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Admiral "Bull" Halsey: The Life and Wars of the Navy's Most Controversial Commander Hardcover – July 6, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Popular military historian Wukovits economically and convincingly refurbishes a WWII hero inappropriately grown unfashionable. Contemporary evaluations of Adm. William F. Halsey present him as a media creation, whose heroic words and posturing camouflaged mediocrity. Wukovits, in contrast, describes the early career that persuaded Halsey of the sovereign importance of acting promptly, and with decision. The author stresses Halsey's ability to inspire loyalty and respect in his men, his skills as a trainer, and his success in developing harmonious interservice and interallied relationships. All were vital in the war's early stages, when odds were even and resources limited. Halsey's aggressive command style gave momentum and structure to the vital South Pacific campaign—where, the admiral said, we broke their backs. Halsey then became, with Raymond Spruance, part of naval history's greatest operational command team. By 1945 he brought the war to the home islands of Japan with devastating surface/air bombardments. His mistakes at Leyte Gulf, while not trivial, reflected commitment to decisive action. Wukovits fully justifies Bull Halsey's place among America's greatest admirals. (July)
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From Booklist

A seasoned writer on WWII in the Pacific now turns his attention to one of its most controversial figures. Bull Halsey was a navy brat and a latecomer to naval aviation, although distinguished as a destroyer officer before the war. He successfully commanded the early carrier raids into Japanese waters, missed the Battle of Midway due to illness, then achieved his greatest distinction as commander in the South Pacific, beginning with turning Guadalcanal around. Moved into command of the Third Fleet, he was less successful, as his overwhelming aggressiveness led him astray twice. First was leaving the Leyte beaches unprotected while seeking the Japanese carriers, an effort that might have led to a major disaster; second was leading the Third Fleet into a typhoon while trying to keep in supporting range of General MacArthur. The author argues persuasively that these errors are not the sum of Halsey's career, however, and that his strategic and tactical judgments were more often sound than not. With his aggressiveness and charisma added in, he emerges as one of the great sea warriors in American history. --Roland Green
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade; 1 edition (July 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230602843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230602847
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Charles A. Seavey on August 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Review of Admiral "Bull" Halsey by John Wukovits, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Readers of this review are doubtless familiar with the broad outlines of Halsey's career so we need only a cursory review of the big picture.

Halsey graduated from the Naval Academy in 1904 with a distinguished athletic record and a rather mediocre academic record. He specialized in destroyers for a good part of his early career. He spent time at both the Naval War College and the Army equivalent in the 1930s. Slated to become CO of the carrier Saratoga, he insisted on taking the full naval aviator training course at Pensacola.

On December 7, 1941 Halsey was at sea on Enterprise, missing the attack on Pearl Harbor. In the immediate aftermath of the attack he was put in charge of all the seaborne ships in the area. Subsequently in charge of a carrier task force he lead successful raids on the Marshall and Gilbert Islands, and then was in overall command of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo.

Forced into the hospital with a skin disease prior to the Battle of Midway Halsey convinced Chester Nimitz to name Raymond Spruance commander of his task force even though Spruance was not an aviator. The result, with a little help from Joe Rochefort, was the stunning American victory at Midway.

In October of 1942 Halsey relieved Robert L. Ghormley as overall commander of the stalled Guadalcanal campaign, and commander of the South Pacific Area. He remained in the South Pacific until 1944, having culminated his campaign by isolating and neutralizing the Japanese fortress of Rabaul.

Taking over command of the Third Fleet in the Central Pacific Area he was in charge of the main westward thrust of the USN until January of 1945.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David D. Lawson on January 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Frankly I was disappointed in this biography of the US Navy's greatest fighting Admiral. The writing was very wooden and failed to convey the character of Halsey. For Example- what did the Navy see in him that caused his rise to Flag Rank? Why did he do so well in running the campaign of retaking the Solomon Islands? Why did he leave his post at the Invasion of the Leyte? (Mention could of been made of Mahan & his theories or that Halsey & his staff were exhausted and down with flu) Or why he failed twice to avoid two typhoons that caused a large loss of life and serious damage to his fleet.
Hopefully one day Halsey will get the Book that he deserves.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By lordhoot on July 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Admiral "Bull" Halsey is your typical by the number biography on one of our navy's great fighting admirals. A good comparison can be made to E.B. Potter's biography "Bull Halsey" that came out quite a long time ago. Both books covers the same portions of Halsey's life and career. The author of this book hopes to correct the imbalance he thought recent military history had on Halsey which is to magnify his errors instead of his greatness. But the book is fair in assessing Halsey's achievements and his flaws as a commander. Author makes no excuses to some of Halsey's mistakes but he conclude correctly that his achievements easily overshadows his errors.

I thought this book was well written and well balanced as biographies goes. But like E.B. Potter's book, this is a military biography and after reading it, you still don't have a slightest idea who Bull Halsey was outside of his military career. A good example would be this: We know that Halsey was avid racist specially toward the Japanese and this was even before Pearl Harbor. This book, like Potter's, gave us NO clue to why he dislikes the Japanese people so much. I suppose it would be simplistic to say that he hated all non-whites but this biography tells us nothing about the man, only about his career.

Overall, this book is worthy read if you haven't read E.B. Potter's book or if you didn't like Potter's book on Halsey. Otherwise, you can pass on it and wait for a more in-depth book at Halsy if there ever will be one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey T. Munson on September 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the dark days following the attack on Pearl Harbor, America was hungry for a hero; someone who would strike back at the Japanese. That man turned out to be Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey, and over the course of the following four years, Halsey and his famed Third Fleet would chase the Japanese from Guadalcanal, through the Solomons, Philippines, and ultimately to the doorstep of Japan.

Halsey led the first American strikes against the Japanese in early 1942 and from that time on, he kept the pressure on the Japanese. He led the striking force that included Jimmy Doolittle on the mission to bomb Tokyo, and he replaced an ineffective Admiral Ghormley at Guadalcanal and instilled a new fighting spirit in his men. His motto was "attack, repeat attack", and his men followed it to the letter. While in command of the Third Fleet, Halsey and his men racked up an impressive run against the Japanese.

However, Halsey was not without controversy. Much has been written, here and in other books, about Halsey's actions off Leyte when he rushed his fleet north to engage the bait Japanese carriers while leaving American transports to be guarded by only escort carriers and destroyers. By Halsey's own admission, it was perhaps a mistake, but the ultimate outcome was the destruction of the remaining elements of the Japanese fleet. Further, Halsey steered his fleet into not one, but two typhoons within a period of six months. Again, Halsey escaped serious punishment from his superiors. Despite these infractions, Halsey emerged from the war as one of the most beloved and revered men to have ever served.

I've read several previous books by author John Wukovits, and I found this one to be on par with the others.
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