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Manufacturer: Potomac Books Inc.
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Binding: Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 359
EAN: 9781574889246
ISBN: 1574889249
Label: Potomac Books Inc.
Manufacturer: Potomac Books Inc.
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 568
Publication Date: 2007-11-19
Publisher: Potomac Books Inc.
Studio: Potomac Books Inc.

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Editorial Reviews:

Many consider the Battle of Midway to have turned the tide of the Pacific War. It is without question one of the most famous battles in history. Now, for the first time since Gordon W. Prange’s bestselling Miracle at Midway, Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully offer a new interpretation of this great naval engagement.

Unlike previous accounts, Shattered Sword makes extensive use of Japanese primary sources. It also corrects the many errors of Mitsuo Fuchida’s Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan, an uncritical reliance upon which has tainted every previous Western account. It thus forces a major, potentially controversial reevaluation of the great battle. The authors examine the battle in detail and effortlessly place it within the context of the Imperial Navy’s doctrine and technology. With a foreword by leading WWII naval historian John Lundstrom, Shattered Sword will become an indispensable part of any military buff’s library. Winner of the 2005 John Lyman Book Award for the "Best Book in U.S. Naval History" and cited by Proceedings as one of its "Notable Naval Books" for 2005.

Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: The Most Thoroughly Researched History I've Ever Read!
Comment: Shattered Sword by Parshall and Tully is simply breathtaking, the most thoroughly researched and lucidly thought out history of an event that I have ever read. Setting out to tell the story of Midway primarily from the Japanese side they have created the new standard of that crucial battle in the dark days of 1942 that shines as an example of scholarly effort without parallel.

First these authors clearly did their homework, and to say that they explore the battle in the utmost would be an understatement. Setting the stage for the battle with germane explanations of the geopolitical, then strategic, and then operational backdrops that led up to 4-5 June 1942 the authors then delve into the battle wielding an awesome array of salient information ranging from the psychological makeup of the senior Japanese commanders on the scene, to Japanese naval doctrine of the time, to the naval architecture of the four Japanese flat tops, to how many bomb carts each carrier had (and are thus able to derive such details as the quickest possible practical TIME, down to the minute, it could have taken to re-arm waiting dive bombers and torpedo planes in the hangar bay) to even the names of individual Japanese pilots in the CAP and when they were launched. What emerges is a picture of the battle in toto, grounded in a thorough understanding of the pacific campaign and the entire war itself, aided by a completely fresh and unbiased look (which subsequently shatters many myths about the battle) and delivers not just the most accurate picture of what happened and why during the fighting, but also what it meant in the larger scheme of how the rest of the war was fought and ultimately won (or lost by the Japanese). This is truly the stuff history is supposed to be about.

What is better yet is that the book, in a surprising cut against the grain for pieces written by more than one author, reads both like an erudite intellectual analysis and Tom Clancy-esque action thriller. Throughout the book you are taken from the strategic and coolly logical minds of senior commanders, to white knuckle seventy degree dives in the cockpits of cascading American SBD's flying through walls of flak and marauding Japanese zeros. Later you are privy to the acts of desperate survival of Japanese engineers sweating in the asphyxiating air of the engine rooms in their carriers as the ceilings above them start literally glowing red from the heat of uncontrollable fires ravaging above and blocking their only route of possible escape.

After setting the stage of the history of the Japanese naval war in the Pacific up until the time of the battle and explaining the strategies, doctrines, and technical features (i.e. carrier air wing make up, command organizations, etc.) of both the American and Japanese navies the authors place you onboard the ships of the Kido Butai for a minute by minute account. This in depth and detailed account takes you from the moment they sortie from Hashirajima bay to their ignominous retreat mere weeks later. The writing is crisp, fast paced, and clear, conveying information, tension, emotion, and action all at the same time without compromising any of those features. Told primarily from the Japanese side it is taut and disciplined, delivering information to the readers as it came in real time to Nagumo and the staff of the Kido Butai on the cramped bridge of the Akagi and under fire, instead of giving the reader a truly "God's Eye View" of the battle. There is just enough delving into the worlds and actions of Nimitz in Pearl Harbor, Flether onboard the Yorktown, Spruance onboard the Enterprise, and several other American forces to give appropriate context and understanding, but the reader is basically experiencing what the Japanese commanders were going through. This allows the reader to truly appreciate the Clausewitzian "friction" that plagues any battle, and to understand the decisions the commanders made at the time. After the fact everything is tied together by the authors to deliver a true picture of exactly what happened each minute of the battle. The scope of the battle and the author's telling of it is enormous, covering not just the more familiar strike on Midway istelf and ensuring carrier duel, but the ordeal of survivors from each carrier as they attempted, futilely, to save their ships then abandoned them, to the harried Japanese retreat and the less familiar American attacks on the Mogami and Mikuma which ultimately led to the latter's destruction.

The book sets the record straight on many things, of which I cannot mention all. When the American dauntlesses rained down upon the Japanese carriers at 1020 however it is clear that their decks were NOT full of a strike package just moments from launching to crush TF 17, this was a myth that was propagated by Mitsuo Fuchida after the war's end for self serving purposes as well as dramatic flair. VT-8's heroic and fatally doomed torpedo attack did not draw down the Japanese CAP, instead it was just one of a series of hurried and poorly organized American attacks that virtuously threw the Japanese into confusion and left them reacting to conditions rather than shaping them. The Americans were not so outmatched as is commonly believed, but still won a glorious victory ableit against a deeply flawed plan developed by the actually bullying and overbearing Yamamoto (who was restricted from leaving Kure Naval Harbor while in Japan to visit Naval General HQ in Tokyo on fear that other resentful officers there would literally kill him.)

The lessons the authors draw from this battle are applicable even today. The Japanese primarily lost the battle, and the entire war for that matter (although for the entire war the relative industrial might of the US played a far more important role than it obviously could have in this single, early on confrontation), due to an operational rigidity born of national culture and character. This rigidity left it unable to correctly learn lessons from its past operations, anticipate future operations as well as enemy capabilities and reactions to such, and, most critically, to adapt to real world circumstances when their overly elaborate plans inevitably began to unravel against determined and unpredicted enemy actions. (The Japanese expected to face a cowed, fearful, and largely reactionary and passive US Navy at Midway, and not the aggressive and ably commanded force that Nimitz actually sortied to meet them and that guided itself on the flexible principle of calculated risk rather than dogmatic devotion to operational planning.)

I simply can not say enough good about this book. It is useful to anyone with an interest in history as an example of the heights that that discipline can reach and the edifying fruits it can bear when practiced properly, to those in the military who seek a better understanding of how war actually is fought and can be fought best, to someone who wants to read about a real world battle written with the excitement and drama of a great fiction author.


Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: A History Book That Delivers What The Movie Couldn't
Comment: I was rather surprised that the authors make no mention of the actual prime source for the Battle of Midway that most Americans carry around in their heads: the 1976 film, "Midway." With familiar names like Henry Fonda, Glenn Ford, Robert Mitchum, Hal Holbrook and Charlton Heston, the film reinforces the popular wisdom that an under gunned American Naval task force, on June 5, 1942, surprised the main fleet of Japanese carriers bearing fighter planes helplessly exposed on the decks. Certainly I had never heard the names Yamamoto, Nagumo and Genda prior to seeing the film one rainy summer afternoon. After reading Parshall's and Tully's masterful study of the battle, I was even more surprised to learn that this enduring version of the Midway encounter came not from the understandable pride of American historians, but from the pen of Fuchida Mitsuo and Okumiya Masatake, whose "Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan" [1955] served as a template for historians, school books, and even Hollywood.

Since Japanese historiography has shaped the Midway story for over six decades, Parshall and Tully decided to address their gripping minute-by-minute account of the battle through the eyes of Japanese experience and intentions in order to restore a sense of perspective. In truth, much of Mitsuo's narrative and interpretation is not as much defective as it is deficient. Midway was the product of complicated forces; its individual tactical events at many turns had lives of their own. Thus, only by breaking the battle into dozens of microcosmic signatures could Parshall arrive at something resembling a true chronology of the encounter, though war is such a hellish psychological event that exactitude is its first victim.

The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was for the US the beginning of the beginning. For Japan it was the beginning of the end. It may not have been clear to Americans in 1941, but Japan's eastward expansion to Hawaii was something of a Pickett's Charge moment save that Japanese efforts had, for a time, a more favorable psychological outcome. Parshall's map [20-21] makes the Japanese problem crystal clear: advancing across the Pacific meant investment north and south as well as east. Japan at this point had been at war since at least 1937, first with China and then throughout Southeast Asia.

In these circumstances the Midway situation takes on a whole new look. The Empire's interest in seizing the Island had little to do with westward expansion, and much to do with protecting its holdings. Possession of Midway would allow the Japanese to cut US supply lines to Australia. Achievement of the goal was certainly within capability, given the limitations of the US Pacific Fleet, had not the ambitious Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku overreacted to recent US sorties with a complicated plan of his own for Midway. Yamamoto violated a basic tenet of war--massed force--to execute simultaneous action toward Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians. Parshall is careful to note that this Aleutian action was not a feint, as is popularly believed, though Dutch Harbor had questionable value in any strategic equation.

With two carriers off to the cold north, Yamamoto proceeded to Midway with four carriers instead of six, and just a one carrier advantage over Halsey's three. [Bill Halsey, of course, would be hospitalized with shingles and replaced by Ray Spruance for the Midway expedition.] The result is basic history, with the US destroying all four Japanese carriers with the loss of only the Yorktown. Parshall certainly does not diminish the accomplishment, nor do he and his colleague entirely deny the element of luck. More often, he takes the dramatic edge off of events, reminding his readers that in war the best schedules go awry, runways get congested, radios break, intelligence gets manhandled, and weather conditions change.

Parshall believes that that US Pacific fleet was not quite the crippled eagle it is often portrayed to be. Between the Pearl Harbor and Midway encounters the Lexington and the Yorktown had embarrassed Yamamoto on several occasions in his back yard. The US Navy had learned quite a bit about aerial warfare despite the fact that at Midway its planes were somewhat inferior. Vice Admiral Nagumo, commander of the strike force, found himself repeatedly surprised by the Americans' tactics and capabilities, though admittedly some of these tactics--with tragic and needless loss of life--were as much a surprise and shock to the Americans' own commanders.

Parshall observes that American forces did enjoy an overall edge in technology, planes notwithstanding. Photographs of the late Soryu, Kaga, Hiryu and Akagi carriers throughout the book reveal tinker-toy vessels of another generation, which in some cases were actually Gerry rigged when designers changed schemes. US carriers enjoyed greater simplicity and a much more efficient deck technology, particularly in the design of elevators which allowed for rapid turnover of planes for duty. Most notably, American carriers enjoyed much safer and more efficient fire control systems, which gave the Yorktown an added essential day. From a humanitarian standpoint, Parshall brings home the terrible suffering of Japanese sailors primarily from fires resulting from poor ship design. As a rule the rank and file of the Japanese Navy manifested an amazing courage and devotion to duty; Parshall's account puts the responsibility for their plight in the appropriate places.

Parshall's decision to write from the Japanese perspective was quite daring and very successful. As befits a military work, nearly one-third of this book is composed of maps, photos, and an exhaustive bibliography. It is hard to imagine how the author could have been more helpful with his illustrations of ship movements and time lines. And yet this is a work with a gripping story line. The revised truth about Midway is still a captivating tale, about commanders coping with strain and sailors loyal to their comrades. For all its technical information, Parshall's work can best be described as eminently human.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Thorough review of the actual battle of Midway
Comment: Haven't finished its reading yet, this book is a superb job about the battle of Midway. With every data carefully referenced and a lot of research in the JPN archives, most of them ignored so far in western bibliography, this book torpedoes a lot of myths that have risen around the famous naval battle over the years.
Reflects, in my opinion, the real "fog of war" that both navies had to fight with those days.
It is mainly focused in the Japanese side, giving credible answers to questions that had been ignored over the years by all history books that I have read.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Shattered Sword
Comment: "Fantastic" is not enough to describe this book. The research which has gone into it and the amount of details presented is absolutely unbelievable.
In the wake of this book, I don't think there will be any further need for continued discussion over the relative action of the US and IJN fleets and what really happened near Midway on that fateful day.
The explanation of Japanese tactical and strategical thought which lead to their demise is clearly spelled out and it finally lets the reader understand the how and why of the action Adm. Nagumo took at the time.
Altogether, I could not have asked for a better book on the subject.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Overall, A Great Book
Comment: Simply a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in what happened off Midway in June 1942, and why events unfolded the way they did. The authors explain not only what happened, but why - in exhaustive detail. And therein lies the reason I could not in good conscience give this outstanding work 5 stars.

When the subject is as complex as this battle, and the research so comprehensive, any author has a responsibility to write as concisely as possible. Doing so respects the reader's time and improves the chances of the less dedicated making it through the text. Not only is this book unnecessarily wordy, the authors sometimes use three or four paragraphs to explain a point only to spend another paragraph or two summarizing and/or providing 'in other words' alternative explanations. Frankly, the average reader may be hard-pressed to finish this work. I half expected the last page to be a submission form for three hours of credit.

With that said, the afterglow is a pleasant one for those of us with a deep interest in this battle and the patience to read through to the end. The authors do a fine job of explaining why they're explaining. For example, with great effect they use Japanese carrier procedures and doctrine as evidence indicating what was actually happening in specific timeframes. Another example is showing the real role the decimated American torpedo squadrons played, which was critical but not for the reasons most people believe. The research appears impeccable and the conclusions reached on points where absolute evidence does not exist make sense.

The authors are perhaps a bit snarky when addressing some other sources on the battle, but I believe that to be a product of their own passion for accuracy, the battle, and the Imperial Japanese Navy as opposed to any intended animosity.

Bottom line: highly recommended, but be prepared to invest some time.

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