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Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sunby John Prados
Synopses & Reviews
Acclaimed WWII historian and military intelligence expert John Prados offers a provocative reassessment of the Allies’ battle for the Solomon Islands—a turbulent, dramatic campaign that, he argues, was the true turning point of the Pacific conflict.
Historians traditionally refer to the Battle of Midway as the point when Allied forces gained the advantage over the Japanese. In Islands of Destiny, Prados points out that the Japanese forces quickly regained strength after Midway and continued their assault undaunted. Taking this surprising fact as the start of his inquiry, he began to investigate how and when the Pacific tide turned in the Allies’ favor. His search led him to the decisive battles and strategic maneuvers in the fight for the Solomon Islands.
Beginning with the invasion of Guadalcanal in August 1942, the Solomons became a hotly contested battleground for over a year, culminating in the isolation of Rabaul by the Allies. As military forces fought over the strategically important islands, a secret war of intelligence was also being waged. For a total picture of the conflict, Prados integrates blow-by-blow action on the ground with the code breaking, aerial reconnaissance, secret spy posts, and submarine scouting that were vital to the Allied effort.
The Solomons arena saw some of the most intense combat of WWII—from major naval actions, including a key confrontation between battleships, to air battles that took place almost daily. With expert knowledge and crystal clear prose, John Prados illustrates why these events were not only thrilling, but pivotal in the Allies’ path to victory.
By a veteran of Lt. Col. Merritt A. Edson's battalion, and author of the Dick Winters biographyand#160;Biggest Brother and coauthor of A Higher Call
On the killing ground that was the island of Guadalcanal, a 2,000-yard-long ridge rose from the jungle canopy. Behind it lay the all-important air base of Henderson Field. And if Henderson Field fell, it would mean the almost certain death or capture of all 12,500 marines on the island . . .
But the marines positioned on the ridge were no normal fighters. They were tough, hard-fighting men of the Edsonand#8217;s Raiders; an elite fighting unit within an already elite U.S. Marine Corps. Handpicked for their toughness, and submitted to a rigorous training program to weed out those less fit, they were the Marine Corpsand#8217;s best of the best.
For two hellish nights in September 1942, about 840 United States Marinesand#151;commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Merritt Austin and#147;Red Mikeand#8221; Edsonand#151;fought one of the most pivotal battles of World War II in the Pacific, clinging desperately to their position on what would soon be known as Bloody Ridge.
Wave after wave of attacking Japanese soldiers were repelled by the Raiders, who knew that defeat and retreat were simply not possible options. But in the end, the defenders had prevailed against the odds.
Bloody Ridge and Beyond is the story of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion, which showed courage and valor in the face of overwhelming numbers, as told by Marlin Groft, a man who was a member of this incredible fighting force.
The Battle of Midway is traditionally held as the point when Allied forces gained advantage over the Japanese. In Islands of Destiny, acclaimed historian and military intelligence expert John Prados points out that the Japanese forces quickly regained strength after Midway and continued their assault undaunted.
Taking this surprising fact as the start of his inquiry, he began to investigate how and when the Pacific tide turned in the Allies favor. Using archives of WWII intelligence reports from both sides, Prados offers up a compelling reassessment of the true turning in the Pacific: not Midway, but the fight for the Solomon Islands.
Combat in the Solomons saw a series of surface naval battles, including one of the key battleship-versus-battleship actions of the war; two major carrier actions; daily air duels, including the aerial ambush in which perished the famous Japanese naval commander Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku; and many other hair-raising exploits. Commencing with the Allied invasion of Guadalcanal, Prados shows how and why the Allies beat Japan on the sea, in the air, and in the jungles.
About the Author
Dr. John Prados is a senior research fellow on national security affairs, including foreign affairs, intelligence, and military subjects, at the National Security Archive. He also directs the Archive’s Iraq Documentation Project, as well as its Vietnam Project. He holds a PhD in International Relations from Columbia University. His books Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War, 1945–1975; Keepers of the Keys; and Combined Fleet Decoded were each nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He has published articles with Vanity Fair, The Journal of American History, Scientific American, The New York Times, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe.
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