1942: The Year That Tried Men's Souls
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This account covers the Allies' relentless defeats as the Axis overran most of Europe, North Africa, and the Far East. But midyear the tide began to turn. America finally went on the offensive in the Pacific, and in the west the British defeated Rommel's panzer divisions at El Alamein while the U.S. Army began to push the Germans out of North Africa. By the year's end, the smell of victory was in the air. 1942, told with Groom's accomplished storyteller's eye, allows us into the admirals' strategy rooms, onto the battle fronts, and into the heart of a nation at war.
night naval bombardments of Henderson Field, damaging many planes. Worse, Admiral Kelly Turner had shown up a couple of days earlier and relayed to Vandegrift some very bad news from his boss Admiral Ghormley, way back in Nouméa, fifteen hundred miles south. It came in two parts: first, intelligence and aerial photography had determined that the Japanese were massing for “a huge amphibious effort against us in two or three weeks"; and second, that because of the lack of shipping, supplies,
Occasionally, sympathetic Filipinos from the city would try to get a little food to the prisoners, but this was dangerous business. One night three officers were caught dragging sacks of food and a Japanese court was convened. The three were given a choice of being executed immediately or enduring three days of torture. The officers elected for the torture, hoping to make it through. They were taken just outside the fence, in plain view of the entire camp, and forced to dig their own graves. Then
leaders they elected to Congress were, for too long, loath to vote money for adequate defenses, especially long-range patrol planes, to their Pacific outposts. First, this sort of raid was not entirely unexpected. Ever since 1936 the Pacific Fleet had practiced at-sea war-game maneuvers based on a theoretical Japanese carrier attack on Pearl Harbor delivered from north of Oahu. Studies had been conducted at Pearl Harbor itself indicating it was certainly a possibility, though nobody ever
Japanese, since they had seized him on the Shanghai docks within minutes of the Pearl Harbor attack. How he came to Shanghai and got to be a commander in the U.S. Navy was also unusual. The son of a prominent Atlanta physician, Smith had run away at age sixteen to become a merchant seaman and in 1906 found himself running a watermelon schooner from Tampa to Key West. He was still making the run eleven years later when America entered the First World War. He was commissioned a naval lieutenant and
had been in the air a full twelve hours and now the only chance for survival was either to fly down on the deck and try to find a spot to land in the fast-approaching darkness or to fly up high on instruments, hoping to get above the jagged peaks, and when the gas was almost gone to bail out and take their chances. Some took the first option, most took the second, and one plane whose gas situation was so critical that an escape to China became impossible veered far north and managed to land in