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Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway [Paperback]

by Jonathan Parshall, Anthony Tully
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (311 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 2007 1574889249 978-1574889246 Reprint
Many consider the Battle of Midway to have turned the tide of the Pacific War. It is without question one of the most famous battles in history. Now, for the first time since Gordon W. Prange’s bestselling Miracle at Midway, Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully offer a new interpretation of this great naval engagement.

Unlike previous accounts, Shattered Sword makes extensive use of Japanese primary sources. It also corrects the many errors of Mitsuo Fuchida’s Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan, an uncritical reliance upon which has tainted every previous Western account. It thus forces a major, potentially controversial reevaluation of the great battle. The authors examine the battle in detail and effortlessly place it within the context of the Imperial Navy’s doctrine and technology. With a foreword by leading WWII naval historian John Lundstrom, Shattered Sword will become an indispensable part of any military buff’s library. Winner of the 2005 John Lyman Book Award for the "Best Book in U.S. Naval History" and cited by Proceedings as one of its "Notable Naval Books" for 2005.

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Editorial Reviews


“The authors have researched deeply and widely to provide a new narrative of and analyses about the battle of Midway, and as such have produced an account that as of now should be seen as the definitive volume available. . . . This book is a treasure trove of technical details and will provide even someone who has read a great deal about the battle with new information. . . . A valuable resource for those with any serious interest in the subject.”

"…A fascinating, unique and groundbreaking study on the Japanese and American sides of the encounter with emphasis on the former…Shattered Sword is well written, spectacularly and thoroughly researched and vividly narrated, and is fast becoming the definitive tome on the legendary naval battle."

"It’s not often I finish a book that energizes me the way Parshall and Tully did with Shattered Sword. I highly recommend it."

Shattered Sword [is] a necessary read for anyone interested in the Pacific War.”

“This incredibly detailed book provides a whole new approach to the study and interpretation of the battle."

“To really know about the Battle of Midway, you must read this book.”

“Jon Parshall and Anthony Tully explain, in an entirely new light and from a fresh perspective, how the Japanese navy fought the Battle of Midway. Extensively researched, soundly reasoned, and engagingly and colorfully written, Shattered Sword is the most original piece of scholarship on this decisive event since John B. Lundstrom’s groundbreaking The First Team.”

“At last, the Japanese side of the Battle of Midway has been limned in English with accuracy, lucidity, authority, and objectivity. The authors’ specialized knowledge of the tactics and technologies of Japanese naval air power, their careful reading of surviving Japanese air unit records, and their appreciation of the larger meaning of the battle combine to give us a combat narrative and analysis that superbly balance expert detail and grand historical import. I suspect it of being a classic.”

“A lot has been written about Midway since 1945. Yet everyone who thinks that they know the last word about this momentous event must examine Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully’s book on the subject. Shattered Sword, packed with new information, will certainly become the definitive volume on the most important naval battle of World War II.”

"This incredible book shatters all previous notions on how the Battle of Midway was fought. It also shatters all the standards for military reference works.Shattered Sword will come to be regarded as a benchmark in modern history, for it brings to bear all the tools of modern communication technology in a way that has never been done before. [It] utterly refutes the conclusions of most of the previous accounts of the battle. . . . This book is a page turner, but its importance and its wealth of detail will deman an immediate re-reading."

"This book releases a large number of bombshells, blowing apart the account of Mitsuo Fuchida, the air commander who wrote a book on Midway. [The authors] also tell a gripping story that is backed up by evidence in a massive book that sets the new starting point for the discussion of Midway. . . . This book brings a well-presented case, one that places the 'Incredible Victory' in a whole new context. . . . Shattered Sword is a superb work that should become the definitive reference when the Battle of Midway is discussed. Gordon W. Prange and Walter Lord have been thoroughly eclipsed by this new work creating a full perspective of the pivotal battle of World War II in the Pacific theater."

"Forget what you think you know about Midway. Shattered Sword is a landmark study that redefines the crucial 1942 carrier battle, widely considered the most important naval engagement of the last century. . . . Parshall and Tully dissect the reasons for the Japanese defeat at every level--tactical, operational, and strategic. . . . It has taken sixty years to begin undoing the enduring myths of Midway, and i>Shattered Sword will likely become the ultimate reference. . . . Sixty-three years is not too long to wait for the authoritative word on the Battle of Midway."

"Why would anyone who has read Walter Lord, Gordon Prange, and Mitsuo Fuchida on this subject think that anything more is to be said, especially by a couple of relatively unknown writers? The short answer is, simply, get this book. Parshall and Tully have pulled off what every author/historian aspires to do: take the body of literature on a chosen topic to a level of insight and understanding not formerly attained or perhaps even imagined. . . . Shattered Sword can justifiably be labled a groundbreaker, a landmark work that bleongs at eye-level center in any naval historian's bookcase."

"Myth-breaking . . . Drawing on Japanese records and accounts untapped by Western historians, [Parshall and Tully] dispell many of the myths and falsehoods surrounding the decisive clash. . . . The authors paint vivid pictures of the death and destruction wrought on the Japanese carriers."

"This meticulously researched and thoroughly documented study is an essential corrective. It is essential reading for anyone interested in carrier aviation, past, present, or future. Although imposing in scale, Shattered Sword is a bargain, and a highly engaging read. Every page seems to throw up a new perspective--from the pathetically low Japanese aircraft production figures, to the political infighting both within the Naval High Command and between the services. The best naval history book of 2005."

"While most of their predecessors have fallen into the same mold--looking at the battle from the American vantage only--Parshall and Tully break new ground in bringing the Japanese perspective into the picture. . . . The authors state that their book attempts to do three things--present the battle from the Japanese side, study it almost exclusively from an aircraft carrier viewpoint, and point out the errors and exaggerations in a group of myths that have surrounded the battle. The authors succeed in all three goals. . . . [They] have produced a superb volume."

"Will earn its place in the already impressive library that focuses on one of the great moments in naval history."

"A remarkable book . . . The breadth and quality of the information about the Japanese air groups provided here is simply staggering. . . . Shattered Sword is equally strong on Japanese strategy and tactics, and on the mentality of the IJN's admirals. . . . This account will undoubtedly revolutionise the way we think about the battle of Midway; it is a towering piece of research by two IJN enthusiastists who have left no stone unturned in their efforts to resolve the plethora of conflicting information which has bedevilled previous analyses."

"Provides a much-needed reassessment of the Battle of Midway. . . . The chapters devoted to the actual battle are a treat, starting with an in-depth description of Japanese flight deck procedures and activities, something rarely detailed in Western publications. This new treatment is basically the Battle of Midway as seen through Japanese eyes. . . . The authors are to be congratulated. Writing on a topic that might not first seem to have anything new to be divulged, they have created something that is as fresh and vital as if it were the first account written at war's end instead of more than sixty years later. I believe that Shattered Sword will become the preeminent narrative history of this crucial battle, and I consider it to be one of the most important books on WWII naval operations to be published in the last twenty years."

"A new and definitive account . . . With the correction of many errors in previous accounts and its new graphics, the book forces scholars of the battle to undertake a major reevaluation of the great naval engagement. . . . Highly recommended."

"Parshall and Tully have set a new standard for researching, evaluating, and synthesizing material from sources around the world to provide a complete account of the Battle of Midway and the underlying causes of Japan's defeat. . . . At least eleven 'urban myths' universally accepted by scholars and sailors have been shattered, providing a whole new level of understanding of the Battle of Midway. Parshall and Tully have provided one of the most readable accounts of the Battle of Midway available anywhere. . . . Experts will certainly agree that this is one of the two or three most important books on the Pacific War published in the last decade."

"Shattered Sword is a must for any student of World War II history interested in the naval conflict in the Pacific. . . . The book will be the standard work on the Battle of Midway for years to come. Parshall and Tully's original approach demonstrates how much can still be revealed about World War II even after sixty years of research and writing."

"Magisterial in its coverage . . . revelatory . . . Parshall and Tully's work is deply researched, all-encompassing in its perspective, painstakingly detailed in its exposition, and lucidly written. It makes an invaluable contribution to the literature of the Pacific War, especially for bringing the vast research of Japanese scholars to the fore, and is absolutely essential reading for every student of the history of World War II at sea."

"One of the year's ten best books."

". . . . this is arguably the most important book on Midway yet written. The authors have made extensive and extremely thoughtful use of Japanese records, particularly pilot log-books and the like, blended this with technical expertise of a high order and produced an account which challenges conventional understanding of this battle . . . . the definitive book on Midway."

"Jonathan B. Parshall and Anthony P. Tully have skillfully reserached, analyzed, and drawn sound conclusions about the actual causes of Japan's defeat at Midway. The authors expose many myths that surround the battle. This is the first truly complete and balanced examination of the decisive battle of Midway."


"To really know about the Battle of Midway, you must read this book."

"A lot has been written about Midway since 1945. Yet everyone who thinks that they know the last word about this momentous event must examine Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully's book on the subject. Shattered Sword, packed with new information, will certainly become the definitive volume on the most important naval battle of World War II."

"This meticulously researched and thoroughly documented study is an essential corrective. It is essential reading for anyone interested in carrier aviation, past, present, or future. Although imposing in scale, Shattered Sword is a bargain, and a highly engaging read. Every page seems to throw up a new perspective - from the pathetically low Japanese aircraft production figures, to the political infighting both within the Naval High Command and between the services. The best naval history book of 2005." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc.; Reprint edition (November 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1574889249
  • ISBN-13: 978-1574889246
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 7.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (311 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
439 of 450 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway November 14, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
. Don't be misled by the title, this is not just another telling of the entire Battle of Midway story. Instead it's an exhaustively detailed new account of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) at Midway, accomplished with a depth of research and analysis not previously seen. The book is crammed with a dazzling set of graphics, including brilliant computer-generated charts and diagrams that very signficantly aid the text.

. Of course, anyone attempting to rewrite the history of the IJN at Midway needs to convince potential readers that the new book offers something signficant over the time-honored resource for that subject, Fuchida and Okumiya's "Midway, the Battle That Doomed Japan." The authors of "Shattered Sword" not only accepted that challenge, but they convincingly demonstrate that Fuchida was very loose with certain key facts in his Midway book, done in order to serve personal aims that didn't necessarily require telling the truth. The result has been a number of deeply-entrenched myths that permeate the popular history of the battle. "Shattered Sword" ably exposes those myths and convincingly demonstrates in each case what really happened and why.

. This reviewer frequently has occasion to recommend references on the Battle of Midway to students and others beginning a study of that epic clash. In such cases I always recommnend Robert Cressman's "A Glorious Page In Our History" as the best overall account of the battle. I now need to add "Shattered Sword" to the short list of works that those doing serious research on Midway really must have. In particular, anyone who has read Fuchida's "Midway" and puts significant stock in it really ought to read "Shattered Sword" to learn what the earlier work either omitted or got quite wrong.
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270 of 281 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Groundbreaking history November 15, 2005
Very few histories can be considered groundbreaking treatments of an event more than 60 years afterward, but "Shattered Sword" meets that exceptional standard. As the authors conclusively prove, much of what has been written about the most important naval battle of the 20th century was incomplete, inaccurate, or simply fabricated. No future account of Midway will be worthwhile without reference to "Shattered Sword".

Parshall and Tully delve far beyond their unmatched mastery of the technical aspects (some more detailed than accounts of US Navy operations!) to explain why Japan lost the battle. The reasons are many and varied, extending from procedural, operational, and strategic concerns to the very culture that produced the Imperial Navy. In the process, the authors not only provide rare clarity to their analysis, but they raise the bar for naval histories of the Second World War. Readers yet unborn will be grateful to them. I know that I am.

Barrett Tillman, "Clash of the Carriers"
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250 of 263 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This piece is essentially a modern analysis of the causes of the Japanese defeat in the great Battle of Midway. It is more an analysis of Japanese defeat than American victory which, while fascinating, only tells part of the story of the greatest naval battle in American history, and one of the great battles of all time.

The main thrust of this work is to refute the common wisdom that a major cause of the Japanese defeat was that American dive bombers hit three Japanese aircraft carriers while these vessels were in the process of loading bombs onto their own dive bombers and torpedo planes on their flight decks. Here, the authors are persuasive. They give detailed accounts which convince the reader that Japanese doctrine would have had the planes being refit below decks. Further, the authors claim with convincing evidence that the incessant American attacks throughout the morning kept the Japanese fleet largely on the defensive, as it tried to augment its Combat Air Patrol with additional launchings of fighter aircraft. This is a new perspective on the battle, and this appears to be the major finding of this book.

Beyond these tactical considerations, the authors further argue that Japan lost the battle for other more strategic reasons. The authors argue that Yamamoto's Midway strategy lost sight of the principles of Mass and Objective. The principle of Massing of Forces (Mass) was violated as the Japanese dropped one aircraft carrier from the battle due to moderate damage that it suffered at the Battle of Coral Sea (first) and, even more importantly, diverted one carrier group to support a simultaneous sideshow in the Aleutians, which diverted a considerable number of planes from the main battle which was to take place at Midway.
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I first read about the Battle of Midway a long time ago and decided to revisit this history. "Shattered Sword" has to rank as one of the best ever books that I have read about this conflict.

The book, through careful research of Japanese and American naval records ends up shattering a number of long standing myths (both American and Japanese) about this battle.

(Another book "The Unknown Battle of Midway: The Destruction of the American Torpedo Squadrons" should be read as a companion piece to "Shattered Sword" - it gives an in-depth account of the failings of American naval aviation at the Battle of Midway).

There is a reason that it has taken over sixty years for such a book to be written about this battle. It has taken that long to finally get a dispassionate look at the events as they really happened.

Almost all the major participants who contributed to the original story of the battle are now dead. American pride about her victories in WWII and the need for myth-making about the heroics of the Greatest Generation have faded. The result is a greater emphasis on examination of the written record of naval operations to recreate what happened, rather than relying on the spin put out by the original participants of the time.

Japan has also gone through some major societal changes, and is now finally beginning to re-examine her conduct during WWII. Much of what is new in this book comes from the Japanese record, and the authors were assisted along the way by a number of Japanese historians.

While eyewitness accounts are normally critical for historians, "Shattered Sword" makes clear that, for this battle, certain participants had motives for not telling the truth.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
Very thoroughly researched and a different take on the Midway battle. More a scholarly work than a popular reading book but worth the effort to get through the minutia
Published 4 days ago by susanne winterhawk
5.0 out of 5 stars An Historical Masterpiece
This is THE definitive work on WWII naval aviation carrier operations. This is a serious look at the doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures employed by both the Imperial... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Wesley Saults
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing How Much We Can Learn Decades Later
By far the most insightful assessment of the Battle of Midway, and one of the best histories of any major event, that I've ever read. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Fred Faltin
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative book on Japanese side of the Midway battle
I have read many accounts of the battle of Midway from the US side, this is a very informative account of how the Japanese fought the battle and also of the basic Japanese battle... Read more
Published 13 days ago by William R Morgan
4.0 out of 5 stars And You Thought You Knew
Midway from the point of view of the Japanese. This book has all the facts and weaves a good story. There are a lot of historical and cultural out takes to give the non Asian... Read more
Published 16 days ago by CEW
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous - couldn't put it down!
i have read and studied a lot of material on the battle of midway, but I've never read anything as fresh, detailed and incisive as this. Read more
Published 27 days ago by SewBlastic
1.0 out of 5 stars Publishing Ambiguities in "Shattered Sword"
I am giving "Shattered Sword" one star for the following reasons. First the authors nowhere claim a knowledge of the Japanese language. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Adam B. Ritchie Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of book
Probably the best WW II book I have read. Kept my attention. Had many facts which I did not know. Highly recommend.
Published 1 month ago by Tom Beadles
5.0 out of 5 stars Throw all other books on Midway away and buy this!
I have taught college level history for 20+ years and have wargamed this since Avalon Hill's old Midway game nearly 40 years ago. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Michael C. Walker
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting - Revisionist - Possibly Accurate
The author seeks to contradict currently accepted accounts of the battle of Midway. He is especially eager to "debunk" currently accepted facts concerning deck operations... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Gary L. Misch
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