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Hell's Islands, The Untold Story of Guadalcanal.

Reviewed by BG (Retired) Curtis H. O'Sullivan.

Any book that states it is "the untold story" tends to raise eyebrows. However, in this case, there is much to the claim. The author has made use of sources that others haven't located or used. This doesn't mean that he discovered any startling, deep, dark secrets, but that he has been able to provide details not found elsewhere. What he has left untold is much about the very significant naval or air engagements during the period covered. The story is told from both the American and Japanese perspectives, but is primarily about the ground combat from 7 August 1942 to 9 February 1943. There is mention of the other services, but it is unfortunate that the intended scope of this work didn't permit more. The services didn't fight in isolation--much more than many, this was a joint, intermingled campaign.


Jersey gives useful and pertinent history of the area. Many consider this operation to have been the turning point in the Pacific war (more than the brief and dramatic victory at Midway), and it certainly warrants continued study and attention. It was our first counteroffensive (Torch in North Africa came on 8 November), despite the Allied agreement on Europe first. The victory here marked the end of the Japanese advance, secured a vital line of communication, and provided a springboard for battles to come. War in the Pacific wouldn't end until 13 August 1945, and there was much other hard fighting before then.

Six of the 44 illustrations are maps, and five are useful in understanding the operations illustrated. Figure 1 is a map of the Solomon Islands in 1925 and would have been handy to show the larger area, but the captions are hardly legible. The numerous photographs are a good selection. It is too bad the printed pages can't convey the heat, humidity, stink, and dangerous insects that made this place the hell it was often called.

The lessons of the Guadalcanal are still relevant. There is enough new material in this book that it is recommended for anyone with an interest in ground warfare.

By Stanley Coleman Jersey. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2008, 514 pages, $35.

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Author:O'Sullivan, Curtis H.
Publication:Infantry Magazine
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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