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Ian W. Toll

The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944

Interview with Ian W. Toll

October 14, 2016

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About Ian W. Toll

Ian W. Toll is a writer and independent scholar.  He is the author of three highly regarded works of American military history:  Six Frigates, Pacific Crucible, and The Conquering Tide.  The latter two titles are the first two volumes of a nonfiction trilogy about the Pacific War.  The third and concluding volume, Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945, will be published in 2018.​

Six Frigates was the 2007 recipient of the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature, the William E. Colby Military Writers Award, and was placed on the New York Times “Editor’s Choice” list.  Pacific Crucible received the Northern California Book Award for Nonfiction in 2012. The Conquering Tide was a New York Times bestseller and was also selected for that newspaper's “Editor’s Choice” list.

Toll has been widely published in newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Naval History.  He is a regular reviewer for the New York Times Review of Books.  His books on the Pacific War have been translated into Japanese and published in that country by the publishing house Bungeishunjū, and are being translated into Chinese for publication in mainland China.  Toll has spoken at venues and institutions throughout the United States, including the Pentagon, the U.S. Treasury Department, the Naval Observatory (official residence of the vice president), the the U.S. Naval War College, and the U.S. Naval Academy.  Toll has also been interviewed on many national and local television and radio programs, including NPR’s Diane Rehm Show, WAMC’s Roundtable, CSPAN’s Book TV, and innumerable commercial radio programs throughout the U.S.A.  ​

Prior to beginning work on Six Frigates in 2002, Toll was a Wall Street analyst (1997-2001), a Federal Reserve financial analyst (1995-1997), and a political aide and speechwriter (1989-1993).​

Toll received an undergraduate degree (B.A.) in American History at Georgetown University (1989) and a Masters in Public Policy (M.P.P.) from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government (1995).  Toll and his family live in New York City.

Interview Summary

What was originally planned to be a single book on the Pacific War soon evolved into a series of well-researched books about the conflict. The Conquering Tide is the second book in Ian W. Toll’s trilogy following Pacific Crucible, with Twilight of the Gods expected to be published in 2018.

In The Conquering Tide, the award-winning author, covers the period between mid-1942 to mid-1944, offering a detailed description of the counteroffensive that shifted the balance between the U.S. and Japan in the theater of naval warfare.

With the help of new resources and more access to sources in Japan, Toll provides a panoramic view of the war both from the U.S. and Japanese standpoints, focusing on how the two governments managed public opinions back home. An independent scholar, Toll benefits from his versatile background in finance, economics and media in taking readers away from the narrow perspectives of the battles at sea to the political and diplomatic forces of strategy engineering, the social and economic aspects of the military campaign as well as its enormous impact on both sides of the Pacific. 

Key Topics

  • What was the significance of World War II as a test of strength between the authoritarian and democratic models of society?
  • How did President Roosevelt face the challenge of coordinating military planning with political decision making?
  • What were the U.S. military priorities in the Pacific War?
  • How did Admiral Ernest J King fight the battle for retaking Guadalcanal?
  • What level of planning and operational preparedness was necessary in the fight for Gilbert Islands and Tarawa?
  • Why was King convinced that the central Pacific line of advance was the route to victory compared to McArthur’s route through the Philippines?
  • How did U.S. politicians force industrial companies to shift commercial production to war machinery?
  • The third volume of the trilogy will cover another year of warfare in the southwest Pacific islands and central Pacific islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

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