Meanwhile, Ray Ingersoll has been sent back Stateside for sentencing, after shooting Japanese prisoners on Iwo Jima. Because he has an otherwise exemplary record, the authorities decide to assign him guard duty at the same internment camp. But Ray has been damaged more than just physically by the fighting, and he brings his hatred of the enemy to his new job.
When one of the paper’s combat correspondents is killed, Gil is offered the chance to finally write for the paper, but on what will become the arena for the last battle of WWII, the Japanese-held island of Okinawa.
Gil flies out, and follows a unit of Marines around the island until they are stopped at the hideous battle for the south. He watches as one after another of his new colleagues is killed. But there is a larger destiny in store for Gil, one that affects his wife back home.
This sixth and final story in Westwood’s series of World War II novels brings the war to its bloody, dramatic close. Gil Rossiter, the story’s central figure, becomes a correspondent at Okinawa, while his Japanese-American wife awaits his fate in a Wyoming internment facility. Their intertwined stories, coupled with those of other characters, provide a touching conclusion to Westward’s series of Second World War novels. As in all the previous books, Westwood’s major theme is how war changes the lives of ordinary people.
Juxtaposing the no-quarter, brutal combat on Okinawa with the tensions and racial hatreds back home in Wyoming and Seattle, Westwood shows that even this conflict – America’s most complete and overwhelming victory – was a tragic, lonesome war. Every one of the men and women in this story is nicely rendered by the writer as a damaged figure, a casualty of war in one way or another. Westwood’s research, on the conditions of warfare in the Pacific in 1945, is excellent, and skillfully used in the tale. The dialogue between the characters is crisp, the combat scenes visualized in terse imageries of grim violence and loss. “Would your editor run a piece of yours if it really told what it was like out here [on Okinawa],” a combat surgeon asks correspondent Rossiter. “No, didn’t think so.”
Anyone who has read any of Westwood’s previous books in the series should get this one. Anyone who hasn’t read Westwood’s books, but enjoys good war fiction, should look at getting the entire series.
Reviewed by: Terry Shoptaugh (2012)