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Whirlwind: The Air War Against Japan, 1942-1945
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Whirlwind: The Air War Against Japan, 1942-1945

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  519 ratings  ·  61 reviews
WHIRLWIND is the first book to tell the complete, awe-inspiring story of the Allied air war against Japan--the most important strategic bombing campaign inhistory. From the audacious Doolittle raid in 1942 to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, award-winning historian Barrett Tillman recounts the saga from the perspectives of American and British aircrews ...more
Hardcover, 316 pages
Published March 12th 2010 by Simon & Schuster (first published March 2nd 2010)
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Aug 15, 2020 rated it liked it
A good history of the Air War against Japan, somewhat disjointed and haphazard just like the air campaign. Much on the "B-san", fair amount of Navy stuff and the Bomb. Some good combat stories from both sides, pretty tough on Mitscher and Halsey, admiring of LeMay. Good facts and overall picture of just how devastating the air campaign was and how the US built such an incredible force in the Pacific. A good overall description of the Pacific campaign, giving the reader some great hints on where ...more
Barrett Tillman does a wonderful job in Whirlwind in collating and interpreting information so that the reader has a clear and informed view of the air war in the final months of the Pacific campaign. His last chapter entitled legacy is a nice piece of interpretation that gave fresh insights to decades long arguments who won the war, the Air Corps or the Navy/Marine team Barrett's reply would be both but not without difficulties such as the admirals wanting to destroy the neutered Japanese fleet ...more
Somewhat mislabeled--this largely is a history of the B-29, with Naval Aviation and the Bomb tacked on. The style is a bit wooden. And it's a useful defense of area bombing and reference of reasons why the Bomb had to be dropped. But, it provides useful stats, and a few, though just a few, previously unknown facts.

The first is that the B-29, and its various predecessors were so relatively well armed because no long range fighter-escorts had been designed: "In short, the technological tail wagge
This book provides an account of the air war against Japan. The real story is of the rise of the Army air force under Curtis LeMay and its annihilation of Japan’s cities and ability to resist. When the book starts the Japanese air force and ground defense pose a significant (if manageable) risk. By Spring of ‘45 Allied forces are largely unopposed. The biggest killers of the B-29s wasn’t air combat but malfunctions.

This book provides a different angle on the Pacific War than the more normal acco
Michael Flanagan
Nov 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww-2
Whirlwind delivers a thorough examination on the American bombing campaign on Japan during WWII. From the initial Doolittle raid to the dropping of the bomb that changed warfare forever, this book is an engaging read. When I finished reading this book I felt like I had a great understanding of the politics and the men who fought on both sides of this conflict. With saying that the main part of the book is centred around the Americans with just enough of the Japan side of the story told to balanc ...more
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
A readable, well-researched and comprehensive history of the American bombing campaign against Japan.

Tillman does a great job explaining the significance of the B-29 and how the US was able to design, produce and deploy the aircraft without too many problems between the manufacturer and the military, or between the various branches. He also ably describes how successful the US was at deploying the bombers at remote strips (first in China, then on Pacific Islands) and keeping them supplied, despi
F.C. Etier
Feb 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: adventure, war,history buffs
[Previously published on]

Did you know anyone who was in the WTC attack on 9/11/2001? Over 17,000 people from more than fifteen countries were in the two towers at the time of the attack. Two thousand six hundred five people died in New York alone. For me, it was two degrees of separation; a co-worker's cousin. Similar situation for my wife and dozens of others I've spoken with over the years. A young man from our home town died in the Pentagon attack. Compare this with the more
Jul 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Don't be fooled by the cover - this book is not solely about the B-29 bomber offensive. Instead, it's a book that addresses the air war against the Japanese home islands and the surrounding coastal waters in all its forms, including naval air strikes. While comprehensive in scope, it is not particularly deep or detailed. Mr. Tillman keeps the prose very readable, even for the casual historian. Mr. Tillman also raises questions about the value of different air activities, such as the naval air st ...more
Matthew Dambro
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent retelling of the air war against Japan. Tillman is the dean of aviation historians of WW II. His analysis of the problems and the dangers inherent in sending an untried and in many ways revolutionary weapons system (B-29) to the most primitive of airfields (CBI) is spot on. He assesses blame and praise fairly and backed by facts.
Walt O'Hara
May 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Barrett Tillman's study of the Air War against Japan is a remarkably fresh and interesting history. Tillman takes the reader from roughly the time of Midway to literally the last day of the Pacific War against Japan. The focus is primarily the aviation war against the Japanese Empire, primarily conducted by the Americans, and the steps taken to position America to invade the home islands of Japan. This is a story with many anecdotes and avenues, but it is primarily a tale of the development of t ...more
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: military-history
World War II historians seemingly have analyzed the air war over Europe down to the last .50-caliber slug. From the British fighter heroes who won the Battle of Britain to the massive American daylight bombing raids that helped bring the Third Reich to its knees, the record is thick on the library shelves.

Great naval battles like Midway and the Coral Sea deservedly have also been the subjects of considerable study. Much less has been said, though, of the men who flew the long, long B-29 missions
Michael Gerald
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
I got the impression that the author was trying to impress the readers by coming up with figures and with trivia. However, while the blockade and the US conventional bombing crippled Japan's war effort, it was the dropping of the bombs and the Soviet Union's declaration of war against Japan that prompted the latter to surrender in the Second World War. ...more
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A bracing, but enjoyable read. Tillman sets out to tell us the story of the Air War over Japan itself, The Allied effort to carry out Strategic, Grand Strategic, and also Tactical Air campaigns against home Islands from Dolittle's first pinprick raid over Tokyo in 1942 to the Enola Gay and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But learning about the great Fast Carrier Raids of 1944/1945 and the activities of the Royal Navy 4 Carrier(?!) task force was also new stuff to learn about. The pace is fast, and the a ...more
Nov 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
There are books on the Doolittle Raid, the B-29 campaign against Japan, and the development of carrier air power. What makes this book unique is that Tillman has looked at all these together as a history of US bombing of Japan during WW2. There is good background and information on all four (Doolittle Raid; evolution of the B-29 campaign including aerial mining and the initial bombing offensive staged out of China; evolution of carrier air power and usage; usage of atomic bombs), and by tackling ...more
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
An excellent overview of the air campaign against Japan during the later part of the war. Barrett Tillman attempts to offer some insight on the policy makers which provides the backdrop for the biggest debate of them all, was the use of the Atomic bombs necessary to secure victory?

I thought I was well versed in the history of the Pacific theater but I found there was so much to it then what I had learned over the years. My point? Despite what you think you know there is a nugget or two to be dra
Steve Scott
An excellent overview of the history of the bombing of Japan from the Doolittle Raid forward. It’s wonderfully informative.

Tillman seems to have an anti-Navy bias in favor of the Army Air Force. I may be reading that wrong, however.

His defense of the firebombing of Japan was compelling, and caused me to reconsider my stance on the issue. I’d questioned its necessity for over fifty years.

I strongly recommend it.
Mary Beth
Great for History/WWII buffs. Very interesting book. I never knew so much about the air war in the Pacific. It was a nice read and wasn't too technical or just facts; the author made it easy to digest. It really made you appreciate those brave men/boys as you read the book and what they undertook. ...more
Nishant Pappireddi
A good account of the strategic bombing of Japan by the Allies.
Robert Snow
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
A solid history of the air war against Japan.
Kenneth Flusche
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A Good Tillman WWII History
James Teener
Sep 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Both a chronological history and an examination of the whys and wherefores of same, this study of the air war against Japan is largely a history of the USAAF's strategic bombing offensive against the home islands. It barely touches on the George Kenny's air campaign in support of the SW Pacific, and looks at the Navy's carrier campaign only when it attacks the home islands in late 1944 through the war's end. Thus, it is mostly a study of B-san, the B-29 and the units that operated that airplane ...more
Nov 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Barrett Tillman’s thrilling Whirlwind: The Air War Against Japan 1942-1945 is a very well written and comprehensive history book, although one could never tell by glancing at it’s pages. Despite being well researched and historically accurate, it reads like a fictional action story. From the incredible Doolittle Raids to an unforgettable account of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, you will be left wishing your history textbooks were written like Whirlwind.

The story begins with General Doolittle. He push
D. Jason
Dec 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Barrett Tillman's overview of the air war in the Pacific claims to be (and could very well be) the first comprehensive treatment of the subject in one book. He relies on various sources, including archival research and interviews with participants on both sides of the conflict, and the result is an engrossing read that leaves the reader with a good general overview, some interesting details that he had never encountered before (yes, even if you are an expert in the subject), and a hunger for muc ...more
Jun 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
"My" war was WWII, of which I have personal memories, starting with Pearl Harbor. This concise book (271 pages without the index) reminds us of the scale of that conflict as we agonize over present-day conflicts. I watch public television and I appreciate the honor paid to fallen soldiers, one at a time. That would have been impossible in WWII, there were too many deaths. The numbers both fascinate and horrify: 720 bombers over Hamburg killing 45,000 people, 1,300 bombers over Dresden killing 25 ...more
Mike Dargan
Apr 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
Veterans of World War II are dying at a rate of some 2,000 each day. So, it's important for people like Barrett Tillman to collect oral histories so that they might be available to future generations. However, in his attempt to weave the anecdotes into a coherent narrative, his lack of historical and technical expertise is obvious. Time after time I found myself doing the arithmetic in my head and thinking, "couldn't the guy reread the darned thing before sending it to the publisher?" An example ...more
Jul 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
I continue to read World War 2 books. At this point I have read enough that there are that many new stories, but I still think that the study of the war provides incredibly valuable lessons. Because the war was the biggest in history and so well documented, almost any question about war or security can be better understood by studying some aspect of the war. In books, I am no longer looking for books that answer What questions, so much as those that answer Why, Whether or How.

The air war against
Feb 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction
The reviews made me think I was going to get the inside dope on the conduct of the air war against Japan in the last phases of WWII. It delivered details by the planeload, and I was interested to learn how early air power doctrine and far-thinking planners influenced the development of a long-range bomber capable of hitting Japan (the B-29 began development for just that purpose, well ahead of Pearl Harbor). It was also interesting to learn that India-based B-29s bombed Japan before bases in the ...more
Jun 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book offers a good, not overly in-depth account of the air war against Japan. It covers the B-29 program as deployed on the Asian mainland and on the Pacific islands. It also covers naval actions against Japanese home territory, and the dropping of the atomic bombs.

The subject matter is extremely broad, encompassing both army and naval air forces, but it did feel a little too thin at times. Nonetheless, the author appears to have done his research work: most engagements have sortie/effectiv
Jul 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
For anyone interested in history and particularly in history of the twentieth century this is an important book. First, it is thorough. Thorough in its historical detail of names, places and personalities of the era and thorough in its historical perspective, tying up the minutia of decisions both poor and proper that had to be made. Secondly it presents a broad overview of the ultimate outcome of the war in the Pacific. It was a revelation to me that the development of one aircraft, the B-29, w ...more
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book plugged a hole in my reading on the Pacific air war, in that it covers the battles over the Japanese homeland itself, rather than the carrier air war across the Pacific. It is a good overview of that, including Navy raids into Japan. While it spends a lot of ink on the B-29 raids, it even spares a few pages for the British Pacific Fleet's late (post-VE Day) contribution to the air campaign. The Japanese near-complete lack of preparation for defense, based on their culture and the milit ...more
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Born a fourth-generation Oregonian, descended from American pioneers, Revolutionary War Patriots, Pilgrims (e.g. Priscilla Alden) and Pocahontas, Tillman was raised on the family wheat and cattle ranch. His younger brothers include a breeder of exotic animals and a Rhodes Scholar. In high school he was an Eagle Scout[citation needed], won two state titles as a rudimental drummer, and was a champio ...more

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