The True Story of a Man and a Nation Under Attack
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A meticulous analysis of December 7, 1941, and a ringing defense of Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, the man who faced the blame for that day’s stunning Japanese success.

Gannon (Black May 1943, 1998, etc.) begins with the attack itself—but this is only an adumbration of the fuller description he provides later in his compelling study. (Readers who have seen Michael Bay’s film Pearl Harbor will recognize many events and some dialogue that originated in the myriad documents Gannon quotes.) The author retreats a few years and examines the events and personalities that coalesced at Pearl Harbor. He’s a staunch supporter of Adm. Kimmel: “The words Kimmel and dereliction,” he writes, “were antithetical.” Gannon also chides conspiracy theorists for fanning the flames of the incendiary (and unsupportable) theory that FDR knew in advance of the attack and withheld that intelligence in order to propel the country into WWII. Gannon reviews the increasing tensions between the US and Japan and convincingly shows how the escalating punitive trade restrictions placed on Japan left the US little room to negotiate as the storm clouds gathered. By late July 1941, says Gannon, “There were no more peaceful sanctions at American disposal.” As diplomacy breaks down, Gannon takes us back and forth between Japan and the US, between the architects of the attack and those who (in his view) did the best they could with extremely limited resources. (There were not enough reconnaissance aircraft to explore more than a tiny fraction of the Pacific.) Occasionally, the Tom Clancy in Gannon cannot resist supplying arcane details that impede the flow of his narrative. We learn the following about the takeoff of a PBY: “The two 14-cylinder, 1200 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-1830-82 engines on the wing above his head put out a thunderous din.”

Thoroughly researched, closely argued, utterly convincing—with dramatic irony that is nearly unbearable. (40 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 2001
ISBN: 0-8050-6698-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2001