America's Fighting Admirals by William Tuohy

After reading several interesting books about the naval war during World War II, I wanted to read about the men who led us to victory in that war. William Tuohy’s America’s Fighting Admirals piqued my interest. Tuohy satisfied my interest and more.

The book is organized chronologically by looking at the admirals who led the U.S. Navy during World War II.Tuohy focuses on the men who rose to the occasion and those who fell short. His list of fighting admirals includes such famous men as Admirals Raymond Spruance and William “Bull” Halsey, but also little known, but important men such as Admirals Willis “Ching” Lee and Aaron Stanton “Tip” Merrill.

Tuohy mainly covers the war in the Pacific Theater with a few pages about the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and France. I understand that the Pacific Theater was by far the most important theater of operations for the U.S. Navy, but I think that Tuohy should have spent some time on the men who protected the convoys in the North Atlantic (then again maybe there weren’t any “fighting admirals” in those leaders).

I like Tuohy’s analysis of the various admirals. He accurately describes the strengths and weaknesses of each man. For example, he compares the traits of the two men who led the Navy in the Pacific on the tactical level – Spruance and Halsey. Tuohy describes Spruance as quiet, unflappable, intellectual and led the Fifth Fleet with smooth efficiency and a strong sense of sticking to and achieving his missions – all of which helped him win the major battles he fought in. In his examination of Halsey, Tuohy describes him as charismatic, impetuous, aggressive, and beloved by his sailors despite serious flaws in tactical judgment.Although both made mistakes, Halsey’s mistakes cost the Navy more ships.

Tuohy’s analysis of the development of U.S. Navy tactics during the war is great. He explains how Admiral Kelly Turner progressively grew stronger as an organizer and commander of U.S. amphibious operations in the Pacific – the miscues of Guadalcanal were quickly solved. In addition, Tuohy explains that the admirals learned to use aircraft carriers as groups rather than as individual ships – this greatly boosted striking power and efficiency.

Now, with regard to the technical aspects of the book, it is a quick read at 363 pages, with a wonderful 11-page summary of the admirals who were mentioned in the book. Also, there is one map of the Pacific Theater, but I think that the book should have included a few more to add some clarity to the narrative.Finally, Tuohy includes photographs of some of the admirals.

Overall, the book is a fine memorial to the admirals who led our forces against the Axis Powers in World War II.

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