BLAZING STAR, SETTING SUN: THE GUADALCANAL-SOLOMONS CAMPAIGN, NOVEMBER 1942-MARCH 1943

Reviewed by: DR JAMES BOSBOTINIS

The subject of this book immediately appealed to this reviewer, and given its 512 pages, I was expecting a detailed account of the Guadalcanal-Solomons campaign. Upon reading Blazing Star, Setting Sun, my expectations were certainly fulfilled. The author, Jeffrey Cox, a litigation attorney and independent military historian, with a particular interest in the Pacific War, has written a highly detailed account of the crucial months between the autumn of 1942 and spring of 1943, which determined the outcome of the Solomons campaign itself, and contributed significantly to Japan’s ultimate defeat. Cox has written previously on the Battle of the Java Sea (February 1942) and the opening phase of the Guadalcanal-Solomons campaign in the summer of 1942, Blazing Star, Setting Sun continues the narrative through the conclusion of the Battle for Guadalcanal and the Battle of the Bismarck Sea in March 1943.

Following a broadly chronological approach, the book is divided into eight chapters with a supporting prologue and epilogue and features comprehensive endnotes and a valuable bibliography. A selection of maps and a black and white photographic section are also included. The depth of research the author has undertaken is very clear in his treatment of the Guadalcanal-Solomons campaign: Blazing Star, Setting Sun provides a compelling, highly readable account of the campaign, with discussion encompassing the grand strategic through to the tactical level. The detail provided by the author is commendable. Cox provides a richly detailed analysis of the Guadalcanal-Solomons campaign, and considers such factors as leadership, doctrinal and tactical innovation, contrasting perspectives on the nature of naval warfare (such as the Japanese obsession with the ‘decisive battle’), the impact of signals intelligence (SIGINT), and the psychological impact and effects of war, for example, with regard to the aftermath of the Battle of the Bismarck Sea and how Japanese atrocities set the context for American personnel to take revenge. The final chapter of the book focuses on the Battle of the Bismarck Sea and provides a valuable case study on the advantage conferred by SIGINT, an openness to innovation and the operational and strategic effects of tactical innovation.

Blazing Star, Setting Sun is an excellent book; it is very well-written, deeply engaging and accessible. There are a handful of very minor typos, but they do not at all detract from the quality of this book. It will appeal to both the lay reader and those with an academic or professional interest in the Guadalcanal-Solomons campaign, or wider naval history, maritime strategy, or to use the contemporary lexicon, multi-domain integration. The Solomons campaign was fought across air, land and sea, and as Cox ably explains, success in each domain was inextricably linked. This book would be of particular value to those either at or preparing for staff college. Blazing Star, Setting Sun was a pleasure and fascinating to read and will greatly appeal to members of The Naval Review. It is highly recommended.