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The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King--The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea Hardcover – May, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 518 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"In his superbly reported new book, historian Walter R. Borneman tackles the essential question of military leadership: What makes some men, but not others, able to motivate a fighting force into battle?"―Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

"The first book to deal with the four [admirals] together, focusing on their intertwined lives, friendships, and rivalries....A very well-crafted book."―John Lehman, Washington Post

"Engagingly written and deeply researched... Mr. Borneman makes it easy to understand the complex series of maneuvers and counter-maneuvers at Leyte Gulf...which is not always the case with accounts of the battle."―Andrew Roberts, Wall Street Journal

"A riveting introduction to the only four men in American history to have been promoted to the five-star rank of Admiral of the Fleet in recognition of their extraordinary feats"―The History Channel

"Borneman demonstrates comprehensive command of published and unpublished sources, fingertip understanding of the period, and a polished writing style in this unique collective biography of the four men who 'with a combination of nimble counsel, exasperating ego, studied patience, and street-fighter tactics' shaped the modern U.S. Navy to win WWII at sea."―Publishers Weekly

"Borneman deftly manipulates multiple narrative strands and a wealth of detail. He vividly fleshes out the numerous vain, ambitious men vying for power at the top and examines their important decisions and lasting ramifications. An accomplished, readable history lesson."―Kirkus Reviews

"Walter Borneman's The Admirals is an epic group portrait of Nimitz, Halsey, Leahey, and King. Not since the heyday of Samuel Eliot Morison has a historian painted such a fine portrait of the five-star admirals who helped America beat Japan during the Second World War. Highly recommended!"―Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University and author of The Wilderness Warrior

"They were completely different in temperament and personality, but the U.S. Navy's four five-star admirals in World War II shared a sense of vision, devotion, and courage. Walter Borneman has written a rousing tale of victory at sea."―Evan Thomas, author of The War Lovers

"This is Walter Borneman at his best. The portrait of the forgotten admiral, Leahy, is worth the whole book. But there's scarcely a page where a reader won't learn something unexpected, and occasionally shocking."―Thomas Fleming, author of Time and Tide

"Walter Borneman's decision to tell the gripping story of America's war at sea through the prism of the relations between her four greatest admirals is inspired. The four very different temperaments and personalities of these giants of the US Navy, their rivalries, interactions and comradeship, make for a compelling tale...There's more about true leadership in these pages than will be found in a library of lesser books."―Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War

About the Author

Walter Borneman is the author of seven works of nonfiction, including 1812, The French and Indian War, and Polk. He holds both a master's degree in history and a law degree. He lives in Colorado.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Little Brown and Company; 1st edition (May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316097845
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316097840
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (518 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,343 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: 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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Format: 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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