The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942–1944 is the second volume in the Pacific War trilogy written by best selling author and historian Ian W. Toll. The book is a narrative history of the middle phase of the Pacific War, which took place in the central and southern Pacific between the Allies and the Empire of Japan. It was published by W. W. Norton & Company in 2015 (hardcover and Kindle) and 2016 (paperback). It was released as an audiobook narrated by P. J. Ochlan by Recorded Books in 2015. The first volume in the trilogy, Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941–1942, was published in 2011; the final volume in the trilogy, Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945, was published in 2020.[1]

The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942–1944
The Conquering Tide War in the Pacific Islands 1942-1944 book cover.jpg
The Conquering Tide
AuthorIan W. Toll
Audio read byP. J. Ochlan
CountryUnited States
SeriesThe Pacific War Trilogy
PublisherW. W. Norton & Company
Publication date
Media typePrint, Kindle, Audiobook
Pages656pp (hardcover); 27 hours and 22 minutes (audiobook)
Preceded byPacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941–1942 (Volume 1). 
Followed byTwilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945 (Volume 3). 
WebsiteThe Conquering Tide at W. W. Norton
Marines rest in the field on Guadalcanal
USS Wasp (CV-7) burning on 15 September 1942
Marines during the New Guinea campaign
Navy Douglas Dauntless flies over the battleship USS Washington
USS Lexington (CV-16) in the Philippine Sea
US Marines on Guadalcanal
US Soldiers at the Battle of Kwajalein


Continuing the story of the Pacific war, The Conquering Tide covers the period from June 1942 to June 1944, a time frame that starts with the fighting during the Solomon Islands , Guadalcanal, and New Guinea campaigns, continues into the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign and ends with the dramatic Japanese defeats during the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign and the Battle of the Philippine Sea, which sets the stage for the final phase of the war in the approach to and on the Japanese home islands.[2] In writing about the scope of the subject of covered in the The Conquering Tide, the Dallas Morning News review states,

"The Pacific War was the largest, bloodiest, most costly, most technically innovative, and most logistically complex amphibious war in history. To roll back the tide of Japanese conquests, the Allies would be required to seize one island after another, advancing across thousands of miles of ocean in two huge parallel offensives on either side of the equator. The army, navy, and marines were compelled to work together in sustained and intricate cooperation."[a][3]

Both a history from below, showing the perspectives of the average soldiers, sailors, and airmen that fought the war and a history from above, showing how American military leaders, especially Admiral Ernest King, planned and executed the strategy that set the stage for the final phase of the Pacific war. Toll uses both official histories and personal recollections to tell the story of this phase of the war. He weaves personal stories from the fighter pilots that fought the Japanese in the air, the sailors on board ship that encountered them at sea, and the soldiers and marines that fought them on countless islands, together with thoughts, plans, and reactions of the leaders that guided the progress of the war, to provide the reader with a compelling narrative of how the war unfolded.[4][5]

Toll provides insights into the Japanese perspective of the conflict. An example of the vivid details he includes are the feelings and perspectives of normal Japanese merchant seaman; Toll recounts, "In the navy’s hierarchy, recalled one veteran merchant mariner, he and his shipmates "were lower than military horses, less important than military dogs, even lower than military carrier pigeons." On one ship with a mixed crew, all merchant mariners were confined below, while only Etajima (naval academy) graduates were allowed to take in the sun and sea air on deck. "That was their attitude. There was no sense you were all fighting together. You can’t win with such an attitude.""[b][6] On the opposite end of the spectrum, Toll shows the growing power and dominance of General Tojo and his allies in the Japanese government,[6] and his eventual fall from power and replacement by Kuniaki Koiso, a retired general and the Japanese proconsul in charge of Korea, who nonetheless continued Tojo's failed policies and "dutifully mouthed the same bellicose avowals and victory forecasts that had been Tojo’s trademark".[c][7] The many ways the Japanese had prepared for a war against the United States is explained in the first part of the book and is demonstrated throughout. Because air power was central to the fighting in the Pacific, Toll points out the often superiority of Japanese fighters and medium bombers and the skill in which Japanese pilots handled them.[3]

As was the case in the first volume, the author shows how preconceived notions and prejudices on both sides continued to be shattered. However these lessons were learned slowly and these misconceptions led both sides to disastrous conclusions before they eventually dissolved and were replaced with more accurate, albeit incomplete and racist, assessments of the skills and abilities of their enemy.[6][7] The Japanese notion of the Americans as "soft, too used to comfort to be effective in battle; not able to withstand the rigors of submarine service" and Allied notions of the Japanese as technologically second rate with poorly trained personnel proved to be costly arrogance. The Japanese held one advantage in this regard; knowing the attitude of those they were about to fight, they used this to their advantage; Toll writes, "Playing cleverly on the hubris and racial chauvinism of their Western rivals, the Japanese had disguised the formidable power of their air fleets and airmen."[d][3] However Toll also quotes Japanese Admiral Kichisaburo Nomura on what would prove the most disastrous miscalculation of the war, "You came far more quickly than we expected."[5]

After detailing the misconceptions and flaws of the two sides, the middle portion of the book largely focuses on the remarkable transformation of the American military as it island hopped across the Pacific and the inability of the Japanese to respond effectively or understand the position they were in. Toll documents the increasing material strength of the United States, growing from a devastated Pacific battleship fleet with a few precious aircraft carriers, into a force capable of striking across the Pacific at will. He not only shows the material growth in the military but also the organizational, tactical, and strategic growth that developed in tandem with it.[8]

Toll concludes the story with the history of the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign, the climax of the war in the central and southern Pacific which set the stage for the war in the western Pacific and Japanese home islands.

"This reviewer was particularly struck by Toll’s description of the Japanese fight to the bitter end on Saipan and the decision by thousands of civilians to take their lives rather than surrender. Despite the bitterness of defeat, we pledge Seven lives to repay our country" was part of Yoshitsugu Saito's last instruction to his battered forces. "About 3,000 Japanese troops answered the call" to report to a staging point and charged down a narrow-gauge railway into the Americans in a banzai charge shortly before 5 a.m. Those who had rifles fixed bayonets, those without fixed knives or bayonets on long poles. At the rear but pressing forward was "a pathetic cavalcade of sick and wounded men, bleeding and bandaged, some hobbling along on crutches, many with no weapons at all. ... Summing up, Toll noted, "Capture of the Marianas and the accompanying ruin of Japanese carrier airpower were final and irreversible blows to the hopes of the Japanese imperial project." "[e][7]

In the final pages of the book, Toll asserts three conclusions that summarize the state of the war in mid 1944:

"That two such colossal assaults could be launched against fortified enemy shores, in the same month and at opposite ends of the Eurasian landmass was a supreme demonstration of American military–industrial hegemony."[f][4]

"The Americans had developed the capability to project overwhelming force into the distant frontiers of the western Pacific, and no tactical masterstroke or blunder could reverse the increasingly lopsided balance of power between the two combatants."[g][7]

Just as Toll concludes his first volume with the earlier decisive Battle of Midway in the eastern Pacific, in the conclusion of this volume he makes the convincing argument that the victory in the Marianas was the decisive moment in the Pacific War. "Though Americans were slow to appreciate it they had just won the decisive victory of the Pacific War."[h][4]


  • "On the American side, Toll’s narrative deftly moves between the towering figures – King, Nimitz, Halsey, Holland Smith, and deck-plate sailors and Marines who “do not know how many of the Japanese civilians [italics in text] will actively fight us.” He weaves the Japanese narrative in a similarly efficient and coherent way. Conquering Tide is not a Navy and Marine battle action history. It is a compelling account from the biggest of pictures of the “Europe first” strategy to the tiniest of pixels to help readers born years and decades after these events understand what happened, why it occurred, and ultimately what it all meant at the time to the Americans and Japanese."[7]
  • "The writing has a very visual aspect, yet the details do not overwhelm the reader, nor does the well‐organized and documented narrative. Told from the points of view of different military and political perspectives covering both sides of the war, plus allied concerns, the story never gets lost as it progresses through the period included. The battle stories include human stories and anecdotes from those not necessarily heard from, including those in the foxholes. Attitudes are explained with ease and controversies covered."[6]
  • "The Conquering Tide is heavily researched and spans nearly 600 pages. Yet Toll's absorbing text flows smoothly and quickly, helped along by anecdotes and stories involving combatants and political leaders on both sides, plus coast watchers who spied on the Japanese from mountaintops and jungles and risked their lives to radio attack warnings."[3]

The Conquering Tide was a New York Times best selling non-fiction book.[9]


See alsoEdit


When quotes from the book appear in referenced secondary sources, the pages they are from are noted below for reference; the first hardcover edition is cited.

  1. ^ Toll, I. W. (2015). The Conquering Tide, pp. 8.
  2. ^ Toll, I. W. (2015). The Conquering Tide, pp. 283.
  3. ^ Toll, I. W. (2015). The Conquering Tide, pp. 535.
  4. ^ Toll, I. W. (2015). The Conquering Tide, pp. .xxii
  5. ^ Toll, I. W. (2015). The Conquering Tide, pp. 504, 513
  6. ^ Toll, I. W. (2015). The Conquering Tide, pp. 457.
  7. ^ Toll, I. W. (2015). The Conquering Tide, pp. 515
  8. ^ Toll, I. W. (2015). The Conquering Tide, pp. 513.


  1. ^ "The Conquering Tide". W. W. Norton & Company. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  2. ^ Jordan, J. W. (October 2, 2015). "The Grueling Archipelago". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d Staff writer (September 25, 2015). "Book Review: The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942–1944". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved September 15, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Borneman, W. R. (October 5, 2015). "Book Review: The Conquering Tide by Ian W. Toll". New York Times. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  5. ^ a b Sears, D. L. (Spring 2016). "Book Review: The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942–1944". HistoryNET. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d Reist, Katherine K. (2017). "The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942–1944 by Ian W. Toll. (New York, NY: W. W. Norton, 2015. Pp. Xxvii, 543. $35.00.)". The Historian. 79 (3): 663–664. doi:10.1111/hisn.12661. S2CID 149259200.
  7. ^ a b c d e Grady, J. "Book Review: The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942–1944 by Ian W. Toll]. Naval Historical Foundation". Naval Historial Foundation. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  8. ^ Moore, R. (2016). "The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942–1944 By Ian W. Toll". Army History. 100: 39–40. JSTOR 26301032.
  9. ^ "The Conquering Tide". Penguin Random House. Retrieved September 14, 2020.

Further readingEdit

  • Bix, H. P. (2001). Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. New York, NY: Perennial.
  • Borneman, W. R. (2012). The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King: The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea. New York: Little, Brown and Co.
  • Cox, J. R. (2020). Blazing Star, Setting Sun: The Guadalcanal-Solomons Campaign, November 1942-March 1943. Oxford: Osprey Publishing.
  • Harries, M., & Harries, S. (1991). Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army. New York: Random House.
  • Hornfischer, J. D. (2011). Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal. New York: Bantam Books.
  • Lacey, S. T. (2013). Pacific Blitzkrieg: World War II in the Central Pacific. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press.
  • Stille, M. E. (2013). The Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific War. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing.
  • Toland, J. (1982). The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire. New York: Random House.
  • Wheelan, J. (2017). Midnight in the Pacific: Guadalcanal: The World War II Battle that Turned the Tide of War. Boston: Da Capo Press.

External linksEdit