GUADALCANAL by Richard B. Frank
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GUADALCANAL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An altogether splendid work of military history, which provides an integrated overview of the land, sea, and air battles that made the six-month struggle for Guadal-canal the turning point in US efforts to take the offensive against Japan in the far reaches of WW II's Pacific theater. Frank (a Vietnam veteran who now works as an attorney for the federal government) offers a significant amount of fresh material drawn from newly translated studies drafted by Japan's Self Defense Agency, recently declassified records of radio traffic from the National Archives, and other documentary sources. Unlike the authors of standard references (e.g., Samuel Eliot Morison), Frank provides a balanced account, which metes out blame as well as credit to all the branches of the armed services that contributed to this initial assault in the eastern Solomons. Nor does he rely to any great extent on the recollections of surviving participants, as did Eric Hammel in his estimable 1987-88 trilogy. Beyond outlining Guadalcanars strategic importance to both sides and the tactical means they employed to achieve their ends, Frank puts the savage 1942-43 clash into an even wider context. For example, he notes that, for an American public whose confidence had been jolted by a series of defeats, the hard-won victory at ""the Canal"" immediately gained epic status. Frank makes clear, however, the realities and staggering costs of the protracted engagement were quite another story. He persuasively characterizes the performance of US naval commanders as ""a richness of embarrassments,"" and, as an equal-opportunity critic, also faults Imperial Army officers for their grossly inaccurate estimates of American strength and morale as well as wholly inadequate logistical support for their own troops. An exhaustive but accessible briefing on a pivotal campaign. The massive (828-page) text has 16 pages of photos and 40 maps (not seen), plus a wealth of tabular material.

Pub Date: Dec. 18th, 1990
Publisher: Random House