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Authors: John Prados

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Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun

BOOK: Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun
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ISLANDS OF
DESTINY

OTHER BOOKS BY JOHN PRADOS:

In Country: Remembering the Vietnam War
(written and edited)

Normandy Crucible: The Decisive Battle That Shaped World War II in Europe

How the Cold War Ended: Debating and Doing History

William Colby and the CIA: The Secret Wars of a Controversial Spymaster

Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War, 1945–1975

Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA

Hoodwinked: The Documents That Reveal How Bush Sold Us a War

Inside the Pentagon Papers
(written and edited with Margaret Pratt Porter)

The White House Tapes: Eavesdropping on the President
(written and edited)

Lost Crusader: The Secret Wars of CIA Director William Colby

Operation Vulture

America Confronts Terrorism
(written and edited)

The Blood Road: The Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Vietnam War

Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations from World War II through the Persian Gulf

Combined Fleet Decoded: The Secret History of U.S. Intelligence and the Japanese Navy in World War II

The Hidden History of the Vietnam War

Valley of Decision: The Siege of Khe Sanh
(with Ray W. Stubbe)

Keepers of the Keys: A History of the National Security Council from Truman to Bush

Pentagon Games

The Soviet Estimate: U.S. Intelligence and Soviet Strategic Forces

The Sky Would Fall: Operation Vulture: The Secret U.S. Bombing Mission to Vietnam, 1954

ISLANDS OF
DESTINY

THE SOLOMONS CAMPAIGN AND THE
ECLIPSE OF THE RISING SUN

JOHN PRADOS

NAL CALIBER

NAL CALIBER

Published by New American Library, a division of

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014, USA

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First published by NAL Caliber, an imprint of New American Library,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

First Printing, October 2012

10   9   8   7   6   5   4   3   2   1

Copyright © John Prados, 2012

Maps by Jason Petho

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

NAL CALIBER and the “C” logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA:

Prados, John.

   Islands of destiny: the Solomons campaign and the eclipse of the rising sun/John Prados.

   p.   cm.

   Includes bibliographical references and index.

   ISBN: 978-1-101-60195-2

   1. World War, 1939–1945—Campaigns—Solomon Islands.   2. Guadalcanal, Battle of, Solomon Islands, 1942–1943. I. Title.   II. Title: Solomons campaign and the eclipse of the rising sun.

   D767.98.P76 2012

   940.54’26593—dc23                  2012011417

Set in Spectrum MT STD

Designed by Alissa Amell

Printed in the United States of America

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers, Internet addresses, and other contact information at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

ALWAYS LEARNING

PEARSON

For World War II veterans everywhere

CONTENTS

NOTE TO THE READER

INTRODUCTION

ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS

PROLOGUE: THE JAPANESE AFTER MIDWAY

I.
ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER
II.
UNDER THE SOUTHERN CROSS
III.
A CRIMSON TIDE
IV.
EMPIRE IN THE BALANCE
V.
INCHING FOR GROUND
VI.
WAR OF ATTRITION
VII.
FORTRESS RABAUL
VIII.
SOUTH PACIFIC DREAMS

ENDNOTES

BIBLIOGRAPHY

AIRCRAFT OF THE SOLOMONS

INDEX

LIST OF MAPS

NOTE TO THE READER

Throughout the text Japanese names are rendered in the Japanese style, with family name first followed by given name. For consistency with the vast body of literature with which the reader will be familiar, however, diacritical marks in the names have been omitted.

There is a fatality, a feeling so irresistible and inevitable that it has the force of doom, which almost invariably compels human beings to linger around and haunt, ghostlike, the spot where some great and marked event has given the color to their lifetime; and still the more irresistibly, the darker the tinge that saddens it.

—Nathaniel Hawthorne,
The Scarlet Letter

INTRODUCTION

This is a book I have wanted to read for a very long time. Long enough, in fact, that I wrote it myself. Raised on a diet of heroic accounts of the Good War, increasingly detailed histories of every campaign and battle, the conflict which began at Pearl Harbor and ended with Japan’s surrender became one of my special interests. Several aspects of the Pacific war fascinated or frustrated. One was the “turning point” of World War II in the Pacific. It seemed almost an entrenched interpretation among participants and historians that the Battle of Midway in June 1942 represented that decisive event. Japan might as well have surrendered right then. But for a young enthusiast this did not sit right. It did not take a great deal of exploration of the sources to realize that after Midway the military balance still favored the Japanese. The real turning point had to lie elsewhere, and my reading and research eventually supplied convincing evidence that the moment of decision occurred during the campaign for the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. In roughly a year and a half, starting with the Allied invasion of Guadalcanal and ending in the Allies’ siege of the Japanese bastion of Rabaul, the war situation was transformed.
Islands of Destiny
is my exploration of why and how that happened.

Among the many reasons that the Solomons campaign became the turning point that it did is the stellar performance of Allied intelligence—not just that of the United States but also Australian, New Zealand, and British intelligence officers, who contributed mightily to enabling thin forces to counter the adversary. Japanese intelligence proved much less adept. I discussed these issues some time ago in my book
Combined Fleet Decoded
, but, as a general war history, that work could not attain the depth and richness of
what is presented here. More recently I have maintained that the next great challenge for historians of World War II is to take our increasingly deep knowledge of the shadow war and rewrite the battle and campaign histories incorporating the spooky side, showing much more concretely the contributions of the shadow warriors in proper relation to the visible evolution of military and naval combat. I believe that achieving that synthesis has truly become possible. My book
Normandy Crucible
shows the insights permitted by this approach for the Normandy breakout of 1944. In
Islands of Destiny
, I return to the Pacific Theater and apply the method to document what I argue is the real turning point of the war against Japan.

A Pacific history affords special advantage in this endeavor. Naval and air operations proceed by means of discreet, individual missions by fleets and formations. The historian can investigate the intelligence impact on such activities with specificity and present them in detail. This book does exactly that. The Solomons campaign is an especially fruitful illustration because it shows the effects of different kinds of intelligence activity—what I term the “pillars of intelligence”—in cooperation with one another. The impact of these pillars, as the reader will discover in these pages, was literally stunning. The Solomons became the decisive campaign in the Pacific in large part due to the contributions of intelligence.

By no means was intelligence the sole factor in the outcome of this struggle. The wisdom and determination of individuals, the quality of forces on both sides, the training and preparation of armies and navies, all played their roles. Technological developments were quite important too, and put the sharp point on the spear of armed force.
Islands of Destiny
discusses those matters as well. In addition it shines some light on the conflict’s impact upon South Pacific islanders.

As a campaign fought among the islands, the war in the Solomons proved to be overwhelmingly about air and naval bases. The building and operating of them, their capture, the relative desirability of sites on different islands drove the fighting and determined its progress. Strategy revolved around obtaining the best combination of bases. In contrast to the war in Europe, where ground forces sought to conquer territory, in the South Pacific soldiers and Marines fought to secure possession of bases or sites for
them. As a consequence, although the operations of all kinds of outfits are covered here, the narrative centers on the activities of naval and air forces, which were the arms the ground troops supported.

BOOK: Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun
5.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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