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4.0 out of 5 stars A provocative introduction to a pivotal naval battle, 25 Sept. 2010
MarkK (Phoenix, AZ, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Midway (Fields Of Battle Series) (Paperback)
The battle of Midway ranks not just as one of the pivotal battles of the Second World War, but also as one of the most important naval battles in history. Over a three-day period in June 1942, a force of three American carriers changed the course of the war in the Pacific theater by sinking the core of the Japanese strike fleet. The decisive nature of the battle has ensured it considerable attention from historians, who have spent much time and ink examining the factors involved in the American victory and the Japanese defeat. Hugh Bicheno's generously illustrated study is not the first of these or the most detailed, but it offers the reader both a careful recounting of the battle and an analysis of the elements that shaped its outcome.

Bicheno's basic argument is that, far from being an unavoidable defeat, the Japanese disaster at Midway was the result of a succession of mistakes born out of arrogance. Some of these stretched back to before the war, with an overall strategy against the United States dependent on too many assumptions that the Americans would react as the Japanese expected. Added to this was an arrogance built up over six months of victories, campaigning which left the Japanese fleet exhausted. By contrast, the Americans benefited from intelligence decryptions which alerted them in advance to Japanese intentions and allowed them to plan for a successful counterstroke. Yet Bicheno continually notes the factor of chance in shaping the outcome, from the illness that replaced "Bull" Halsey with Raymond Spruance, to off-course scouts coming across the enemy fleet. Together they provide a compelling portrait of the chaos of battle, from which it was the Americans who would emerge triumphant.

Though a military historian, Bicheno is not a specialist in the Second World War or in naval warfare. While this gives him a relatively fresh perspective to the conflict, the lack of original research limits the novelty of some of his more provocative challenges to the received wisdom about the battle. Nevertheless, with its useful tables, judicious analysis, and copious use of maps and pictures, Bicheno's book is an enjoyable and stimulating study of the battle of Midway, one that can serve as a provocative introduction for any newcomer to the historic naval clash.
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Midway (Fields Of Battle Series)
Midway (Fields Of Battle Series) by Hugh Bicheno (Paperback - 13 Dec. 2001)
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