Books by William H. Honan

Released: Aug. 29, 1991

Here, New York Times chief cultural correspondent Honan (Ted Kennedy, 1972) contends that Hector C. Bywater, at various times a British naval correspondent, undercover agent, investigator, and naval war-games addict, virtually ``invented the Pacific War.'' Bywater's prophetic writings in the 20's and 30's strongly influenced naval officers—some called him the successor to Alfred Thayer Mahan. Remarkably, Honan argues, both the Japanese Imperial Navy and the US Navy adopted many of Bywater's ideas and tested them in combat. Trying to prevent war, Bywater warned the Japanese militarists that, although they might score brilliant surprise victories at the start, a badly bloodied but enraged America would return in time with devastating power and numbers to destroy a depleted Japan. Ignoring his advice, Japan's leaders believed they could hold and expand their early wins with wide and impregnable defenses. Yamamoto would largely follow Bywater's scenario at Pearl Harbor, Midway, and other operations, Honan says. Despite his mainly accurate prophecies, however—including MacArthur's effective island-hopping and amphibious advances along the South Pacific regions—Bywater did not foresee the rapid advance of air power, aircraft carriers, and long-range submarines that would replace his favored battleships. And Honan hints that Bywater's sudden, mysterious death may have been ordered by Yamamoto before Pearl Harbor, since the Briton knew too much about Japan's plans. Honan collects much circumstantial evidence in support of his brief, gives deserved credit to a fascinating but forgotten man, and contributes to the ever-growing lore of WW II. In light of the limited options available to professional Navy planners, however, one may question whether history would have unfolded very much differently without Bywater's input. (Sixteen pages of photographs- -not seen.) Read full book review >