Book Review: Their Backs Against the Sea by Bill Sloan

Their Backs Against the Sea: The Battle of Saipan and the Largest Banzai Attack of World War II
by Bill Sloan
Da Capo Press, 2017

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Historian Bill Sloan continues a string of detailed, even granular accounts of the Pacific Theater of the Second World War with his latest book, Their Backs Against the Sea. The subject here is the grueling Battle of Saipan, which Sloan characterizes as a key conflict: the island, at fourteen miles long the second-largest in the Marianas, would give advancing US forces a vital foothold, a base that was at last within striking distance of the Japanese home islands. And the Japanese forces on the island, under the command of Lieutenant General Yoshitsugo Saito, knew this perfectly well; they understood that they needed to hold the island at all costs. A large part of the significance of the Battle of Saipan derives from how literally “at all costs” was interpreted.

Published in Open Letters Weekly, August 14, 2017