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Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness Hardcover – September 20, 2016
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“In this brilliant mix of history and emotion, Craig Nelson has managed to combine grueling research with masterful reporting in order to capture the long and the short, the overview and the detail, of that infamous day in a paradisal land of orchids and jacaranda. It has taken seventy-five years, but now, finally, the Pearl Harbor book has been written.”
—Jim deFilippi, author of Mules of Monte Cassino and Murka
"Craig Nelson has completely retold the epic story of Pearl Harbor. Using his skills as a reporter and a literary stylist, he not only deftly paints the fleeting image—an enemy pilot waving as he flies by, a cup of coffee trembling on a table while outside a war commences—but a world roiled in titanic struggle. His gifts as storyteller, his empathy and scope, will appeal to fans of Walter Lord’s Day of Infamy or Cornelius Ryan’s A Bridge Too Far, and, in surprise, the inquiry of Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower. This book has a thousand poignant and unforgettable moments. You’ll read Pearl Harbor and want to pass it to a friend."
—Doug Stanton, New York Times best-selling author of Horse Soldiers and In Harm's Way
“Craig Nelson has taught me there's a lot to learn about an infamous day and it's a joy reading his deeply-researched and well-written account.”
—James Bradley, bestselling author of Flags of Our Fathers, Flyboys, and The China Mirage
"Bookshelves groan with accounts of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and its aftermath, but readers will not regret this thick new contribution to the literature. . . . Nelson weaves archival research, interviews, and personal experiences from both sides into a blow-by-blow narrative of destruction liberally sprinkled with individual heroism, bizarre escapes, and equally bizarre tragedies."
“A valuable reexamination of the causes, the attack, and the aftermath of that seminal event [at Pearl Harbor] … Superbly done and instructive… Informative and poignant. ... This is a worthy addition to the already voluminous studies of a history-changing event.”
—Booklist (starred review)
"Nelson brings his formidable narrative talents to bear on this well-known history as he comprehensively contextualizes and covers the battle....To differentiate his work from the many previous volumes on this event, Nelson highlights the individual experiences of soldiers at the battle’s front and beyond. Nelson’s well written history of Pearl Harbor will be enjoyed by the general reader and appropriately highlights the battle’s historical significance."
"As close to a complete history as possible of the events leading up to the December 1941 bombing…This comprehensive account doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war, successfully providing an even-handed chronicle of the events that led up to Pearl Harbor.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
"Undoubtedly, we will read many stories about Pearl Harbor in the coming months, but this book is an invaluable resource for those who want to know the whole story."
“[An] important new piece of Pearl Harbor scholarship… A comprehensive, engaging new history of the attack that thrust the United States into World War II.”
“A superb and instructive reexamination of the causes, the attack, and the aftermath of Pearl Harbor…backed by a deep look into prewar developments in Japan.”
About the Author
Craig Nelson is the author of Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness and the New York Times bestseller, Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon, as well as several previous books, including The Age of Radiance (a PEN Award Finalist chosen as one of the year’s best books by NBC News, the American Institute of Physics, Kirkus Reviews, and FlavorWire), The First Heroes, Thomas Paine (winner of the Henry Adams Prize), and Let’s Get Lost (shortlisted for W.H. Smith’s Book of the Year). His writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, The Wall Street Journal, Salon, National Geographic, The New England Review, Popular Science, Reader’s Digest, and a host of other publications.
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Nelson is a master at integrating historical narration with eyewitness accounts of the carnage and aftermath, right through to the Medal of Honor awards at the end of the book. Representative quotes are to be found on virtually every page. As a sample,
“Moored at Pearl’s submarine base, the eighteen ships of Lieutenant Commander William Specht’s Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron were still in working order, and their crews began rescue operations. Seventeen-year-old Mal Garcia was working dock detail during the attack when an officer yelled, ‘Hey, coxswain, get that whaleboat out of here.’ Mal considered telling the superior he was actually a radioman on submarine tender Argonne, but then remembered that you can’t argue with a commander and spent the rest of the day helming an eighteen-footer, ferrying the dead and wounded. He later said that Pearl Harbor aged him from seventeen to maybe thirty-five, and that later he tried to remember what it was like to be a teenager, but couldn’t. He would spend in time twenty-two years with the U.S. Navy.
‘I remember one fella that—I will never forget this one—about him reaching up for the gunnel, trying to get out with his hand coming up,’ Bert Davis remembered. ‘And I reached down to help him, and I grabbed him right around his arm and I started pulling, and all the skin came right off in my and. But that’s the thing that sticks in my mind all the time, and I have nightmares sometimes about it. But you try and you do your best.’”
This reader has plumbed the depths of WWII above all other topics in a 3-4 year reading blitz that has surpassed any comparable surge during my grad school days, right through to my dissertation. The personal sacrifices and efforts I poured into my schoolwork back then is a reasonable reference point but it pales to near invisibility in the face of our Greatest Generation’s utterly incredible heroics. Again, a sample from Nelson’s brilliant book brings the case front and center:
“Sixty percent of Pearl Harbor casualties were second- and third-degree burns. There had been fires at every airfield; both on and within the Arizona, California, Curtiss, Downes, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Shaw, and West Virginia; and on the oil that floated on the water of Pearl Harbor. Many of those burned had escaped through that water and were coated in marine fuel. To get to Ford, thousands of survivors had stumbled through roiling black clouds of smoke, many naked, dripping oil, sheathed in blood, screaming in pain. ‘The only thing I could see were their eyes, lips, and mouths,’ a survivor said. ‘Their mouths were reddish; their eyes looked watery. Everything else was black.’ With no time or enough equipment to clean off that oil, treatment proceeded anyway. Burned skin was cut away with scissors. To draw out the heat, tannic acid was sprayed on with Flit guns. Saltwater baths drew out the liquid. All of this was gruesome to perform, and excruciating to endure."…
Despite my reading every page at least twice, this wonderful book flew by for me. I cannot wait to get my hands on another tome by Mr. Nelson. We are all in his debt for this towering monument of a book.