It comes as no surprise that the impassive, implacable man in the photograph facing the title page played an excellent game of poker; it is more startling to learn that he picked it up at Harvard, along with a love of baseball, many years before he conceived the idea of Pearl Harbor to destroy the country where he came to study. Pearl Harbor was his plan, his alone, and Yamamoto programmed it for eighteen months. Earlier in this study Potter, a British foreign correspondent, gives a very little about Yamamoto's life prior to his rise as Commander of the Japanese Fleet. But this study really gets under way when Yamamoto fires his first ball at the Americans whose unpreparedness was not justified. Promptly thereafter the jubilant Japanese succumbed to the ""victory disease"" and had difficulty in figuring out what to do next. They decided on the seizure of Midway, but, overconfident and underinformed, proceeded disastrously with Nagumo as Yamamoto's carrier commander. The major part of Potter's book is an explicit and extensive account of World War II at sea through the attrition of smaller actions, heavier losses, until finally Yamamoto's plane was shot down. This is a segment of naval history on which historians will not agree (nor presumably will Samuel Eliot Morison agree with Potter); was it a ""short-range success"" or a ""long-range mistake"" on the part of the Nipponese Napoleon who shared with him a certain arrogance and bad luck? In any case, Potter's version is handled with decisive detail and a firm, retrospective sense of evaluation.