Monday, January 17, 2022

Review of "Decision at Leyte," by Stanley L. Falk

 Review of

Decision at Leyte, by Stanley L. Falk

Five out of five stars

The last chance for the Japanese Empire

 With the catastrophic Japanese defeat at Midway and the subsequent death of Admiral Yamamoto, the Japanese military was both fragmented and severely weakened. However, it was still powerful and capable of mounting significant resistance to any Allied action that was an attempt to take back the Philippines.

 Two very important points are made in this book. The first is that the two main divisions of the Japanese military, the army and the navy, were at odds on how to best fight the war. The second is that at the time of the battle collectively known as Leyte, it was still possible for Japan to defeat the American forces. While their air forces were degraded, Japan still had many serviceable planes, the will to use them in suicidal attacks as well as significant numbers of fighting surface ships.

 There was also the reality that the attack would have to be an amphibious one, and such forces had to have a significant numerical superiority. A strong and effective counterattack backed by air power could have driven the Allied forces back into the sea.

 The detailed explanations of how close the battle of Leyte really was is very eye-opening. With the consistent Allied victories in places such as New Guinea and Tarawa, it is easy to believe that Allied victory was inevitable. Yet, as Falk points out, a bit of luck, such as a fortuitous fog bank and a few Allied errors could have had the Japanese surface fleet pounding away at weaker American ships. As it turned out, it was bad Japanese gunnery rather than effective tactics that kept the Japanese from destroying a fleet of American light carriers that they managed to tackle in isolation.

 There was also very poor communications between the various groups of the Japanese military. It is here where the prestige and leadership ability of Admiral Yamamoto was missed. If the Japanese military could have coordinated their attacks between the kamikaze planes, ordinary aerial attacks, submarine and surface attacks, it is at least possible that the battle of Leyte could have been a narrow Japanese victory.

 For these reasons, I strongly recommend this book to all people interested in the history of the Pacific theater of the Second World War.

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