Neptune's Inferno

  • by James D. Hornfischer
  • Narrated by Robertson Dean
  • 18 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

With The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors and Ship of Ghosts, James D. Hornfischer created essential and enduring narratives about America’s World War II Navy, works of unique immediacy distinguished by rich portraits of ordinary men in extremis and exclusive new information. Now he does the same for the deadliest, most pivotal naval campaign of the Pacific war: Guadalcanal.
Neptune’s Inferno is at once the most epic and the most intimate account ever written of the contest for control of the seaways of the Solomon Islands, America’s first concerted offensive against the Imperial Japanese juggernaut and the true turning point of the Pacific conflict. This grim, protracted campaign has long been heralded as a Marine victory. Now, with his powerful portrait of the Navy’s sacrifice - three sailors died at sea for every man lost ashore - Hornfischer tells for the first time the full story of the men who fought in destroyers, cruisers, and battleships in the narrow, deadly waters of “Ironbottom Sound.” Here, in brilliant cinematic detail, are the seven major naval actions that began in August of 1942, a time when the war seemed unwinnable and America fought on a shoestring, with the outcome always in doubt. But at Guadalcanal the U.S. proved it had the implacable will to match the Imperial war machine blow for violent blow.
Working from new interviews with survivors, unpublished eyewitness accounts, and newly available documents, Hornfischer paints a vivid picture of the officers and enlisted men who took on the Japanese in America’s hour of need.

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What the Critics Say

“With the publication of Neptune's Inferno, a masterpiece of 20th century naval history, it's time to declare James Hornfischer a national treasure, a member of the distinguished band of brothers - Stephen Ambrose, Shelby Foote, Ken Burns, Spielberg and Hanks - whose sacred mission has been vital to America's journey, preserving the stories of our fathers and grandfathers for future generations, before those stories fade forever out of our consciousness into the shadows of time.”(Bob Shacochis, National Book Award winner, author of The Immaculate Invasion)
"Hornfischer has produced an account that is visceral, yet technical; sweeping, yet personal. It’s a terrific read, and an important new addition to the literature on this most important naval campaign in the Pacific." (Jonathan Parshall, co-author of Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway)
"Hornfischer’s accounts of naval combat in the Pacific are simply the best in the business." (Ian W. Toll, author of Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Hornfischer does it again.

Just like The Last Stand Of The Tin Can Sailors, Hornfischer draws me into a sometimes chaotic battle, and this one far greater in scope and length than the previous, giving me just enough detail without losing the big picture. His descriptions aren't cumbersome or tedious but paint an epic of heroes, monstrous destructive machines and the struggles of men just like you and I. I've read several books on the Guadalcanal Campaign and Neptune's Inferno with ease, reveals the desperate situation the USA as well as the USN grappled with in the Summer of 1942. He made me yearn to hear more of the plight of the Marines and Cactus Airforce but gave enough to round out the telling and still stay focused. Perhaps in another book?
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- Thomas

five stars for military history buffs

The challenge for a writer of popular military history is to show both the forest and the trees (and occasionally even the moss, daisies and thistles) without ending up with a tedious mishmash. Hornfischer succeeds brilliantly. He establishes a fairly extensive and comprehensible overview and refreshes it regularly and effectively. At the same time he provides us with a wealth of human detail and tour de force descriptive writing which brings harrowing moments to vivid, even excruciating, life. As a result we witness the battles in a way which even the participants could not in that we observe with a much more comprehensive understanding of what we are seeing. It is like watching a game played out on a chessboard during which we watch the shocking details of the death of every sacrificed pawn or knight.

I particularly like the way the author gives individuals at all levels their due while never glossing over their human errors and frailties.

The narration is understated and sure handed. A fitting match for the style and subject matter of the book.

I found it particularly useful to refer to online maps and alternative descriptions of the battles in questions as I listened to this book. Just a suggestion.
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- David

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-25-2011
  • Publisher: Random House Audio