"Distance was a cleansing agent for everything... 'When you are not straining and gasping to save your life, the act of doing so can seem adventurous and exciting from a distance. The greater the distance, the greater the adventure.'" (pg 39)
The distance of time has a way of changing our perceptions. Now we can look back on World War II with patriotic pride and feelings of accomplishment, but it certainly didn't start out that way. It should be obvious how unprepared we were for Pearl Harbor but we tend to forget how unprepared we were to fight a Pacific war at all, and how painful the losses were until we learned how to fight. In Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal, James Hornfisher discusses the clumsy role the US Navy played in those early days.
Neptune's Inferno focuses more on the naval side of the battle than the conflicts on the island, and Hornfisher makes each battle come alive. He doesn't write for the novice history reader, but those who are already used to reading such books will love the excitement of his narratives. There were a lot of people, places, ships, and even planes involved, and it can seem a bit overwhelming at times. I find I enjoy it more when I don't worry so much about trying to remember every name and detail or keep everything straight but just enjoy the history.
But Hornfisher has an amazing way with words, and his writing pulls you into the story making it hard to put down. What I like most is how insightful his books are. He includes the experiences of everyone from admirals to regular sailors, and sets it all against the greater backdrop of events to pull out the important lessons. He points out that major navies during WWII were "between the age of fighting sail and the age of nuclear propulsion when fuel was consumable and therefore a critical limit on their reach" (pg 37) and explains how this factored into objectives and events. His first book, The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy's Finest Hour is one of my all-time favorites, and if this one lacks anything in comparison it's the more inspirational ending of the other. Nonetheless, highly recommended reading for those interested in WWII history. (I received this book from Amazon Vine.)