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Utmost Savagery: The 3 Days of Tarawa by Colonel Joseph H. Alexander provides an engaging overview of the battle between U.S. Central Pacific Forces and the Japanese during World War II. While it is well known that the Second World War took the lives of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, what is not well known is that during the 76 hours that encompassed the battle of Betio 6,000 human lives were lost all within an area the size of the Pentagon and its parking lots. By bringing this battle to light, Alexander is able to show not only the harsh realities of war but also the complicated manner in which warfare was carried out during this time period.
The author’s central objectives are:
- Provide an accurate and concise account of the battle of Betio.
- Alexander produces a critical look at the key players and their strategic positions in the battle.
- Alexander provides a clear overview of the plan of attack and the problems that were encountered.
- What Alexander reveals is that many of the problems that were encountered were not the direct result of the battle conditions or the preparedness of the Japanese.
- What Alexander demonstrates is that many of the problems that occurred during this battle were the direct result of miscalculations on the part of the military.
Examining the author’s credentials for writing the book, it could be effectively argued that Alexander’s 28 years of service with the Marine Corps has adequately prepared him to write on such subjects. However, in producing this manuscript, the author relied upon a number of Japanese documents about the battle that had been previously unavailable. The extent of the detail provided in these documents served as the basis for the development of the rich detail in the book and for the author’s ability to recollect such savage events. To his credit, Alexander has written a number of texts regarding the specific battles of World War II. However, he has been most recognized for his work in Utmost Savagery.
Reviewing contemporary criticism of the book, it becomes quite clear that Alexander’s work has been widely accepted as the most accurate and engaging on the subject matter. Rathgeber notes that the text is uniquely powerful because it brings to light one of the most pivotal battles of the Second World War and effectively illustrates the internal conflict about the process of warfare that was utilized to accomplish victory. “His narrative brings to life the thoughts and emotions of the planners and the reasons they defended and attacked the way they did.