Barrett Tillman’s Clash of the Carriers: The True Story of the Marianas Turkey Shoot was a book I was looking forward to reading. The “Marianas Turkey Shoot,” more properly known as the Battle of the Philippine Sea, was a great though tremendously lopsided carrier battle that was a death knell for the Imperial Japanese Navy and a triumph for the United States Navy. There aren’t many books written on the battle, so when I came across this on, it wasn’t a difficult decision to buy it (in Kindle form as usual).
As far as the information in the book goes, I have no complaints. Tillman does a good job of telling the story of the Turkey Shoot from both the American and Japanese perspective. He gives credit for good decisions and blame for poor decisions on both sides. On both sides, he includes the perspective of not just fleet, task force, and squadron commanders but individual pilots and sailors as well. He doesn’t just tell the reader that a ship was sunk, he explains the damage done by the attacks and explains why the ship couldn’t be saved. He does a good job of putting you in the cockpit, on the deck, or within the ship depending upon the sailor or officer’s job.
On the other hand, there are elements of the book that just undermined it for me. One of those things was the jargon/slang Tillman makes frequent use of. He doesn’t offer explanations of the terms and that could make for difficult reading by the casual reader. At times, the jargon and some of his descriptions go over the top. Second, he let his objectivity slip in the closing chapters (in retrospect I should have expected it to pop up somewhere given Stephen Coonts’ Foreward). I didn’t detect a lack of objectivity throughout much of the book, but in the “Where are they now” chapter near the end of the book, Tillman lets his objectivity slip and his politics shine through. As a History major (including a course in Historiography) I found that very unappealing.
I had a tough time deciding on how to rate Clash of the Carriers. It provided some good information and good perspectives on the battle, but it could have been written a bit better and Tillman could have left his politics out of it. If Goodreads had a 3.5 that is probably what I would have given it, but the over the top descriptions, jargon, and politics combined with a lack of maps led me to give it three stars. IF the print version has maps I would likely give it four stars (depending upon map quality). If you’re a naval/military/aviation history buff looking to read about the Battle of the Philippine Sea I would recommend this book, but I wouldn’t to the casual reader.