Carrier Strike: The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, October 1942

Pacifica Military History
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CARRIER STRIKE

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.

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Publisher
Pacifica Military History
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Published on
Jan 24, 2010
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Pages
422
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ISBN
9781890988135
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Military / Aviation
History / Military / Naval
History / Military / World War II
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eric Hammel

CARRIER CLASH

The Invasion of Guadalcanal & the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, August 1942

Eric Hammel

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.”

 

Eric Hammel
GUADALCANAL 

DECISION AT SEA

The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

November 13–15,1942

ERIC HAMMEL

Guadalcanal: Decision at Sea is a full-blown examination in vivid detail of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, November 13–15, 1942, a crucial step toward America’s victory over the Japanese during World War II.

The three‑day air and naval action incorporated America’s most decisive surface battle of the war and the only naval battle of this century in which Ameri­can battleships directly confronted and mor­tally wounded an enemy battleship. This American victory decided the future course of the naval war in the Pacific, indeed of the entire Pacific War. Eric Hammel has brilliantly blended the detailed historical records with personal accounts of many of the officers and enlisted men involved, creating an engrossing nar­rative of the strategy and struggle as seen by both sides. He has also included major new insights into crucial details of the battles, including a riveting account of the American forces’ failure to effectively use their radar advantage.

Originally published in 1988 as the concluding volume in Eric Hammel’s series of three independent books focusing on the Guadalcanal campaign and exploring all the elements that made it a turning point of the war in the Pacific, Guadalcanal: Decision at Sea lives up to the high standards and expectations that have marked this author’s many historical books and articles.

Praise for Guadalcanal: Decision at Sea and Eric Hammel

“Hammel’s description of surface tactics, naval gunnery, and what happens when the order to abandon ship is given is vivid and memorable.” —Publishers Weekly

“[Hammel’s] detailed and fast-paced chronicle includes a number of incidents and anecdotes not found in the more prosaic official histories.” —Sea Power

Eric Hammel
 Til the Last Bugle Call

A Novel of U.S. Marines On Guadalcanal

 Eric Hammel

Just out of high school, Al Rosen, a seventeen-year-old Philadelphian, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in order to sidestep the pitfalls of recent orphanhood. By August 1942, after four years in uniform, Corporal Rosen was leading a light machine gun squad when fate chose him to become the first American servicemen to fire shots in the Guadalcanal Campaign, America’s first offensive in World War II. Then, for six terrible months of alternating hot combat action and stretches of restive inactivity, Rosen and his fellow Marines in Company B confronted—and learned how to overcome—fear and terror and sorrow and a host of life’s other harshest tests and their many lessons. They learned to stand tall, to serve proudly, to resist fiercely, and to attack mercilessly. Some, like Rosen, by dint of aptitude and courage, advanced in rank and status. Others fell by the wayside to strange and terrible tropical diseases, to the mind-numbing heat and humidity, to bone weariness, to malnourishment, to chance, to their own human failings.

Til the Last Bugle Call is a fictional yet deadly accurate portrait of American fighting men, of U.S. Marines, from the earliest days of their Pacific War confrontation with Japan’s victorious legions, in a battle and a war none of them really knew how to fight. Eric Hammel, author of fifty non-fiction military history books, five of them covering all facets of the Guadalcanal Campaign, precisely captures the innocence of these young men at the cutting edge of the early Pacific War, then follows them as they overcome immense obstacles on their way to becoming confident combat veterans ready to take on new challenges farther along the bloody road to victory.

Eric Hammel

THE FORGE

The Decline and Rebirth of the American Military

November 12, 1918 to December 6, 1941

Eric Hammel

Because the United States military undertook its first World War II offensive operations in the Pacific within only eight months of Pearl Harbor, most historians and readers of the war’s history depict and perceive the quick transition in 1942 from defensive war to offensive war as a miracle.

In the miraculous narrative Americans have written for themselves, the peace-loving and ill-prepared sleeping giant, the United States, is suddenly struck by enemies who use her peace-loving ways against her, while a mere sprinkling of gallant, dedicated soldiers, sailors, and airmen fight overwhelming odds to barely hold the line against an unremitting backdrop of tearful defeats. Meanwhile, U.S. industry suddenly—instantly—becomes a magical “Arsenal of Democracy” that produces uncountable tanks and ships and guns, not to mention trained soldiers, sailors, and airmen in their legions, fleets, and air armadas that will smash the wiliest and most powerful enemies ever before confronted. The appearance of all that materiel, and all those battle-ready young men so soon after the Pearl Harbor attack, looks exactly like a miracle.

There was no miracle.

Celebrated military historian Eric Hammel’s cool appraisal of the facts reveals that America's stunning and overwhelming moral response to German and Japanese aggression in the mid- and late 1930s, a response that eventually brought a huge portion of the globe within its embrace, was far less a miracle than an inexorable force of nature. America was a sleeping giant. But the decision to turn the entire force and will of a hard-working, innovative nation to arming for war was not made in the wake of Pearl Harbor. By Pearl Harbor, an alliance of the American government, American industry, and the American military community was already close to complete preparedness. The real story of America’s preparations for World War II had begun in mid-November 1938.

The Forge was previously published as How America Saved the World.

Eric Hammel
As VietnamÍs former imperial capital, Hue occupied a special place in the hearts of the Vietnamese people. Over decades of conflict, it had been spared the terrible effects of war. But that all changed on January 31, 1968, the eve of Tet„the lunar new year, VietnamÍs most important national holiday Tet had previously been marked by a mutual ceasefire, but this time the celebrations and hopes for a happy new year were shattered. All of South Vietnam erupted in a cataclysm of violence as the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong launched a massive military and political offensive. The American embassy in Saigon came under siege and VietnamÍs ancient capital city was captured nearly in its entirety. The only forces immediately available to counterattack into Hue were two Marine infantry companies based ten miles south of the city. For the next four weeks, as the world looked on, fewer than two thousand U.S. Marines fought street by street and building by building, with virtually no air support, to retake the symbols of HueÍs political and cultural importance. It was savage work. Ground gained was often measured in yards, with every alley, street corner, window, and garden adding to the butcherÍs bill. In the end, the Marines retook the city, but scores of Americans and thousands of Vietnamese civilians died there. This pictorial is a testament to their will and their sacrifice. The Vietnam War is often pictured as a jungle conflict, punctuated by American troops fighting in rural hut-filled villages. But in the 1968 Tet Offensive, the war spilled out of the jungle into the streets of Hue City. The battle for Hue became one of the most important of the war, a month of grueling house-to-house fighting through buildings and around civilians. Marines In Hue City documents the intense urban combat in Hue with many never-before-published photographs, including more than one hundred in full color.
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