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Carrier Strike: The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, October 1942 Kindle Edition
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The story starts on August 25, 1942, the day after the Battle of the Eastern Solomons ( see Carrier Clash: The Invasion of Guadalcanal and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, August 1942 ) with the Wasp still active; there is some of the action on Guadalcanal itself, with brief accounts of Henderson Field and the land battles around it; but mostly this book is on the action at the end of October 1942, with four Japanese carriers (Junyo, Shokaku, Zuikaku and Zuiho) plus their attendant groups under Kondo and Nagumo, against the Hornet and the Enterprise under Kinkaid. An exciting story, well-told, though the maps are pretty minimalist!
Only a couple of minor quibbles; the vernacular American can grate a little, and it could use a few more photos, but frankly for the very limited outlay, I doubt very much there's any better better work on Guadalcanal out there. Strongly recommended.
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Having said this, I think Hammel once again has written an outstanding book which will expand knowledge of the crucial Guadalcanal campaign. The detail he puts into the air battle in and around Guadalcanal and ultimately at Santa Cruz is trememdous...how that detail was gathered is a wonder for any reader. I greatly appreciated the detailed accounts of the land-sea-air actions during the months of September/October to get troops/supplies to the respective Guadalcanal garrisons. The description of "Black Tuesday" (Oct. 13, 1942) when battleships Kongo and Harana pulverized the Marine position, and the Marines desparate efforts to renew air operations in its aftermath was most excellent. And sadly, the shortcomings of Vice Admiral Ghormley were laid bare so as to understand why Nimitz had to replace him with Rear Admiral Halsey.
I agree with another reviewer that it would have been good to know of the travails of the crew of the Shokaku, which received perhaps 6 hits from American SBDs during this action. Clearly it was put out-of-action, but there is no coverage on the successful damage control efforts of the Japanese whereas there was plenty said of the efforts to save the Wasp and Hornet once they were mortally struck. Interestingly enough, Shokaku was hit at Coral Sea (it reportedly almost capsized on its way to Japan for repairs), was hit again at Eastern Solomons, then again at Santa Cruz. Obviously, this crew became quite adept at damage control. The next carrier battle was in the Phillipine Sea, when American forces invaded the Mariana Islands. Shokaku was sunk by an American submarine right at the start of hostilities during that action--so much for superior damage control.
Finally, I would have appreciated a more in-depth analysis on the part of Hammel regarding Halsey and Kinkaid being out-of-position to inflict greater damage on the Japanese than the Japanese were able to inflict on the Americans. No doubt, the Japanese won this round as the Pacific Fleet lost the Hornet with nothing but damage to Japanese flight decks to balance the account. Fletcher/Spruance manuevered for flank attacks on Nagumo's fleet at Midway; why Halsey/Kinkaid went for a foolish frontal assault beyond the range of land-based assets at Santa Cruz deserves discussion and analysis. And the result of strained relations between Halsey/Kinkaid in the after-action reports are given only a hint in Hammel's narrative.
I'd love to see Hammel compile a comprehansive multi-volume account of the Solomons campaign from Invasion Day on Guadalcanal to Empress Augusta Bay.