Review by Martin Koenigsberg
After the high casualty count taking Tarawa in November 1943, The American Military felt the need to make changes to their Island Hopping MO. Their assaults on the Marshalls in 1944 would reflect those enhancements, with longer Air and Artillery preparation barrages, more observed fire, better pre-assault reconnaissance, more flamethrowers, more tanks, and if possible integrated fire from divisional artillery on adjacent islands.
Gordon L. Rottman, a Veteran US Officer and author of many works on WWII and Cold War struggles, gives us the story straight and short as he fills the 96-page book—Classic Battles: The Marshall Islands 1944—with good historical content, b/w pics, color plates/diagrams/Maps explaining the attacks on Roi-Namur Islands (two islands connected by a causeway), and Kwajalein Island in the Kwajalein Atoll, and Engebi Island, Eniwetok Island, and Parry Island in the Eniwetok Atoll.
Cutting up the assaults into easy-to-understand small chapters helps the reader understand the overwhelming firepower applied to some very small spaces between February 1 and February 23, 1944. My own father would visit several of these islands during his Airfield construction days in an engineering unit of the US Army, so I found the topic very interesting and hope to visit one or more of these sites someday. They were key victories in acquiring airfields and anchorages across from Pearl Harbor to Japan.
One of the advantages of the speed of the American onslaught after Pearl Harbor was that aside from Admiral Yamamoto, few of the Japanese Leaders could conceive of the resources the US was willing to expend to avenge Pearl Harbor. After Tarawa, the Japanese were not ready for another burst of assaults from the American Navy, Marines, and Army so soon- and had not been able to muster the logistics to defend all the atolls of the Marshall to the standard of Tarawa- or any of the late war defensive battles like Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Their Defensive earthworks were generally as good as could be built by infantry units alone, although there were some enhancements from Sapper units from the Japanese Navy and Army. Some light tanks were used as well as strong points. The US Infantry and Marines found their planning and heavy firepower were able to reduce their won casualties. These were also the first landings where the social/Cultural/Linguistic differences between the Japanese and their Korean colonial subjects were understood and exploited by US intelligence to reduce casualties and understand Japanese actions.
There are few adult themes in this book and little graphic casualty description, so it makes good reading for a Junior Reader over about 11/12 with an interest in the Pacific War. For the Gamer/Modeler/Military Enthusiast this is a joy to behold. Breaking down so many regimental/brigade size attacks into their component parts and providing a full order of battle is invaluable to the Gamer in Campaign/Scenario development, even if you are cutting down the forces proportionally as one might for a Bolt Action skirmish landing.
Modelers will find a good jumping-off point for build/diorama development, probably using the bibliography to access even more photos of the battles. Military Enthusiasts get a clear concise short history of the campaign and lots of ideas for new information quests. I even got the travel bug as I read about these strategic specks in the Pacific. A good addition to the Pacific War shelf in the library.