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Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness - by Craig Nelson

A truly fascinating book and one that’s about so much more than the attack.

I must admit my knowledge of world events in the interwar years is scant at best, so I really enjoyed the first part of this 3 part book which went through so much that I simply wasn’t aware of. This section covered the build up (from before WW1) to the actual attack and the fact that the Japanese knew they needed to do something big and audacious to catch the USA by surprise.

The second part of the book is about the attack itself: this is full of gritty realism. I’ve read other books about the attack, but few are quite as thought provoking as this one. After the attack the Japanese realised their mistake. Roosevelt had a deep seated passion for the US Navy and saw the attack as personal. They also badly underestimated just how America in general would react.

The third and final part is about the aftermath and how the key players fared afterwards. Again, much of this information was very new to me. I’d like to steal a few words from the book here. J.D. Salinger, (the author) when talking about events to his daughter said, “No matter how you try, you never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose entirely…. No matter how long you live.” Many, on either side, who saw things first hand, found it difficult talking about what happened and what they had witnessed.

The very final chapter of part three looks at the conspiracy theories that the attack was allowed to happen in order to draw the USA into the war. This theory is debunked, and for me, a quote from Harry Truman sums up the whole story. “The country was neither ready nor prepared… I think the country is as much to blame as any individual in the situation that happened at Pearl Harbor.

The book runs to well over 500 pages, (though only 460 pages are text) and is fully referenced. It was these references that cost me so much time whilst reading the book. I just couldn’t resist following things up further.

This book definitely wasn’t of my usual light-weight bedtime reading. In fact, rather than read before crashing out for the night, I found myself pinching a few hours during the afternoons whilst the good lady was out. I also received several ‘telling offs’ for not having our evening meal prepared because I’d lost track of time.

It took me two bites to get into this book. The first attempt was stalled when I received an e-book for review. Second attempt I was more prepared for the author’s style and the topic in general. Re-reading the first few chapters was extremely beneficial (mainly because it was all so new to me) and allowed me to place events in context in my own mind.

If I was to make one complaint about this book it would be that it was ‘light’ on pictures. There must be so many more that could add gravitas to the book.

I’m delighted that I had the chance to read the book; it’s not one that I would ever have bought for myself. 4 1/2 anchors and I hope the rest of the books this year keep up this high standard.