- Several authoritative writers—including Richard Frank, Rick Atkinson and Ian W. Toll—are at work on trilogies about that war. But only Morison will ever be, in Baldwin’s words, “a modern Thucydides.”James Hornfischer, author of Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors and Neptune's Inferno.
This is the history of the US Navy in World War II.note It was written by the historical scholar Samuel Eliot Morrison and sponsored by the US government at the authors suggestion. It contains information based on interviews conducted in several theaters as well as actual service as what is now called an "embedded reporter" in several units.
The full series is a fifteen volume set. A summary is also published called The Two Ocean War for those who wish to go to less effort. The Two Ocean War also includes a deal of analysis of the causes of the war and the nature of the interwar period navies. The whole series is written in a magisterial style and gives thorough, precise information about every significant action in which United States Navy ships were involved. To this day it has not become dated and is still respected by military historians as the go-to book for the USN's role in the war. Its one major shortcoming—poor and/or inaccurate information about the Axis side, due to a lack of primary sources—is gradually being addressed by a later generation of scholars, as documents are uncovered and translations become available.
The volumes are:
- The Battle of the Atlantic, September 1939 - May 1943Operations in North African Waters, October 1942 - June 1943The Rising Sun in the Pacific, 1931 - April 1942Coral Sea, Midway, and Submarine Actions, May 1942 - August 1942The Struggle for Guadalcanal, August 1942 - February 1943Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier, 22 July 1942 - 1 May 1944Aleutians, Gilberts, and Marshalls, June 1942 - April 1944New Guinea and the Marianas, March 1944 - August 1944Sicily - Salerno - Anzio, January 1943 - June 1944The Atlantic Battle Won, May 1943 - May 1945The Invasion of France and Germany, 1944–1945Leyte, June 1944 - January 1945The Liberation of the Philippines: Luzon, Mindanao, the Visayas, 1944–1945Victory in the Pacific, 1945Supplement and General Index
And the abridgement
- The Two Ocean War
- Badass Navy: The US Navy obviously. Other navies as well, perhaps, but this is naturally the focus of the work.
- Big Badass Battle Sequence: Several naturally.
- Badass Bookworm: Samuel.
- Big Book of War: And a whopping fifteen of them, in fact.
- Cool Boat: Several. It wouldn't be a history of the US Navy without them, both Allied and Axis.
- Dated History: Morison's personal loyalty to the US Navy and close proximity to the actual events meant he either did not have access to or give sufficient credit to Axis primary sources, some of which did not resurface until years after the war. As a result he was sometimes forced to treat US Navy suppositions about enemy actions and intentions as fact and some of those assumptions have not withstood the test of time. This is especially apparent in his account of the Battle Off Samar which is obviously colored by his evident contempt for Admiral Kurita and cannot be reconciled with the action reports of the Japanese ships involved. By and large though he managed to get things right if he had good sources.
- An additional problem is that the books were published in the late 1940s and 1950s, when all information about the Allies' codebreaking operations was still classified Top Secret. So Morison could not talk about them at all, and may not even have known about them himself. Thus, he often ascribes information about enemy intentions and actions to non-specific "intelligence sources," when in fact it came from decrypted enemy communications.
- Deadpan Snarker: The author several times.
- Doorstopper: Every single volume is a doorstopper. And yes folks that's right, it has a whole volume for the index. And even the "short summary" The Two Ocean War is still a doorstopper.
- Eagleland: Strong case of Type 1.
- Earth Is a Battlefield: It's World War II, so this is on par the course of the books.
- Epic Ship-on-Ship Action: Played straight in the Pacific Theater, with several surface engagements between US and Japanese ships taking place between 1942 to as late as 1944.
- Averted in the Atlantic, where the Germans refuse to deploy their highly valued battleship Tirpitz against the US Navy's brand new Iowa and South Dakota-class ships.
- Father Neptune: Morrison already liked sailing before the war, and personally sailed to several places researching earlier books. Even if that were not the case no one could spend as much time doing hands on research as the author did without ending up as a Father Neptune. Several of the sailors and officers he meets are this as well.
- Flaunting Your Fleets: and not just any fleet but the largest and most powerful ever assembled: by late 1944 the US Pacific fleet alone outnumbered and outgunned every other navy in the world put together.
- Gentleman and a Scholar: The author
- Intrepid Reporter: The author
- Island Base: Many, many, Japanese ones, several of which the Americans take due to their vital locations.
- Must Have Caffeine: Or as the author says, "The navy could probably win a war without coffee but it wouldn't like to try."
- Naval Blockade: Done successfully by the US Navy and Army Air Force on Japan by early 1945, where submarines, air attacks, and mine-laying ships and planes manage to almost completely cut off the Japanese mainland from the rest of their empire.
- Patriotic Fervor: Naturally to be expected from a '40s-'50s New Englander.
- Purple Prose: Morison was a man of his time and heavily influenced by the classics
- Semper Fi: The USMC naturally is mentioned in several entries, due to their involvement in several land battles the Navy supported.
- Small Reference Pools: Information about Axis actions and intentions is sometimes lacking or inaccurate due to the scarcity of primary source materials.
- Stuff Blowing Up: Ships mostly, but there's also planes and artillery shells.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: By 1944, this becomes the US Navy's MO against the dwindling Japanese Navy.
- Trope Codifier: One of the first World War II naval histories and still referenced. If World War II naval history was a religion then this would be its "Bible".