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Black Shoe Carrier Admiral: Frank Jack Fletcher at Coral Sea, Midway & Guadalcanal Hardcover – June, 2006

4.2 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“It is very difficult to turn around a half century of conventional wisdom, but John Lundstrom has done it. In a careful but readable way, he has proved that Adm. Jack Fletcher deserves to be remembered as a hero and not a goat.” --Evan Thomas, author of Sea of Thunder --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

John B. Lundstrom is Curator Emeritus of History at the Milwaukee Public Museum where he has worked since 1967. He is the author of five books, including The First Team and The First Team and the Guadalcanal Campaign and coauthor of Fateful Rendezvous: The Life of Butch O’Hare.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 638 pages
  • Publisher: US Naval Institute Press (June 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591144752
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591144755
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 7.7 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,585,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Michael Smith on October 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is an important book for any student of the Pacific War, because it corrects the largely unrefuted negative accounts of Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher's service as commander of the U.S. carrier task forces in the first three of the four carrier battles of 1942 (Coral Sea, Midway, and Eastern Solomons). In fact, there were only two carrier battles in history where he did not command the winning side - Santa Cruz in October 1942, and Philippine Sea in 1944.

Despite this record, Fletcher has been savaged by critics for allegedly failing to stand by the Marine garrison at Guadalcanal, and, since he headed the relief expedition to besieged Wake in January 1942, he gets blamed for that expedition's turning back as well (despite the fact that he was ordered to do so). That he won three carriers battles against superior forces never gets him the credit he deserves. This was due in part to a confluence of several negative factors. First, he was a "black shoe" admiral, and not an aviator - and aviators were furious that carrier task forces were being commanded by non-aviators in the early stages of the war. In their mind every mission he didn't send them on would have been a great success - and that's what they told his superiors. Second, he was a convenient scapegoat for other admirals - most notably Richmond Kelly Turner at Guadalcanal, and CinC Ernest King - when they either made mistakes (Kelly at Guadalcanal) or were dissatisfied with his failure to act more "offensively" in spite of the circumstances that prevented it, or counseled against it. Third, when the attacks started rolling in during the war and after, Fletcher did not respond to correct the record, in part because of two unfortunate circumstances.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Black Shoe Carrier Admiral" is a 680-page, meticulously detailed accounting of Admiral Fletcher's leadership of U.S. carrier forces during the first year of World War II in the Pacific. Author John Lundstrom's fundamental thesis is that Fletcher has been unfairly maligned by many of his peers, by historians, and by a large segment of the U.S. Marine Corps for perceived errors of judgment or even failings of character during crucial battles in the Coral Sea, at Midway, and in the Solomons.

The author's painstaking research into primary sources largely ignored by other writers (i.e., memos, letters, and logs kept by those who were present with Fletcher during those battles, plus actual radio messages and dispatches sent by and to him aboard his various flagships) reveal a reasonable rationale for many of Fletcher's controversial decisions that mostly seem to have escaped his critics. It's not possible to adequately summarize them in a short review like this, but suffice to say that admirals sitting behind desks in Hawaii or Washington are poorly situated for grasping all of the important realities of a convoluted combat scenario occurring half a world away. Thus when Fletcher is condemned for failing to charge full speed ahead to engage the enemy when doing so would have totally exhausted the fuel in his escorting destroyers, making victory impossible and needless destroyer losses inevitable, he is chastised for failing to engage the enemy rather than praised for sensibly preserving America's meager fleet assets in the face of superior forces.

While there is much more to be said about this fine volume, it seems necessary in this forum to spend as much energy reviewing some of the other reviews as the book itself.
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Format: Hardcover
Magnificent! That's all I can say about Frank Jack Fletcher: Black Shoe Carrier Admiral. As a Professor at the Naval War College with a Ph.D. in Military History, I have read literally hundreds of books on World War II in the Pacific Theater. John Lundstrom stands out as one of the three or four top authorities on the Pacific War alive today. He has spent nearly forty years meticulously researching the Pacific War and I have uncovered only one very minor factual error in the three previous books he has written on the most critical period of the war for America -- 1942. The same can be said for Frank Jack Fletcher: Black Shoe Carrier Admiral. Lundstrom has spent years uncovering incontrovertable evidence to support his findings on Fletcher. Much like Air Marshal Hugh Dowding, who was responsible for the defense of England, Scotland and Wales during the Battle of Britain and was subsequently written out of the official British account of that great struggle, Frank Jack Fletcher has been overlooked by historians for his absolutely critical actions while in command of U.S. carrier forces at the battles of the Coral Sea, Midway and the Eastern Solomons. Had Fletcher lost at Coral Sea and the Japanese carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku and their air wings been available at Midway, I am absolutely convinced that the U.S. Navy would have been defeated at Midway too due entirely to the additional aircraft the Japanese would have had in the battle. Fletcher's actions at the Eastern Solomons likewise enabled the U.S. success on Guadalcanal that turned the tide in the war and made offensive operations aimed at the Japanese home islands possible.Read more ›
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