The Struggle for Guadalcanal
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 23 Mar 2006
I do not think the word "detailed" does the Struggle for Guadalcanal any justice. Book 5 of historian Samuel Eliot Morison's famed History of United States Operations in World War II series is, surprisingly, the first Morison book I have picked up, and it was well worth every minute that I spent reading it. Throughout the entire book, every aspect of every battle was discussed. For every major naval engagement, details from casualty numbers, approximate numbers of shells fired, down to the names of individual ship's skippers were available to those who desired the facts. For a naval historian, the ground campaign was also very well covered. The description of the Battle of the Ridge was particularly exciting, reminding the readers that although Guadalcanal was a mere malaria infested jungle island, every inch of soil was gained at the sacrifice of lives.
Particularly, with American lives.
The reason why I brought that up was that the entire book was spoken from the perspective of an American, although many of his sources were Japanese war records studied after the war. At times, American mistakes were white-washed or given excuses; a few Japanese successes were discounted for being lucky. Worst of all, perhaps judging from today's hyper-sensitive political correctness, I thought much of Morison's description for the Japanese were prejudiced. The terms "Jap" and "Nip" were very commonly used to describe the Japanese people. At one instance, when describing the Japanese attempt to secretly construct Munda airfield under the cover of coconut trees, Morison described the engineers as "termites", as if Japanese engineers were any less than the American Marine engineers at Henderson Field.
This book also featured a series of wonderful maps that illustrated many of the major engagements very well. The naval maps were particularly useful, marking the paths of ships along with approximate positions of ships at key times of the battle. As I read through the play-by-play of each battle, with the help of these maps, I could picture the relationship between ships in terms of distance while forming a mental image of what the battle must look like from Morison's highly readable descriptions.
The Struggle for Guadalcanal is a wonderful source of facts and figures for the most important campaign in the South Pacific. However, the reader must maintain a neutral point of view so that s/he will not be influenced by Morison's biased narratives.
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Captain Henry P. Jim Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan 1943
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