“Too many people think the war in the Pacific began with Japan’s sudden strike on Hawaii, launched seemingly out of nowhere. Crouch’s vividly written book explains how America’s business interests in 1930s China set it on the path to Pearl Harbor. This is the rousing story of the enterprising Pan Am pilots who built a frontier airline and went on to become aviation heroes, flying over the Himalayas, helping save China, and thereby transforming the world.”
I’m especially gratified by Hornfischer’s words because a few months ago I read and admired Neptune’s Inferno, about the U.S. Navy’s surface fighting with the Japanese in the waters around Guadalcanal in the last months of 1942. The utter carnage that opposing cruisers, destroyers, and battleships could inflict on each other in incredibly short periods of time absolutely amazed me. A few large caliber salvos delivered on target could reduce a proud cruiser to a flaming, sinking wreck littered with hundreds of dead in minutes. (It’s worth noting that more American sailors died in the waters around Guadalcanal than marines and soliders died on the island itself.) With Hornfischer’s guidance, I also found it fascinating to ponder the nature of naval leadership — the captain of a ship or the admiral of a surface squadron closing with the enemy was putting their own person squarely in the enemy’s crosshairs. Many paid with their lives, and I can’t think of any other kind of WWII combat that demanded such physical, personal courage of its high ranking officers.
Here’s Ronald Spector’s review of Neptune’s Inferno, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
I haven’t yet read Ship of Ghosts or Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, but I have Last Stand next to me on my office shelves and am looking forward to getting after it sometime soon.