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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Superb!,
This review is from: Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal (Kindle Edition)I don't have enough superlatives to describe this book.It is one of the best naval history books I have ever read.From the beginning of the Guadalcanal campaign to the end you are taken through each of the seven naval actions and learn why the bloody action resulted in the waters being known as "Ironbottom Sound" The men who served there come alive in the detailed narration,the combat is so richly described in that you can almost feel the recoil of the weapons and smell the salt air and the cordite.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An In-depth Study of the Guadalcanal Naval Campaign,
Author James Hornfisher does an excellent job of placing this story into the context of the overall war. He shows the crucial role that Guadalcanal in the decision between a Germany first policy, as promoted by the President, and Japan first, the choice of the navy. While defeat at Guadalcanal may have compelled an American concentration on the Pacific, the Navy's success permitted the United States to direct its greatest effort against Germany.
Hornfisher presents profiles of the Naval officers involved, particularly, Admirals Nimitz, King and Ghormley. The saying is that amateurs talk tactics while professional talk logistics. This is brought to light by the information that some of the Navy's surviving battleships were tied to the West Coast due to a lack of fuel that would have permitted them to roam the seas. The cameo appearances of the Marines ashore, including the legendary Chesty Puller, and the importance of the IJN in attacking, and USN in protecting, Henderson Field and other Marine installations demonstrate the role of inter-service cooperation in the Pacific War. The practice of the Japanese Army and Navy not to share information and the American communication failures remind us that such problems are nothing new. The incredible series of battles in the Slot that gave the name to Ironbottom Sound enrich the maritime lexicon and boggle the mind with the horror and carnage. The tragic story of the five Sullivan Brothers who went down with the Juneau reminds us that the war may be over there, but the suffering is also over here.
The book is well written however its detail makes it hard to follow for someone who does not begin it with a fairly good understanding of the Pacific War. Although I was never tempted to stop reading, at times I had difficulty keeping track of the ships and how each of them was important to the overall story. I recommend this work to the reader looking for an in-depth study of the Guadalcanal naval campaign.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing story. Naval History with the flavour of a good novel.,
It is intriguing to learn that Guadalcanal and its airstrip had not played a really significant role in Japanese strategic thinking, but because the Americans thought that it did they determined to stage a great 'showdown' and defeat the US Navy whilst recapturing it. In 1942 the US Pacific Fleet was not yet the overwhelming force it would become by 1944.
The book illustrates very vividly how determined the American were to hold on to Guadalcanal, even though initial use of their carrier force was timid: Admiral Fletcher had seen the carnage wrought at Midway and the US Navy only had four big carriers in the Pacific. Two of these were soon disabled anyway, but their aircraft stayed on to continue the fight- leading a Marine General to comment that 'what saved Guadalcanal was the loss of so many carriers'. Due to American loss of carriers and Japanese loss of aircrew at the Battle of Santa Cruz we see how attention was refocused on traditional surface ships and especially on the smaller cruisers and destroyers.
Each navy strove to supply and sustain its effort on Guadalcanal and, following the disaster at Savo Island, the USN had to learn the art of nocturnal warfare: it began to do at the the cruiser Battle of Cape Esperance. More important still, In the 'First Battle of Guadalcanal' Admiral Callaghan led his cruiser squadron in a theoretically suicidal attack on battleships. As the author indicates, this battle finally convinced the Japanese that when it came to heroic resolve under fire the Americans would match them blow for blow. Moreover there was a technological gulf, as Admiral Lee demonstrated by using radar control for his big guns in the subsequent battleship action. The description of all these battles is very graphic and detailed.
Early in the narrative the author 'jumps about' somewhat and tends to reprise earlier events if they help to explain later ones: this can be a little confusing, but once you 'get into' the book- which takes about 60 pages, up to the gripping account of Savo Island- it becomes hard to put down. At its best this account has the gripping style of a good novel: it's certainly not a dry history. There are some maps and diagrams but a few more of these would have been helpful.
For enthusiasts of war at sea the aptly titled 'Neptunes inferno' is a 'must read' and has to be the best account available detailing the naval side of Guadalcanal. There are nearly 450 action packed pages here plus no less than 50 pages of sources and bibliography. At less than £20 in 'hardback' form this book is fine value for money.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb narrative,
This review is from: Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal (Kindle Edition)The research and detail is amazing. I cannot contemplate the sheer destructive moments as the ships traded salvoes. The writer manages to explain the grand strategy and give the intimate moments of the conflict which many histories have difficulty in interweaving. For anyone interested in the Pacific War this is a must read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neptune's Inferno,
5.0 out of 5 stars A really great war storey,,
This review is from: Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal (Kindle Edition)Yes it’s a naval storey but it has a far broader appeal.
War is usually thought about as a conflict between machines; it avoids the thinking about the human tragedy. Naval fighting even by sailors is seen as a fight between ships. There is also the thinking from a distance of ‘how could that have happened?’ and the prospective that it is incomprehensible for an event to have happened.
This book shows exactly how, despite everything, technology plays second fiddle to the decisions of people. It brilliantly takes you into the fight between men and the storey which carried them into the confusion and chaos which cannot be tamed by planners. It shows how war, at the personal level, is a throw of the dice and small choices, individual decisions, situational awareness all have affects that far outweigh the original planners ideas for events to unfold. If you ever need to think about how crazy things happen - or don’t happen in any part of war – this shows how the human affects everything.
If you read a lot of war storeys or the history behind it, from ancient times to the use of Cyber warfare, read this book and think about the greatness (and weakness) of the men in the middle of it all.
4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping account of the naval battles for Guadalcanal,
Hornfischer deals not only with the naval campaign, but touches on the ground battle for Guadalacanal, and the struggle between the US Marine Corps and a Japanese Army reinforced by the "Tokyo Express". In addition, he lays bare the unpreparedness for surface combat of the USN in comparison to the Japanese Navy in the early part of the campaign. He give ample detail of some of the major figures on both sides during the campaign some of which are decidedly unflattering (King), and gives credit where it is due (Nimitz, and to a some extent Fletcher).
His descriptions of the night battles around Savo Island and Guadalcanal are visceral. I have read no better descriptions of the confusion and horror of naval combat in WW2. These battles were not conducted at long-range, but were short-range bar-room brawls where a minute's indecision on either side meant the difference between victory and defeat. He touches on the personal too in some moving and horrifying descriptions of the effect and aftermath of battle. The most touching for me was the story of a sailor clinging to a dead body, and when asked to let go and be rescued he could could not because he was holding on to his brother. All he could shout to his would-be rescuers was "He's my brother", and they listened as he drifted past and his voice faded in the distance still calling "He's my brother". The most horrifying was the description given by a ship's chaplain as he watched the body of a dead sailor slowly roast in a fire.
This is a fine book, and a comprehensive introduction to the naval battles round Guadalcanal in 1942. As I said above, the author's writing style took me a bit of getting used too, but the book is worth buying nonetheless.
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written account of the pivotal naval battles brought about by the U.S. invasion of Guadalcanal in late 1942.,
His telling of the Naval battles in which modern warships fought at times almost hull to hull are gripping and exciting giving, like his book 'The last stand of the Tin Can Sailors' a vivid insight into what it must have been like during those horrific encounters.
A refreshing new description of some of the most intense naval battles in history I found this book well worth reading.
Good illustrations and battle maps.
It is a good addition to my Pacific War library.
5.0 out of 5 stars From engine rooms to flag bridges, a dramatic recounting of stunning naval warfare events,
Hornfischer masterfully balances issues of strategy (as he examines both political influences and senior military decisions in Washington, Pearl Harbor and in theater), tactics (especially training doctrine, communications issues and the introduction of radar technology) and the infinite supply of personal tales of triumph and tragedy that come in any combat situation.
While the Battle of Midway in June of 1942 ushered in the era of standoff confrontation between carrier-based aviation units, the naval engagements at Guadalcanal were centered on the proficiency of gun crews. Many of the episodes described in this book take places with opposing ships in close visual range. The results are violent and dramatic, and should cure any reader of the notion that naval warfare is somehow less risky than combat ashore.
There are many narrative gems in this book which illuminate the struggles at any level of responsibility. Setting the stage for the post Pearl Harbor responses in the Pacific, Hornfischer writes in the book's opening pages: "Captains were fortunate to find help for their troubles. They were given command of a multitude and saddled with fault for their failings. The bargain they made for their privileged place was the right to be last off the ship if the worst came to pass. Burdens grew heavier the higher one ascended in rank...The burdens of sailors weighed mostly on the muscles. The weight of leadership was subtler and heavier. It could test the conscience."
This insight into the challenges of leadership and command sustains its credibility throughout a well-researched and meticulously documented history.
While any history of naval action in the Pacific will address famous names (many individually addressed many times over in other books), Hornfischer does not overlook the rank and file in recounting moments of hope and horror that follow the impact of ordnance on a warship. He writes "...all of them, American and Japanese, striving and desperate and frightened and riled and tender and human, in fateful collision..."
This book does justice as a follow-up to his most recent previous naval history Ship of Ghosts: The Story of the USS Houston, FDR's Legendary Lost Cruiser, and the Epic Saga of Her Survivors. For those inclined to remember the sacrifices of "the greatest generation", this book is an excellent tribute to an under-examined part of the Guadalcanal story.
5.0 out of 5 stars Setting the record straight,
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Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal by James D. Hornfischer