Book Review: If Mahan Ran the Great Pacific War: An Analysis of World War II Naval Strategy


by John A. Adams

Indiana University Press, 2008. Pp. x, 458. Maps, notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0253351057

An analysis of the Pacific War based on a careful study of the ideas of Alfred Thayer Mahan, author of The Influence of Sea Power upon History 1660-1805 and other notable works on naval strategy.

An executive and independent scholar, author of The Battle for Western Europe, Fall 1944 and several other works in military history, Adams opens this interesting book with a review of Mahan’s basic ideas about the conduct of war at sea.  He then proceeds to a phase-by-phase analysis of the conduct of the Pacific War, from Japan’s initial planning through the decision to use the atomic bomb.  Although Adams is generally more critical of Japanese decision-making, he by no means lets the Americans off easily.  So while he gives us an excellent analysis of the Japanese errors in connection with the planning for the Midway operation, or for being sucked into a strategic side-show at Guadalcanal, and an even more telling analysis of Japanese strategic errors after Midway, he also challenges the reasoning that led to the potentially disastrous Battle of Santa Cruz, the unnecessary campaign to take Peleliu, and the decision to liberate every square inch of the Philippines, no matter what the cost in Filipino blood. 

Students of naval history will find much to agree with in this volume, and a good deal about which to disagree, but either way they will find it worth reading.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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