War books are an extraordinary breed of literature. They have an enduring popularity with readers drawn from a vast array of classes and occupations. There is no Brexit here, no division between the haves and the have-nots, no political distinction to separate one from the other. War sells and it always has done. Look at the shelves of your local Waterstones or WHSmith; check the array of titles on offer in airport departure lounges or at train stations; go online to Amazon and other book sellers: books on military themes dominate the history offerings, and among them a bewildering number still deal with the two world wars.
Heroism and excitement, danger and adventure, personal glory and redemption, incompetence and destruction: war has it all. Stories about remarkable acts of bravery and endurance can be both graphic and compelling, and those virtues are to be found in abundance in this new study of the battle for the island of Okinawa in 1945. Mind you, it isn’t an easy read. How could it be? The battle proved to be a dreadful experience for both the Americans and the Japanese: so much death and destruction, so many talented and courageous victims.
Crucible of Hell is aptly titled. Written with verve and style, Saul David, a professor of military history at the University of Buckingham, has plundered letters, diaries, memoirs and interviews and brings a host of personal stories and anecdotes into his study of this frightful episode. He deserves credit for