S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “Pearl Harbor”

Book Review- Killing the Rising Sun

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Rating – Five Stars

Bill O’Reilly hits a home run with his compendium of the 1940s Pacific War. He writes in an easy, sparse, and empathetic style. He paints the big pictures of the major land and sea battles and tells the stories of the “grunts” that did the fighting and dying. We know these grunts. We identify with them, we are appalled at the horrendous casualties, we share the agony with the wounded, and we attend their burials at sea, in unmarked graves, and at Arlington.

O’Reilly sets the stage for the war in the Pacific with the Empire of Japan. We learn of the building animosity in the 1930s between America and the Empire of Japan. The animus began when Japan invaded the Chinese province Manchuria in September 1931. Japan was eager to implement its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere to conqueror East Asia for its natural resources. The animus increased when Japan invaded China in July 1937. The Kwantung Army captured Peking, Shanghai, and other coastal cities in a few days. French Indo-China fell to Japan in July 1941.

Responding, President Roosevelt (with Great Britain and the Netherlands) imposed an embargo on petroleum products, steel, and other natural resources for Japan. At the time, the Imperial Japanese Navy had only three months of bunker oil. General Hideki Tojo ordered the implementation of Command Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s plan for a surprise attack on our fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii—Tora! Tora! Tora!

In the early morning on Sunday December 7, 1941, Imperial Japanese aircraft, from three aircraft carriers, bombed and torpedoed our fleet in Pearl Harbor with devastating results: sunk were the battleships, USS Arizona, USS Utah, USS Oklahoma, USS West Virginia, and USS California. Five other battleships were heavily damaged. President Roosevelt declared war on the Empire of Japan with the phrase, “a date which will live in infamy.”

O’Reilly guides us our journey through the bloody campaigns throughout the South and Central Pacific, and to the Japan’s home island Okinawa—where Kamikaze pilots drove their aircraft directly into our ships—causing devastating casualties in sailors and ships.

He details the great sea battles with cogency, Java Sea, Bismarck Sea, Coral Sea, Midway, Espírito Santo (“The Slot”), Battle of the Philippine Sea, Battle of Leyte Gulf, and the Okinawa Campaign. We crawl through the islands with the grunts: Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Buna, New Georgia, Mankin, Tarawa, Leyte, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Peleliu, and Okinawa.

Almost seventy percent of this book discusses the atomic bomb. We follow President Roosevelt’s approval, General Groves management of this titanic project, Doctor Oppenheimer assembling his team at Los Alamos, work, innovation, breakthrough, and testing. The bomb on board the B-29 dubbed Enola Gay, Hiroshima in flames; another bomb on the B-29 dubbed Box Car, Nagasaki in flames. We see General MacArthur on board the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay signing the instrument of surrender. The greatest, most deadly, and costly war has concluded.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

BOOK REVIEW: I Could Never Be So Lucky Again by Lieutenant General James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, US Army Air Corps, (ret.)

Lucky AgainI Could Never Be So Lucky Again is the autobiography of one of the United States’ great heroes: Lieutenant General James (Jimmy) H. Doolittle—aviation pioneer, and Doctor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from the Massachusetts of Technology. After the First World War, he became one of America’s top racing aviators. He won the Schneider Marine Cup, 1925; Mackay Trophy, 1925; Bendix Trophy, 1931; Thompson Trophy, 1932; and many other aviation awards and honors. In 1932, he set the world’s speed record at 296 miles/hour.

Perhaps Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle is best know for his audacious scheme, precision planning, sterling leadership of the B25 aircraft squadron raid on the Japanese homeland during the grim, early months of World War II. He earned the Medal of Honor—America’s highest military award. President Franklin Roosevelt presented the medal to Doolittle. At end of the War, Lieutenant General Doolittle (a reserve officer) was the Commander of the Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force strategic bomber command—stationed in England. Following the conclusion of the War, he served on numerous Government and civilian aviation type committees and boards. In 1989, President George Herbert Walker Bush awarded Doolittle the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Ronald Reagan promoted Doolittle to a full four-star general. Jimmy Doolittle died on September 27, 1993, at age 96.

Should you have more interest in the famous and important Doolittle Raid on Japan, may I suggest that you read my blog comments posted on 18 April 2015—the 73rd anniversary of this daring and critically important event in World War II. The address is “smartinshelton@wordpress.com/”

I am much impressed with Doolittle’s autobiography—perhaps awed is the more accurate term of this great American aviator. I remember clearly, as a young nipper, the newspaper headlines, radio broadcast, and newsreels announcing the raid—a much needed boost to our flagging morale as the Japanese overran Southeast Asia including the Philippine Islands and threatened Australia.

No need to summarize the contents—read it. Suffice to note that the writing is empathetic as he leads us through the key elements of his life. We garner insight in the real man—a man of honor, daring, and patriotism. My negatives are:

  1. He (or the publisher) failed to post photographs of the cadre of aircraft he flew, important locations, and of many of the persons with which he interacted.
  2. There are no maps. Accordingly, it’s difficult to follow his adventures and we loose perspective. The surfeit of maps is a major failing in this otherwise superior tome.

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