MMH director wins prestigious book award

Battle of Leyte Gulf book jacketThe Battle of Leyte Gulf: The Last Fleet Action, by military historian H. P. Willmott, has been awarded the best book prize by the Society of Military History. Willmott is the Interim Program Director for Norwich University's Master of Arts in Military History Online Graduate Program.

The book is a comprehensive examination of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, 22-28 October 1944, the greatest naval battle of World War II and one of the largest battles in naval history. It is also notable in that it was one of the last major sea battles to use traditional line of battle tactics.

Fought in the seas around the island of Leyte in the Japanese occupied Philippines, the weeklong conflict was an attempt by the Japanese to repel or destroy the Allied invasion of Leyte. Instead, the Allied navies inflicted a major defeat on the outnumbered Imperial Japanese Navy, effectively ending Japan's strategic force in the Pacific War.

According to Willmott, who had access to Japanese sources, the book is an attempt to "explain, not simply give an account, of what happened, and to explain what happened in terms of how states wage war and how services fight; i.e., the context of systemic war, rather than in terms of personnel and individual decisions."

Dr. WillmottThe author of eighteen books on military topics, Willmott has written extensively upon warfare in general and the Second World War in particular, his most important books being, Empires in the Balance and The Barrier and the Javelin, The Great Crusade, a military re-interpretation of the Second World War, and Grave of a Dozen Schemes: British Naval Planning and the War against Japan, 1943-1945.

Previously, Willmott received an Honorable Mention in U.S. naval history by the North American Society for Oceanic History in 1983 for the book The Barrier and the Javelin. In addition, his essay "Just Being There. An Examination of the Record, Problems and Achievement of the British Pacific Fleet in the Course of its Operations in the Indian and Pacific Oceans between November 1944 and September 1945" was awarded third place in the 1986 Corbett Prize competition.

"I am deeply honored to be afforded such generous treatment, which I regard as both personal and professional recognition of worth," Willmott said. "I trust that in years to come those persons responsible for this decision will have cause only to be content in this award, which is most deeply appreciated."

The premier military history organization in the United States, the Society for Military History gives annual awards for the best books in four categories: U.S. Military History, Non-U.S. military history, Reference and Biography. The awards will take place May 18-21, 2006 at Kansas State.