The book refutes the widely-held notion that the attack on Pearl Harbor suddenly rendered surface combatants obsolete and that aviation and submarines dominated the Pacific War; it demonstrates that the battleships, cruisers and destroyers made major contributions to America’s victory and played decisive roles at critical junctures.
The U.S. Navy against the Axis offers a cautionary parable relevant to today’s Navy. It demonstrates how swift adaptability and intellectual honesty were fundamental to the Navy’s success against Japan. The book’s underlying premises is that we cannot assume that in a conflict against conventional or asymmetric enemies, the nation holds title to the same virtues demonstrated by the Navy three generations past. Instead those lessons need to be constantly studied and validated in the face of postwar mythologies, lest they be forgotten.
Taking this surprising fact as the start of his inquiry, he began to investigate how and when the Pacific tide turned in the Allies’ favor. Using archives of WWII intelligence reports from both sides, Prados offers up a compelling reassessment of the true turning in the Pacific: not Midway, but the fight for the Solomon Islands.
Combat in the Solomons saw a series of surface naval battles, including one of the key battleship-versus-battleship actions of the war; two major carrier actions; daily air duels, including the aerial ambush in which perished the famous Japanese naval commander Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku; and many other hair-raising exploits. Commencing with the Allied invasion of Guadalcanal, Prados shows how and why the Allies beat Japan on the sea, in the air, and in the jungles.
This work concentrates exclusively on the fighting between the American and Japanese aircraft carriers, examining how strategies were planned and carried out on both sides. Presented are the stories of the USS Hornet, which launched the B-25s of James Doolittle's daring raid of Tokyo in 1942; the USS Yorktown, which suffered fierce attacks during the Battle of Midway; the USS Lexington, which refueled and rearmed Hellcats during the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot; the USS Enterprise, the leader of a motley assortment of cruisers and destroyers left to hold a very precarious line in the campaign for Guadalcanal; and the Japanese battleship Yamato, sacrificed for a suicide mission against 900 aircraft bombers.
When the U.S. Navy stopped the Japanese steamroller off Midway Island, it not only turned the progress of the war but set the Navy’s foundation for future counter offensives. The Navy’s comeback spread led to the Solomon Islands and on to the other key strategic areas in the Pacific. While many know that Midway was a crucial American victory, they often do not know the details of the battle. This book tells how, for example, the American PT boats contributed to the victory, how the carrier planes formed up for their attacks, and what role radar played in the battle. In addition to excerpts from books and articles, the guide includes selections from several important Naval Institute oral histories. From the enlisted man’s perspective all the way to the admiral’s, for both Americans and Japanese, readers see the U.S. Navy’s greatest victory as the participants saw it.
“Morale went to nothing just about then,” said an officer on one of the escorting cruisers. “We were sick and shocked. We couldn’t believe that this had happened to us.” Through the night, the crew of the Enterprise, under the command of Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, took on fuel, provisions, and ammunition. Before dawn it was back at sea.
The Enterprise was just one of the carriers that won the war in the Pacific. Here is the extraordinary story of the men and ships that turned the tide of the war.
It is the true story of the man behind Pearl Harbor---Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto---and the courageous young American fliers who flew the million-to-one suicide mission that shot him down.
Yamamoto was a cigar-smoking, poker-playing, English-speaking, Harvard-educated expert on America, and that intimate knowledge served him well as architect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. For the next sixteen months, this military genius, beloved by the Japanese people, lived up to his prediction that he would run wild in the Pacific Ocean. He was unable, however, to deal the fatal blow needed to knock America out of the war, and the shaken United States began its march to victory on the bloody island of Guadalcanal.
Donald A. Davis meticulously tracks Yamamoto's eventual rendezvous with death. After American code-breakers learned that the admiral would be vulnerable for a few hours, a desperate attempt was launched to bring him down. What was essentially a suicide mission fell to a handful of colorful and expendable U.S. Army pilots from Guadalcanal's battered "Cactus Air Force":
- Mississippian John Mitchell, after flunking the West Point entrance exam, entered the army as a buck private. Though not a "natural" as an aviator, he eventually became the highest-scoring army ace on Guadalcanal and the leader of the Yamamoto attack.
- Rex Barber grew up in the Oregon countryside and was the oldest surviving son in a tightly knit churchgoing family. A few weeks shy of his college graduation in 1940, the quiet Barber enlisted in the U.S. Army.
- "I'm going to be President of the United States," Tom Lanphier once told a friend. Lanphier was the son of a legendary fighter squadron commander and a dazzling storyteller. He viewed his chance at hero status as the start of a promising political career.
- December 7, 1941, found Besby Holmes on a Pearl Harbor airstrip, firing his .45 handgun at Japanese fighters. He couldn't get airborne in time to make a serious difference, but his chance would come.
- Tall and darkly handsome, Ray Hine used the call sign "Heathcliffe" because he resembled the brooding hero of Wuthering Heights. He was transferred to Guadalcanal just in time to participate in the Yamamoto mission---a mission from which he would never return.
They flew the longest over-water fighter mission ever and ambushed and killed Yamamoto. After his death, the Japanese never won another major naval battle. But the victorious American pilots seemed cursed by the samurai spirit of the admiral and were tormented for the rest of their lives by what happened that day.
Davis paints unforgettable personal portraits of men in combat and unravels a military mystery that has been covered up at the highest levels of government since the end of the war.