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Guadalcanal Paperback – November 1, 1999
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Top Customer Reviews
The author gives you all the key events that the other books give but just not the depth they do. Coverage includes a prehistory before August 7th, 42, the landings, the initial Japanese air raids, the disasterous defeat at the Battle of Savo Bay, the many troop reinforcements, the shellings and air raids of Henderson Field, the battles at Tenaru River and Bloody Ridge, the attacks on USS Saratoga and Wasp, the Battle of Cape Esperance, the assaults on Galloping Horse, Sea Horse and the Gifu and so very much more.
There are only a few maps and some nice photos. In the notes section you will find most of Mr Hoyt's sources are primary from both sides.
Though the book isn't as large as the others already mentioned, its still a quality effort and if your just starting out reading about the campaign, this would be an excellent place to start. If you're a Canal Hound, like myself, this book is good enough to add to your collection.
Two features that I particularly appreciated. One is that both the Japanese and American sides of the conflict are represented. The emphasis, of course, is on the Marines and, later, the Army units that joined them, but we even get to read a poem left behind by a Japanese soldier. Yes, a poem by a committed warrior. Our conception of heroic masculinity is limited to the popular image of John Wayne, who would never dream of writing a poem. The Japanese by the end were in a pathetic condition. They hadn't been resupplied in weeks. Some simply lay down and died on the spot, starved to death. Of every three Japanese soldiers, two never left the island. And, in the end, when the Japanese finally evacuated the island it was done successfully in complete secrecy.
Another characteristic that I appreciated was Hoyt's willingness to place responsibility -- for good or ill -- fairly where it belongs. The standard reference is Samuel Eliot Morison's multi-volume work on naval operations in World War II, but Morison didn't have access to all the data and he could be terribly judgmental. To Morison when, at the end, the Japanese were reduced to using the only airplanes available for torpedo attacks -- large, slow, ungainly patrol bombers -- the act was "stupid and ineffective." Morison was pitiless in his condemnation of the enemy and of any signs of what he considered weakness among our own men. He felt the Japanese had earned the atom bomb. He ridiculed soldiers suffering from combat fatigue, calling them "poor neurotics." Hoyt doesn't spare anyone on either side, but he has a wider perspective than Eliot's.
It's an easy book to read but it's about a tragic affair.
Edwin Hoyt wrote this book in 1982. At that point, it was the definative book on the subject. Richard Frank has since written an even more comprehensive work, but Hoyt's is still a very good read. It gives an overview of what happened prior to and leading up to the attack on Guadalcanal, how the Marines stormed the beaches and had to weather everything the Japanese could throw at them. It was a grinding battle of attrition, which favored the US since we had more to throw into the fight...but it took time, as the US arsenal was being built up and we did not have the overwhelming resources of men and material that was common place in later fights.
Hoyt's book is readable, gives accurate and fair treatment of both sides, the mistakes, the luck, the horrible conditions, lack of food, disease, fatigue and no-holds barred fighting that went to make this a living hell for both sides. The maps are adequate, the photos in the paperback version are dark, hard to really see, but do help the reader better see the terrain - just fighting the jungle was a hardship, let alone trying to fight the enemy as well.
I have re-read this book many times and learn something new every time. I recommend this book to those just getting into history of the Pacific War as well as serious history buffs.