The Final Storm

Written by Jeff Shaara
Review by Mark F. Johnson

This last novel in Shaara’s World War II series begins late in the war in February 1945. War in the Pacific Theatre is still raging, and the fighting that moves from island to island is increasingly ferocious. The Japanese have had years to prepare their defenses by digging networks of tunnels and bunkers through the hills of each island. The Allied casualty toll is staggering. The fighting continues on the island of Okinawa, where most of this story takes place. It’s the last big step before an invasion of the Japanese homeland. Only the timely completion of the Manhattan Project prevents the almost certain bloodbath which would have resulted from a direct assault on Japan.

In his “to the reader” section, Shaara explains that the motivation to write this novel came from Marines, who felt their side of the story still needed to be told. To that end, a large part of this story is seen through the eyes of his fictional character, Private Clay Adams. Adams has missed most of the war while recovering from a bad infection suffered early on and is now itching to get into the fight. Shaara uses Adams to relate the day-to-day misery that the Marines (and Army) suffered through in these brutal island fights. But in his attempt to press home this misery, Shaara spends a great deal of time in the mud with Adams and less time with the real figures of the war and the high-level decision making; decisions which, minus the privilege of insight, don’t always make sense to us. It is in that role that Shaara’s past works have always proven their worth. They are the backstage pass to the halls of leadership. Understanding what really happened behind closed doors brings clarity and closure to lingering questions of why something was done.