II at Sea sweeps its glass across the world’s oceans and deftly recounts battles that shaped the course of history’s greatest war.