Implacable Foes

The War in the Pacific 1944 - 1945


Waldo Heinrichs and Marc Galliccho

Oxford University Press UK, 2019

Paperback    728pp   RRP $43.95


Reviewer: Roger Buxton, February 2020


This work has more substance than most histories of the period. Starting with the final battles in New Guinea in early 1944, Implacable Foes follows the campaigns of General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz. While General MacArthur was determined to liberate the Philippines, the amphibious forces of Admiral Nimitz took a more direct route to Japan via the Marshall Islands, the Marianas, Iwo Jima and finally Okinawa.


The Americans and Japanese were indeed implacable foes: the Americans determined to humble the country that had treacherously humiliated them in 1941 and the Japanese equally determined to defend their territory and to die rather than surrender. The attacking Americans suffered heavy casualties in battles in which little quarter was given as the implacable Japanese defenders were blasted from caves and fortifications with napalm, flamethrowers and high explosive, while the Japanese retaliated with suicide charges and a determination to exact as high a toll as possible.


Suicide air attacks were devastatingly effective at Okinawa, where most of the fast carriers were damaged and had to return to the West Coast for repair. Other factors are not so well known. With victory in Europe, the American public and industry were anxious to end the war as rapidly as possible and to return to a domestic economy. The public were also shocked by casualties at Iwo Jima and Okinawa and were apprehensive of what the invasion of Japan might mean for their husbands and brothers.


The movement of army divisions from Europe to the Pacific via the United States was underway but proceeding slowly because of the shortage of sea and air transport and the capacity of the transcontinental railroads. Soldiers had an Adjusted Service Rating based on length of wartime service, and with overseas, combat and parenthood credits which determined who would be demobilised first. Inevitably experienced veterans were released first, and formerly combat-ready units were diluted by inexperienced replacements. The Japanese also correctly deduced the location of the beaches selected for the invasion and strongly reinforced them. The ratio of attacking to defending forces in the invasion planned for November now approached an impossible one-to-one. Drs Heinrichs and Gallicchio show that it was these factors, and not just a fear of casualties, that led to the decision to use the atomic bomb.


This is a substantial book of just over 700 pages, with comprehensive notes, excellent maps and an index. It provides an insight into the problems facing the American administration as well as the difficulties facing the United States Navy, Marine Corps and Army, and is highly recommended.



The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.



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