The Air War Against Japan, 1942-1945
Simon & Schuster, 9781416584414, 336pp.
Publication Date: April 26, 2011
Whether describing the experiences of bomber crews based in China or the Marianas, fighter pilotson Iwo Jima, or carrier aviators at sea, Tillman provides vivid details of the lives of the fliers and their support personnel. Whirlwind takes readers into the cockpits and gun turrets of the mighty B-29 Superfortress, the largest bomber built up to that time. Tillman dramatically re-creates the sweep of wartime emotions that crews endured on fifteen-hour missions, grappling with the extreme tedium of cramped spaces and with adrenaline spikes in flak-studded skies, knowing that a bailout would put them at the mercy of a merciless enemy or an unforgiving sea.
A major character is the controversial and brilliant General Curtis LeMay, who rewrote strategic bombing tactics. His command’s fire-bombing missions incinerated fully half of Tokyo and many other cities, crippling Japan’s industry while still failing to force surrender.
Whirlwind examines the immense logistics and construction efforts necessary to support Superfortresses in Asia and the Mariana Islands, as well as the tireless efforts of engineers to build huge air bases from scratch.It also describes the unheralded missions that American bomber crews flew from the Aleutian Islands to Japan’s northernmost Kuril Islands.
Never has the Japanese side of the story been so thoroughly examined. If Washington, D.C., represented a “second front” in Army-Navy rivalry, the situation in Tokyo approached a full-contact sport. Tillman’s description of Japan’s willfully inadequate approach to civil defense is eye-opening. Similarly, he examines the mind-set in Tokyo’s war cabinet, which ignored the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, requiring the emperor’s personal intervention to avert a ghastly Allied invasion.
Tillman shows how, despite the Allies’ ultimate success, mistakes and shortsighted policies made victory more costly in lives and effort. He faults the lack of a unified command for allowing the Army Air Forces and the Navy to pursue parochial goals at the expense of the larger mission, and he questions the premature commitment of the enormously sophisticated B-29 to the most primitive theater in India and China.
Whirlwind is one of the last histories of World War II written with the contribution of men who fought in it.With unexcelled macro- and microperspectives, Whirlwind is destined to become a standard reference on the war, on multiservice operations, and on the human capacity for individual heroism and national folly.
About the Author
Praise For Whirlwind: The Air War Against Japan, 1942-1945…
“The story of how B-29s and lesser aircraft ended the Pacific War is wonderfully told by Barrett Tillman in Whirlwind. . . . He conveys details of the great Tokyo fire raid and the atomic obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in terms that are fresh. . . . Tillman is a master storyteller." --Daniel Ford, The Wall Street Journal
“Barrett Tillman is one superb military aviation historian. . . . An epic story told by a master historian.”
--Robert B. Loring, Leatherneck magazine
“Whirlwind . . . offers an impressive 360-degree look at the air offensive against Japan’s home islands. All of the story’s major elements are here, as well as some frequently omitted. . . . While several worthy books have covered aspects of this air effort, none offers the comprehensive inter-service and international perspective of this concise account.”
--Richard R. Muller, World War II magazine
“Engaging and very readable. Tillman is the first to integrate all the elements of the final air offensive against Japan in a single volume. . . . He draws valuable fresh perspective from the many interviews of veterans that he has conducted over the years." --John Lundstrom, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings
“A well-written, bright and insightful tour of the last definitive period of the Pacific war. . . . Tillman is one of this country’s most respected aviation historians. . . . It’s all here with the usual Tillman stamp of authority and occasional grim, irreverent humor. . . . Whirlwind will not disappoint.”
--Peter Mersky, Wings of Gold
“Whirlwind is a definitive history of the WW II air assault on Japan and is superb reading. I highly recommend it as a must for all military historians.”
--Cdr. Doug Siegfried, USN (Ret), The Hook
Advance Praise for
“Sweeping and authoritative, Barrett Tillman’s Whirlwind puts the reader in the cockpit as Allied and Japanese airmen battle to the death in the broad skies of the Pacific, but never loses sight of the larger strategic issues and perspectives of the war, nor of the human cost that it extracted." --Richard Hallion, former chief historian of the U.S. Air Force
“Barrett Tillman’s Whirlwind is a concise, rigorous and authoritative miracle of military history. It’s also a great read. I couldn’t put it down.” --Stephen Hunter, author of I, Sniper and The 47th Samurai
“Whirlwind is the most authoritative account ever of the terrifying American air war against Japan, which both forced Tokyo’s surrender and saved countless lives in the long run. This powerful book should put an end to the misguided moralizing to the contrary.” --Andrew Nagorski, author of The Greatest Battle
“Whirlwind has the critical elements to separate it from the pack of cockpit and command aviation histories: it is vivid, lucid and human. But it is something much more: it provides the essential foundation for the examination of the impact of conventional airpower as a fundamental cause of Japan’s surrender.” --Richard B. Frank, author of Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire
“A sparkling tale of one of the most fascinating battlefronts of World War II. Tillman pulls together the aerial battles, planning sessions, kills and sacrifices into a coherent narrative that will leave readers pondering the fate of nations and individuals in war, when the call is often to perform the impossible and the call is met with surprising frequency.” --Robert W. Merry, author of A Country of Vast Designs
“This is a story of great heroism and of technological triumph on a grand scale—the building of the B-29 alone is worth a book—and of the vindication of air power as the ultimate weapon of war. Whirlwind is full of extraordinary stories of courage, sacrifice and good, old-fashioned American know-how, a book every aviation enthusiast should read.” --Michael Korda, Author of With Wings Like Eagles
“The definitive history of the United States’ war-winning aerial assault upon Japan. No one interested in World War II aviation can afford to be without this book.” --Walter J. Boyne, Colonel, USAF (Ret), former Director of the National Air & Space Museum
“Barrett Tillman, one of America’s finest World War II historians, has provided a great public service by writing Whirlwind. Highly recommended.” --Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University and author of The Boys of Point du Hoc