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The Color of War: How One Battle Broke Japan and Another Changed America Hardcover – May 15, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Excellent battle narrative and black history rolled into one." 
-Gilbert Taylor for Booklist

"A fine account of a little-known milestone in the battle for civil rights."
-Kirkus

“In The Color of War, James Campbell masterfully juxtaposes two searing WWII experiences—one white, one black, one justly praised, one unjustly ignored--in a riveting story that makes your emotions, your indignation, and your adrenaline flow. To know what these soldiers—who are so thoughtfully rendered here—have done and suffered and sacrificed for you and me is to be inspired to prove worthy and do better. This will be a classic war book. “
–Dean King, author of Skeletons On The Zahara and Unbound

The Color of War is a textured narrative that deftly explores two titanic struggles—one for the pacific, the other for African American equality at home. In James Campbell’s sure hands, we come to see—and more important, to feel—how fundamental freedoms are often born in the most explosive of events.”
–Hampton Sides, author of Ghost Soldiers and Hellhound On His Trail

“James Campbell’s powerful account of what happened instead is a[n]…important chapter of American history, too little known until now.”
–Harry Belafonte

“The author writes with feeling and authority about an often neglected chapter of World War II history.“
–Charles D. Melson, Chief Historian, U.S. Marine Corps

About the Author

JAMES CAMPBELL is the author of The Final Frontiersman and The Ghost Mountain Boys. He has written for Outside magazine and many other publications.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (May 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307461211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307461216
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,208,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
`The Color of War' deals with 2 events in WWII that at first seem to be only related by the fact that one, Saipan, was a battle that needed massive amounts of ammunition and Port Chicago was the main loading point for munitions bound for the Pacific. Somehow James Campbell is able to pull together what seems like 2 books into one fluid story. We read the stories of some of the men who served at both points. The stories are intertwined in alternating chapters.

The battle of Saipan is told with the personalization of the men who served. We read of the filth, the fear, the stench, the heartbreak, sounds, jungle rot and thirst. The unbelievable heroic demeanor of the men is told in a detailed but yet interesting fashion. We learn of the different methods of marine fighting and the army's. The integration, as little as it was, of blacks into the marines is described.

Port Chicago is an infamous moment in naval history. Black naval personal that had been given no specialized training to load dangerous ammunition worked long shifts and had constant increases in total tonnage to be loaded. Coast Guard and longshoreman's recommendations on safety and inspection are ignored until the final inevitable moment when the ammunition explodes with almost the force of the atomic bomb; the explosion is not dwelt upon. Instead the court martial trial of 50 of the men who did not go back to loading ammunition is the focus. Again detailed information is given in an interesting manner. As with the marines on Saipan, we are introduced to individuals who load the ammunition and their stories which give a personalization to this maddening and sad event of WWII.
This story seems to be told in a non-exploitive way, with the facts and not the sensationalism of some other Port Chicago accounts.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. R. Traska on September 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
As usual, James Campbell writes very well about the conduct of war. What he does equally well here, however, is to give us chapter and verse about a shameful, dangerous incident that the Navy callously and desperately tried to bury and certainly did hide from the public for many years. I consider myself a history buff (though not military history), and I'd never heard of the Port Chicago disaster. I certainly never knew that the Navy had ignored other ammunition-handling fatalities that should have given ample warning of what was at risk in Port Chicago, and I never imagined the connection to the Manhattan project. Campbell has now remedied this for me, and very well indeed. It's an eminently readable book. For someone who normally shuns the dry writing that so often makes up military history, I found myself grabbed from the start and didn't put it down until I finished it (my own copy is marked up with yellow highlighter, something I only do when there are things in the text that I absolutely don't want to forget). It was every bit as lucid as anything I've read by David McCullough (whose writing I love and envy), and that's saying a lot.

If truth is the first casualty of war, Campbell has restored truth to its proper place in this part of WW II history. That he contrasts the disaster and its aftermath with what was happening to the solders and sailors whose lives depended on the armament that Port Chicago shipped serves to clarify just how important Port Chicago was to the war effort and to winning in the Pacific theater. It also serves to mystify us, in hindsight, as to why the Navy didn't take greater measures to maintain safety, given the depot's critical importance.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. T. Mallard on August 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
My first encounter with James Campbell's WWII history books was "The Ghost Mountain Boys". I read it to familiarize myself with the little known battle of Buna that occurred in New Guinea at approximately the same time as Guadalcanal. After reading the book, and sharing it with a friend and veteran of that battle, I was hooked on Campbell's ability to capture and tell a war story. My friend, a retired Brigadier General, commented that "I have read over 150 books on the Pacific War and this is by far the best. It describes so well the real problems of the Infantry man--not the combat--getting shot at etc., but trying to survive the bugs, leaches, even crocodiles, on a daily basis."

I had to wait three years for Campbell's next book, The Color of War. This is two books, perhaps three if you count the robust end-noting, rolled into one. It contrasts the life of the African American sailors and Marines with their white counterparts as the Pacific War unfolds. For the African American servicemen it is a Jim Crow world resigned to menial labor work. For the segregated Marines it is a gritty battle in the Mariana Islands armed by the munitions loaded onto liberty ships by black sailors in California. Campbell compares and contrasts the social battle for equality in the US Military with the battle raging in the Pacific. He connects the dots from California to Saipan. The climaxing event is the Port Chicago explosion and mutiny trial of 50 black sailors.

Having grown up in California, less than 500 miles from Port Chicago in the San Francisco Bay, I had never heard of the explosion or the mutiny. This well told story is great book. It uncovers the pre-integration world of the U.S. Military. Campbell tells an epic narrative that is largely ignored in WWII literature. The Color of War is a thoroughly researched and engrossing book. Kudos to Campbell.
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The Color of War: How One Battle Broke Japan and Another Changed America
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