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Joe Rochefort's War: The Odyssey of the Codebreaker Who Outwitted Yamamoto at Midway Hardcover – October 15, 2011
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About the Author
Elliot Carlson is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter, editor and staff writer for such newspapers and magazines as the Honolulu Advertiser, the Wall Street Journal and Newsweek. A graduate of the University of Oregon and Stanford University. He holds degrees from Stanford University and the University of Oregon and lives with his wife in Silver Spring, MD.
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Rochefort was brilliant and proved his worth over and over. But he completely lacked the skill of politics necessary for success in business or the military. The documentary was good, and I would love to see it again, but after reading the more thorough book, I felt it was not entirely accurate. This was a fascinating story that in many ways was similar to aspects of my own life. My entire career was spent on projects and I knew the excitement and lure of becoming obsessively immersed in problems that took over ones life. I also knew the effect it had and the way one appeared to others. In their office was a sign that stated something like, "You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps."
This is a fascinating story, not only about Rochefort and the Japanese code breaking, but it also fills in many gaps of knowledge concerning the politics of Japan/U.S. relations during the first half of the 20th century and the events leading up to the war.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in history, politics, management, psychology or learning something completely out of the ordinary. It is a great read.
For the uninitiated, Joe Rochefort was the intelligence officer portrayed by Hal Holbrook in the 1976 movie Midway. The move was released shortly after the death of Joe Rochefort, and though he served as an advisor on the film, Holbrook's portrayal of Rochefort was more Hollywood than history (what a surprise).
I applaud the author on taking on this subject and digging so deeply to reconstruct the naval career of an officer who materially contributed to the US victory in the pacific war--but was otherwise so enigmatic. Rochefort was not a graduate of the Naval Academy and with the exception of attending the Navy's Steam Engineering School at the Stevens Institute (New Jersey) lacked a college education.
Despite these tremendous disadvantages, Rochefort rose up through the ranks of the pre-WWII navy and was once thought destined for flag rank (he eventually retired at the rank of Captain).
Most appreciated in this volume:
1. The author has plowed through every performance review and written record on Rochefort trying to piece together a comprehensive view of Rochefort through his naval career.
2. The author describes the method used by the Japanese to employ Morse code (based on the English alphabet) to transmit Japanese characters. This is something I had long been curious about and had heretofore found no illumination.
3. The author describes the coding techniques common in WWII (primative by today's standards) and the means used to crack same.
4. The author gives a fine accounting of the technology used to intercept messages, analyze traffic and decode messages at the Hypo intelligence station (Pearl Harbor).
5. The intelligence work from Pearl Harbor through the Battle of Midway is presented in detail and makes for a riveting (can't put the book down) read.
On the negative side (and these are small issues):
1. The author occasionally injects comments that seem a little over the top (e.g., "The Zero would be heard from shortly.").
2. The author expends a lot of print ruminating on the feud between Rochefort and the Redman brothers. Did Rochefort get along with John Redman--No. Did John Redman appeal to his brother (Admiral Joe Redman) to relieve Rochefort from his assignment at Hypo--Almost certainly. Still, when one reaches the last page of the book one feels that that horse died long ago--but the whipping goes on and on.
Despite the minor negatives, I thank the author for his labors in recording the story of Joe Rochefort. Rochefort was one of a handful of Americans whose contributions saved thousands of American lives and perhaps changed the course of history. Rochefort was finally awarded a Distinguished Service Medal posthumously in 1985 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1986. And now, we have a fitting biography to record his life for posterity.