Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 11 Sep 2012
Full Title: Fortress Rabaul: The Battle for the Southwest Pacific, January 1942-April 1943
Building on his previous success with Darkest Hour, author Bruce Gamble continued his studies on Rabaul with Fortress Rabaul. While the first title focused on the doomed defensive campaign against the invading Japanese, it was Japan who now owned the island, and the Japanese military built Rabaul into a formidable fortress capable of defending against a large scale Allied invasion and capable of providing a launching point for further conquests. As the full title of the book suggested, Rabaul played a central role in the development of the Pacific War during this period, and Gamble did a most wonderful job in this next installment of his telling of the Rabaul story.
What really came to the forefront for me was the level of detail provided by the author, indicative of tireless research that accompanied this book. Whether it was exact dates and times of when invasion fleets departed Simpson Harbor or the twist and turns of a dogfight over Port Moresby, his narrative offered both clarify as well as the flair that kept me as a reader going. The material Gamble provided did not stop at Rabaul, either. I found his anecdotes and other tangents extremely interesting, offering a breather in the intense story surrounding the Japanese fortress as well as providing background information; the colonial history of Rabaul, the punctuality of Isoroku Yamamoto, and the naming scheme of airfields near Port Moresby were only a few examples that I truly enjoyed. Last but not least, a small handful of maps scattered throughout the book; while useful, I was even more pleasantly surprised when I discovered that the author had himself created those maps as I flipped through the first few pages of the book upon my completion. Writing that kept me reading beyond my lunch break (fortunately never got me into trouble) and maps that gave me a sense of the geography where the narration was taking place -- multi-talented indeed!
I did notice a few small errors throughout the book, such as a couple of misspellings of names and a couple of inconsistencies with the translation of Japanese unit names, but these minute errors, no more serious nor frequent than other titles especially in the first edition, did not at all detract from this great book.
Darkest Hour covered up to the end of 1941, and Fortress Rabaul took me through Apr 1943; I would certainly keep an eye out for Gamble's next installment for his excellent series. In the mean time, I would for sure recommend Fortress Rabaul to the more serious Pacific War history buffs among my colleagues.
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Chiang Kaishek, 31 Jul 1937