Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal

Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal

by James D. Hornfischer

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Neptune's Inferno 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 158 reviews.
Shrdlu More than 1 year ago
James D. Hornfischer's book Neptune's Inferno holds the reader from paragraph to paragraph, page to page, and chapter to chapter. It's a story of men doing their duty under conditions that would make most of us shake with terror. They are going into battle, each sealed in his own duty station, many below the water line, hearing all hell break loose all around them,feeling the ship shudder when struck by enemy fire, hearing the screams of the wounded,and going about their job. It is, in short, a stirring tribute to the American sailor of World War II. Set in the waters around Guadalcanal in late 1942, it tells the story of outgunned American cruisers and destroyers fighting more heavily armored and gunned Japanese forces attempting to dislodge American Marines from their positions around a a former Japanese airfield, now named Henderson field in a series of night battles. The waters in which the battles were fought became known as Iron Bottom Sound because of the large numbers of warships that went to their graves there. This is not a story of ships fighting each other at long range. They were often less than 100 yards apart, firing at point blank range.It was not always one formation against another. American vessels steamed into the center of Japanese formations and it quickly became a battle of one ship against another. It also features men who entered the history books, such as Admiral Yamamoto for Japan and Admiral "Bull" Halsey of the United States. Its real story however, is of heroic men fighting not only to sink Japanese vessels but simultaneously fighting to save their own badly damaged ships from sinking. Hornfischer provides graphic details of the epic battle to save the cruiser San Francisco and the losing battle to save the cruiser Helena. He tells of an American destroyer sailing so close to a Japanese battleship during a night battle that they were looking up at its main deck as they went by.The reader feels the sheer terror that could grip the men in such a a battle, but the reader also comes away from the story with a real appreciation of the heroism and dedication of the men who fought their ships. What really got to this reviewer was that the officers and men who fought these ships had no control over anything. The Admirals decided on the course of action, and the captains of the ships went where they were ordered to go. The men in the gun turrets, control centers and engine rooms and other parts of the ship were sealed in their compartments to preserve water right integrity, and those compartments could easily become, and some did become, their coffins. As a World War II and Korean War Army veteran, at least I could look around and see what was happening. I could even make minor decisions. These men had none of those options. They simply did their duty. God bless them !!
sabbdaddy More than 1 year ago
For those interested in naval history, this book is a must. It provides great detail without reading like a textbook. In fact, it reads more like a blow by blow account of a heavy weight fight. Readers may find it difficult to put down,and, find themselves hungry for more by the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hornfischer captures in very readble fashion, the complex South Pacific naval battles between the US Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy in late 1942. The well researched 400+ page account captures the military, human,logistical details of this multi-month conflict that is probably the largest such naval encounter. The author of Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors and Ship of Ghosts has done it again with another literary gem rounding out his personal WWII Pacific Naval trilogy that is essential for any home naval library.
Ikedog More than 1 year ago
This was the most in depth book I have read about the sea battles around Guadalcanal. The subject interests me because I have an uncle that was onboard the Helena when it was sunk, and like many vets he doesn't talk about the experience. This book didn't cover that action because it was after the timeline for the book, but it does give me an idea of what led up to that sinking. Mr Hornfischer's book "Ship of Ghosts" is also what got me to read this one, also an excellent read.
AirRaceAddict More than 1 year ago
For a person who personally thought that he knew a lot about the war in the Pacific, I am humbled in my attitude about my knowledge of the subject. Having first read "Last Stand of the Tin Can Navy" because my wife gave it to me for a Christmas present, I was eager to jump into this book. I was not disappointed. There were moments while reading "Neptune's Inferno" I felt like jumping on top of my chair and screaming at the hierarchy of the Navy (not a good thing to do at 35000 ft on a crowded airplane) for decisions that nearly lost this battle, in what appeared to be in the name of the Naval Academy brotherhood on one hand, and leadership incompetence on the other. Incredible loss of American blood and treasure, that if not for the seamanship and determination of the junior officers and enlisted sailors actually in the battle for the sea around Guadalcanal, may have turned the battle into a major defeat for the U.S. and her Allies. Having 20/20 hindsight is great as I try to keep this in perspective, and am doing my best to not judge some of the leaders too harshly. But my gosh, it has to make you wonder what they were thinking. I have removed my rose colored glasses towards the military leadership of that time because of this book and am casting a more critical eye towards other events and the how and why's. The book is not so much an indictment of the Admirals, as much as it is a celebration of the American fighting man. Mr. Hornfischer provides extraordinary detail to allow the reader a vivid look into the past with excellent research through the records and personal interviews with survivors and families. The author has inspired me to read more and update my knowledge about this battle and others in the Pacific during WWII. I am hoping that he writes a book on the battle for Okinawa, as my father and father-in-law were both there, Navy and Army respectively, and have since passed away, unfortunately, before we could get more of the details of their experience. An excellent read
ScurvyDog More than 1 year ago
There are two things that I may say of a James Hornfischer book since he burst onto the naval literature scene in 2004 with The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors. First, the book will be as well researched and documented as any I've seen and second, it will be historical data that has been rigorously examined, augmented by many first person accounts and newly obtained material, and crafted into an imminently readable volume that reads like a thriller. Such a book was his first. His second, Ship of Ghosts, has even made Hornfischer a member of the USS HOUSTON (CA-30) Association's extended family. Now comes his third naval history book, Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal. There have been several books, many of them very good, on the half-year-long battle in 1942 for that island but they focus on the Marines and their engagements ashore. For the first time there is a book that examines the entire campaign from the perspective of the navy. There were several engagements during the period, some decided losses for the Americans and Hornfischer describes not only the events but the underlying reasons. He takes us through lessons learned as the American Navy, still moribund from the inactivity of the interwar years and the Depression, comes to life in the heat of battle. Taking each battle in turn, Hornfischer educates the reader without seeming to do so. We are being entertained by history; more than that we are enthralled with the stories he so deftly weaves as history becomes alive and real to the extent that I almost expected to feel salt spray on my face. From the understanding of the need to stop the Japanese advance at a point where Allied forces would have a real place to start the war, to the departure of the last Japanese evacuees when Guadalcanal was safely in American hands, every aspect of the campaign is presented in a fresh and compelling way: a history that is a page-turner. James Hornfischer fans will not be disappointed. If anything, the bar he set so high with The Last Stand has been raised and all future naval historical literature will be improved as a result.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Highly recommend, must read, couldn't put it down" are all overused but in this case spot on. I was a little reluctant to buy this book because my interest in naval history is a recent thing and not as well developed as military aviation, which is where my true interest and experience usually takes me, but I don't know how many times while reading this book I found myself saying "this book is worth every penny of it's cost" (not something I usually find myself saying lately) and "this book should be required reading by every American citizen." So good I searched everything I could find by Hornfischer and I'm working my way through them all. It's that good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read this book in 2 days. Second book that I've read by him. Last Stand of the Tin Cans was the first. Another 2 day read. Can't wait for his next. Good writer. Great reads.
DivineMiscreant More than 1 year ago
It's well researched history that reads like a novel. There is nothing dry or detached and the author doesn't keep you at arm's length from the sailors involved in this story. I can't recommend this book highly enough if you are interested in naval warfare, history, or a great story about a desperate fight between two even matched opponents. It was a close, a VERY close thing. His other works are similarly engaging, especially 'The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors". Excellent read.
jamespurcell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Neptune's Inferno is a vivid, even riveting portrayal of the naval battles that took place in the view and hearing of the marines and soldiers struggling to hold on to Guadalcanal. Because most of the battles took place at night, they often awakened to a sea full of debris, bodies, drifting survivors, damaged and sinking warships. All too frequently the latter were from America or their allies. When it was over, 48 warships(24 from each side) littered Iron Bottom Sound and the other waters around the islands. Over 5,000 sailors and marines died in the sea battles more than three times the fatalities during the 6 month land battle.Using insightful research interspersed with personal stores of participants and survivors, Hornfischer aptly and with penetrating insights, illustrates the steep learning curve that the officers and men of the allied navies went through beginning in August 1942 with an eerily easy landing and ending in Feb 1943 with10,000 Japanese being quietly and successfully evacuated from what they called Starvation Island.This book is a story of courageous officers and men fighting as well as they could despite being put "in harm's way" by oft repeated command decisions from ill prepared and often inept senior officers that were placed in command because of their seniority rather than their competence. Why were no submarines used by the US when the Tokyo Express ran on a schedule as punctual as Japanese trains? Why were the carriers almost always too far away to support the surface ships? Why do you maintain radio silence when the enemy is already firing at your ships? Why have radar if you are not going to use it? In what could be considered the last sea battle of Guadalcanal, the admiral commanding was repeating fatal mistakes made in previous battles months before. And like the commanding captains and admirals before him, he was new to the job and did it the old way.
jrtanworth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent tale of the U.S. Navy's support of American forces engaged on Guadalcanal. This engrossing account includes includes coverage of theater strategy, naval surface warfare tactics, and tales related by individuals engaged in the actions.
creighley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great look at the obstacles faced by the Navy around Guadalcanal. Hornfischer points out the basic problem the American Navy had with its lack of experienced commanders who were willing and versed to use available technology and leaders who had actually been in the midst of battle and knew what to do. Training and preparedness of the crew was another problem. Depicted here was much bravery and as in all aspects of war, too much death, many lives sacrificed by poor leadership.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story we were never told at the time. The Marines owe a great part of their success to the sacrifice of the Navy, and they did not know it at the time. And I say this as a Marine veteran.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read, highly recommended. Very good character backstory and very descriptive. Author paints a magnificent historical picture of the battles. Would have like to have had the author include a few extras toward the end however. I know the book was about the Navy but didnt include what had happened to key personnel towards the end of the book from other branches of service. Also, was expecting something in the end of the book about Yamamoto being shot down as it ties to the story timeline, yet no mention as well as a few other ranking IJN personnel. The book just kind of unexpectedly ends, left a bit to be desired. Other than that, well worth the time. Miles above any other in presentation and descriptiveness. Will read more by this author.
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In-Quest More than 1 year ago
The book tells the story of the naval struggle between Japan and America to control the air field on Guadalcanal. We took control of the air strip from the Japanese even before they finished building it. Next the two navies commenced a series of naval actions which became a war of attrition. Most of these naval actions were at night as our control of the air kept the Japanese navy away during daylight hours. The Japanese Navy took us to school on how to fight a night action. We had to learn quickly and paid with lives as we learned. We also learned how to put our radar advantage to good use over time. Very interesting story told well.
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Keyman1017 More than 1 year ago
James Hornfischer does an excellent job of fleshing out the background of the many naval battles fought in Iron Bottom Sound. I highly recommend his book. The Nook version failed in the reproduction of the battle maps, which were extremely tiny and blurry when a magnifying glass was used. I am disappointed in the Nook book's failure to spend more time developing this very important part of this story.
SantanaTN More than 1 year ago
One of the most interesting and fact filled books detailing a major yet little documented battle of World War II. Not only does it lay out the fiasco resulting from inept leadership both in Washington and in the Pacific arena, it also gives specific background details leading up to this historical event. The reader will learn that based on our protocol, the United States should have lost this war. Only through the tenacity of and sacrifices made by the sailors, soldiers and marines were we able to overcome these shortcomings in leadership. "Neptune's Inferno" is a glowing example of what happens when any nation becomes so absorbed in control that it loses the ability to look for a newer, better and more efficient way of operating its military as well as an excellent example of egos getting in the way of success by not listening to men in the field as they developed better approaches and improvements to communications. It truly is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the effectiveness, or lack thereof, the U.S. Navy exuded during World War II. On a personal note, having had a father and four uncles engaged in this battle, James Hornfisher captured the emotions and frustrations felt by each and every participant. It was as if I, the reader, was with each of them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely fabulous