Book Review: "Execute against Japan": The U.S. Decision to Conduct Unrestricted Submarine Warfare


by Joel Ira Holwitt

College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2009. Pp. xiv, 245. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $37.50. ISBN: 1603440836

This ground-breaking work builds a convincing case that demolishes the commonly accepted view of that the U.S. Navy resorted to unrestricted submarine warfare in the Pacific only as a result of the disastrous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Holwitt, a U.S. Navy submarine officer and frequent contributor to naval publications, opens Execute Against Japan with a review of the complex history of the long-standing American defense of “freedom of the seas,” before going on to review Germany’s submarine operations during World War I, and the international and domestic legal restrictions that were imposed on submarine operations in the interwar period, which were in fact incorporated into U.S. Navy regulations.  He then demonstrates that, in fact, despite legal restrictions, the U.S. Navy secretly prepared to engage in unrestricted submarine warfare in the event of a conflict with Japan, a policy that was never explicitly approved by either the President or Congress. 

An important contribution to the literature of the Pacific War.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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