Read Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway by Jonathan Parshall Free Online
Book Title: Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway|
The author of the book: Jonathan Parshall
ISBN 13: 9781597973090
Format files: PDF
Loaded: 2378 times
Reader ratings: 3.9
The size of the: 5.93 MB
City - Country: No data
Edition: Not Avail
Date of issue: May 27th 2014
Read full description of the books:
The people I love most are those with a passion for something. God bless the nerds, geeks, and fanatics of the world, whoever you are, and whatever it is that you are doing when you should be mowing the back yard. I have little patience for people spouting their half-informed opinions about politics or sports, but I have infinite patience for the guy at work who wants to fill me in on his cover band. It’s worth the listen, just to see a person really come alive.
Passion is easy to mock, especially in an era when everyone is an ironist. At the same time, because of the internet, it’s never been easier to let your flag fly, whatever it is. Cheers to those connoisseurs of Star Wars fan fiction, who can tell you the names of all Han and Leia’s children. Kudos to the home brewers, who put a lot of money and effort into making a bottle of beer that costs five times what a normal beers costs, and will probably cause blindness. Huzza to the amateur novelist, the after-dinner poet, and the cell-phone camera auteur. I don’t care if your hobby is model ships or carving limestone rocks into chess pieces while you plot your escape from Shawshank Prison. In either event, I salute you.
I’m guessing that the authors of Shattered Sword, Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully, have the kind of passion I’m talking about. I like to think that on Thanksgiving Day, while everyone else is talking about yams or the Detroit Lions, Jon and Tony are regaling their kinsmen with exacting critiques of Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto’s decision to disperse his forces. I make this assumption based on the author bios (Parshall works for a software company, Tully does information technology), my unfamiliarity with the publisher (Potomac Books), and the vast number of appendices chock with information that can only be described at gratuitous (I gave up when I came to the appendix on Japanese airplane tail codes. Hey, I only got so much brain space, and a lot of that is taken up with six years of worthless Lost mythology). Clearly, this book is a labor of passion. (And love, to the extent that one can “love” the Japanese Imperial Navy).
Shattered Sword takes as its subject the 1942 naval battle of Midway between the navies of Japan and the United States. As Wellington said of Waterloo, it was a near run thing. A strike force of four Japanese aircraft carriers, led by Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, was ambushed by two American task forces – totaling three carriers – led by Admirals Frank Fletcher and Raymond Spruance. In the resulting fight, all four Japanese carriers were sunk, at the loss of a sole American carrier. The authors argue convincingly that Midway was not a decisive battle, since America would likely have prevailed in the Pacific even if it lost, but it did mark a turning point: from Midway on, the balance of power belonged to the United States.
When you read a lot of books, you start to realize that the only people who lie more than politicians are the people who invent subtitles. The subtitle of Shattered Sword is The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway. By untold, the authors really mean the Japanese side of the story. Frankly, I disagree with the assessment that the Japanese side has been heretofore hidden. Gordon Prange’s Miracle at Midway was – like his works on Pearl Harbor – exceptionally balanced and made extensive use of Japanese sources. The oddity of Shattered Sword is that it’s told only from the Japanese perspective. The movements of the American forces and the intentions of the American commanders are mostly untold. This will lead to some confusion unless you already have a bit of an idea of what is going on.
Parshall and Tully are both fans of the Imperial Fleet, and they are here to share that with you. They get deep into this subject, and if you decide to pick up this hefty book, you will learn more than you ever dreamed about Japanese carrier construction, carrier doctrine, search-plane scout-patterns, force distributions, and strike rosters. The strict Japanese point of view is not necessarily a bad thing, and indeed, perhaps teaches a valuable lesson that not every story has to be filtered through American eyes. At the same time, you learn literally (well, almost literally) nothing about what the Americans are up to during the battle. Accordingly, this should not be the first book you read about Midway (and I’m guessing if you’ve taken the time to read this far in the review, you’re probably in that rare group of people who’ve read multiple works on Midway). If I had to make a suggestion, I would say that Prange’s Miracle at Midway and Walter Lord’s Incredible Victory are prerequisites to Shattered Sword, if only because Parshall and Tully have many polite critiques about those seminal volumes.
The problem with a lot of passion-projects is that often passion outstrips talent. That is not a problem with Shattered Sword. The writing is clear, conversational, and peppered with nerdy wit. The authors are obviously writing towards a certain audience, yet they seldom fail to stop and explain the concepts that they are bandying about. They have also included a huge number of charts, maps, graphs, and pictures to help make sense of a fairly complicated battle fought over hundreds of square miles of open ocean.
The one writing tic I found annoying was the authors’ use of unfamiliar Japanese terms. For example, an air group section of three planes is called a shōtai. In most books, you might see the author initially note the Japanese word, but continue to use the English translation. Here, the authors decide to do just the opposite. They translate the word once, and then use the Japanese word for the rest of the book. In other words, you best remember what shōtai means.
For some words, this wasn’t a problem. I could recall, for example, that Kidō Butai meant strike force. However, when you get to the battle narrative, and you’re trying to follow the action, it becomes increasingly disruptive to have to flip to the glossary in back to figure out the difference between a hikōchō (carrier air officer) and a hikōtaichō (commander of the carrier group).
Another minor problem I had was with the narrative distance taken by the authors. For all their many criticisms of Walter Lord and Gordon Prange, Parshall and Tully don’t come near to scaling the dramatic heights of Incredible Victory and Miracle at Midway. Lord and Prange brought you into the battle in vivid, visceral ways. They never let you forget that there were men in those diving planes and burning ships. Parshall and Tully have a bit too much of the armchair general in them. They are more intrigued by the art and theory of war than the actual clash of arms. As a result, you will read a lot more about the Japanese destroyer Chikuma’s No. 1 scout plane’s shoddy search grid than you will about the slaughter of the USS Hornet’s Torpedo Squadron 8.
Shattered Sword sets out to revise the way we view the battle of Midway. And I suppose the authors have succeeded. I didn’t read anything that caused me to fall out of my chair, throw my computer out the window, or scream at my wife to get in the panic room; however, the authors did add a lot of nuance, shading, and reinterpretation to the accepted narrative. I suppose if your passion for Midway rises to the level of Parshall and Tully, you will be gratified that the record has been changed. If you, like me, have allowed your subscription to the US Naval War College Review to lapse, you can still learn a thing or two.
The best part about Shattered Sword, though, is that these guys got it written at all.
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