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Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun Hardcover – October 2, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 149 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“John Prados is a clever and prodigious digger of historical fact. Using new sources, especially from the Japanese side, he offers a fresh and compelling account of the true turning point of the Pacific War.”Evan Thomas, New York Times Bestselling Author of Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower's Secret Struggle to Save the World and Sea of Thunder

“John Prados has done it again: He has taken a well-known, oft-described military campaign and has brought new and important perspective and insight to the events.”Norman Polmar, Author of Project Azorian: The CIA and the Raising of the K-129

“John Prados has turned his considerable talents to the Navy’s Solomons campaign, not only shedding light on an oft-neglected aspect of World War II, but shedding new light by carefully evaluating the influence and impact of intelligence on that vital struggle.”—Thomas J. Cutler, Author of The Battle of Leyte Gulf

"Move over, Midway. John Prados wants to bump the famed naval battle from its vaunted spot as the Allies' Big Turnaround in the Pacific. Instead, the historian argues, the tide really turned during the long, complicated, and messy land-and-sea battles of the Solomon Islands...And his reasons are very persuasive...With his storytelling's rich depths and surprising perspectives, Islands of Destiny is essential reading for anyone interested in the Pacific War."—World War II Magazine

"In vivid, immediate prose, Prados details battles from Guadalcanal to a late-1943 siege at Rabaul in New Guinea, showing how cunning strategy allowed the Allies to overcome the Japanese at sea and in the air...Prados provides an accessible history that avoids excessive jargon. Even casual readers of World War II history will find it engaging, and they will likely agree that the author makes a strong case for his revisionist assessment. A well-crafted addition to the canon of World War II military histories."—Kirkus Reviews

"Authoritative...Islands of Destiny serves as a powerful reminder of the geography, the strategy and the ferocity of the Solomons campaign...this book won't disappoint."—Wall Street Journal

“[Prados] argues that Guadalcanal and the Solomons campaign, not Midway, were the Pacific War’s true turning point. His use of Japanese primary sources is especially impressive. Imperial Navy figures, often treated as ciphers, regain their humanity in this author’s sympathetic hands.”—San Diego Union-Tribune

About the Author

Dr. John Prados is a senior research fellow on national security affairs, including foreign affairs, intelligence, and military subjects, at the National Security Archive. He also directs the Archive’s Iraq Documentation Project, as well as its Vietnam Project. He holds a PhD in International Relations from Columbia University. His books Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War, 1945–1975; Keepers of the Keys; and Combined Fleet Decoded were each nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He has published articles with Vanity Fair, The Journal of American History, Scientific American, The New York Times, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: NAL; 1 edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451238044
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451238047
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (149 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #602,870 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. E. Dowdle on October 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I say "good" but "not great" for several reasons. This is a good book because of the extreme wealth of detail and information it brings to the table. It is part of the recent (last decade) explosion of information from the Japanese side finally coming into the English Language. As such, it offers many unique insights and perspectives into what was actually going on on the other side, and why things turned out so badly for them. It addresses a lot of big and small questions, from overall strategy all the way down to cruiser and destroyer tactics. And it pretty much refutes the notion that Midway was THE single pivotal turning point of the Pacific war (somewhat of a straw man, if you have looked closely at the Pacific war, but for those who have only a cursory understanding, it is an effective way to shift the common perspective.)

I say "not great" mostly because of the style. The book is just not easily readable. The first several chapters seem almost encyclopedic in style -- "This happened, then this happened, then this happened, then this happened..." -- with very little illustrative detail. I understand it is necessary to set set the scene and give the background, but I very nearly put the book down and didn't pick it up again. Once you get into the main body of the book it improves substantially, but I never had the feeling I was in the hands of a real storyteller. The tone is very uneven. We go from broad scope to particulate detail and back again, over and over, and much of the small detail is disjointed and disconnected, or non-sequiter. As for the portrayals of the people involved, there is lot's of telling but very little showing. We never really get clear pictures of the main participants.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The subtitle of Islands of Destiny - The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun - tells the reader what he needs to know about this book. Mr. Prados' thesis is that Midway was not quite the turning point in the Pacific War that many causal historians believe. He makes a compelling and insightful case that anyone interested in this period of history will find worthwhile. Unfortunately, his penetrating analysis is handicapped by an uneven and occasionally jarring narrative style.

Prados joins several other authors of recent books in arguing that after Midway the Pacific War hovered on a knife's edge - the Japanese had just about lost the ability to pursue offensive operations, but the United States did not yet have that ability. Midway, of course, came almost six months to the day after Pearl Harbor - the period Yamamoto had predicted he could run wild in the Pacific. The second half of 1942 and the Guadalcanal campaign witnessed the slow but inevitable shift of momentum to the United States.

Prados explains that this outcome was not a forgone conclusion. There were opportunities for Japan to regain the initiative. Using recently available sources, he offers new perspectives of how the Japanese perceived these events and acted upon them. He provides a good comparison of how the USN used intelligence to its advantage and how the IJN failed to do so. In particular, his final chapter comes as close as most historians can to identifying the smoking gun in the mystery of why the Japanese failed to exploit their opportunities to crush their opponents.

The Japanese strategy of seeking a "decisive battle" like Trafalgar or Tsushima after wearing down the larger United States Navy through attrition has been the subject of numerous authors.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Solomons camapign in the Southwest Pacific theater in WW II was pivotal. There are myriad books that cover Guadacanal, but a dearth of those that follow the entire span of action from August of 1942 to the virtual surrounding of the major Japanese base Rabaul on New Britain by May of 1944. John Prados has attempted to remedy that deficiency with his new work.

Prados, a noted expert on national security affairs, and a prolific author, has written two previous books on WW II topics; "Normandy Crucible" and "Combined Fleet Decoded." The latter concentrated on the history of US intelligence activities in the Pacific and the impact of that information on miltary encounters.

The thesis that Prados postulates with this book is that the Battle of Midway in June of 1942 was not the turning point of the Pacific conflict with Japan. The action that irrevocably turned the tide against the "Rising Sun" was the Solomons campaign. To those familar with the miltary history of the Pacific war, this is no shocking theory. It is fairly evident to even the casual student of the conflict against Japan that Midway resulted in the crippling of Kido Butai, the Japanese carrier strike force, which had a major impact on what Japan could accomplish from an offensive standpoint. The sinking of four first line fleet carriers at Midway blunted Japan's ability to project its power via the most developed naval weapon system that existed in the world at that time. However, their surface battle fleet was largely intact and they still had two fleet carriers (Zuikaku and Shokaku) available for offensive action. It was the attritional hell of the Solomons battles between 1942 and 1944 that ground down the Imperial Japanese Naval, Army, and air assets.
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