The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, October 1942
By Eric Hammel
The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, a strategic naval action in the bitter Guadalcanal Campaign, was history’s fourth carrier-versus-carrier naval battle. Though technically a Japanese victory, the battle proved to be the Empire of Japan’s last serious attempt to win the Pacific War by means of an all-out carrier confrontation. Only one other carrier battle occurred in the Pacific War, in June 1944, in the Philippine Sea. By then, however, the U.S. Navy’s Fast Carrier Task Force was operational, and Japan’s dwindling fleet of carriers was outnumbered and completely outclassed. Though hundreds of Japanese naval aviators perished in the great Marianas Turkey Shoot of June 19–20, 1944, it was during the first four carrier battles—in the six-month period from early May through late October 1942—that the fate of Japan’s small, elite naval air arm was sealed. It was at Coral Sea, in May, that Japan’s juggernaut across the Pacific was blunted. It was at Midway, in June, that Japan’s great carrier fleet was cut down to manageable size. And it was at Eastern Solomons, in August, and Santa Cruz, in October, that Japan’s last best carrier air groups were ground to dust. After their technical victory at Santa Cruz, the Japanese withdrew their carriers from the South Pacific—and were never able to use them again as a strategically decisive weapon. Of the four Japanese aircraft carriers that participated in the Santa Cruz battle, only one survived the war.
Following Santa Cruz and the subsequent series of air and surface engagements known as the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the Imperial Navy’s Combined Fleet never again attempted a meaningful strategic showdown with the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Though several subsequent surface actions in the Solomons were clearly Japanese victories, their results were short-lived. After November 1942, Japan could not again muster the staying power—or the willpower—to wage a strategic war with her navy. Once the veteran carrier air groups had been shredded at Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz, Japanese carriers ceased to be a strategic weapon.
The Santa Cruz clash was deemed a Japanese victory because U.S. naval forces withdrew from the battlefield. That is how victory and defeat are strictly determined. But on the broader, strategic, level, the U.S. Navy won at Santa Cruz—because it was able to achieve its strategic goal of holding the line and buying time. Japan was unable to achieve her strategic goal of defeating the U.S. Pacific Fleet in a final, decisive, all-or-nothing battle. The technical victory cost Japan any serious hope she had of winning the Pacific naval war.
The “victory” at Santa Cruz cost Japan her last best hope to win the war in the Pacific.Once again, author-historian Eric Hammel brings to the reading public an exciting narrative filled with the latest information and written in the edge-of-the-seat style that his readers have enjoyed for nearly two decades, in nearly thirty acclaimed military history books. As was the case with its companion volume, Carrier Clash, this new book is based upon American and Japanese battle reports and the recollections of many airmen and seamen who took part.
The Invasion of Guadalcanal & the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, August 1942
The Battle of the Eastern Solomons was history’s third carrier clash. A collision of U.S. Navy and Imperial Navy carriers in the wake of the invasion of Guadalcanal—whose airfield the United States desperately needed and the Japanese desperately wanted back—the battle was waged at sea and over Guadalcanal’s besieged Marine-held Lunga Perimeter on August 24, 1942.
Based upon the first half of Eric Hammel’s acclaimed 1987 battle narrative, Guadalcanal: The Carrier Battles, and in large part upon important new information obtained from both Japanese and American sources, Carrier Clash unravels many of the mysteries and misconceptions that have veiled this complex battle for more than a half century.
Beginning with detailed descriptions of the history of the aircraft carrier, the development of carrier-air tactics, the training of carrier pilots, and numerous operational considerations that defined the way carrier battles had to be fought, Carrier Clash takes the reader into the air with brave U.S. Navy fighter pilots as they protect their ships and the Guadalcanal invasion fleet against determined Japanese air attacks on August 7 and 8, 1942. After he sets the stage for the August 24 Battle of the Eastern Solomons, author Hammel puts the reader right into the cockpits of U.S. Navy Dauntless dive-bombers as they dive on the Imperial Navy light carrier Ryujo—and hit the ship with 500-pound bombs! Once again, in this strange tit-for-tat battle, U.S. Navy Wildcat fighter pilots must defend their ships against an onslaught by Imperial Navy Val dive-bomber pilots determined to sink the U.S. carriers, or die trying. Hammel’s coverage of the bomb damage to the USS Enterprise and subsequent fire-fighting and rescue efforts by her crew are especially compelling.
Carrier Clash is the definitive combat history of the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, history’s third battle (of only five) between American and Japanese aircraft carriers.
Critical Acclaim for Eric Hammel’s earlier books about the Guadalcanal Campaign:
Seapower Magazine says: “Acclaimed military historian Eric Hammel presents a landmark history of the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.”
Kirkus Reviews says: “Hammel is as adept at conveying the terrors of fighting fire on a ship . . . as he is at providing concise evaluations of top commanders. “Official histories apart, [Guadalcanal: The Carrier Battles is] the most thorough appreciation yet of Guadalcanal’s turning-point carrier battles; praiseworthy.”
Lansing State Journal says: “For the military buff, [Guadalcanal: Starvation Island] is an excellent resource. For the casual reader, it is a well-written account of one of the most crucial times in the history of the United States.”
ALA Booklist says: [Eric Hammel] “effectively utilizes the accounts of the battle participants to provide a vivid dimension to the fighting . . . ”
Library Journal says: “Hammel does not write dry history. His battle sequences are masterfully portrayed.”
Canadian Military History says: Hammel’s descriptions of engagements on land, air and sea are fast-paced and engagingly written, and he has a knack for weaving together character and circumstance into a very readable story.”
Book World says: [Guadalcanal: Starvation Island] is stark, naked, and brutal. . . . It is an excellent, toughly drawn account of the awesomeness of war and is worthy many times over of being in any library worthy of the name.”
CORAL AND BLOOD
The U.S. Marine Corps’ Pacific Campaign
In only a lifetime, the long United States Marine Corps campaign across the Pacific Island has become the stuff of enduring legend. We are down to just a few Pacific Warriors who lived it and can still tell us about it from their own experiences. Now, in Coral and Blood, the critically acclaimed military historian Eric Hammel, who has specialized in writing about Marines in the Pacific, has compiled a brief but comprehensive history of the Marines’ island war. This book was conceived as a starting point for readers who have not yet read much about the Pacific War, but it is also designed to provide a simple yet complete overview for seasoned Pacific War enthusiasts who have not yet examined the island campaigns as an integrated whole. Perhaps by finding out about battles not yet examined, an experienced Pacific War enthusiast will find inspiration for moving on to new battles and looking for even broader understanding.
Following the general outline of his highly rated single-volume pictorial, Pacific Warriors, Hammel begins with the development of the U.S. Marine Corps’ unique amphibious doctrine, then moves briskly into the Pacific War by enumerating the Marine Corps presence on the eve of war. Thereafter, every significant action involving U.S. Marines during World War II—from Pearl Harbor and Wake Island to Okinawa—is examined, including the role of Marine Air in the Philippines. In many cases, longer and broader discussions are presented in this volume than in Pacific Warriors.
Experienced military history reader or not, you will almost certainly find something new and interesting in Coral and Blood. At the very least, you will find Coral and Blood, which weighs in at a respectable 96,000 words, to be valuable but not overbearing as a one-volume overview of the legendary efforts of Marines in the Pacific War.
The Japanese defeats at Midway and Guadalcanal decided the outcome of the Pacific War. Guadalcanal was the classic three-dimensional campaign. On land, at sea, and in the air, fierce battles were fought with both sides stretching their supplies and equipment to the breaking point. The campaign lasted six months, involved nearly one million men, and stopped Japanese expansion in the Pacific.
When the campaign began on August 7, 1942, no one on either side quite knew how to conduct it, as Eric Hammel shows in this masterly account. Guadalcanal: Starvation hand corrects numerous errors and omissions in the official records that have been perpetuated in all the books previously published about the campaign. Hammel also draws on the recollections of more than 100 participants on both sides, especially the enlisted men at the sharp end. Their words bring us into the heart of the battle and portray the fighting accurately, realistically, andvery powerfully.Guadalcanal: Starvation Island follows the men and the commanders of this decisive World War II campaign in an integrated, brilliantly told narrative of the desperate struggle at sea, on land, and in the air.
Praise for Guadalcanal: Starvation Island and Eric Hammel
“A comprehensive history of the Guadalcanal Campaign . . . [and] a well‑balanced account. Well written and fast moving.” —Marine Corps Gazette
“Hammel has written the most comprehensive popular account to date . . . and exposes controversial aspects often passed over,” —Publishers Weekly
“Hammel takes the reader behind the scenes and details how decisions were made . . . and how they impacted on the troops carrying them out. He tells the story in a very human way.” —Leatherneck Magazine
“A splendid record of this decisive campaign. Hammel offers a wealth of fresh material drawn from archival records and the recollections of 100‑odd surviving participants. . . . A praiseworthy contribution to Guadalcanal lore.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Hammel’s ability to reveal both the immediacy and the humanity of war without judgment or bias makes all his books both readable and scholarly. —San Francisco Chronicle“Hammel does not write dry history. His battle sequences are masterfully portrayed. —Library Journal
The Story of Tom Blackburn and Navy Fighting Squadron VF-17
Tom Blackburn with Eric Hammel
Introduction by Vice Admiral James Stockdale, USN (Ret.)
The Jolly Rogers is the true story of one of the U.S. Navy’s foremost World War II fighter squadrons, VF-17, and its charismatic commander, fighter ace Tom Blackburn. In his action-packed war memoir and unit history, Blackburn describes VF-17’s intense, winning campaign against the Japanese over the northern Solomon Islands and Rabaul in late 1943 and early 1944.
Beginning with his own experiences as a trainer of fighter pilots early in World War II and his leadership of a small carrier-based fighter squadron supporting the invasion of North Africa, Blackburn goes on to provide a rich, detailed account of how he shaped a crew of over-eager hotshots into one of the highest scoring fighter squadrons of World War II. In only seventy-six days of combat, Tom Blackburn’s Jolly Rogers knocked down a record 154 enemy warplanes, and Blackburn himself emerged as one of VF-17’s leading aces with eleven kills to his credit.
Boisterous at times, and sober at others, Blackburn explains the methods he used and example he set to shape and wield VF-17 before and during its South Pacific combat tour. Not least of the challenges facing Blackburn and VF-17 was taming the hot new Vought F4U Corsair fighter. Originally slated to serve aboard a fleet aircraft carrier, VF-17 was ultimately transferred to land-based duty when the Corsair proved too hot to handle during carrier-deck landings. Though the Corsair’s teething problems were worked out by others—it eventually became a superb carrier-based fighter-bomber—it was Blackburn and his Jolly Rogers who proved the full potential of the Corsair as a killer of enemy airplanes.
Both a war memoir and a caring tribute to the aggressive, hold-nothing-back young men he trained and led in combat, Blackburn’s story is an epic in World War II history annals.
Critical Acclaim for The Jolly Rogers
Publishers Weekly says: “Blackburn was an exceptionally talented, resourceful, inspiring leader who imparted to his men a fierce warrior ethic . . . especially noteworthy is the author’s straightforward description of the methods he used organizing, training, leading his pilots in combat and developing air tactics.”
The Shipmate says: “Tom Blackburn [was] exceptional, and so is his book.”
The Hook says: “Tom Blackburn [was] one of the most successful fighter squadron commanders the U.S. Navy ever produced . . . not only a cracking good story, but a valuable primer on dealing with the rugged individualists who populate naval aviation, Highly recommended.”
The San Diego Union says: “[This] thrilling saga focuses on unsung heroes.”
Stars and Stripes says: “In a book generously laced with tales of air combat, Blackburn talks of the days spent building VF-17 into an outfit with its own identity and then leading his men into combat . . . ”
The Naval Institute Proceedings says: “Excellent . . . a well-rounded, coherent story that focuses on intense combat . . . As a professional’s account of his squadron’s . . . war, Blackburn’s has no peer.”Kirkus Reviews says: “A macho, like-it-was memoir . . . a gritty, action-packed slice of WWII life.”
AIR WAR EUROPA: Chronology
America's Air War Against Germany In Europe and North Africa
1942 - 1945
THE GREAT AERIAL CRUSADE OF WORLD WAR II: There was never a military
campaign like it, and there never will be another. Here is an opportunity to follow the great crusade as it unfolded in the air over the Nazi empire in North Africa and Europe. This exhaustive chronology sheds a fascinating light on the course of America’s air war against Germany and her allies.
* The Air War Europa Chronology is a day-by-day accounting of all the major combat missions undertaken by United States Army Air Forces and United States Navy aviation units in the European, Mediterranean, and North African theaters of operations in World War II.
* A special introductory narrative explains the crucial evolution of fighter tactics over western Europe—and how it led to the inexorable defeat of Hitler’s vaunted Luftwaffe.
* All U.S. Army Air Forces theater fighter aces are covered— including unit affiliation, date and time ace status was attained, and date and time of highest victory tally (over ten).
* Information pertaining to the arrival, activation, transfer, departure, and decommissioning of air commands, combat units, and special units. Comings and goings of the commanders of major aviation units are also covered.
* Provides a rich contextual framework pertaining to related ground campaigns; international and high-command conferences and decisions influencing air strategies and campaigns; and breakthroughs in the development of special techniques and equipment, such as the evolution of the role of escorts and the strategically crucial introduction of fighter auxiliary fuel tanks.
* Bibliography, guide to abbreviations, maps, and two indexes.
The Battle for Hue, Tet 1968
The Tet Offensive of January 1968 was the most important military campaign of the Vietnam War. The ancient capital city of Hue, once considered the jewel of Indochina’s cities, was a key objective of that surprise Communist offensive launched on Vietnam’s most important holiday. But when the North Vietnamese launched their massive invasion of the city, instead of the general civilian uprising and easy victory they had hoped for, they were faced with a U.S.[en]South Vietnamese counterattack and a devastating battle of attrition with enormous casualties on both sides. In the end, the battle for Hue was an unambiguous military and political victory for South Vietnam and the United States.
In Fire in the Streets, the dramatic narrative of the battle unfolds on an hour-by-hour, day-by-day basis. The focus is on the U.S. and South Vietnamese soldiers and Marines--from the top commanders down to the frontline infantrymen–and on the men and women who supported them. Eric Hammel, a renowned military historian, expertly draws on first-hand accounts from the battle participants in this engrossing mixture of action and commentary.
In addition, Hammel examines the tremendous strain the surprise attack put on the South Vietnamese[en]U.S. alliance, the shocking brutality of the Communist “liberators,” and the lessons gained by U.S. Marines forced to wage battle in a city–a task for which they were utterly unprepared and which has a special relevance today.With access to rare documents from both North and South Vietnam and hundreds of hours of interviews, Hammel, in a highly readable style, has produced the only complete and authoritative account of this crucial landmark battle.
A Pictorial Record
By late March 1945, the pathway to invasion of the southernmost major island of the Japanese archipelago, Kyushu, had been secured but for one necessary stepping stone American forces required to support their tactical air effort leading up to and overhead the projected invasion of Japan, set to begin in the autumn of 1945. The seizure of Okinawa and its airfields was vital to the land-based strategic bombing campaign that would precede and support the invasion of Japan and for close-in basing of the scores of Marine and U. S. Army Air Forces tactical air units that were slated to guard the approach of the Kyushu invasion fleet and operate over the beachheads and inland battlefields in the face of anticipated fanatical Japanese air defenses.
Marines of the veteran 1st and 6th Marine divisions and tens of thousands of battle-tested soldiers of the U.S. Army’s XXIV Corps assigned to seize Okinawa beginning on April 1, 1945, saw nothing but weeks or even months of heavy fighting ahead as they sailed to confront the largest Japanese defense force deployed on any island Americans invaded in the Pacific.
Telling the tale of the brutal Okinawa campaign in crisp, to-the-point prose illuminated by 467 gripping photographs taken by U.S. Marine Corps combat photographers, veteran military historian Eric Hammel provides an engrossing pictorial account of the final Marine Corps island conquest of World War II.