THE FINAL STORM
by Jeff Shaara, 2011
The Final Storm completes Jeff Shaara’s four-volume World War Two series, moving past the end of the war in Europe, to the horrific fighting still to come in the Pacific.
Throughout the war, much of the publicity and public attention in the United States has focused on the war in Europe against Hitler’s brutal forces. But in the Pacific the American army, navy and Marines wage brutal campaigns against Japanese conquests all across that hemisphere. Through bloody struggles on now-familiar names such as Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima, the might of the Americans has gradually pushed back against the bloody Japanese empire, a tightening noose that pushes closer to Japan itself.
The Final Storm begins with preparations for the last great fight, Okinawa, an island country only 350 miles from Japan. On April 1, 1945, Marine and Army divisions invade the island in an amphibious landing reminiscent of the Allied landing at Normandy. But instead of bloody chaos on the beaches, the Americans are astounded to find no opposition at all. In a brilliant strategic move, Japanese commanding General Mitsuru Ushijima prevents what he knows will be the obliteration of his forces from overwhelming American naval and aerial assaults, and keeps the bulk of his army hidden in a vast network of underground bunkers and caves, waiting for the ideal moment to strike at the invaders. And, strike they do. The Americans are led by army general Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., whose father was a noted Confederate commander in the Civil War. Buckner and his planners anticipate victory on Okinawa within 30 days. The reality is a stunning and horrible surprise.
After a vicious 3-month fight, victory does finally come, and with American eyes now focused on Japan itself, the last great event to end the war erupts in a way that few have anticipated, the most well-kept secret in military history. In early August, 1945, Colonel Paul Tibbets commands the B-29 bomber “Enola Gay”, unleashing the atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Days later, a second bomb is exploded over the city of Nagasaki. Japan has already been subjected to a brutal American assault from the air by massive incendiary bombings, the strategy put forth by the colorful General Curtis LeMay. LeMay’s bombers have nearly obliterated the city of Tokyo, but the Japanese have shown no inclination to stop the war, and in fact, Japanese commanders seem eager for the Americans to invade, by preparing virtually the entire Japanese populace to confront the invaders any way they can, what could result in the greatest slaughter of military and civilian forces in all history. But the Japanese Emperor Hirohito tempers his military’s lust for the great final showdown, and reeling from the reality of this new display of American atomic firepower, Hirohito orders the final surrender.
The Final Storm tells these stories through the eyes of the leadership on both sides, American Admiral Chester Nimitz and President Harry Truman, as well as the resolute and efficient General Ushijima. But the story follows others as well, notably Marine Private Clay Adams, who struggles through the horrors on the 3-month fight on Okinawa. Adams comes to this story having been introduced by his brother, Sgt. Jesse Adams of the 82nd Airborne Division, who was a primary voice in the first two volumes of the European series. Here too is Paul Tibbets, who must prepare his flight crews for their most crucial mission, the details of which none of them can know, a mission whose outcome not even the bombs’ creators can predict. On the ground in Hiroshima, an aging physician, Dr. Okiro Hamishita, already dispirited by the endless war and empty promises of his government, now will bear witness to the most astounding and horrifying weapon ever unleashed on this planet.