Though Hollywood has given us countless ways to dramatize the Second World War in the Pacific, the challenge for me was to bring to the reader a story that isn’t simply a rehash of everything you’ve heard before. And, where Hollywood is often less concerned with keeping the history accurate, I have always felt that if I’m going to tell any story like this, “getting it right” is key. When dealing with World War II, my research often included conversations with living veterans, and ignoring their truth just to “beef up” the tale, does an incredible injustice to what those veterans accomplished. In the Second World War, the Japanese were unlike any enemy we had ever faced, a very different enemy than the Germans. We had very little understanding of their culture, of how seriously they took their loyalty and obedience to their emperor, and we were completely unprepared for their willingness to die rather than accept the dishonor of surrender. For young soldiers and Marines who faced this determination, the fights often became a slaughter on a scale no one could have imagined. To put a nineteen year old boy into that position, and hope that he responds appropriately is not a typical method of training our young troops. In researching The Final Storm, I was surprised to find a significant amount of humanity among the Japanese commanders whose voices became a vital part of this story. Okinawa was the last great stronghold that held the American wave away from Japan itself, and the Japanese troops assigned to defend the island country knew that there could be no retreat. The Americans who confronted them had to fight not only this extreme dedication, but the weather and the geography as well. A fight that was scheduled to last a month, took three. How and why are far more interesting to me than a simple history lesson. If this story is not a history lesson, it is also not an exercise in blood and guts. That kind of story would get old very quickly. What has always drawn me to these stories are the characters. I am not concerned with giving you every detail of the numbers of casualties or the positions of troops. There are historians far more qualified to do that. My job as the storyteller is to find the voices that will carry you (along with me) into the story itself. My search is to find a story beneath the history lesson, to feel it, hear it, smell it, to explore not only the horror, but the laughter (and yes, there is laughter. There has to be.) What kind of thinking and agonizing goes into command decisions? What makes a nineteen year old Marine rise up from a muddy hole to drive forward into the enemy he cannot even see? While much of The Final Storm focuses on the great struggle for Okinawa, this story does not end there. One more extraordinary drama must be played out, the story of how the Second World War actually ends: the dropping of the first atomic bombs. Through characters such as Paul Tibbets and General Curtis LeMay, I try to show just how much tension and how much mystery surrounded the bombs themselves. Consider that, to the young crews of the aircrafts that were to carry the bombs over Japan, none had any idea what would happen when the bombs were actually exploded, whether their own planes would disintegrate, along with the targets they were seeking. On the ground, the Japanese civilians had already experienced massive bombing strikes from American planes, and so, on that morning of August 6, 1945, the sight of a single B-29 bomber high in the clouds above causes no real concern. That point of view is here as well, a Japanese doctor who is weary of the war, of what he knows to be the propaganda being fed to the people by their military. And yet, he has his own duty to fulfill. There are debates ongoing today about whether the United States did the “right thing” by ending the war the way we did. The decisions made by President Harry Truman are controversial even now. My job is not to anguish over morality, or debate what is politically correct. Ultimately I have one goal: to bring you the best and most accurate story I can, as told by those who were there. With so few veterans of World War Two remaining with us, I believe we must be reminded just why we owe them our thanks, and why their legacies must be remembered. I hope you enjoy the story. --Jeff Shaara, May 2011
The Final Storm opens a new front in Jeff Shaara’s gripping chronicle of World War II as soldiers, sailors, and marines sacrifice all for one final push toward decisive victory in the fierce maelstrom of the Pacific theater.
As the war in Europe winds down in the wake of the Normandy invasion, the United States has turned its vast military resources toward an all-out effort against the Japanese. In the spring of 1945, Japan’s empire has been pressed slowly back toward its home islands, and the Americans mount a furious assault on the last great stepping-stone to Japan itself—the heavily fortified island of Okinawa. The three-month battle will feature some of the most vicious combat of the entire war, as American troops confront an enemy that would rather be slaughtered than experience the shame of surrender.
With a narrative dexterity befitting his status as a master storyteller, Shaara relates the story of the struggle for Okinawa through the eyes of combatants on both sides: Private Clay Adams, a young marine whose brother Jesse has already earned his share of glory as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne in Europe; Admiral Chester Nimitz, who must unite rival army and marine commanders into a cooperative effort; General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., the American ground commander trying to live up to the legacy of his father, who led Confederate troops during the Civil War; and General Mitsura Ushijima, the Japanese general in charge of defending the island, who understands what Tokyo will not believe: that his own fight to the death will only delay the inevitable—as the Americans continue their advance toward the home islands and ultimate victory.
With the fights raging across the Pacific, a different kind of campaign is being waged in extraordinary secrecy: the development of a weapon so powerful, not even the scientists who build it know just what they are about to unleash. Colonel Paul Tibbets, one of the finest bomber pilots in the U.S. Army Air Corps, is selected to lead the mission to drop the horrific new weapon on a Japanese city. As the new president, Harry S Truman, mulls his options, and a Japanese physician named Okiro Hamishita cares for patients at a clinic near the city of Hiroshima, citizens on the home front await the day of reckoning that everyone knows is coming.
A fitting conclusion to one of the most riveting sagas in military fiction, The Final Storm illuminates the heroism and sacrifice that defined the war in the Pacific, bringing the conflict to life as only Jeff Shaara can.
From the Hardcover edition.
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