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Carrier Clash: The Invasion of Guadalcanal and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons August 1942 Paperback – November 11, 2004
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Beginning with detailed descriptions of the history of the aircraft carrier, the development of carrier-air tactics, the training of carrier pilots, and numerous operational considerations that defined the way carrier battles had to be fought, Carrier Clash: The Invasion Of Guadalcanal And The Battle Of The Eastern Solomons, August 1942 takes the reader into the air with brave U. S. Navy fighter pilots as they protect their ships and the Guadalcanal invasion fleet against determined Japanese air attacks on August 7 and 8, 1942. After Hammel sets the state for the August 24 Battle of the Eastern Solomons, he puts the reader right into the cockpits of the U. S. Navy Dauntless dive-bombers as they drive on the Imperial Navy light carrier Ryujo -- and hit the ship with 500-pound bombs! Carrier Clash is the definitive combat history of the Battle of the Eastern Solomons' history's third battle (of only five) between American and Japanese aircraft carriers. Carrier Clash is an important contribution to the military history of World War II's battle for control of the Pacific. -- Midwest Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Foremost this book is an account of what happened in a very comperehensive manner. After explaining the aircraft and ships the Japanese and Americans possesed, and delving into an interesting comparison of their air wing make ups and tactics, the author takes you chronologically through the Solomons campaign.
The reason this book only merited four stars instead of five is that sometimes this can be a bit dry. There's a lot of " . . . and then at 1350 the Wasp launched two more Hellcats on CAP. At 1415 a Mavis was shot down by a Hellcat from the Enterprise. Japanese records indicate that this was from their base in the Shortland Islands. At 1430 four planes from the Hornet CAP returned to refuel. At 1435 planes from the Wasp sighted another Mavis but were unable to pursue it. At 1440 . . . " Stretch this amount of minute by minute detail out over several weeks worth of operations and you get a sense of what the book is about, and it's a marvel it's not longer.
This might be slow at some points but it does allow some interesting insights that many other more easily read, and more exciting books can obscure. First is the sometimes monotomy and boredom of war. Second is the ridiculous degree to which kills of enemy aircraft and ships were overstated during the battles that occured. By comparing accounts of both sides the author makes it clear that most engagements resulted in fewer losses than the participants thought took place. (Clearly the engagements must have been emotionally draining and fierce.) If the after action reports are to have been believed it would seem as though the Japanese thought they wiped out the entire American force several times over and vice versa.
Certainly interesting for people with a passion for WWII history, especially the pacific campaign, but too much like pure history to really recommend for the casual reader.
The weakness of Mr. Hammel in this book is his seeming inability to cope with the historically improved view of the performance of Vice Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher. Mr. Hammel seems to parrot the biased view first propounded by the likes of Rear Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, who had a desparate need to blame the disaster of the Battle of Savo Island on someone--anyone--other than himself. Unfortunately, Admiral King and Samuel Elliot Morrison picked up on Turner's scapegoating. Mr. Hammel seems to write as if none of the exculpatory research in such works as Lundstrom's "Black Shoe Carrier Admiral" has been circulated in the historical community. Admiral Fletcher certainly was concerned with refueling his ships...particularly his destroyer screen...as he well should have. Logistics of refueling had not developed to the art it became by the end of the war. Admiral Fletcher correctly kept his eye on the most important of his objectives...to destroy Japanese carriers under Admiral Nimitz's orders of calculated risk so that he could preserve the U.S. carriers, which in the Pacific were the most strategic of wartime assets for the defense of the United States. Fletcher wasn't flambouyant or reckless like Admiral Halsey, but was very approachable unlike Admiral Spruance. His approachability and good judgement explains Admiral Fletcher's magnificent performance--as well as the superb performance of the Yorktown--at Coral Sea and Midway. Mr. Hammel would do well to edit out his bias in future editions.
Finally, Mr. Hammel could put better perspective on what was achieved by this little known battle. A major effort which included extensive elements of the Combined Fleet were turned back, as this was a rather massive counterassault on the Marine position at Guadalcanal. That in itself was a considerable achievement only overshadowed by the Coral Sea and Midway engagements. The Marines owe a considerable debt of gratitude to the Navy for keeping their position viable...and the Leathernecks should also be reminded that more sailors died in the Guadalcanal campaign than Marines.
As an old sailor who was in WWII, although later than this action, I can appreciate the accuracy.
Feel what it was like to sit in the cockpit of an F4F, or SBD, or TBF as you engage the enemy. (I did fly in the TBF/TBD's, then SB2C/s)