Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Waldo Heinrichs and Marc Gallicchio's "Implacable Foes"

Waldo Heinrichs is Dwight E. Stanford Professor Emeritus at San Diego State University. He is the author of American Ambassador: Joseph C. Grew and the Development of the United States Diplomatic Tradition, which won the Allan Nevins Prize.

Marc Gallicchio is a Professor of History at Villanova University and was a Fulbright Visiting Lecturer in Japan, 1998 - 1999 and 2004 - 2005. He is the author of The African American Encounter with Japan and China: Black Internationalism in Asia, 1895 - 1945, which won the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations Robert H. Ferrell book prize.

Gallicchio applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Implacable Foes: War in the Pacific, 1944-1945, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Implacable Foes depicts the opening stage of the Battle of The Philippine Sea (June 19-20, 1944), the last of the great battles in which Japanese and American aircraft carriers sent planes against each other. The largest carrier battle in history, it ended with a decisive victory for the Americans and ended Japan’s ability to launch large-scale carrier operations. The battle was accompanied by the successful invasion of the Marianas (Saipan, Guam, and Tinian) and resulted in a shake-up of the Japanese cabinet.

Much of our book is devoted to the period after June 1944. Despite the impressive victory in the Philippine Sea, lengthy debilitating campaigns in the Philippines and Ryukyus lay ahead. Those campaigns strained American manpower and resources and led to widespread criticism of American strategy and war aims. By the summer of 1945, American strategy had become unhinged and plans for the invasion of Japan were in turmoil.

But let’s give Ford Madox Ford his due; the battle of the Philippine Sea was a pivotal action in the story we tell. Page 99 begins in mid-sentence in which we note that Admiral Raymond Spruance, the commander of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, was a traditional sailor, not an aviator. Indeed, he did not even have an aviator on his senior staff. Nonetheless, Spruance had at his disposal the Fast Carrier Group, a fleet of swift new attack vessels capable of immense striking power.

On June 18, Spruance learned that elements of a Japanese fleet were heading east towards Saipan. The admiral was torn between protecting the support ships used in invasion of Saipan and going all-out against oncoming enemy. Spruance sent elements of the surface fleet forward but ordered his carriers to remain close enough to protect the invasion force off Saipan. He was subsequently criticized by naval aviators who believed he was too cautious in tethering the fleet to the invasion force off Saipan.

Although Spruance’s forces failed to sink all of the Japanese carriers, pilots from the American carriers inflicted heavy losses on Japan’s carrier-based planes. The Japanese could not make up for the loss of trained pilots after that and turned instead to suicide missions flown by young, barely-trained, pilots. As we note, the Japanese no longer had a conventional navy, but they still had a dangerous one. The war would continue for more than a year after the story begun on page 99 ended.
Learn more about Implacable Foes at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue