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Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle Paperback – January 1, 1992

4.7 out of 5 stars 117 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

New translations of Japanese accounts, recently declassified documents and strategies and tactics of both sides inform this record of America's first major offensive of the Pacific war. According to PW , "This highly readable rendering of the critical campaign in the Pacific is first-rate military history." Illustrated.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In his outstanding first book, a Vietnam veteran and lawyer establishes Guadalcanal's decisive place in the history of World War II. The Guadalcanal campaign was "triphibious," combining air, land, and sea elements. Though the Japanese were surprised by the United States counterattack, forces in the theater were balanced so closely that the outcome was by no means certain. Frank evaluates the adversaries' strengths and weaknesses, stressing in particular the shortcomings of the U.S. Navy and the Japanese Army. He argues convincingly that Guadalcanal was the turning point in the Pacific--not least because it proved that the U.S. armed forces could meet their enemy in adversity and prevail. Recommended for all World War II collections.
- D.E. Showalter, Colorado Coll., Colorado Springs
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (January 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140165614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140165616
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Alex Diaz-Granados on April 7, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
On August 7, 1942, eight months to the day after Japan's "dastardly attack" on Pearl Harbor and barely eight weeks after the Battle of Midway ended a 6-month-long string of defeats for the Allies in the Pacific, elements of the First Marine Division, supported by the largest U.S. fleet yet assembled, came ashore on the beaches of Guadalcanal and two nearby islands in a barely opposed initial landing. Their mission: to capture an airfield (which the Marines named Henderson Field, in honor of Maj. Lofton Henderson, who had died at Midway) that, if left in Japanese hands, could have helped cut the lifeline between Australia and the United States.
The initial success of the landings, however, was followed by some of the fiercest land, air, and naval battles of the Pacific War. Japanese and American naval forces struggled incessantly for control of the seas around the Solomon Islands, and the U.S. Navy was unpleasantly surprised to come off as second best in some of the more famous fleet encounters, particularly in the Battle of Savo Island, where four Allied cruisers were sunk in one of the worst defeats in America's long naval history.
On land, too, Guadalcanal became a living hell for the Japanese defenders and the Marines holding a perimeter around Henderson Field. Both sides endured not only the man-made horrors of battle, but also the ravages of life in the tropical jungle, including jungle rot, malaria, and -- for the Japanese -- hunger as American attempts to stem the trickle of reinforcements and supplies slowly but surely began to succeed.
Richard B.
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Format: Paperback
After the Americans defeated the Japanese at the battle of Midway, an offensive was planned for the Solomon Islands. The primary target was the island of Guadalcanal. In this book, Mr. Frank describes the landings and the capture of Henderson Field in vivid detail. I was also impressed with his descriptions of the fateful battle of Savo Island, where the Allies lost 4 heavy cruisers to an inferior Japanese force. Admiral Fletcher's decision to remove the carriers is discussed, along with the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, where the 5 Sullivan brothers died on the U.S.S. Juneau.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this book to me was how Mr. Frank not only provides the American viewpoint of the battle, but also the Japanese viewpoint. It was interesting to read about how aircraft and casualty claims were greatly exaggerated by both sides. I also felt that the final chapter was interesting in the way that everything was summarized for the reader. I have been reading books about the Pacific war since I was in the 4th grade, and this is the most comprehensive account of the entire Guadalcanal campaign that I have come across. This book is a must read for any World War II reader.
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Format: Paperback
Before going on a 6 month tour of the South Pacific Islands I was determined to get a good chronological understanding of every battle that happened there during WWII. Guadalcanal had always been a little difficult for me to get a good geographical grip upon: the island is large, but actual battle areas were rather small; the battle continued over 6 months before the Japanese broke and was characterised by a spasmodic nature; actions were rarely large unit and the fighting was largely not against well dug-in Japanese positions, but rather characterised by long marches and concentrations against the US perimeter, and by the US against Japanese troop concentrations, and --- no understanding of the land battle is possible without understanding the sea battles.

Frank is wonderful on all counts and can really write well. At a time when both sides were reaching out to each other to do battle right at the end of their supply lines, with little depth, it was the Japanese training and perseverance that really ruled the day on the sea. On land, although Japanese soldiers were perhaps the finest fighting infantry in war (General Slim's words, not mine). They tended to be blinded by their presumed superiority and racial arrogance. They were roughly handled by the marines at first and this punishment was followed up by the later army actions to clear the North-west part of the island.

What really dominated the land battle was success at sea -- and the Americans were very lucky indeed in the opening months that the Japanese never pressed their advantage once they had initial successes at sea. If they had of the result of the battle would have been an allied defeat.
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Format: Paperback
In June, 1992, I flew into Guadalcanal to begin research on my great uncle's experience as a Marine during the WWII campaign. My plan was to retrace his steps during the months-long battle fifty years to the day after he took those steps.

Like no other book I read, this book helped me do that.

My six-month-long stay on Guadalcanal was preceded by more than a year of reading every single thing I could get my hands on about the battle. I read every book I could find in the English language -- accounts from Brits, Kiwis, Aussies -- as well as a few translated from Japanese. I spent two weeks at the Marine Corps Historical Museum in D.C. going through my great uncle's unit's combat reports.

This book was without question the book I counted on the most to understand the chronology of the battle -- who on both sides was where, doing what and when during the battle, how the battle unfolded, etc.

The Guadalcanal story has been told many times since our grandfathers came home from that war. But, to my knowledge, it has never been told in this detail. Nobody has documented the Battle for Guadalcanal better than Richard Frank.

He tells the story elegantly, with detail about troop movements, unit actions, ship names, etc. that only someone obsessed with such details (like me) would find interesting. Yet, the detail he documents doesn't get in the way of the telling of the story. The details flow with the drama. And drama there was, of course.

It's a scholarly book for scholars and a reader's book for readers. Anyone truly interested in how and why this battle was historic will find this book immensely rewarding.

If you're seriously interested in learning about this momentous battle, this book is a must-read along with William Manchester's "Goodbye Darkness."
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