... riveting and broadly researched ... The firebombing has too often been treated as a mere footnote in the war against Japan, particularly when weighed against the enormity of the atomic bombs dropped a few months later that ended World War II and ushered in the nuclear age...Scott rights this historical oversight ... Scott is a formidable historian of the Pacific War, talented as both reporter and storyteller. He finds survivors who deliver gripping eyewitness accounts of the raid and its aftermath ... Scott vividly captures the horrors of aerial bombardment and catastrophic cost of victory ... One minor quibble is Scott’s contention that the Tokyo firebombing was a moral shift for US air strategy. Some would argue that the joint Allied raid of Dresden in Germany a month before Tokyo targeted — or at least was indifferent to the plight of — German civilians. And the cost, 25,000 dead civilians, was not proportionate to the military gains ... Historians and scholars endlessly debate the effectiveness of terror bombing as a military strategy. Scott presents the argument but deftly avoids putting his hand on the scale. Rather, his focus is on the technological forces and all-too-human personalities that resulted in the firebombing, and the real-life consequences of that action. This book is required reading for anyone with even a passing interest in World War II and the Pacific Theater.
... compelling and ambitious ... The book maintains a taut narrative ... Scott offers plenty of important context to the raids. He amply details the sense of urgency among the U.S. Army Air Forces leadership to try to finish off the Pacific conflict and avoid a ground invasion of Japan. And, in an interview, he notes that by the time LeMay developed the campaign, the Japanese, Germans and British all adapted bombing campaigns and other tactics that targeted civilians ... But he also offers some stark assessments of the strategy developed by LeMay.
When modern historians discuss the important and consequential American commanders of the Second World War, LeMay’s name is often missing. Historian James Scott’s new book about the firebombing of Tokyo and other Japanese cities in the spring and summer of 1945 restores LeMay to his rightful place in the pantheon of great American commanders of the war ... Scott to his credit does not succumb to the increasingly fashionable moral equivalence approach to the Pacific War.