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Pearl Harbor, A Book review

Discussion in 'The Pacific and CBI' started by belasar, Feb 4, 2012.

  1. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

    May 9, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Pearl Harbor, By H.P. Willmott, Cassell & Co., 208 Pages, Photos, Maps, Charts and Index, Hardback, Oversized, Amazon New $35.00, Used $18.67

    This is a beautifull, large format book on the Pearl Harbor Attack. Chapter 1 deals with the modern History of Japan from the visit of Perry to the end of WWI where Japan becomes a modern power. Chapter 2 deals with the interwar years when Japan's path was on a collision course with the US. Chapter 3 covers the planning of the strike, while Chapter 4 details the strike itself. Chapter 5 deals with the Follow-up Strike Controversy and Chapter 6 goes into the Aftermath and Assessment of the raid. Two short essays follow with both a Japanese and American perspective on the meaning of the attack. This is followed by several charts and tables which list all aircraft and ships of the strikeforce, their commanders and ultimate fates.

    This book amply shows that the idea of a attack upon Pearl Harbor was wholely Japanese plan and not predicated upon the British strike at the Italian Fleet at Taranto. The best that could be said is that Taranto helped to sway more conservative officers who had doubts a torpedo attack would be feasable.

    The book also demonstrates that the Plan and attack was both a brillant example of improvasation by the Japanese fleet, while being at the same time one of the most fool hardy acts commited by a professional military organisation. Japan had built its fleet to win the all-out battle of anhilation of the US Pacific fleet deep within its own sphere of influence, but scrapped it in favor of a desperate strike at the distant anchorage of the US Pacific Fleet. This was done at the insistane of Yamamoto who threatened to resign, along with his staff, if this plan was not adopted. No American or British officer of similar rank would have concieved of such an act and if they had , undoubtedly they would have lost their commands for it.

    What makes this even more bizarre is that when Yamamoto made his dictat to High Command Japan had nothing ready to actually implament the Strike. The special torpedos were not yet perfected let alone supplied to the fleet, same for the 800 kilogram bombs. Nor were the aircraft yet modified to carry these weapons. A maximum of 3 fleet carriers would be available because of fuel issues, despite wargames that showed such a force to be inadequate to the task.

    The refueling protocals were not yet in place to allow the other three to reach Pearl Harbor and return home, so Adml. Yamaguchi proposed with a straight face that they be sent anyway and abandoned after the attack! One can only imagine how an American or British admiral would be greeted after such a suggestion. Fueling, arming and refitting of aircraft was acomplished in time but literaly hours before the fleet sailed for Pearl Harbor.

    The book makes a compelling argument as to why there was no follow up strike at Pearl Harbor, and the contraversy is totaly a post-war construct. First there was no real plan in place for one, secondly there was too little daylight left to mount and recover such a strike and the ever present fuel problems would make such an effort highly risky indeed.

    Namugo comes across much better in this book while Yamamoto's image suffers a good bit. Kimmel and Short get some redemption, but not enough to escape blame for their actions. FDR largely gets a pass but ironicly Marshall seems to get the most greif for the intel failures.

    There are some wonerfull 3-d maps of Hawaii as well as large theater maps showing possesions and fleet courses. The photo's, while not new. are also large and very crisp. Some fine line drawings of various ships and aircraft enhance the book greatly.

    My only real complaint is the books size, 10 inches by 10 inches is a little awkward and uncomfortable to hold for extended periods, but it does allow for the great maps and photo's.

    Worth the time (and sore paws) to read in my opinion.


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