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In Washington, DC, in late November 1941, admirals compose the most ominous message in Navy history to warn Hawaii of possible danger, but they write it too vaguely. They think precautions are being taken, but never check to see if they are. A key intelligence officer wants more warnings sent, but he is on the losing end of a bureaucratic battle and can’t get the message out. American sleuths have pierced Japan’s most vital diplomatic code, and Washington believes it has a window on the enemy’s soul - but it does not.
In a small office at Pearl Harbor, overlooking the battleships at the heart of America’s seafaring power, the Commander of the Pacific Fleet tries to figure out how much danger he really faces. His intelligence unit has lost track of Japan’s biggest aircraft carriers, but assumes they are resting in a port far away. The admiral thinks Pearl is too shallow for torpedoes, so he never puts up a barrier. As he frets, a Japanese spy is counting the warships in the harbor and reporting to Tokyo.
There were false assumptions, and racist ones: The Japanese aren’t very good aviators and they don’t have the nerve or the skill to attempt a strike so far from their home. There were misunderstandings, conflicting desires, painful choices. And there was a naval officer who, on his very first mission as captain of his very first ship, did exactly the right thing. His warning could have averted disaster, but his superiors reacted too leisurely. Japanese planes arrived moments later.
Twomey’s telescoping of the twelve days leading to the attack unravels the crucial characters and moments, and produces an edge-of-your seat drama with fascinating details about America at this moment in its history. By the end, the reader understands how assumption is the root of disaster, and how sometimes a gamble pays off.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Alec Drumm on 01-23-17
New insights even for history buffs
I enjoyed learning about the weaknesses in the US preparation for war in the Pacific. The book makes it clear that with the knowledge they had at the time, it would have been a leap of faith for Admiral Kimmel and General Short to anticipate and prepare for an air raid. After all, the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor was unprecedented. Never before had a force of aircraft carriers attacked a distant naval base by surprise.
However, it's also clear that Kimmel and Short could have done a lot more. They could have had a long distance air patrol, torpedo nets (especially after the British raid on the Italian navy in harbor in Taranto), and crews alerted to imminent hostile action.
But it was disappointing that the book did not address the US response to this lack of preparation after the attack. The book concludes with a postscript that briefly mentions the court martial of Kimmel and Short. I expected a discussion and analysis that was as insightful as the rest of the book, but the author did not discuss the command changes, changes in military procedure, and military response after the attack.
As with a lot of history books, this one is also written from the point of view of the victors and Japanese sources are few. It is never clear why the Japanese chose to attack and start a war that they knew they could not win.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
By Blake on 06-06-17
The Facts Build to a Crescendo Despite Comical Reading
The author does a good job pulling together the multiple clues the U.S. Military had available to prevent being caught by surprise by Japan's attack on Dec. 7, 1941. The bad part: the reading by Holter Graham borders on laughable, with comical emphasis on certain words. At time it sounds like listening to a high school play, no disrespect intended to teenage actors.