Thursday, May 30, 2013

Book Review: A Dawn Like Thunder

This focused and personal account of of one specific flight group in the Pacific during WWII covers in detail what can be argued to be the two most pivotal battles of that campaign.

The Battle of Midway and the Guadalcanal campaign can be viewed as the turning points in the naval and ground efforts and torpedo squadron eight played a key role in each.

Author Rober Mrazek pulls no punches in this work, feeling free to critique all levels of the Naval forces involved--from individual squadron commanders to full blown Admirals, none who deserve blame escape it.

And that's perhaps the most revelatory part of the book--that the US forces could be mismanaged, misdirected and poorly lead and yet still, due to both luck and skill, end up victorious.  Torpedo Squadron Eight benefited from both of these factors to become the most decorated group of Naval aviators in US history.

Initially assigned outdated and outclassed aircraft the fliers of this squadron were often presented with suicidal missions and faced them without hesitation.  There is no real happy ending here as virtually every individual Mrazek introduces you to via devoted chapters will meet their fate either via accident, flak or the hands of a skilled Japanese pilot.  The chances of returning alive from taking part in both of these battles seems to be nearly zero.

A Dawn Like Thunder is a solid work covering a detailed look at one specific unit during two key events of a long campaign.  It covers these events from the 100,000 foot level in terms of overall strategy, movements and decisions to focus on a smaller group of individuals.  This doesn't make the book bad, just a tad limited in its scope.  If you already know the basics of Midway and Guadalcanal this book makes an excellent addition to your detailed knowledge of the events, but make sure you obtain a broader view of these events from other works as well.

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