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176 of 184 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Insights Into the US Navy Leaders of World War II
My first reaction to this book was not to read it because I felt it would be too disjointed to tell the life stories of four men who became five star admirals, but having recently completed Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 my interest was up for it, and the result was not disappointing.

When we think of the navy's role in the Pacific, we...
Published on May 5, 2012 by Paul

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57 of 66 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading but be careful
I'm always a bit leery of a secondary source history that makes a claim that is very hard to support. In the case of this book it's author Walter Borneman's suggestion that Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur developed a rapport with each other as the Second World War proceeded. Most of the available evidence suggests that this was not the case. The victor at Inchon was...
Published on July 12, 2012 by Henry F. Hewitt


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176 of 184 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Insights Into the US Navy Leaders of World War II, May 5, 2012
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This review is from: The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King--The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (Hardcover)
My first reaction to this book was not to read it because I felt it would be too disjointed to tell the life stories of four men who became five star admirals, but having recently completed Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 my interest was up for it, and the result was not disappointing.

When we think of the navy's role in the Pacific, we immediately think of Nimitz and Halsey, and they are covered in this work, but we are also enlightened to the roles of Ernest J. King and William D. Leahy, whose exposure to the eye of the public was not as prominent as the first two, but were indeed, on a higher level and worthy of even more accolades for their accomplishments.

All four were born in the 19th century, and were graduates of Annapolis around the turn of the twentieth century. They were coming into the navy at the time of America's emergence as a world power and the navy itself being transformed as a result of the efforts of Theodore Roosevelt and the realization of global spheres of influence that now included the Pacific and the recognition of the emergence of Japan.

It is somewhat ironic that the photograph on the dust jacket of the book is one of battleships in formation. Many would not likely believe that the battleship would quickly become almost obsolete with the development of the carrier. These men of this volume were born into the age of the battleship. Indeed, it was the days of the early 20th century that saw an arms race between Britain and Germany in the technology developments of battleships (dreadnoughts)that embraced both weaponry and sheer size, once described as castles of steel. Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea For many years, the might and power to deliver massive charges defined the purpose of any navy.

But prior to their important roles as naval leaders during the war, these men all experienced an important evolution in naval warfare that most importantly included the development of the submarine and the aircraft carrier.
Nimitz was heavily involved in submarines, Halsey in destroyers, especially for torpedoes, and King in carriers. Leahy, the oldest, clung to the battleship.

On Dec. 7, 1941 America was attacked by Japanese carrier based planes at Pearl Harbor. The navy was not only defeated, but also humiliated at such severe losses with so little retribution, but author Borneman so correctly points out that when Chester Nimitz arrived in Hawaii to take over on Christmas Day 1941, he immediately began to gather informatiion and draw conclusions that the Japanese had won a tactical vicotory but wasted a sttategic one.
The greatest miss by the Japanese were the oil tanks. There were 4.5 million barrels of fuel oil left for the use of the navy. The carriers were not at Pearl and were untouched. The submarine base was largely untouched, and the dry docks and maintenance facilities were still operational. Even some of the ships that were sunk would be raised for later action.

As mentioned earlier, Halsey and Nimitz were more in the spotlight, but for me, the most interesting of the four admirals portrayed here is Ernest J. King. While the navy at that time was a fickle place, and sometimes unpredictable, King, through brilliant maneuvering in his career eventually went to the top of the top. I suppose that every nation in a time of war needs a real son of a bitch at a high level of command, and America had King.
He was arrogant, brilliant, demanding, tempermental, and nearly impossible to work with or for, but he was the man needed at the time for this nation.

As for Leahy, he became almost an appendage to Franklin Roosevelt. His story for me, was not as interesting but he was vital for FDR, especially as Roosevelt aged and needed someone to depend on.

Finally, let me say a few words about the greatest gas bag with stars that America ever created, and that would be Douglas MacArthur. Borneman points out, as does history, that MacArthur had about seven or eight hours notice after the attack on Pearl and allowed his planes to be caught on the ground and destroyed by the Japanese. We know the story of his flight from Corregidor to Australia, and FDR bestowing the Medal of Honor on this second rate general and first rate con man, but I am happy to say that Admiral King saw this publicity hound for what he was. I think that one of the finest things that Harry Truman did was firing him.

You will enjoy the book, and it will present to you a better background of the naval leaders who won the war in the Pacific and destroyed the tyranny of Japan.
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72 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Admirable, April 22, 2012
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Christian Schlect (Yakima, Washington/USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King--The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (Hardcover)
I wanted to read a book about the Navy's top leadership in World War II, and this history by Walter R. Borneman proved ideal. It should be sold out at the bookstore of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Actually this book covers more than World War II, and gives one a description of the U.S. Navy's ups and downs from the turn of the 19th century through to the defeat of Japan in 1945. While 1940s activity in the Atlantic is not ignored, this is a book primarily about the Pacific and the top command's strategy for winning the war in that theatre. It also traces the rise of air and submarine power, over that of the big battleships. All this through the lives and careers of the four navy men who reached five-star rank by war's end.

Mr. Borenman boosts Admiral Leahy; questions Admiral Halsey; admires Admiral Spruance (who didn't get the coveted fifth star); and gives a conventional negative picture (from a Navy standpoint) of General Douglas MacArthur. Like many good books, this one will drive you to read more about the period and personalities.

(As a person who does not know a boat from a ship, I will leave it to expert reviewers on all things naval to say if all the technical knowledge put forth by Mr. Borneman is accurate. It seems so to me.)
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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly readable and insightful biography/military history, May 16, 2012
This review is from: The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King--The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (Hardcover)
Walter Borneman has produced a thoroughly engaging blend of naval history and biography in this account of the lives of America's four five-star admirals. Merging the biographies of Admirals Halsey, Nimitz, King and Leahy, Borneman paints a colorful panorama of United States naval history from the late 19th century through the mid-20th century. The chapters detailing the emergence of submarine and airpower in the Navy and how the lives of these men intertwined with these technologies are particularly intriguing.

Although Borneman gives a fine overview of the military conflicts during the lives of these men, in the end, the book revolves around the admirals themselves. With a refined ability to develop character, Borneman helps us know the hard-drinking Ernest King, the statesman-like William Leahy, the grandfatherly Chester Nimitz, and the full-steam-ahead William Halsey in depth. Their unique personalities shaped their careers, and to some degree, the world-changing events of the Second World War. Great "supporting character" roles in the persons of Franklin Roosevelt and Douglas MacArthur add additional color and depth to the story. The book should appeal both to those with little military history background as well as those well-versed in WWII history, especially the Pacific Theatre. This work is a fine tribute to these men, who, despite their personality differences, all understood and exemplified the meaning of duty, service and honor.
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57 of 66 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading but be careful, July 12, 2012
This review is from: The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King--The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (Hardcover)
I'm always a bit leery of a secondary source history that makes a claim that is very hard to support. In the case of this book it's author Walter Borneman's suggestion that Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur developed a rapport with each other as the Second World War proceeded. Most of the available evidence suggests that this was not the case. The victor at Inchon was treated with near god like veneration by our leaders at the end of his life but these two leaders were Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

Since this book is mainly concerned with the 5 Americans who held the 5 star Admiral's rank as of 1945, however, I'm not sure how material the above criticism is. Readers interested in obtaining an overview of strategic naval planning or the personalities of Nimitz, Halsey, King, or Leahy should find this study both useful and entertaining. It's not intended to be a detailed analysis of battles such as Midway or Santa Cruz, but there are plenty of excellent histories of those collisions still in print

Mr. Borneman is no cheerleader for the 4 men he profiled and he isn't afraid to consider various controversies related to the Pacific War such as Bull Halsey's decisions during and immediately after the Battle of Leyte Gulf or the regrettable failure of Raymond Spruance to receive the recognition he deserved.

I'd recomend this book to either serious or casual students of the period
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Readable, and Valuable Insight, May 15, 2012
This review is from: The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King--The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (Hardcover)
This book was a very pleasant surprise. I have found myself increasingly interested in the naval history of WWII in the Pacific, probably because of my own service on Yankee Station, and across the Pacific, aboard one of the old Essex carriers decades after the events described herein. This book really helped me get a broader understanding of the titanic Pacific war. And it is wonderfully readable.

In addition to providing elucidating portraits of King, Nimitz, Halsey, and Leahy, Borneman masterfully immerses us in the U.S. Navy that they served in, in salty detail that seemed perfectly authentic to me.

And, perhaps most invaluably, he links the major actions- Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal, and on through Tarawa and the rest, in a way that provides, at least for me, a much better understanding of the entire effort.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another enjoyable book from WB, May 12, 2012
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This review is from: The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King--The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (Hardcover)
I am a recreational history reader, and as such, I have found Borneman's books to not only illuminate individuals (e.g. "Polk") and/or events (e.g. "1812") but also to be simply pleasurable to read. If I am not enjoying a book I don't hesitate to put it aside unfinished and try something else, but that has not been the case with Borneman's books. I have a particular interest in the WWII Pacific campaign, as my father-in-law received his first silver star as a crewman on PT-34 evacuating MacArthur's group from Corregidor, so I have read probably more about the Pacific campaign than most.

This is a different approach to the story of WWII. There is little in-depth narrative of the individual campaigns or details of the various actions, but rather a review of the strategic decisions and political considerations and negotiations that directed the overall course of the war. The nature of war evolves from generation to generation, and changes such as the necessary transition from the domination of battleships to the large carrier forces and submarine fleets are brought forth in this narrative. With insights into the background, actions, and interactions of these men, both at sea and in the political and diplomatic arena, Borneman succeeds in spinning an expansive tale of the operations of WWII Pacific theater through the lives of the four admirals who were wearing the 5-star rank by the time the dust had settled.

"The Admirals" is extensively researched and well-documented, and most students of WWII history should find something new and/or enlightening here. For me, it was a most satisfying opportunity to after work relax with this book which is an excellent account of these important figures of WWII. I strongly recommend it to like-minded readers.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended!, May 20, 2012
This review is from: The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King--The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (Hardcover)
This book provides a perfect balance of both the personal lives and professional lives of Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy and King. Learning about each of the four admirals from birth to death allows the reader to see what led to these larger-than-life legends.

Mr. Borneman provides detailed accounts of great naval battles as well as other behind-the-scenes action including typhoons, mishaps, and the growing pains that accompanied the US Navy as it grew dramatically over a short period of time. Equally interesting, he also covers the politics of the time, as military leaders jockeyed for power and became crucial advisors to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman.

The technical descriptions of the ships, submarines and aircraft are detailed yet appropriate for a casual reader. This book is an excellent read for anyone interested in the rising role of sea power and, above all, four of America's heroes that made victory in WWII possible.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Approach, July 6, 2012
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This review is from: The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King--The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (Hardcover)
I appreciated this author's approach to his subject. I read a similar book a long time ago about the four five star Generals of the Army (plus four star Patton) it was called "19 Stars". It's worth reading if you can get a copy, but the approach was more conventional. It consisted of five separate biographies. What I like about Mr Borneman's approach is that by giving a simultaneous chronological approach he also gives a mini history of the Navy from 1898 to 1945. It's quite a tale how we went from having a second rate Naval force to becoming the dominant Sea Power in the world.
Along the way we meet a fascinating cast of characters. The reserved always loyal Leahy, the stern unbending King, the gentlemanly Nimitz the bombastic Halsey, and the one who deserved a fifth star but didn't get it, Spruance. The re-evaluation of Leahy is particularly gratifying. One detail that Borneman missed but I'll add now: Admiral King's daughter replied to a newsman concerning her father notoriously short fused temper by saying, "My father is the most even tempered man I know. He's always furious".
We learn a great deal about the shifting tactics of naval warfare from battleship based to reliance on air craft carriers with their accompanying cruisers and destroyers, and of course the emergence of the submarine as a dominant naval weapon. Borneman talks about the scapegoating of Admirals Kimmel and Stark after Pearl Harbor as opposed to Marshall and MacArthur who were not touched. Probably it was unfair but Marshall already had the president's confidence. As for MacArthur he was already a hero from commanding the Rainbow Division in WWI. His failure to disperse his aircraft in the Philippines after Pearl Harbor was a real tactical blunder it had no strategic consequences since without a relief force the Philippines were doomed. His position was similar to Halsey's after Leyte Gulf who escaped criticism for an even worse tactical blunder due to his popularity.
The characterization of MacArthur in this book is I believe unfortunate. His flaws are well known, a huge ego, political ambition, and insubordination (a flaw he shared with King). Borneman points these out incessantly, and criticism of MacArthur has now become conventional wisdom in some circles. I would make two points. MacArthur took more territory with fewer casualties that any allied commander. His New Guinea Offensive, after a slow start was brilliant and unlike other allied ground commanders he did not enjoy material superiority until he reached the Philippines. His strikes at Hollandia and Los Negros are masterpieces. He conducted, I believe 80 amphibious assaults all successful and not a Tarawa or a Peleliu among them. Second he was right and King was wrong about not bypassing the Philippines. Even from a military point of view it would have been a mistake to leave that huge archipelago on the flank of the US thrust, but more importantly it would have been a humanitarian disaster to have left our allies the Philippine people and thousands of American POWs and stranded citizens to the tender mercy of the Japanese. Moreover the constant digs at MacArthur become tiresome. Had Borneman left it to one chapter it would have been OK, but after a while it became tiresome. I would have been more interested in devoting more space to the rival Japanese Admirals. For instance why did Kurita pull back at Leyte Gulf when for once a banzai charge might actually worked for the Japanese? For a more balanced portrait I recommend Manchester's great study of MacArthur "American Caesar",still available on Amazon, to anyone interested.
But this didn't ruin the book for me because Borneman's central thesis is correct. It was the Navy's thrust through the Central Pacific and it's submarine offensive that defeated the Japanese. MacArthur's offensive through the Phillipines was necessary but of secondary importance.
And of course we have the portraits of the four great Admirals and the institutions that produced them , the Naval Academy, and the US Navy itself.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great WWII Pacific book, May 26, 2012
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J. Weaver "jweaver" (Loganville, GA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King--The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (Hardcover)
The Admirals is a close look at the four men who wore the only recipients of the five stars that the Navy offered during WWII. William Leahy, Ernest King, Chester Nimitz and William Halsey each awarded the rank and each was an entirely different personality that helped win the Wars in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Also Douglas MacArthur is covered in a way that I had yet to see. The book also makes the case that there was a fourth admiral that deserved the honor and rank but was denied it because of a lack of Presidential awareness.
William Leahy was the first admiral promoted to the fifth star, also called Admiral of the Fleet. He was also the first American to gain the promotion, thus he was the highest ranking military officer in the nation. Leahy became the personal advisor to FDR after a stint as an ambassador. He wore many hats in the administration and eventually became what today we think of as National Security Advisor. FDR and later Truman relied heavily on Leahy throughout the war and later, as he remained with Truman until 1950.
Admiral of the Fleet Ernest King was second only to George Marshall in the overall war management, controlling all Naval forces and tasked with fighting two wars at the same time. King was a unique man, always looking to streamline and better manage the Navy. Promoted to the Joint Chiefs, he came to clash with most of the rest of the military, but he had a long and productive friendship with General Marshall for the rest of their lives.
Chester Nimitz was CINCPAC - Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet. He was the man responsible for all aspects of the Pacific war. After Pearl Harbor, Nimitz replaced Admiral Husband Kimmel, who was scapegoated for the destruction of the pacific fleet with the surprise attack by the Japanese. Nimitz managed the war and the men who brought victory in the Pacific. He became known as a master strategist. Nimitz as CINPAC had one other headache other than the Japanese, he had to deal with MacArthur.
General MacArthur was only second to General Marshall in the Army and in command of the soldiers in the Pacific. The book portrays MacArthur in a way that I had yet seen - not as a hero but as a prima donna that required constant reassurance. He was more interested in newspaper coverage than strategy. FDR and the Joint Chiefs seemed to humor him out of respect for his place in the public's esteem - he was well respected.
William "Bull" Halsey was the last admiral to gain his fifth star. Halsey was the Admiral in charge of the Sailors, sort of MacArthur's Naval counterpart. Halsey was the fighting admiral of these men. He placed his ships and crews in harm's way and made victory possible. Halsey was also a questionable promotion due to the fact that he sometimes took needless gambles that cost ships and men.
Overall this was a fine book that should be on any WWII shelf. The research is solid and the book reads very fast - showing that the author is really a good writer.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and highly recommended, June 12, 2012
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This review is from: The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King--The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (Hardcover)
If you have any interest in the lives of the only five-star admirals to serve in the US Navy, this is the book to begin your reading. Mr. Borneman does a masterful job of describing the admirals (Leahy, King, Nimitz, and Halsey), their lives and contributions to the US victory in WWII. Borneman uses a thematic approach, beginning with short chapters describing the lives of the four subjects and how the admirals came to attend the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD (which they all attended).

Borneman follows with modest chapters on the admirals' areas of expertise, to include: battleships, submarines, and aircraft carriers. These chapters offer a glimpse into both the strengths and weaknesses of these ships following WWI and how the ships' roles changed in the years leading up to WWII. Intermixed with the descriptions of the ships, Borneman weaves the admirals into the story illustrating their tastes in ships and their leadership methods.

Borneman follows with a fast-paced story of how these men worked together (and with other big name colleagues like Roosevelt, MacArther, Marshall, and Spruance, to name a few) to achieve victory. From the intricacies of a cogent strategy for the early days of the Pacific, to the conferences between Allied leaders (Roosevelt and Churchill, primarily), to the battles and tactics that shaped the war's outcome, Borneman's fine writing presents the admirals, warts and all. As mentioned previously, they were all different, but they were all talented and driven. Borneman quotes retired Vice Admiral Roland N. Smoot, who was in the thick of the Pacific war, speaking after the four had died:

"I've tried to analyze the four five-star Admirals that we've had in this Navy...You have a man like King--terrifically `hew to the line' hard martinet, stony steely gentleman; the grandfather and really lovable old man Nimitz--the most beloved man I've ever know; the complete and utter clown Halsey--a clown but if he said `Let's go to hell together,' you'd go to hell with him; and then the diplomat Leahy--the open-handed, effluent diplomat Leahy. Four more different men never lived and tehy all got to be five-star admirals, and why?"

Borneman says, "Smoot answered his own question with one word: "leadership." Smoot continues that each had "the ability to make men admire them one way or the other." Borneman suggests King got there by "bluster and verve; Nimitz by putting his hand on your shoulder and saying, Let's get this thing done; Halsey--still the fullback--by rushing through the line in such a way that everyone on the team wanted to go through with him; and Leahy by never letting his own personal feelings, or those of others, interfere with the long-range objectives and best interests of his country."

If these men sound interesting, it is because they are; the lessons and examples they left behind could use some attention from many of today's military leaders. The four were smart, tough, and unafraid.

The Admirals is a about 475 pages long, with lots of reference material in the multiple appendixes. Borneman's writing is so fluid and eloquent, I was able to read in two sittings, and his fine book comes with my strongest recommendation.
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