A sweeping narrative history - the first in over 20 years - of America's first major offensive of World War II, the brutal, no-quarter-given campaign to take Japanese-occupied Guadalcanal.
From early August until mid-November of 1942, US marines, sailors, and pilots struggled for dominance against an implacable enemy: Japanese soldiers, inculcated with the bushido tradition of death before dishonor, avatars of bayonet combat - close-up, personal, and gruesome. The glittering prize was Henderson Airfield. Japanese planners knew that if they neutralized the airfield, the battle was won. So did the marines who stubbornly defended it.
The outcome of the long slugfest remained in doubt under the pressure of repeated Japanese air, land, and sea operations. And losses were heavy. At sea, in a half-dozen fiery combats, the US Navy fought the Imperial Japanese Navy to a draw, but at a cost of more than 4,500 sailors. More American sailors died in these battles off Guadalcanal than in all previous US wars, and each side lost 24 warships. On land, more than 1,500 soldiers and marines died, and the air war claimed more than 500 US planes. Japan's losses on the island were equally devastating - starving Japanese soldiers called it "the island of death".
But when the attritional struggle ended, American marines, sailors, and airmen had halted the Japanese juggernaut that for five years had whirled through Asia and the Pacific. Guadalcanal was America's first major ground victory against Japan and, most importantly, the Pacific War's turning point.
Published on the 75th anniversary of the battle and utilizing vivid accounts written by the combatants at Guadalcanal, along with marine corps and army archives and oral histories, Midnight in the Pacific is both a sweeping narrative and a compelling drama of individual marines, soldiers, and sailors caught in the crosshairs of history.
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Don't start here or you'll be confused.
Maybe. Guadalcanal is a tough topic. This author tries to bring the personal part of the story home, and frequently does a good job of that, bringing humanity through the voices of the participants. On the other hand, he does a poor job providing the overall context of what's going on. This fight is a huge story of outstanding and poor leadership, of great individual bravery and some cowardice, often by the folks in charge.
The author misses some key things. He gives us a great account of Puller going aboard the destroyer and saving his men, he misses the human part of the exchange between Puller and the ship captain about who's got the better life (and potential death).
The USS San Francisco kills as many sailors aboard the USS Atlanta than the Japanese kill Marines on Bloody Ridge. Callahan dies on the San Francisco. The author makes assumptions about what Callahan thought during the battle and states them as fact when we can't possibly know. Callahan knew his mission was suicide, was brave, incompetent, and six other things all at once, yet that gets lost in the story here.
The book should have been better focused, but I did listen to the end, which I won't do if I think it's a waste of time.
Really no characters in a non-fiction book, but in general, the Marines and sailors do the impossible, and I always wonder if the current generation would be capable of doing the same.
He mispronounces constantly. He pronounces Yamamoto three different ways. He pronounces Helena two different ways. He mispronounces Callahan. He mispronounces a bunch of Japanese names or gives us multiple pronunciations. He mispronounces or gives us multiple pronunciations of place names on the island. He once says that the Japanese commander is going to commit sui-Sepuku, suggesting he was anticipating "suicide", got the Japanese, and changed mid-word. Annoying.
No. Needs a second edition to tighten it up.
Listen to Tolls' Pacific Crucible. Then listen to Hornfischer's Neptune's Inferno. Listen to Tragaskis' Guadalcanal Diary (which is referenced by Wheelan). Hara's book for the Japanese version (also referenced by Wheelan). There are several books by Marines that are listenable as well, also referenced by Wheelan).
- Doctor Bob