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Publisher's Summary

From award-winning historian Saul David, an action-packed and powerful new narrative of the Battle of Okinawa - the last great clash of the Second World War and one that had profound consequences for the modern world.

For 83 blood-soaked days, the fighting on the island of Okinawa plumbed depths of savagery as bad as anything seen on the Eastern Front. When it was over, almost a quarter of a million people had lost their lives, making it by far the bloodiest US battle of the Pacific. In Okinawa, the death toll included thousands of civilians lost to mass suicide, convinced by Japanese propaganda that they would otherwise be raped and murdered by the enemy. On the US side, David argues that the horror of the battle ultimately determined President Truman’s choice to use atomic bombs in August 1945.

It is a brutal, heart-rending story and one David tells with masterly attention to detail: the cramped cockpit of a kamikaze plane, the claustrophobic gun turret of a warship under attack and a half-submerged foxhole amidst the squalor and battle detritus. The narrative follows generals, presidents and emperors, as well as the humbler experiences of ordinary servicemen and families on both sides and the Okinawan civilians who were caught so tragically between the warring parties.

Using graphic eyewitness accounts and declassified documents from archives in three continents, Saul David illuminates a shocking chapter of history that is too often missing from Western-centric narratives of the Second World War.

Shortlisted for the 2021 British Army Military Book of the Year.

©2020 Saul David (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic Reviews

"Gripping, even gruesome, yet deeply moving, Crucible of Hell sweeps us masterfully from a coral charnel house in the Pacific to the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima." (David Reynolds, author of Island Stories)

"Excellent. Saul David’s gripping narrative is admirably clear." (Antony Beevor)

"David restores a human dimension to this battle - both sides are brave, stoic, frightened, barbaric and occasionally cowardly. This is narrative history at its most visceral as battles unfold almost in real time...In short chapters David shifts between American and Japanese fronts, providing a gripping reconstruction of the action." (Gerard DeGroot, Times)

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