Tidal Wave: From Leyte Gulf to Tokyo Bay, by Thomas McKelvey Cleaver, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, U.K., 2018, $32
Tidal Wave is the follow-up to Thomas Cleaver’s earlier Pacific Thunder. That work documented the history of the naval campaign in the Central Pacific from August to November 1944, including the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which all but eliminated the Japanese fleet. Tidal Wave resumes the narrative from Leyte Gulf to the Japanese surrender on Sept. 2, 1945.
The naval campaign in the Pacific entered a new phase after Leyte Gulf. Devastated by combat losses and crippled by a lack of fuel, the Japanese navy was no longer able to play much of a role. However, while Allied sea power waxed and Japanese sea power waned, the Allies faced a different set of challenges. A couple of typhoons did more damage to the U.S. fleet than the Japanese had been able to inflict. More important, the Japanese introduced the terrifying tactic of attacking ships with kamikazes, aircraft flown by fanatical pilots determined to crash intentionally into enemy ships. Initiated in the Philippines, kamikaze attacks increased in number and intensity the closer Allied fleets got to the Japanese Home Islands. The last year of the conflict became a war of attrition between “The Fleet That Came to Stay” and Japanese pilots determined to die for their emperor and sink U.S. ships.
In this era of fanatical suicide bombers it is easy to forget the concept long predates the present-day generation of terrorists. Tidal Wave is a well-written and consistently fascinating account of the Pacific War’s final year, a period when sailors faced that threat day and night for months on end.