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28 of 37 people found the following review helpful
What idiot reviewed this book and called it "Meticulously researched"?
on September 9, 2009
When a Marine like Ollie North endorses a book, how can one disagree? The problem is that Ollie, like the authors, don't know Navy. I hate to say this - I respect Gingrich greatly - but it is painfully obvious after the first few pages that the authors don't know a breech block from a bilge keel.
OK, some research was obviously done. Seeing academics research WW II naval combat in the Pacific (the current ghetto of WW II history) is like watching a dancing bear - you are to be amazed not at the grace of the dance, but that the bear dances at all.
But just because some research was done is not justification to excuse it for not being done right. This book contains numerous, many, a flood of technical and conceptual errors. In some cases, whole turns of plot are generated from wrong assumptions and impossibilities. Let me mention a few - I'll start on about page 47, because by that time in the book I was so shocked at the inaccuracies that I started underlining them.
Somehow the Pearl Harbor main channnel gets blocked. The main channel at Pearl is now and was then 400 yards wide. The largest ships in the fleet, battleships, were 200 yards long. So, even if the Japanese managed to sink a ship broadside in the middle of the channel, there still would have been 100 yards of clearance. I've navigated the Panama Canal, and there are places there that are a lot narrower, and ships make it past without problems. The Suez canal isn't much wider. In the North African campaign, ports were blocked much tighter than that, and ships still made the transit. The myth of "blocking the channel" originated from Prange, who was quoting Fuchida, who obviously had no idea of how wide the channel was.
A Japanese battleship tries some shore bombardment against Oahu. To get into position, according to the times and locations given in the book, the battleships would have had to steam at about 55 knots. Then the battleships encounter US shore batteries. The authors make the Army's coastal defense batteries out to be untrained incompetents. In fact, most of those soldier in the CD Corps were long-service professionals. CD batteries, with long base lines between directors and surveyed ranges, could generally hit consistently at long range, and 10,000 yards range (the range of the battle in the book) was point-blank for them. The authors allow them one near miss on a DD.
The authors have Admiral Draemel, leading a night DD attack on the Japanese battleship, agonize that his ships would be "clobbered" at 20,000 yards. According to the Naval War College Maneuver and Fire Rules, hit rates against DDs at that range would be on the order of 1%. SInce Draemel would have had to gone to the NWC, he should have known that - or the authors ought to have known it and not had him say such a silly thing.
The authors have Draemel attack with "nine destroyers and destroyer escorts." Destroyer escorts did not enter the fleet until much later, and there were none at Pearl Harbor.
Those nine ships were attacking in line abreast with 400 yards between ships. Standard doctrine for line ahead was 700 yards daytime, 1000 yards night. Line abreast in such an attack would have been nearly impossible to maintain and would likely have resulted in collisions. No naval officer would have used that formation for such an attack.
Standard naval terminology is NEVER used in the book. What naval officer ever said, "fire at will"? "Flank speed, bearing 260 degrees"? Instead, how about "Open fire." How about, "All ahead flank, indicate turns for 25 knots, come left new course two six zero degrees"? Naval officers are drilled constantly in standard command language, and cannot be qualified to stand as conning officer or officer of the deck without having those commands down by heart. How can anyone think of writing a naval novel without understanding how orders are given?
Then there is the stumper that I had to read three times to figure out:"On my mark, prepare to ..." In the navy, there is the prep signal, and the execute signal.
The authors somewhere have heard about "ripple fire," and so they have the Japanese battleships fire their turrets at two second intervals. Anyone who knows anything about fire control would know that would make spotting near impossible. Ripple fire was a short delay - like a quarter of a second - between firing adjacent guns, to prevent mutual shell interference. Including all the guns, the total duration of a ripple was maybe a second.
The authors have a battleship at 22 knots burning fuel 30 times faster than at 10 knots. Double the speed requires the power to be squared, so the actual fuel consumption would have been about 4-5 times.
The authors give the four-piper destroyer Ward a broadside of 8 torpedoes - in fact, she had 6 on a side. They give her a gun turret forward, when in fact her guns were in open deck mounts.
The authors had a Japanese admiral order 1,800 ton destroyers to tow a 36,000 ton battleship. This, in submarine waters, when he had only 2 DDs available, and also had a heavy cruiser available for the role. He had Japanese divers go over the side AT NIGHT to inspect for screw and rudder damage, this evidently done while the ship was being towed at 6 knots.
The Japanese Kongo class battleship was called "bigger than anything the [US] Navy now had afloat." North Caroline and Washington were both operational at that time. A US heavy cruiser was identified as almost as powerful as a battle cruisers - let's see, 10,000 tons v. 36,000 tons, 8-inch guns v. 14-inch, one wonders where the authors got this equivalency.
The authors keep having the Japanese employ their aircraft in units of 5 or 10. The basic formation units were the Shotai and Chotai (excuse spelling if off), units of 3 aircraft and 9 aircraft.
The authors arm the US dive bombers with AP bombs to attack carriers. US dive bombers going after carriers used 500# and 1000# GP bombs with 1/10 second fuses.
Yamamoto refuels his whole fleet at sea, except two carriers miss out on about 700 tons of fuel. This was impossible on two counts: first, the Japanese oilers were two days steaming north of Kaido Butai; second, they did not have the pumping capacity to transfer that much fuel. To refuel Yamamoto's ships to the levels indicated would have required about 12,000 tons of fuel or more, and the Japanese oiler might have been able to manage about 500 to 800 tons in a full day UNREP. This little logistics boo-boo makes all the rest of the book impossible.
The authors continually refer to "carrier scout planes" as if the carriers had specialized aircraft for this role. In fact, the Americans used the SBD and the Japanese used the B5N in that role. The SBD scouts carried 500# GP bombs and doctrine had them seek out and attack the carrier deck to put it out of action. Instead
the authors, obviously not knowing standard doctrine, has the scout SBD attack the battleship before searching for the carriers.
The authors do not understand naval communications, in spite of the fact that one of their heros is a communicator, and communications play a huge part in their story. They have Japanese aircraft that did not carry voice radios having nice radio chats, and ships breaking radio silence over and over again thinking that a short broadcast would not reveal their positions, which was flat wrong for both sides. In fact, Japanese voice radios were unreliable and of poor performance, to the extent that most Zero pilots had their radios removed. Their only reliable long-range communications was HF CW keyed transmissions. Carriers in particular had limited numbers of radios that could monitor only one frequency at a time and had a large number of nets they had to monitor. Yet, the authors have the Japanese search aircraft each on a different frequency (wrong), has Navy strike aircraft talking to Army heavy bombers (different nets), and of course, with a politician as an author, the whole war stops and the admirals tune their limited number of radios to hear Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" speech. Only a politician would think that would happen .....
B-17s trained to bomb warships at 8,000 to 18,000 feet. The authors have them coming in at 3,000 feet and getting shot up by AA. The Japanese battleships are given their late-war complement of 25mm AA guns, rather than what they had at the beginning of the war.
The authors have the US ships with CIC spaces (combat information centers), which were actually not installed on ships until late 1942.
The authors evidently do not understand that aircraft had arming switches on their bombs along with arming vanes, so that the bomb had to be armed, released, and travel some distance from the aircraft before it could explode. This would prevent them from exploding if an aircraft crashed on takeoff. The authors seem to like having aircraft bombs explode in that way. And, like any good Vin Diesel movie, any deck crash automatically means a huge fire.
Japanese bombers by doctrine came in to the attack one at a time, keying their aim point off the leader. The authors have them coming in two at a time to bracket a ship if it should turn one way or the other, something that could not be done (communications, plese?).
They also state that the Japanese AP bomb delivered by the B5N Kate was overweight for that aircraft. They again did not do their research correctly - they used the weight of the 40 cm shell, which was used to build the bomb, but when the shell was converted into a bomb they machined off several hundred pounds of metal and added some weight to the bursting charge to get it up to 50#. The bomb weighed just under 800 kg, the spec payload of the aircraft, weighing just the same as a torpedo. The authors have several paragraphs agonizing how the B5N Kate pilots had to take off overweight, all of which, of course, is bogus. They also claim that an AP bomb could pass through a carrier and explode underneath it and break the ship's back. With a 50 pound bursting charge? Ignorant. No one thought that at the time.
The authors have one bomb hit on the stern of Enterprise take out the entire arresting gear system. The system was specifically designed to prevent that. All the arresting gear had individual, independent systems for each wire. The course of the battle concocted by the authors depends upon this technical error. They also equip the carriers with deck bulldozers and electric carts to move aircraft on the hanger deck. These innovations were not introduced until 1943.
The authors have Fuchida landing on a carrier, and then gunning his engine after hitting the deck in case he missed the wires. That is the modern procedure for angled carrier decks, and was not used for straight-deck carriers. If they missed the wires, they went into the barriers.
Well, that takes me only to page 129 - there is a lot more problems later as the book goes on, but this review is dragging on in length, and I think I have made my point without needed to further pile on the evidence. Most of these errors could have been picked up by any competent naval officer with some WW II background. Couldn't the authors take the time to have one read the draft?
But I do want to make another point. The authors really have no idea of the mentality of the fighting man in WW II. I think that they were weened on too many re-runs of MASH or Oliver Stone anti-war movies, because they have all their heros having a nice cry at some time or another (at least 5 or 7 incidents, if I recall correctly), and each character has a page or two where they are convinced that they all are going to die, and that their next day/hour/mission will be their last. One AAC pilot practically mutinies and refused to go on a mission which he thinks is suicidal, and when he does go, of course, the colonel cries. Overall, these characters are just too touchie-feelie, too 1960's Woodstock to be credible. I will bet anyone a cantelope that the authors have never met a real live combat aviator (well, OK, Gingrich probably knows McCain), because they have no concept of the true devil-may-care arrogance that fueled the pilots of the period. Instead, in the author's world combat pilots obsess about dying and cry a lot, which I frankly feel is a bit insulting to those brave men.
The bottom line is that I feel that this book is a disaster to naval history. With their credentials and all the hype and endorsements for the book, there are going to be a lot of people ignorant of naval history that are going to take what is in this book as gospel. They are going to take all these errors and believe that is the way it was, and maybe one or two will write their own books or blogs and promulgate the errors further. There will be traffic for years to come beating down a whole new crop of myths and misinformation.
Overall: not recommended.