Neptune's Inferno: Book summary and reviews of Neptune's Inferno by James D. Hornfischer

Neptune's Inferno

The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal

by James D. Hornfischer

Neptune's Inferno by James D. Hornfischer X
Neptune's Inferno by James D. Hornfischer
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Book Summary

With The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors and Ship of Ghosts, James D. Hornfischer created essential and enduring narratives about America's World War II Navy, works of unique immediacy distinguished by rich portraits of ordinary men in extremis and exclusive new information. Now he does the same for the deadliest, most pivotal naval campaign of the Pacific war: Guadalcanal.

Neptune's Inferno is at once the most epic and the most intimate account ever written of the contest for control of the seaways of the Solomon Islands, America's first concerted offensive against the Imperial Japanese juggernaut and the true turning point of the Pacific conflict. This grim, protracted campaign has long been heralded as a Marine victory. Now, with his powerful portrait of the Navy's sacrifice--three sailors died at sea for every man lost ashore--Hornfischer tells for the first time the full story of the men who fought in destroyers, cruisers,  and battleships in the narrow, deadly waters of "Ironbottom Sound." Here, in brilliant cinematic detail, are the seven major naval actions that began in August of 1942, a time when the war seemed unwinnable and America fought on a shoestring, with the outcome always in doubt. But at Guadalcanal the U.S. proved it had the implacable will to match the Imperial war machine blow for violent blow.

Working from new interviews with survivors, unpublished eyewitness accounts, and newly available documents, Hornfischer paints a vivid picture of the officers and enlisted men who took on the Japanese in America's hour of need: Vice Admiral William "Bull" Halsey, who took command of the faltering South Pacific Area from his aloof, overwhelmed predecessor and became a national hero; the brilliant Rear Admiral Norman Scott, who died even as he showed his command how to fight and win; Rear Admiral Daniel Callaghan, the folksy and genteel "Uncle Dan," lost in the strobe-lit chaos of his burning flagship; Rear Admiral Willis Lee, who took vengeance two nights later in a legendary showdown with the Japanese battleship Kirishima; the five Sullivan brothers, all killed in the shocking destruction of the Juneau; and many others, all vividly brought to life.

The first major work on this essential subject in almost two decades, Neptune's Inferno does what all great battle narratives do: It cuts through the smoke and fog to tell the gripping human stories behind the momentous events and critical decisions that altered the course of history and shaped so many lives. This is a thrilling achievement from a master historian at the very top of his game.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[A] masterful synthesis of technical analysis, operational narrative, and tales of courage." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. And as in his first two books, the author’s narrative gifts and excellent choice of detail give an almost Homeric quality to the men who met on the sea in steel titans." - Booklist

"A masterpiece of 20th century naval history, it's time to declare James Hornfischer a national treasure, a member of the distinguished band of brothers--Stephen Ambrose, Shelby Foote, Ken Burns, Spielberg and Hanks--whose sacred mission has been vital to America's journey, preserving the stories of our fathers and grandfathers for future generations, before those stories fade forever out of our consciousness into the shadows of time." - Bob Shacochis, National Book Award winner, author of The Immaculate Invasion

"Hornfischer has produced an account that is visceral, yet technical; sweeping, yet personal. It’s a terrific read, and an important new addition to the literature on this most important naval campaign in the Pacific." - Jonathan Parshall, co-author of Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway

"Hornfischer’s accounts of naval combat in the Pacific are simply the best in the business." - Ian W. Toll, author of Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy

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Author Information

James D. Hornfischer

James D. Hornfischer is a writer, literary agent, and former book editor. The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, his first book, won the 2004 Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and their three children.

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