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Extended Audio Sample The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945, by James D. Hornfischer Click for printable size audiobook cover
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The extraordinary story of the World War II air, land, and sea campaign that brought the U.S. Navy to the apex of its strength and marked the rise of the United States as a global superpower

One of America’s preeminent military historians, James D. Hornfischer has written his most expansive and ambitious book to date. Drawing on new primary sources and personal accounts by Americans and Japanese alike, here is a thrilling narrative of the climactic end stage of the Pacific War, focusing on the U.S. invasion of the Mariana Islands in June 1944 and the momentous events that it triggered.

With its thunderous assault into Japan’s inner defensive perimeter, America crossed the threshold of total war. From the seaborne invasion of Saipan to the stunning aerial battles of the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot, to the largest banzai attack of the war and the strategic bombing effort that led to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Marianas became the fulcrum of the drive to compel Tokyo to surrender—with consequences that forever changed modern war.

These unprecedented operations saw the first large-scale use of Navy Underwater Demolition Teams; a revolution in the fleet’s ability to sustain cross-hemispheric expeditionary warfare; the struggle of American troops facing not only a suicidal enemy garrison but desperate Japanese civilians; and the rise of the U.S. Navy as the greatest of grand fleets. From the Marianas, B-29 Superfortresses would finally unleash nuclear fire on an enemy resolved to fight to the end.

Hornfischer casts this clash of nations and cultures with cinematic scope and penetrating insight, focusing closely on the people who rose to the challenge under fire: Raymond Spruance, the brilliant, coolly calculating commander of the Fifth Fleet; Kelly Turner, whose amphibious forces delivered Marine General Holland “Howlin’ Mad” Smith’s troops to the beaches of Saipan and Tinian; Draper Kauffman, founder of the Navy unit that predated today’s SEALs; Paul Tibbets, who created history’s first atomic striking force and flew the Enola Gay to Hiroshima; and Japanese warriors and civilians who saw the specter of defeat as the ultimate test of the spirit.

From the seas of the Central Pacific to the shores of Japan itself, The Fleet at Flood Tide is a stirring and deeply humane account of World War II’s world-changing finale.

Praise for The Fleet at Flood Tide

“An impressively lucid account . . . Mr. Hornfischer crisply and satisfyingly sketches all these figures, and his big Iliad contains a hundred smaller ones, as he propels his complex story forward with supple transitions that never leave the reader behind in the details.”—The Wall Street Journal

The Fleet at Flood Tide is a masterful, fresh account of the latter days of the war in the Pacific that ably expands on the prior offerings of such classic naval historians as Samuel Eliot Morison.”—The Dallas Morning News

“Hornfischer places the campaign, wonderfully depicted as all his naval histories are, within U.S. strategic goals in the Pacific, especially the need for bases for B-29 bombers. Also noteworthy and welcome: the attention Hornfischer pays to the logistics challenges of the long-distance Pacific war.”Foreign Policy

“Hornfischer has done it again! . . . No matter how many histories of the Western Pacific campaigns one has read, this one should not be missed.”Rear Adm. W. J. Holland, Jr., USN (ret.), Pull Together: Newsletter of the Naval Historical Foundation Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • This is a masterful account of the barbaric last year of the Pacific War, combining original scholarship, engaging prose, excellent historical judgment, and empathy for the soldier, to explain why defeating the Japanese proved so costly—and how American military forces performed so effectively and, in the end, humanely.  The Fleet at Flood Tide is, quite simply, popular and scholarly military history at its best. Victor Davis Hanson, author of Carnage and Culture, senior fellow in classics and military history, The Hoover Institution, Stanford University
  • We have here a carefully researched and well-written account of key stages and events in the final portion of the war in the Pacific that includes a careful look at the Japanese side as well as the American. The campaign in the Marianas and the background and reality of the atomic bomb are exceptionally thoughtfully presented. Gerhard L. Weinberg, author of A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II, professor emeritus of history, University of North Carolina
  • The Fleet at Flood Tide is the definitive work on the latter days of the war in the Pacific, diving deeper and with more passion and eloquence than anything written to date on this crucial and defining moment in the history of the U.S. Navy. Hornfischer brings the brutality of total war to full-throated life, from the trenches and amphibious assaults to the mass suicides of frightened Japanese civilians to the horrific but necessary decision to use the atomic bomb. This book is a ticket to watch hell in full session, and serves at once as an extraordinary memorial to the courageous—and a cautionary note to a world that remains unstable and turbulent today. Adm. James Stavridis, USN (ret.), former Supreme Allied Commander, NATO, and Dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
  • The Fleet at Flood Tide is a majestic account of the decisive moment of the Pacific War—an epic land, air, and sea struggle like none other in history—told with poetic power by one of our most distinguished historians. It puts the reader right there, in the eye of storm—on the decks of the great carriers, in the caves of the savagely contested islands, in the cockpit of the four-engine machine that delivered the war-ending bomb. Donald L. Miller, author of D-Days in the Pacific
  • Hornfischer has done it again! Crafting a historical narrative that is a ‘page turner’ featuring personalities and decisions as well as crisp commentary that is not always complimentary to his subjects, he brings the scenes of battle to life. . . . No matter how many histories of the Western Pacific campaigns one has read, this one should not be missed. Naval History Book Reviews
  • The moral tale Hornfischer tells adeptly, through more clinical historical language, is that of total war. . . . The Fleet at Flood Tide provides not only a good yarn but an unflinching history rich with lessons to be learned about truly existential war, the vast expanse of the Pacific, and the lengths to which the country was forced to go to definitively defeat a societal death cult. The Strategy Bridge
  • An impressively lucid account . . . Mr. Hornfischer crisply and satisfyingly sketches all these figures, and his big Iliad contains a hundred smaller ones, as he propels his complex story forward with supple transitions that never leave the reader behind in the details. . . . At the end of his admirable, fascinating book, Mr. Hornfischer makes a strong case that America’s failing to use the most terrible weapon yet born would have meant many hundreds of thousands more deaths, theirs and ours alike. The Wall Street Journal
  • In his latest masterpiece on the Pacific War, historian James D. Hornfischer explores how the shocking lessons of the 1944 Mariana Islands campaign helped compel the United States to unleash atomic weaponry as the necessary means to quell the Japanese Empire. . . . Rich and scholarly military history with fresh critical analysis . . . The Fleet at Flood Tide is a masterful, fresh account of the latter days of the war in the Pacific that ably expands on the prior offerings of such classic naval historians as Samuel Eliot Morison. In his analysis, Hornfischer offers perspective on world conflict and cautions for humanity that can be pondered far beyond the conclusion of World War II. The Dallas Morning News
  • The decisive moment of the Pacific War wasn’t at Midway or Guadalcanal, but rather, the full mobilization of the U.S. war economy that Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto warned about before Pearl Harbor. That finally came together in the Central Pacific island-hopping campaign, exemplified by the assault on Saipan. Hornfischer places the campaign, wonderfully depicted as all his naval histories are, within U.S. strategic goals in the Pacific, especially the need for bases for B-29 bombers. Also noteworthy and welcome: the attention Hornfischer pays to the logistics challenges of the long-distance Pacific war. Foreign Policy 
  • Hornfischer is the dean of World War II naval history . . . [and] has a crafted an impressive and fast-paced narrative. . . . In his capable hands, the story races along like an intense thriller . . . with the powerful prose of a poet. . . . The Fleet at Flood Tide is narrative nonfiction at its finest—a book simply not to be missed. James M. Scott, Charleston Post and Courier
  • “Superb, full of remarkable new insight based on original research . . . With his crisp literary style, James D. Hornfischer takes hold of the many strands of that vast theater of geopolitics, egos, strategy, and staggering ferocity, and weaves them into a page-turner culminating in the agonizing decision to drop the atomic bombs. John F. Lehman, Jr., author of Command of the Seas, former Secretary of the Navy

    “Focusing on the terrible battles of 1944 and 1945, Hornfischer takes the reader into the hell of combat in the air, at sea, and on land. . . . If any book can explain why the eventual use of atom bombs was necessary in order to bring to a final end the suicidal madness of the Japanese military, as well as the atrocities they were committing wherever they went, The Fleet at Flood Tide is it.
  • In his latest masterpiece on the Pacific War, historian James D. Hornfischer explores how the shocking lessons of the 1944 Mariana Islands campaign helped compel the United States to unleash atomic weaponry as the necessary means to quell the Japanese Empire. . . . Rich and scholarly military history with fresh critical analysis . . . The Fleet at Flood Tide is a masterful, fresh account of the latter days of the war in the Pacific that ably expands on the prior offerings of such classic naval historians as Samuel Eliot Morison. In his analysis, Hornfischer offers perspective on world conflict and cautions for humanity that can be pondered far beyond the conclusion of World War II. The Dallas Morning News
  • An impressively lucid account . . . Mr. Hornfischer crisply and satisfyingly sketches all these figures, and his big Iliad contains a hundred smaller ones, as he propels his complex story forward with supple transitions that never leave the reader behind in the details. . . . At the end of his admirable, fascinating book, Mr. Hornfischer makes a strong case that America’s failing to use the most terrible weapon yet born would have meant many hundreds of thousands more deaths, theirs and ours alike. The Wall Street Journal 
  • Hornfischer is the dean of World War II naval history . . . [and] has a crafted an impressive and fast-paced narrative. . . . In his capable hands, the story races along like an intense thriller . . . with the powerful prose of a poet. . . . The Fleet at Flood Tide is narrative nonfiction at its finest—a book simply not to be missed. James M. Scott, Charleston Post and Courier
  • The decisive moment of the Pacific War wasn’t at Midway or Guadalcanal, but rather, the full mobilization of the U.S. war economy that Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto warned about before Pearl Harbor. That finally came together in the Central Pacific island-hopping campaign, exemplified by the assault on Saipan. Hornfischer places the campaign, wonderfully depicted as all his naval histories are, within U.S. strategic goals in the Pacific, especially the need for bases for B-29 bombers. Also noteworthy and welcome: the attention Hornfischer pays to the logistics challenges of the long-distance Pacific war. Foreign Policy  
  • As in all of his books, Hornfischer is both authoritative and eminently readable and uses prose rich in metaphor in detail. . . . Hornfischer has a well-earned reputation as a chronicler of the Pacific war. . . . With The Fleet at Flood Tide, he burnishes that reputation. Craig L. Symonds, Naval History
  • Hornfischer has done it again! Crafting a historical narrative that is a ‘page turner’ featuring personalities and decisions as well as crisp commentary that is not always complimentary to his subjects, he brings the scenes of battle to life. . . . No matter how many histories of the Western Pacific campaigns one has read, this one should not be missed. Rear Adm. W. J. Holland, Jr., USN (ret.), Pull Together: Newsletter of the Naval Historical Foundation
  • A New York Times Bestseller
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