The Fleet at Flood Tide

The Fleet at Flood Tide

America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945

James D. Hornfischer

Bantam Books, New York, 2016, 640 pages

Book Review published on: May 19, 2017

James Hornfischer’s book The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945, focuses on the U.S. operations required to defeat Japan during the last year of World War II. Unlike his previous best sellers about naval actions during Guadalcanal or Leyte Gulf that only focus on one facet of American naval history during World War II, here Hornfischer broadens his range, covering not only the tactical aspects during this decisive time frame of the war but also the national strategic decisions and policies that enabled the United States to soundly defeat Japan.

Hornfischer accomplishes this by dividing his book into the maritime, land, and air domains while focusing on the three main characters of Raymond Spruance, Kelly Turner, and Paul Tibbets, and their roles in defeating the Japanese within their respective domains. Due to the significance of Operation Forager, Hornfischer spends half of the book on the seizure of the Mariana Islands, describing how the invasions of Saipan, Guam, and Tinian set the conditions for the eventual defeat of Japanese in the Pacific.

Beginning with operations near Saipan until the dropping of the atomic bomb, a consistent theme throughout the book is that the United States bested Japan because of the overwhelming combat power and tactical overmatch they were able to obtrude on the Japanese. Although The Fleet at Flood Tide never goes into great detail about any particular aspect of the last year of World War Two in the Pacific, the author provides the reader with enough information to feel informed on the subject. And, if the reader is interested in further study, Hornfischer’s notes and bibliography section provides outstanding primary and secondary sources that are well organized and well respected.

For individuals interested in the general history of the actions in the Pacific Theater, The Fleet at Flood Tide is an excellent edition to any library. It will leave the reader quenched and armed with a good understanding of U.S. strategy in the Pacific and the military leaders at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels who successfully carried out their orders. With our current national military leaders describing how the U.S. military will fight and win in future wars using the concept of multidomain battle, The Fleet at Flood Tide is an integral source that describes valuable lessons learned and examples of orchestrating ends, ways, and means to achieve victory in total war.

Book Review written by: Maj. Matthew R. Prescott, U.S. Army, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas