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by Eric Hammel
Pacifica Press 2000
Photos, Order of Battle
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The Invasion of Guadalcanal & The Battle of the Eastern Solomons
Author Eric Hammel has created an beautiful produced hardcover book about the third carrier clash between the Japanese and United States. As with all his titles, this one is comprehensive, detailed, blow by blow type accounts of the action that puts the reader in the cockpit of the planes, decks of the carriers as furious combat erupts.
As with his other books, Hammel does an excellent job of setting the stage for the battle in the first chapters of the book with an overview of aircraft carrier development and naval aviation, including the development of all the principal Japanese and American carrier aircraft. This gives a true appreciation for just how brave the pilots and crews were, flying in plane like the Dauntless that when fully loaded would often simply "fall" of the end of the carrier deck, barely airborne. And, sometimes, they simply disappeared beneath the deck. Detailed descriptions of carrier landing and recovery are equally harrowing. By the time the reader has completed this section, one has an apperception for the dangers these pilots faced, minus any enemy or war!
Also of interest was a chapter that is a detailed comparison of the Japanese and US Navy's training of pilots. There were many important differences in training, like the fact that Japanese pilots early in their training specialized on a specific type of aircraft, while Americans mastered more than one. Most notably, was the way the US Navy gave pilots an extra stage of advanced training prior to their assignment to the war zone, where for the Japanese, they were moved into combat much quicker and expected to get this advanced training in actual combat or from veterans in the group's ranks.
The book then brings audiences back to August 1942, and the decision to attack the Solomons, preventing the Japanese from completing their airfield on Guadalcanal. The attack and USMC invasion takes the Japanese completely by surprise, but it is not long before the Japanese launch their first raid of Bettys, Zeros and Vals against the attackers, where the amazing dogfight between Saburo Sakai and "Pug" Southerland took place.
The book next covers the land actions on Guadalcanal and how those related and reflected in the Naval forces. Probably the most harrowing part of the book is Hammel's description of the USS ENTERPRISE when it was hit by bombs. The reader is propelled with the crew's rescue and fire fighting efforts in one of the best accounts about what it is like to be aboard a carrier when seconds count and crews training are put to the ultimate test to save their ship as extraordinary feats of bravery and courage result.
Review by Justin Taylan
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